The Grenfell Tower fire tragedy in 2017 sent shockwaves through the UK, exposing widespread safety failings in the construction industry. In response, the Building Safety Act 2022 has ushered in a wave of changes, aiming to transform the way buildings are designed, constructed and maintained. One crucial aspect of this reform, is the emphasis on protecting specifications. But what does this mean for building material manufacturers and specifiers? Is it a boon or a burden? writes Justin Pitman, sales director for Proteus Waterproofing

The Act introduces a multi-faceted approach to building safety, with several key changes impacting the market. A new regulatory framework means that a Building Safety Regulator (BSR) will now oversee all building work, with stricter oversight for higher-risk buildings.

The Act clearly defines roles and responsibilities for various stakeholders, including manufacturers, developers and building owners, ensuring accountability throughout the building lifecycle.

This involves the implementation of a rigorous, stage-gated approval process for higher-risk buildings, ensuring compliance with safety standards at each stage, supported by a “golden thread” of information capturing crucial building data throughout the building’s lifespan, improving transparency and traceability.

There is more emphasis on stricter requirements for the competence and accreditation of construction professionals and manufacturers, in a move to raise industry standards.

One significant aspect of the Act for us as a supplier of roofing materials is the increased emphasis on protecting specifications. This means ensuring that the materials specified for a building are actually used in construction, preventing substitution with inferior or non-compliant alternatives.

This involves several provisions such as product certification which encourages standardised product testing, and certification schemes to verify performance and compliance with building regulations.

Traceability and Chain of Custody is also paramount. This requires robust measures to track materials throughout the supply chain, preventing the use of counterfeit or unauthorised products. Sharing of key product information between manufacturers, specifiers and building owners, ensuring clear communication and understanding is also required at every stage.

This shift directly impacts suppliers like us at Proteus Waterproofing and our ranges of both liquid and felt waterproofing systems. We already hold BBA certifications and other key accreditations which means we have a head start in demonstrating compliance with these stricter regulations.

Continued investment in advanced materials and technologies for superior fire resistance and durability has further strengthened our safety credentials. We have further implemented a robust supply chain management and sharing product information system which is helping to build trust and confidence among our specifiers and building owners.

By offering eco-friendly systems, some with recycled content and low-solvent formulations, we have also been able to align with the Act’s emphasis on sustainable construction practices.

For specifiers, access to standardised product data and certification schemes allows them to make informed decisions based on demonstrably safe and compliant materials. Protecting specifications minimises the risk of using non-compliant materials, reducing potential legal and safety liabilities. Confidence in material performance and compliance further contributes to a safer, more durable and successful building project.

Robust traceability systems also enable specifiers to demonstrate they used the intended materials, mitigating potential liability concerns in case of issues. The Act further provides stronger legal protection for specifiers who have fulfilled their duty to specify compliant materials. Increased onus on manufacturers for product safety and information sharing can also reduce burdens and liability risks for specifiers.

Building trust and open communication with manufacturers can facilitate access to technical expertise and support throughout the specification and procurement process. We at Proteus provide a full design package to help architects at every stage of the project.

We particularly encourage collaboration to enable proactive identification and resolution of potential material-related issues early in a project, avoiding costly delays or rework.

Suppliers like us are also prepared to offer training and educational resources to specifiers, improving their understanding of product capabilities and compliance requirements.

Staying updated on complex regulations and navigating new approval processes can be time-consuming for specifiers with limited resources. Effectively utilising and integrating product information into project documentation and specifications also requires additional effort and expertise – once again – we can help.

So, we can see that while the Building Safety Act is a step towards a safer future for UK buildings, its full impact is still unfolding. The success of “protecting specifications” will depend on several factors such as the BSR’s approach to enforcement and guidance, which will be crucial in ensuring consistent application of the regulations. Open communication and data sharing between all stakeholders will also be essential for building trust and transparency.

Ultimately, the Act can be seen as an opportunity for the industry to embrace higher standards and innovate towards safer, more sustainable buildings. While challenges exist, manufacturers and specifiers who adapt proactively and collaborate effectively can navigate the evolving landscape and emerge as leaders in this new era of building safety.