While everyone in the construction industry is going to be impacted by the changes being brought about by the Building Safety Act 2022 (Act), there is no doubt that architects will be one of those right at the coalface.

So in what ways will the Act impact architects? Here are three key areas for architects to be aware of:

New duties in compliance

The dutyholder regime is not yet in force, but is coming soon. What we know about it is based on the government’s proposals in a key consultation (we're still awaiting the final outcome on this).

That consultation proposed new dutyholders (aligning with those in the CDM Regulations) namely the client, designers and principal designers (which is where architects come in), contractors and principal contractors. The focus differs from the CDM Regulations though - these new dutyholders will focus on compliance with building regulations, rather than health and safety during construction.

There will be duties that are common to all new dutyholders - like planning, managing and monitoring their work to ensure the building work complies with building regulations. There will be specific duties for each type of dutyholder too - such as designers not starting the design unless they are satisfied that the client is aware of its duties; and principal designers planning, managing and monitoring all the design during the design phase. And there will be additional duties for higher risk buildings – for example all dutyholders working together to provide Gateway 2 information to the Building Safety Regulator (BSR).

Architects will need to ensure they are aware of their new duties, and that they are sufficiently trained and able to comply. For more on dutyholders, see our factsheet.

As far as we can tell, the same person or organisation can be a dutyholder under both the CDM Regulations and new dutyholder regime, if they are competent to perform each role separately and together.

Competency is crucial

Competence is a key feature of the new regime. Everyone carrying out design or building work must be competent, and also be able to demonstrate their competence to do the work in a way that complies with building regulations. This applies to both individuals and organisations:

  • For individuals (i.e. individual architects) this relates to their skills, knowledge, experience and behaviour
  • For organisations (i.e. the firm that architects work for) this relates to its organisational capability to carry out its functions and the building regulations properly.

The BSI has published a suite of built environment competence standards, including on "core criteria for building safety in competence frameworks" (BSI Flex 8670) and a "Framework for competence of individual Principal Designers" (PAS 8671). 

As such, the architect's competency is crucial, and it will be scrutinised as part of Gateways 2 and 3 under the new proposed Gateway regime.

Gateways, declarations and statements

The architect will undoubtedly have a role in the proposed Gateway regime. If they are the principal designer, they'll need to be engaged in good time and actively involved in preparing and helping to make the Gateway 2 submission to the BSR before the works can start. 

In making that submission, one of the prescribed documents to be submitted is a competence declaration, which confirms "that the client is satisfied that their principal designer and principal contractor are competent to carry out their roles; and written records of the steps the client has taken to be satisfied of their competence" (from the key consultation we mentioned above).

For the Gateway 3 submission when the works are complete, one of the prescribed documents to be submitted to the BSR is a compliance declaration "signed by each principal designer involved in the project at any stage with their contact details; dates of appointment; and a statement confirming that they took all reasonable steps to fulfil their duties as a principal designer under the proposals set out in the previous section on dutyholders" (also from the key consultation).

So not only will clients be taking a harder look at architect's competencies, the BSR will be too.

Architects - act now!

While the legislation and therefore the final detail is awaited on the dutyholder, competence and Gateway regimes, architects can familiarise themselves now with the changes that the key consultation proposes, and keep an eye out for industry guidance and updates on the timings of those changes. They can check in with their insurers. And they can start speaking with their clients about the changes that are coming, because inevitably clients will rely on their architects to help them steer their projects through the new building safety landscape.