07 Feb, 2024

Executive Summary:

This technical report delves into the implications of the Building Safety Act, focusing on the necessity for architects to demonstrate compliance with Building Regulations. In alignment with Dame Judith Hackitt's recommendations post the Grenfell Tower tragedy, a paradigm shift is observed, necessitating architects to adopt a proactive approach towards safety through the application of 'safety cases' and fostering a culture of accountability introduced by the Building Safety Regulator.


Dame Judith Hackitt highlights the imperative for architects to move beyond mere rule adherence, emphasising the need to actively demonstrate building safety to regulators. This cultural shift is advocated across all sectors, fostering a proactive evaluation of potential risks. This report discusses the recommended shift from the traditional reliance on Approved Documents to a more comprehensive risk assessment approach, particularly adopting the concept of ALARP ('as low as reasonably practical') for safety-critical elements.

Guidance Development:

To facilitate this cultural transition, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Chartered Institute of Building have collaborated to create a guide titled "A Guide to Managing Safety-Critical Elements in Building Construction." This guide outlines a structured methodology for designing, constructing, and inspecting safety-critical building elements. It includes actionable recommendations aligned with the RIBA Plan of Work, a practical scenario illustrating potential safety impacts, and examples of best practices.

Focus Areas:

The guide specifically addresses elements prone to defects and high risks to building users, including but not limited to:

  • Safe means of escape for occupants
  • Combustibility of cladding and insulating materials
  • Effective fire compartmentation, encompassing smoke control, firestopping, and cavity barriers
  • Structural integrity of masonry cladding panels and associated accessories
  • Structural integrity of balconies

Expectations and Responsibilities:

For architects, the guide outlines significant expectations in line with the duties of the client, principal designer, and principal contractor. It emphasises the requirement for comprehensive design sign-off before construction commencement, strict change control protocols, and timely dissemination of relevant design, specification, and construction information to all involved parties.

Safety-Critical Element Examples:

The report provides examples of safety-critical elements that often fall under the responsibility of the contractor. Examples include guarding fixings, balcony fixings, restraint systems, member connections, wall ties, cladding fixings, and other critical components that, if improperly designed or installed, could lead to severe injury or death.


Considering the enhanced penalties and regulatory approach by the Building Safety Regulator, architects are advised to revisit their design practices. The report advocates a thorough evaluation of the risks associated with each designed element, transcending reliance on Approved Documents.