The Government first published the expectations of building control service delivery in 1999. Since then, the Building Control Performance Standards have been revised and updated several times until the latest edition was published in April 2017.
The standards were developed to ensure that competition between public and private sector building control bodies (BCBs) did not result in driving down service standards and encouraged a consistent approach, irrespective of who undertook the building control function. Approved Inspectors must follow the criteria as a condition of their Government licence to practice. These standards are to be replaced with a set of Operational Standard Rules (OSRs) which will seek to ensure that BCBs and dutyholders are held to account to ensure better compliance with the building regulations, perhaps as early as April 2023.
The OSR consultations have occurred over the last couple of months. The Rules can be seen by navigating to the links at the bottom of this article.
The Building Safety Act states that the OSRs will set the standards to be met practices and procedures, or methods to be adopted by all BCBs when undertaking their function. The Act mandates regular reporting to the relevant Regulator (in England, the newly-formed Building Safety Regulator and in Wales, the Welsh Government). The Regulators will use the information to monitor compliance.
The Rules mandate a level of cooperation between private and public sector building control to ensure appropriate measures are taken to enforce the regulations. The OSRs prioritise the effective delivery of building control functions by setting out sensible, risk-based and proportional steps to ensure that those responsible for compliance provide it. There is an expectation that the BCBs take action where it is necessary on almost all issues noted. Further, the Rules call for BCB actions to be carried out proportional to the level of risk that non-compliance with the building regulations presents to a building user when the property is occupied. So for issues which would put a building occupier at an immediate life safety risk, formal action will likely be the Regulators’ expectation, whether taken by an approved inspector or local authority. For minor non-compliances, behavioural nudges may suffice.
The Regulators will use the OSRs as a set of rules against which they will measure a BCB’s functional performance when it investigates complaints against them or identifies shortfalls in adherence. They may use the results of investigations to serve an improvement or serious contravention notice on the BCB. Subject to an appeals process, the BCB may be required to remedy any infringement or be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine. Continued failure to meet the OSRs can result in a local authority function being transferred to the Secretary of State or another local authority. For Registered Building Control Approvers, infringement may result in the cancellation of their registration.
Approved Inspectors, who under the new Acts regime will be renamed Building Control Approvers, are very used to working within a highly regulated environment. The ACAI judges that the majority of Approved Inspectors will transfer to the new regime well. Local authorities are not used to the level of scrutiny on their service and enforcement activities, and the OSRs most certainly require their approaches to alter. The ACAI believes that the public and private sector bodies can come together to ensure the creation of safer environments through better enforcement.
OSR Consultation Documents
Operational Standards Rules documentation England https://consultations.hse.gov.uk/bsr/bsr-operational-standards-rules-consultation/ – note consultation closed 25 October 2022.
Operational Standards Rules consultation Wales https://gov.wales/operational-standards-rules – Consultation launched 26 September and runs until 21 November 2022.