The Week That Was – 5 April 2024

Published on 05 April 2024

Welcome to the week that was, a round-up of key events in the construction sector over the last seven days.

Construction-industry professionals remain unsure of Building Safety Regulator (BSR) gateway system

Since last October, "higher risk building projects" (i.e buildings taller than 18m) must pass through the BSR gateway system before they can be built and occupied. The system, which is intended to be a rigorous approval process, involves three gateway points at the planning, building control approval and completion stages.

However, a worrying 44% of respondents to a survey carried out by National Building Specification said they were “not that clear” or “not clear at all” on their responsibilities as duty-holders when working on gateway system projects. On top of that, 45% said they were unsure how they would manage their "golden thread obligations" regarding the duty to keep an up-to-date digital record of information on the building that people can access and use (required for a building to pass through gateway three and be occupied).

It appears that there is still a lot of work to do before the industry is fully prepared to meet its obligations under the new regime.
Read the full article here.

Labour rates on construction sites creep back up to their all-time high

Last month's labour rates on building sites moved closer to their all-time high according to the large construction payroll services provider, Hudson Contract.

Average earnings for self-employed tradespeople increased to £1,017 per week during February 2024, 2.3 per cent higher than they were in the same month in 2023. This suggests that highly skilled subcontractors remain in demand, despite the state of the market in general. Hudson feel that things could be turning around slowly (even though it is "very early days").

Hudson points in particular to the progression of high-rise schemes in London and other big cities, as well as companies looking to take on projects overseas:

"Clients are telling us that work on high-rise schemes in London and major cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Sheffield is forging ahead". “Others are spreading their reach into new counties and taking on new clients to maintain their turnovers and avoid the impact of the major housebuilders slowing production.”

Read the full article here.

New Government guidance on second staircases issued

On Friday 29 March 2024, the Government published amendments to Approved Document B (ADB) which introduces a new height threshold for the provision of a second staircase in blocks of flats with a storey 18 metres or more in height. The new paragraph 3.30 (Number of common stairs) of ADB provides:

"Flats should be served by more than one common stair if either of the following applies.

a. The flat is on a storey that does not meet the criteria for a single escape route or a small single stair building (see paragraphs 3.27 and 3.32).

b. The building has a top storey of 18m or more in height (see Diagram D6 in Appendix D)"

The updated ADB will come into force on 30 September 2026.

In the meantime, a copy of the guidance can be found here.

New Social Housing Regulations

On Wednesday 3 April 2024, the Government published new regulations for social housing. The key changes mean that landlords are now required to carry out the following:

  • Have an accurate record on the condition of every home, based on checks of properties so landlords can understand any problems and take action;
  • Set clear timelines for the completion of repairs, maintenance and planned improvements, communicating them clearly to tenants;
  • Give tenants opportunities to influence and scrutinise their landlord’s services such as through meetings with tenant organisations;
  • Provide tenants with information about their rights and how to make complaints; and
  • Publish the new tenant satisfaction measures to make it clear how tenants feel their landlord is performing and hold them to account.

A copy of the new regime can be found here.

Mace Group latest company to become one of Building a Safer Future's Module 1 awardees

Mace Group has joined a growing number of construction companies looking to promote building safety by completing Stage 1 of the Building a Safer Future's (BSF) Champion assessment scheme. The Building a Safer Future Charter was created to promote a positive culture and behavioural change in the safety of the built environment and this assessment requires organisations to commit to putting building users first in an ongoing building safety journey, providing organisations with actionable data and practical tools to help review and upgrade processes and regain public trust following the Grenfell Tower disaster. Mace joins other awardees, including Vinci Building, Wilmott Dixon and Gravesham Borough Council.

Companies with a Stage 1 award will go on to complete the Corroborating Elements Stage 2 Module, in order to be awarded with BSF's Champion status. At present, no company has yet completed the second module of BSF's program.

Click here to read more.

SPPARC unveils vision for Cirque du Soleil's European Hub in London's West End

SPPARC, a London based architect, has revealed plans to rejuvenate London's iconic Saville Theatre into Cirque du Soleil's European headquarters. The proposed transformation, in collaboration with developer Yoo Capital, involves partial demolition and a six-storey roof extension. Originally built in 1931 by Thomas Bennett, the Grade II-listed cinema-turned-music venue will return to its theatrical roots. The basement levels will be expanded to accommodate a state-of-the-art theatre for Cirque du Soleil. The ground floor will house essential facilities, while the roof extension will host a luxury boutique hotel managed by Citizen M. This endeavour aims to preserve the historic building while enhancing its cultural significance. The project, supported by a team of consultants and architects, promises to revitalize London's West End with a blend of entertainment, hospitality, and heritage restoration.

Click here to read more.

Authors for this week's edition: Jonathan Carrington, Chris Brewin and Sikander Azam.

Disclaimer: The information in this publication is for guidance purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. We attempt to ensure that the content is current as at the date of publication, but we do not guarantee that it remains up to date. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.

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