The Building Safety Bill became law last week, which means a rethink of many aspects of their business for contractors, architects, developers and product manufacturers, at least for a certain range of ‘high risk’ building types like Grenfell Tower.
There is a fairly long implementation period to enable the industry to adjust to the changes – The new ‘regime’ for managing safety in high-rise construction will be enforceable from October 2023.
However, that will still come too soon for many firms struggling to conform to the new, more accountable system.
The FMB report that members are not only not prepared but also not even aware
Lack of awareness
This may be a pressing concern for a lot of developers, however even more urgent for the residential sector is the need to make sure you are ‘Future Homes Standard’ ready, in terms of its interim standards for new house construction, by next month.
Part L (Conservation of Heat & Power) and Part F (Ventilation) will require a 31% saving on carbon emissions on all new homes, which merely from the carbon calculation point of view, is a tall order.
In addition, there’s a mandatory new Part O standard (covering overheating) to grapple with.
However, according to the Federation of Master Builders, in its recent State of Trade Survey, 52% of its members responding said they were not only not prepared, but weren’t aware of these imminent changes.
This could mean, at worst, a lot of legal ramifications for non-compliant SME firms.
Clear guidance needed
The FMB was rightly calling for “urgent clear guidance” from Government to make it unequivocally clear to builders what they need to be doing, and how.
Of course, the problem is, even if this was forthcoming, such guidance won’t be prescriptive, as every developer is different.
But also because the Government is shy of ‘inputs,’ preferring to request ‘outputs,’ and leave it to sometimes near-religious faith in industry innovation to somehow deliver the changes.
The FMB said although interim measures, the changes are “complex for small, time poor builders to take on, especially without good communication from Government.”
While it’s the organisation’s job to raise concerns for its members, many are currently facing unprecedented challenges.
Material cost rises are hitting hard, and many builders aren’t able to hike their prices to customers to compensate – 98% of builders have seen rises, but only 83% are passing on these costs to customers according to the Survey (admittedly this is a larger number than in 2021).
73% of those builders surveyed (covering Q1 of 2022) have pushed their jobs back due a lack of materials, and 55% are delaying work owing to a lack of skilled labour.
Green goal problems
This somewhat worrying survey suggests that while the Government is attempting to tackle the chaotic building procurement landscape, when it comes to the extremes of safety, engaging with the mainstream on its green goals seems to be more of a problem.
They may well be able to make the likelihood of another Grenfell extremely unlikely, but if they can’t get developers at least grappling with the need to cut carbon by 31%, there’s very little likelihood of hitting the 2025 deadline for the full Future Homes Standard.