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Government publishes new guidance on building safety

The UK Government has today published new guidance, co-authored by Professor David Mosey of King’s College London Centre of Construction Law & Dispute Resolution, to promote a safer approach to the construction and maintenance of tall buildings.

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The new Guidance, on procurement processes in relation to tall buildings, proposes greater involvement for residents, supported by collaborative contracts that take account of resident consultation, and a new approach to selection that focuses on value, not lowest price.

The new Guidance looks at evidence of how a collaborative approach can lead to safer, better-quality outcomes, and explains how clients and their project teams can use collaborative procurement in practice.

To prevent another Grenfell Tower disaster depends on a major overhaul of construction procurement practices. We must break out of the adversarial culture which currently allows a ‘race to the bottom’ through which lowest prices undermine safety and quality.– Professor David Mosey

Professor David Mosey: “The new Guidance is designed to ensure that approvals for any ‘in scope’ new build or refurbishment require evidence of major changes to developer procurement practices by which:

  • teams are selected on value criteria including the safety of designs, works and products
  • contractors and suppliers are appointed early on a conditional basis, so as to improve and agree safety proposals and reduce risks
  • teams are integrated through collaborative contracts that take account of resident consultation
  • the design, construction and operation of buildings and refurbishments are supported by a ‘golden thread’ of digital information.”

While some in the construction industry may be wary of collaboration, and the implications for responsibility, the Guidance shows how a collaborative approach can “(preserve) reasonable legal and commercial protections while using early planning, clear roles, full consultation and accurate information to reduce the potential for failures, errors, misunderstandings and disputes.”

The new Guidance represents a further step in improving building safety in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster. In her Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, Dame Judith Hackitt identified procurement processes as one of the many areas in need of improvement, to ensure greater safety in new buildings. She noted, “This is where the drive for quality and good outcomes, rather than lowest costs must start.”

The Government’s Building Safety Bill, which completed its Committee Stage in October 2021, aims to “(set) out a clear pathway on how residential buildings should be constructed, maintained and made safe.” The Guidance published today is intended to support all parties involved in the design and planning of new higher-risk buildings, “to prioritise safety and quality issues and the needs of residents.” It recommends questions that should be addressed in advance of each of the three stages of the new ‘gateway’ system for approval of higher-risk buildings.

The Guidance will also support regulation of existing buildings by the new Building Safety Regulator.

“The next steps are to ensure adoption of the new Guidance by all public and private sector developers and by all consultants and contractors. This requires consultation, training and clarification of the procedures to be used by the new HSE Building Safety Regulator.”– Professor David Mosey

Guidance on Collaborative Procurement for Design and Construction to support Building Safety, has been prepared by Professor David Mosey of King’s College London Centre of Construction Law and Russell Poynter-Brown of On-Pole Limited, working in collaboration with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the Procurement Advisory Group.

King’s College London Centre of Construction Law & Dispute Resolution has led this work on a pro bono basis.

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David Mosey

David Mosey

Professor of Law