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On the 28th April 2022, the Building Safety Act gained Royal Assent and signalled the largest change in construction legislation in over a generation. Initiated by the Grenfell Tower tragedy and the subsequent report from Dame Judith Hackitt’s review into it, the Act covers the entire build process from design, through construction to the lifetime of the building in use with a key focus on its occupants and their safety.
Construction product manufacturers will have been keeping a close eye on the Act’s progress through parliament to understand how it will affect their products. Much will depend on the type of product being manufactured with safety-critical products unsurprisingly coming under scrutiny as are those being used in higher risk buildings. These safety-critical products are listed in the construction product regulations. Higher risk buildings are defined in England as being at least 18 metres in height or having at least 7 storeys and containing at least 2 residential units.
Work to establish the new NRCP began in April 2021 with its primary responsibility to ensure homes will be constructed using safe materials. Supplementary regulation expected in the next 6-12 months will strengthen regulations for the marketing and supply of construction products on the UK market. It will provide extra powers to remove any product from the market that presents a significant safety risk and prosecute any companies who flout the rules on product safety.
Dame Judith Hackitt recommended the introduction of a ‘golden thread’ as a tool to manage higher risk buildings as holistic systems and allow people to use information to safely and effectively design, construct and operate their buildings.
As a summary definition: “The golden thread is both the information that allows you to understand a building and the steps needed to keep both the building and people safe, now and in the future.”
It is required that golden thread information is stored as structured digital information. It will be stored, managed, maintained and retained in line with defined golden thread principles. The government will specify digital standards which will provide guidance on how the principles can be met.
According to the government’s timelines the golden thread policy will come into effect as early as spring 2023 along with the supporting guidance.
Dame Judith Hackitt’s report also confirmed radical change was needed for construction products, particularly in the areas of testing, information and marketing. The Code for Construction Product Information, developed by the CPA’s Marketing Integrity Group, aims to set a level playing field for all construction product manufacturers to ensure that the information they provide passes five tests.
The voluntary Code also comprises eleven clauses which cover a wide range of matters from responsibility for product information, to accuracy of and clarity of performance claims made, general information and competency. The objective of the Code is that any claim made about a construction product must be substantiated by appropriate, clear, and unambiguous evidence. The aim of the Code is that clients, specifiers and users will insist on only working with CCPI compliant products.
It is assumed that construction product information and performance data currently provided by manufacturers reflects accurately the products being sold. However, manufacturers may find an increase in requests for information and verification from specifiers not only around the product data including testing and 3rd party certification, but also its installation, maintenance, end of life disposal and warranties. More design and selection advice may be sought to ensure products meet the specifiers design intent and that they are getting the performance being promised to their clients and the regulators.
There are steps that manufacturers can take now to ensure they meet the requirements of the Building Safety Act and its supporting legislation as and when it comes in.
1. Audit – record all product marketing collateral currently available, its format and its location. This should include all technical documentation and tools that a specifier may access to select and specify a product – including product datasheets; brochures; web pages; specifications; installation guidance; maintenance guidance; price lists; 3rd party test certificates; warranties and guarantees; sustainability and product disposal information. Some ranking by strategic importance to business and safety critical importance would be useful. This should also highlight any gaps in information that currently exist.
2. Review current product data – It may be prudent for manufacturers to start reviewing their product data and marketing tools against the CCPI’s five acid tests and eleven clauses to future proof their business, regardless of whether or not they are wishing to be officially verified by the voluntary Code.
3. Technical support and CPD – For product and systems requiring a high level of design and technical advice , manufacturers could consider creating and delivering CPD to impart knowledge and support correct product specification.
4. The Golden Thread Policy is defined as being digital and with the growth of BIM and specification software, both in house systems and industry standard software, manufacturers may want to review their digital assets and product specifications to ensure the needs of the specifiers will be met.