Building safety terminology: A guide

Stuart Armstrong

By Stuart Armstrong

06 April 2023

From ACM to PAS 9980, there is no doubt that building safety is full of acronyms and key terms that you need to get your head around if you want your buildings to stay compliant and safe. We’ve created this guide to some of the most common words and phrases you’ll be encountering as a block manager in England.


Building Safety Act

The Building Safety Act, passed in April 2022, makes sweeping changes to law around the design and construction of all buildings and the operation of higher-risk residential buildings. It came about as a response to the Grenfell fire and subsequent review of building regulations and fire safety by Dame Judith Hackitt. The Act is a very complex piece of legislation that will take many years to fully implement.


Higher-Risk Building

In residential property, a higher-risk building is one that is 18 metres in height (or 7 storeys) with at least two or more residential units or separate dwellings. The Act imposes the most strict safety requirements on these buildings because they are most likely to face significant consequences from the spread of fire and structural failure.


Accountable Person (AP)

You see this role mentioned over and over in part 4 of the Building Safety Act and associated guidance. The Accountable Person is the person or organisation that owns or has responsibility over the building.

This person or organisation must take all reasonable steps to:
  • Prevent a building safety risk happening. A building safety risk is defined as “spread of fire and/or structural failure”.
  • Reduce the seriousness of an incident if one happens.


Principal Accountable Person (PAP)

A Principal Accountable Person is defined when a building has multiple accountable persons. It is the person or entity in charge of the structure and exterior of the building. If there is only one Accountable Person, then they are the Principal Accountable Person and must follow the duties of both the Accountable Person and the Principal Accountable Person.

The Principal Accountable Person must:
  • Register existing buildings with the Building Safety Regulator (BSR); they can do this between April 2023 and October 2023.
  • Register all new buildings before occupation.
  • Prepare a building safety case report for the building.
  • Apply for a building assessment certificate when directed to by the BSR.

Building Safety Case/Building Safety Case Report

The Building Safety Case collects all the information the Accountable Person uses to manage the risk of fire and the structural safety of a building. You’ll need to send a Building Safety Case Report to the Building Safety Regulator when they request it. This will be after you have registered your building with the Regulator. 

This report summarises the Safety Case, giving the reader the confidence that you have identified the building’s major fire and structural risks and are doing what you can to limit them.

Once this information has been accepted, the Regulator will issue a Building Assessment Certificate. This certifies that the Accountable Person is carrying out all of the duties they have under the Building Safety Act.

Building Safety Regulator (BSR)

The Building Safety Act created a Building Safety Regulator to oversee the new building safety regulatory regime. This role is fulfilled by England’s independent regulator of health and safety, the HSE (Health and Safety Executive).

The Building Safety Regulator has three functions:
  • Overseeing the safety and standards of all buildings.
  • Helping and encouraging the built environment industry and building control professionals to improve their competence.
  • Leading implementation of the new regulatory framework for high-rise buildings.


Responsible Person

Under the Fire Safety Order 2005, the Responsible Person either owns the building or has control over its premises. Block managers are typically appointed by the Responsible Person to act on their behalf to manage the common or non-domestic areas of a multi-residential building. The Responsible Person has a duty to carry out a fire risk assessment of the premises. In England, they also have other duties, which we explain in our Action Guide: Changes to Fire Safety in England.


Cladding is an external layer of material added to a building to improve its weather resistance, thermal insulation or appearance. Highly combustible cladding was one of the main reasons the Grenfell fire spread so easily. Two main types are under the spotlight after extensive investigations.

ACM (Aluminium Composite Material)

A type of ACM containing combustible materials was thought to contribute to the rapid spread of the Grenfell fire. It has been banned from being used in the construction of new buildings, with building developers and landlords tasked with removing this type of cladding from existing buildings.

HPL (High Pressure Laminate)

Some types of this are believed to be a fire risk. The Lakanal House fire in 2009 was accelerated by highly combustible HPL cladding, though the threat has not been deemed significant as that posed by ACM cladding. Leaseholders looking to buy, sell or remortgage their building may carry out an EWS1 survey to determine the risk level posed by their HPL cladding and what steps should be taken to mitigate this risk.

EWS1 - External Wall System Fire Review Certificate

Commonly referred to as an ‘EWS1 form’, the EWS1 survey and certificate was introduced to help mortgage lenders calculate the value of high-rise flats with cladding. The Government, on the advice of independent experts, believes that only buildings 18 metres and above (higher-risk buildings) require this survey. It is not a legal requirement.

PAS 9980:2022

This is a code of practice for assessing fire risk from the external wall construction and cladding of existing buildings. The code should be used by competent professionals such as fire engineers to carry out assessments. The results of these assessments may be useful to Accountable Persons and Responsible Persons.

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This article is intended for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have any questions related to issues in this article, we strongly advise contacting a legal professional.
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Stuart Armstrong

By Stuart Armstrong

06 April 2023

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