transforming the building control profession


Now, 6 years on, in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the building control profession is about to see the full force of the significant regulatory changes brought about by the Building Safety Act 2022

“It’s been a long time coming…” in the timeless words of American singer songwriter Sam Cook, “change is gonna come.” Penned in 1964, his song conveyed a message of hope for a better future.

This landmark legislation aims to enhance safety in higher risk buildings throughout their lifecycle, improve the competence of those overseeing building works, provide clearer standards and guidance, and prioritise residents’ safety in a new system for building safety.

The impact on the Building Control system in England and Wales has been nothing if not transformational. A new regulatory body, the Building Safety Regulator (BSR), has been established to take control of higher risk buildings and private sector Approved Inspectors have been required to register as Building Control Approvers.

Challenging competence in the building control profession

The building control profession becomes the first built environment profession to be directly challenged on competence. Building Control surveyors sectors have been put through their paces to demonstrate and validate their knowledge, skills and experience against a stringent framework of competencies, known as the BICoF, which focuses on nine key areas, including law, technology, safety management and ethics.

From 6 April 2024, Building Control Approvers and Building Control Inspectors must be registered, or in the process of registering, with the BSR or fall foul of the law as it will be a criminal offence to work as a building inspector without being registered. The BSR has powers to investigate and sanction building control teams, suspend them, put them into special measures and bring criminal charges against them.

New legislation brings significant changes impacting construction projects. Regulatory professionals will no longer provide compliance advice due to conflict of interest concerns. From the outset, the BSR has been clear about the need to restore public confidence by raising safety standards and drive cultural change in the construction sector. The industry can expect to see more emphasis on formal enforcement, shifting compliance responsibility to clients, designers and contractors.

Awareness of impending changes dates back to Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations & Fire Safety in 2018. However, the Building Safety Act didn’t become law until 1 April 2023, with full implementation details emerging later that year. The introduction of new Building Regulations and the opening of the BSR register in October 2023 left a mere six month window for more than 4,500 Building Control professionals to register with the BSR, and with just three accredited competency assessor organisations, it has been an uphill struggle for many to prepare for and to pass an independent competence assessment.

Recruitment challenges in construction

In a sector facing skill shortages and recruitment challenges, Building Control employers observe reluctance among senior surveyors to adopt the new competency verification system. This system mandates evaluation every four years, including interviews, exams and professional development, regardless of tenure or expertise. Consequently, many have opted for retirement or departure, depriving the profession of their invaluable knowledge.

Concerns are now with those left behind, with the impact of increased workloads and the loss of valued team mentors, the pressures should not be underestimated. The CEO of Local Authority Building Control(LABC) was so concerned by the “reports of individuals in crisis, suffering extreme stress, anxiety and depression” that she penned a letter in mid-February to warn the government and regulators about the risk of a severe shortage of registered Building Control inspectors certified to practice before the 6 April deadline, and the risk of local authorities being unable to deliver their statutory regulatory building control function.

She said this would “have a wide-ranging effect on the construction industry, consumers, regulatory enforcement and compliance”. She pointed out that the same deadline pressures were taking a toll on those operating the independent certification schemes.

Thankfully, common sense has won and, pending specific criteria, we can embrace the three-month reprieve agreed upon by the government and the BSR. For many, recent years have been filled with anxiety due to these changes, significantly affecting mental health and wellbeing.

“A new regulatory body, the Building Safety Regulator(BSR), has been established to take control of higher risk buildings and private sector Approved Inspectors have been required to register as Building Control Approvers.”

Work-related stress due to organisational change

It is well-recorded that organisational change is a major trigger for work-related stress. Effective change management can mitigate this. There are many resources available for employers to help address mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

Good, honest and open communication builds trust and confidence. Listen to your team’s concerns and expectations, take time to answer questions and address concerns. Allow time for staff to adjust to change and prioritise their workloads and provide training and support to maintain productivity while lowering stress levels. Be aware that stress can lead to physical and mental health conditions and can aggravate existing illnesses. The HSE encourages a Management Standards approach to tackling work-related stress and published a step-by-step workbook to help employers address the risks of work-related stress.

As Mental Health Awareness Week approaches on 13-19 May, it’s crucial to reflect on our own wellbeing and that of our colleagues. Communication is vital: stay connected and reach out to others. Talk to your colleagues, express your concerns to managers for support. Take time to adapt to changes, set realistic goals for direction and be compassionate to yourself and those around you.

If you are a member of CABE or RICS, remember that the CABE Benevolent Fund and RICS Lionheart can offer you and your family support, including access to counselling.

A positive change to building safety

Above all, try to reframe the change as a positive. Look for the opportunities that the Building Safety Act can deliver and remember the context of the changes – Dame Judith Hackitt’s challenge to the industry to reprioritise safety, embrace continuous improvement and measurable competence, and do the right thing. As a registered Building Control profession, we will be well-placed to rebuild trust and confidence in the construction industry and lead the way in delivering safe, sustainable and accessible buildings for all.

It’s been a long time coming but I know that change is gonna come…

 

Jayne Hall BSc Hons FCABE

Director of Quality and Compliance

Hertfordshire Building Control

Tel: +44 1438 879990

building.control@hertfordshirebc.co.uk

www.hertfordshirebc.co.uk

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