Contractor-appointment timings to be mandated for high-risk buildings

Clients will be required to appoint a main contractor on high-risk tower blocks before a building-control approval application is made, the government has confirmed.

The government announced its intention to press ahead with the move in a response to a year-long consultation on changes to building regulations aimed at improving building safety.

The move means that contractors must be on board before the new ‘Gateway 2’ stage, which requires a raft of information to be passed to the Building Safety Regulator before work can start.

In its response to the consultation, the government said that it considers “it appropriate that the appointment of the principal contractor and the principal designer, supported by evidence [that] they understand their duties, is made before the building-control approval application for higher-risk building work is sent to the regulator”.

Angus Dawson, partner at law firm Macfarlanes, described the move as “unexpected”.

He said: “The industry will be concerned about the requirement to have appointed a principal contractor prior to a Gateway 2 submission being made and will want to understand what is meant by ‘appointed’.”

Dawson added that the new requirement suggests that clients will be likely to need a pre-construction services agreement for high risk buildings.

He said: “The general view is that to pass through Gateway 2 you will have to complete stage four design.

“People feel that will require a high degree of engagement with subcontracting chain to deliver the level of detail the regulator will be asking for at this stage.

“On high risk buildings there will now be a question as to whether you will almost inevitably engage in a two-stage contract to enable you to pass through Gateway 2.”

The government admitted in its response to the consultation that concerns had been raised during the consultation that the requirement “did not follow usual procurement routes”.

The new rules will apply to buildings defined as “higher risk” under the Building Safety Act 2022 – those that are at least 18 metres in height or have at least seven storeys and contain at least two residential units, or are care homes or hospitals.

More on the new updates to building regulations

Building safety: government won’t mandate golden thread data language
Industry faces hefty initial bill to implement building-safety regulations
Government introduces three-pronged commencement definition

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