Construction lawyers at Womble Bond Dickinson review what changes in legistlation the industry can expect this year.
Over the past 12 months, changes to building safety have forged ahead at an unprecedented pace, at times too quickly for comfort. There’s still much to do, but it’s worth taking stock of how far we’ve come, and prepare ourselves for what is coming next in the new year.
While so much progress has been made in 2023, there is still more to come. Key anticipated developments in 2024 include:
- 6 April 2024, the transitional period for the Building (Higher-Risk Buildings Procedures) (England) Regulations ends. For higher-risk building (HRB) works, to stay under the old regime the works must be “significantly progressed” before 6 April 2024 (although from 6 March, local authorities notify the Building Safety Regulator (BSR) of HRB works for which they’ve not received a "sufficiently progressed" notice). For HRBs and non-HRBs to stay under the old regime in relation to the dutyholders and the lapse of building control, works must also “start” before 6 April.
- Golden thread. Draft regulations were published on 17 October 2023. These cover the golden thread requirements during the in-occupation phase of an HRB (the design and construct phase is covered in the HRB Procedures Regulations mentioned above.) The draft regulations are subject to what is called the affirmative procedure (unlike the regulations published in August referred to above), which means that these regulations must be reviewed and passed in both Houses of Parliament before they can take effect. We don’t know at this time when any debate on the draft regulations will take place.
- Second staircases. We await information on the changes to Approved Document B and timescales for the 30-month transitional period to start.
- The Grenfell Inquiry Phase 2 report. Publication of the final report is anticipated in 2024.
- Construction products. There was progress on construction products in 2023, with the government’s publication of the Independent Review of the Construction Product Testing Regime (by Morrell and Day). We anticipate further updates, guidance and perhaps even legislation following on from that report, as well as on UKCA and CE marking for construction products.
- Registered Building Inspectors (RBI). The period for applications to become RBIs comes to an end in April 2024. Measures to put in place multi-disciplinary teams to assist the BSR in administering the Building Control process for HRBs are currently being prepared. These are likely to be in place by the end of the transitional period too.
As 2024 progresses we can expect to see the revised and strengthened Building Control regime really begin to take effect – and what a difference the year will make too.
What more in 2024?
More changes are coming beyond building safety. From a legal perspective, these include:
- New Biodiversity Net Gain requirements, under which developers must improve the biodiversity of a site by 10%, and
- The impacts of the new Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023, Energy Act 2023, and Public Procurement Act 2023.
From an industry perspective, ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) criteria are increasingly forming part of tenders for construction projects, and clauses are beginning to find their way into construction contracts.
More widely, the industry is increasingly aware of the need to address diversity in its workforce – in part due to the years-long labour and skill shortages in the industry. Issues in the spotlight include PPE and facilities for women, new laws around flexible working coming in next year, and recent findings from the National Federation of Builders that “one in four construction workers consider themselves to have a neurodiverse condition”.
Also on the cards is something major that can change the status quo… a 2024 election.
Simon Rowland is head of construction team, Simon Lewis partner, Michelle Essen legal director and Kate Hanson paralegal at Womble Bond Dickinson.