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How do you define a “Higher-Risk Building”?

The Higher-Risk Buildings (Descriptions and Supplementary Provisions) Regulations 2023 (“Higher-Risk Buildings Regulations), which define “Higher-Risk Building”, come into force today (6 April 2023). But what is a “Higher-Risk Building”, and why is it important?

The most fundamental feature of these regulations is how they define a “Higher-Risk Building” for the purposes of the Building Safety Act 2022 (“BSA 2022”). In other words, which buildings fall within the scope of the new and significantly more stringent building safety regime enshrined in the BSA 2022?

The scope of the new regime within the BSA 2022 will fall into two parts:

  1. The new regime for design and construction of new Higher-Risk Buildings and building work to existing Higher-Risk Buildings; and
  2. The new regime governing the occupation phase of Higher-Risk Buildings.

Higher-Risk Buildings during design and construction

The Higher-Risk Building Regulations define a Higher-Risk Building during design and construction as “a building that is at least 18m in height or has at least 7 storeys and contains at least two residential units; or is a care home; or is a hospital.”

Higher-Risk Buildings during occupation

The Higher-Risk Building Regulations define a Higher-Risk Building during occupation as “a building that is at least 18m in height or has at least 7 storeys and contains at least two residential units.”

Buildings that comprise entirely of occupied care homes, hospitals, secure residential institutions, hotels and military barracks and living accommodation for military personnel are expressly excluded from the definition of “during occupation”.

For both the “during design and construction” and “during occupation” definitions, the reference to 18m in height will be based on the height from the ground level on the lowest side of the building to the top of the floor surface of the highest occupied storey of the building. Any storey which only contains machine or plant is excluded from consideration.

Comment

The Government’s Impact Assessment estimated that around 13,000 existing buildings will fall within the definition of Higher-Risk Buildings (during occupation) and a further 400-500 new buildings will be constructed within that criteria each year.

For Higher-Risk Buildings that fall within these categories, urgent action must be taken to ensure compliance with various duties such as registration with the new Building Safety Regulator.  Our construction team is currently acting for several building owners and landlords who are negotiating the tricky path of understanding their obligations when it comes to the new BSA 2022. If you need advice, please get in touch with Sarah Lidgett or Lorna Carter.

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