3 September 2019
Transparency is never a bad thing. When messages are loud and clear the burden of uncertainty is lifted and positive progress, whether in a business or personal sense, can be made. It’s why the Chartered Association of Building Engineers (CABE) has developed a revised competency framework that benefits members by providing clarity in relation to professional expectations and how we operate going forwards.
The competency framework’s introduction follows a review of our membership grades and related competency frameworks to ensure they meet current sector expectations and are future ready. The new guidelines set out the revised competency requirements for each grade of membership across the association. It means from 1 January, 2020, new membership applications and current member upgrades will be assessed for compliance against the new requirements. We hope the revised framework will be considered as a blueprint to help raise standards throughout the construction industry. But in what other ways can we address the issue of professional competency?
With the construction industry coming under ever-closer scrutiny in relation to building standards, CABE is looking to take a leading role in the quality assurance sphere. It’s our duty, as a professional body, to take the initiative when it comes to providing a platform designed to raise industry standards regardless of whether the project is a small domestic scheme or a major national infrastructure project.
Over recent years the government has introduced measures to help protect the public from so-called ‘cowboy’ builders. These include the introduction of the ‘Home Improvements Guarantee’ in 2015. This free service prevents unscrupulous builders from pocketing any cash until the customer is completely satisfied with the work carried out. Despite this initiative, cases of bad workmanship continue to be highlighted across media channels. On larger commercial schemes, we have all witnessed the consequences of poor workmanship and the implications of changing specifications. It is essential we find a way to address this and create buildings that are fit for purpose. Therefore CABE, in conjunction with the construction industry, must do all it can to be seen to be the primary source in offering prescriptive solutions to aid the sector in addressing the below par performance of all parties involved in the construction process including designers, surveyors, consultants and inspectors.
What causes building standards to fall short of expectation? In my opinion, not enough action has been taken to ensure there are sufficient workers with the necessary skills to meet the needs of the sector. For a long time now, the trend has been for school leavers to head to university in pursuit of a degree, rather than a trade apprenticeship. This has played a part in the current shortfall in skilled construction workers, something our competency framework will also be addressing.
We not only need to encourage more young people into the industry, we must do all we can to tempt workers to return to the sector. The 2008 recession saw many good, qualified tradespeople leave construction for other industries. It should be among our aims to persuade them to come back. After all, has there ever been a better time to have a career in construction, what with the country’s current and future building needs? It’s a message we need to be sending to prospective industry entrants, young and older. With this in mind, CABE is looking to develop an understanding with universities to progress the idea that construction is a career you plan to embark upon, rather than simply fall into.
New generation appeal
In trying to persuade a new generation to take up tools and join the construction industry, we might also urge the sector to embrace more modern building methods. The idea of working within off-site construction, for example, might appeal more to technology and environmentally-conscious millennials. Factory-controlled processes produce less material waste and significantly reduce on-site working times, both of which could make a welcome contribution to the government’s target to cut UK greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. As well as defying the elements to produce a more rapid build, off site construction should allow for better quality control and higher performance consistency, tying in with CABE’s drive for improved building quality and performance.
So how do we convince the construction industry – traditionally thought of as resistant to change – to embrace modern methods of construction? Naysayers point to the fact that foundations aren’t able to be built in a factory-controlled environment. This is generally true, but off-site technology is ever-evolving. The theory that foundations will soon be included in the modular package is borne out by trials being carried out by a UK engineering firm. It involves the development of a factory-built beam system that sits on top of pile foundations. It’s then transferred to site and craned into position, resulting in a simpler, cleaner build that is time and cost-effective, and better for the environment. Innovations such as this will help off-site construction become a widely-accepted industry model.
It all leads to a feeling that these are very exciting times for the construction industry. The future is ours to build, and the greatest tool at our disposal is confidence. We must embrace the new technologies, which will help us build more effectively, with confidence. And most of all, we must be confident that those tasked with creating our future infrastructure – from design to build stage to maintenance – have the competencies to complete them to the highest quality. With that in mind, we’re confident that with our competency framework, CABE is providing something of a foundation for the construction industry’s future success.