The Building Safety Bill currently before parliament is the government’s policy response to the Grenfell tragedy.
When enacted, the new law will bring into force Dame Judith Hackitt’s recommendations for a new building safety regulator, along with new duties and competence requirements for those in the building industry, and new rights for residents. It’s a ground-breaking and lengthy bill in many ways with further regulation to follow, but I also believe it could be a game-changer on bathroom product compliance.
One of the most attention-grabbing parts of the bill for product manufacturers is the concept of a ‘golden thread’ of information from the earliest planning stages through a building’s lifetime. Specifiers already require manufacturers to provide detailed information, often in digital formats such as BIM files. We can expect even greater rigour in this information exchange in the future.
More fundamentally though, schedule 9 of the bill is dedicated to construction products. Although there is no immediate intention to change the Construction Products Regulation inherited from the EU, the bill does provide Ministers with the power to update the legislation.
Crucially, when new regulations are brought forward, schedule 9 states they may:
(a) prohibit the marketing or supply of construction products which are not safe products;
(b) impose other requirements for the purpose of securing that construction products which are not safe products are not marketed or supplied;
(c) impose requirements in relation to the marketing or supply of construction products which are safe products.
Schedule 9 also paves the way for a National Regulator for Construction Products with teeth. Combined, these provisions will ramp up the pressure on manufacturers and their channel partners to ensure products are demonstrably safe and compliant before putting them on the market. Its right that the onus should fall here; the current situation that consumers and installers cannot assume a product is compliant if it’s on sale is absurd.
What’s not yet clear is how many of BMA members’ products will fall into scope of any new regulations under the Bill. It’s a fair assumption that those categories covered by the existing CPR – baths, basins, shower enclosures, shower trays, WCs – will be covered. Taps and showers do not fall under the current CPR, but water fittings regulations where the onus is on the installer to ensure fittings are compliant. Will new construction product regulation expand its coverage, and if so, how can we avoid messy double-regulation?
For many years the BMA has campaigned for better compliance in our marketplace. Products that don’t meet regulations and standards rip-off consumers, undercut credible manufacturers, bring the industry into disrepute and create safety issues. The Building Safety Bill was born out of an awful tragedy, but perhaps the bill heralds a better, safer and more compliant era for the construction supply chain.