18 July 2018
What do we need to do to build a better future? It starts with competency!
Events over the past 12 months have meant that the construction industry has had to take a good hard look at itself in the mirror. Unfortunately, not everyone likes what they see. Public perception is at an all-time low and this scrutiny doesn’t look like it will ease up any time soon. So what do we need to do to get confidence back and to start to deliver the buildings that we promise? I believe it hinges on competency.
Last year’s Grenfell Tower tragedy highlighted some of the shortcomings of the construction industry. This was further reinforced in the publication of Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety on 17 May 2018. Together they have shown that the industry has been found wanting and that we have created a profound loss of confidence in how we deliver buildings that are fit for purpose.
Entitled Building a Safer Future the review from the very front cover says what we need to do – building things safer – and better – in the future. And this is the very crux of where I believe the issue lies. It is about how we do things better and to do this we need to have competent professionals at every stage of the process. This, of course, includes us Building Engineers collectively looking at ourselves: do we have our own house in order, are we always as professional and competent as we think, how do we know?
I believe the process of creating professionals – no matter what their expertise – needs to be looked at. As it currently stands you complete your studies and graduate as a professional and to maintain your position you then have to complete CPD. While on face value this seems a logical process, in hindsight perhaps it is not adequate.
The way we are designing and build buildings is changing – and fast. They are becoming more complex and technologies are changing the way in which they operate. The problem is that this change is far outpacing the way our industry professionals maintain their expertise and knowledge.
Perhaps the key learning point from Hackitt is that construction professionals need to think about competence in a much more precise way, and in the future be able to clearly and robustly demonstrate not only general professionalism but ‘proven’ skills to undertake specific tasks, on particular projects at a given time.
This will have to be achieved through greater emphasis on ongoing education and training aligned with much greater transparency. I believe it is an essential responsibility of the professional bodies to do this and CABE is already working on a framework to enable members to demonstrate and enhance their skills through the application of engineering principles.
If this change can also be supported by certification organisations working under UKAS, the UK's National Accreditation Body, to provide the same step change in ‘proven’ suitability of construction products and service provisions, we can start to imagine an industry where we have a market for quality and no longer one primarily driven by lower cost which will go a long way to put us back on track to deliver the buildings we should be delivering.
We have to expect big changes right across the industry over the coming months and years and it will not be enough to sit back and wait to be told what we need to do. The industry needs proactive, competent professionals that can take the lead and prove they have the right skills and understanding to do what is expected of them. By doing this we can start to rebuild public confidence and create a legacy of buildings that is fit for purpose
As always, I continue to believe that CABE and its members with their mix of technical, standards and practical expertise are well placed to help the industry deliver and I look forward to working with you all to ensure CABE is prepared to support us to even greater success, influence and better standards moving forward.