22nd October 2020
Keeping Buildings Safe Post-Construction: The Role of Managers

For the past few years, building safety has taken a prominent place on the government’s agenda, culminating in the landmark Building Safety Bill published in July 2020. While much of the draft legislation focuses on the design and construction of high-rise buildings, it also introduces provisions for ongoing safety once construction has been completed, including the appointment of a Building Safety Manager (BSM).

This may seem confusing to some, as there are already a wide variety of management professionals involved in the maintenance, upkeep and safety of occupied residential or commercial buildings. While there may be some overlap in these roles, building managers, property managers and facility managers all have distinct roles to play. So, what are these roles and how do they differ to the new BSMs?

Building managers

Once construction is complete, building managers will be responsible for the physical structure of the building itself, and are thus charged with ongoing maintenance such as repairing roof leaks, mould or cracking. They may also be responsible for emergency evacuation plans, overseeing building safety and fire prevention procedures, building inspections and hiring contractors for repairs when needed. Of course, it all depends on the building in question, which is why some overlap in roles can occur.

Property managers

Property managers may also have some maintenance responsibilities, although their primary role is usually taking care of the business side of things. This might include, for example, securing and maintaining tenants, managing leases, responding to tenant complaints and overseeing evictions where necessary.

They will also be involved in overseeing the building’s finances through such activities as creating budgets, advertising to prospective tenants, negotiating, adjusting and collecting rents from tenants and, more rarely, taking legal action against tenants who breach the terms of their lease.

Facility managers

Unlike building and property management, the responsibilities of facility managers are described under ISO 41011:2018, meaning they are more easily distinguished from the other two roles.

While some of a facility manager’s responsibilities will overlap with a property manager’s, there is a key difference. Whereas a property manager is usually acting in the building owner’s interests, facility managers will be working for a tenant company within the building. They’ll be responsible for day-to-day office maintenance, sourcing and fitting equipment and furnishings, as well as sourcing, purchasing and maintaining resources such as computers, printers and photocopiers. If the company contracts external services such as catering or waste management, this will also be within a facility manager’s remit.

New Building Safety Managers – what’s the difference?

When the Building Safety Bill becomes the Building Safety Act, owners of residential buildings over 18 metres tall will be legally obliged to appoint a BSM to take overall responsibility for the building’s safety once it is occupied. So, what will they be tasked with?

In addition to ensuring the physical structure of the building continues to meet the conditions of the building safety certificate, the BSM will also be in charge of administrative tasks relating to the upkeep of building safety documentation. There is much more to the role than this, however. BSMs will also be tasked with ensuring that the people employed to maintain and manage the building (e.g. building and property managers) are adequately trained and experienced, as well as collaborating with residents regarding the safe management of their building and providing them an outlet for any concerns.

Requiring a unique blend of skills, soon thousands of highly trained professionals will be required for the new role – leading to fears that the industry may lack the skills and training needed to provide them.