Building Regulations updates: competence and compliance

The Building Safety Act paved the way for new regulations on buildings and the duties and competence of those who procure, design and build them, and for suppliers of the products and materials from which they are built. Hywel Davies summarises the various new and amended regulations that come into force on 1 October.

On 17 August government made new regulations for Higher Risk Buildings along with major changes to the Building Regulations, creating new dutyholder roles and duties and requiring certain competences and appropriate behaviours.

They also laid new procedures for the Building Safety Regulator to control all work on higher risk buildings, and set out the new regime for the management of all occupied HRBs. For those following the development of building safety law since 2018 there are few surprises.

Before anyone raises their hands and says that these regulations are far too complicated to implement in such a short time, they are hardly a surprise. They were first called for by Dame Judith Hackitt’s review over five years ago, then confirmed when government accepted all her recommendations at the end of 2018.

Further indications were contained in the consultation on implementing the report in 2019 before the passage of the Building Safety Act introduced the enabling powers for these procedures in 2022.

The finer points of the dutyholder and competence regime that Dame Judith called for were first set out in November 2021, when draft regulations for competence and dutyholders were issued to give industry early sight. They were discussed in some detail in the consultations on implementing Parts 3 and 4 of the Building Safety Act last summer. All that is happening now is that they are being implemented, as long foretold.

The government has held its nerve and delivered the regulations as it has said it would. Anyone who bet on a U-turn may find it was a costly wager

In practice, those who are confident that they are already competent and comply with Building Regulations should not have a major problem complying with these regulations and adapting to the changes. They will be most challenging for those who have been operating at the margins of compliance and who will have to change the way they work.

The government has held its nerve and delivered the regulations as it has said it would. Anyone who bet on a U turn may find it was a costly wager. The regulations are here and come into force on 1 October and and they will fundamentally reform the way that design and construction appointments are made.

They will rebalance responsibilities for building work and are likely to be accompanied by much more robust enforcement, especially where problems emerge on a site. Building control can be expected to work back from problems to identify how they arose. That in turn is likely to call into question the competence of all concerned and compliance with the new duties and competence requirements set out in the new regulations.

CIBSE training: Introduction to the Building Safety Act

The Building Safety Act is the most significant and far reaching reform of the construction sector since WWII. Affecting all buildings of any type and the whole supply chain, from manufacturers to those who operate buildings. It will affect us all. This course provides a comprehensive introduction to the Act and the changes it is bringing to our working practices. The one day course can be either remote or face-to-face and is worth 6 CPD hours.
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Not knowing what the new dutyholder roles, duties and competency requirements are will almost by definition demonstrate inadequate knowledge of the regulations and be evidence of inappropriate behaviours, and so a failure to be competent or compliant.

The Building Regulations (Amendments etc) (England) Regulations 2023 introduce the new dutyholder and competence requirements for both practitioners and clients. Part 2A introduces a whole series of new regulations, 17 in total, covering the duties, competence and behaviour of clients, designers and contractors.

Part 2A also creates the new roles and duties of the principal designer and contractor for every project. That is correct, they are for every project, because these requirements apply to all buildings. Anyone familiar with Dame Judith Hackitt’s 2018 report into Building Regulations and Fire Safety will know that she recommended creating specific roles and responsibilities for clients, designers and contractors doing building work. It should surprise nobody that the first major change to the Building Regulations is the introduction of the new Part on Dutyholders and Competence.

The regulations revise the rules for deposit of plans and further embed energy related procedures into UK law. They also strengthen Regulation 38 on the provision of fire safety information, which applies to all building work. If you deal with Building Control in any form, you need to know what these regulations require, starting this coming October.

If you are responsible for managing an occupied HRB or for managing building work in or to create a new HRB, then there are two new sets of regulations just for HRBs too. The Building (Higher-Risk Buildings Procedures) (England) Regulations 2023 set out the new building control system for HRBs in detail, implementing Part 3 of the Building Safety Act.

These regulations will come into force in October, with a transitional period of six months for work already underway. These regulations are explained in more detail in a further article. It will explain the major changes to the Part 3 of the Building Regulations as they apply to all building work, and then summarises the new procedures for control of works to higher risk buildings.

Not knowing what the new dutyholder roles, duties and competency requirements are will almost by definition demonstrate inadequate knowledge of the regulations and be evidence of inappropriate behaviours

The Higher-Risk Buildings (Management of Safety Risks etc) (England) Regulations 2023 apply to all HRBs in occupation. They implement many of the provisions enabled by Part 4 of the Building Safety Act 2022, covering the operational management of higher risk buildings (HRBs).

They introduce requirements on Accountable Persons to hold accurate, up to date information about their building(s) in electronic form, to keep it up to date and use that information to make a safety assessment about the building and then demonstrate the control measures/management systems they have in place to proactively manage the risks.

The Regulations also have a firm focus on resident engagement making sure those responsible for resident safety are actively talking and listening to residents and also have a complaints procedure should issues arise. Again, there is nothing here that has not been well signalled over a period of years.

It is becoming a cliché, but this really is the biggest change in Building Regulations since the Second World War. These reforms will change the way the industry is regulated. The onus will fall on everyone to demonstrate compliance and maintain the evidence, not on a building control officer to find non-compliance.

And while there are new and more rigorous rules for Higher Risk Buildings, the Building Regulations are for all building work, without exception. The industry now has a huge opportunity to demonstrate a willingness to embrace these reforms and rebuild public trust in what we do. It will not be easy or quick, but it needs to be done.

Bodies such as CIBSE will be working together with the Construction Leadership Council and Its constituent bodies to provide further industry guidance on these regulations and on how clients, principal designers and contractors and Accountable Persons can meet the new obligations in a safe, reasonable and proportionate manner.

It is another step on the road to rebuilding trust in the construction and operation of our higher rise building stock, and another step on the road to building a safer future.

  • CIBSE will be setting out the breadth of regulatory changes and new requirements of the building regulations at the one day conference: Building Safety: Meeting the Building regulations and delivering the Golden Thread on 28 September, London. For more information and to book visit CIBSE Golden Thread series.


Dr Hywel Davies is a former chair of the Building Regulations Advisory Committee who has worked in the field of regulations and standards for over 35 years. He is chief technical officer of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers and an Honorary Fellow of CIBSE.

Other articles by Hywel Davies on the Building Safety Act

Building building control for Higher Risk Buildings The Building (Higher-Risk Buildings Procedures) (England) Regulations 2023 coming into force on 1 October set out the building control processes for higher risk buildings that will apply to new projects

Role of Accountable Persons How Accountable Persons will need to develop the building safety case required by new regulations coming  into force on 1 October for management of higher risk buildings under Part 4 of the Building Safety Act 2022.

The key requirements of the Golden Thread Under new regulations coming into force on October 1, Delivering the Golden Thread for a project requires close attention to any changes to the design during construction.

Links to new regulations

The new regulations deliver the recommendations of Dame Judith Hackitt in her report Building A Safer Future and cover the technical detail underpinning the new, more stringent regime for the design and construction of higher-risk buildings, wider changes to the Building Regulations for all buildings and the details of the new in-occupation safety regime for higher-risk buildings.

Amendments announced on August 17 2023:
The Building Regulations etc. (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2023
The Building Regulations (Higher-Risk Building Procedures) (England) 2023    
The Building (Approved Inspectors etc. And Review of Decisions) (England) Regulations 2023
The Higher-Risk Buildings (Management of Safety Risks etc) (England) Regulations 2023 
The Building Safety Act 2022 (Consequential Amendments etc.) Regulations 2023

A summary of all secondary legislation can be found at:
The Building Safety Act: secondary legislation