The construction sector is going through a period of change where the traditional construction methods and practices which many are loath to change are being challenged by the need to deliver projects more quickly and to a higher standard than can currently be accommodated, whilst looking to include technology and the ability to interact with buildings which clients are now seeking.
This change has been reflected in the content of technical papers and training that the Association is being asked to provide and, even as the information we supply becomes increasingly complex, the diversity of information being sought is growing at an even faster rate. Over the past few weeks we have prepared and delivered papers in the UK and Far East relating to not only our core area of expertise but also the role that Building Engineers can play in Global Development and the Building Technologies for the future. Indeed, the appetite for information and the need to maintain competence in this rapidly evolving sector means that more Building Engineers than ever are attending Regional events meant to meet their continuing professional development needs and numbers attending our highly successful Webinar Wednesdays continue to grow.
Hopefully, you will be pleased to learn that we are currently looking for someone to join our Technical Team at HQ (an advert appears in this Journal) to improve the level of advice and support that we can offer to members and to hopefully enable us to provide a more diverse training offering, building upon our current industry recognised standard training, to offer something for all Building Engineers. In addition, we are also offering to share our experience and help the businesses that our members work in to take full advantage of the opportunities which present themselves through the effective use of social media.
Looking ahead, we have now set out the programme for this year’s Annual Conference which will be considering the challenges facing our sector over the next decade against a backdrop of very rapid technological change. The big question is will technology make the construction process simpler but the end result much more complex or vice versa?
More immediately, there are a couple of consultations relating to planning which are currently open in England and Scotland and I would urge all members to either respond directly, or forward their views to the Association to incorporate in a formal response.
The first of these relates to Scotland, where there is a current consultation which closes shortly on 04 April regarding the future of the Scottish Planning System, and in England a consultation has been issued by DCLG entitled Fixing our broken housing market and is part of a housing white paper looking at changes to planning policy and legislation. This consultation closes on 02 May.
Details of these consultation can be found at:
In England, a report has recently been produced following a study into the usability of Approved Documents to the Building Regulations, specifically Parts B & M. The research identified that there are broadly three types of users of the Approved Documents: Professionals involved with ‘standard’ buildings, Professionals involved with ‘non-Standard’ buildings and Small professionals and DIY-ers.
The broad conclusions were that the Approved Documents are highly valued but need to change, and that a digital format can serve the needs of the different users. Six recommendations were made, mostly around ease of use and navigation around the guidance but it was also suggested that the purpose groups in Approved Document B should be reviewed and that automated compliance checking using design software and BIM needs to be explored.
In early February an independent inquiry led by Professor John Cole CBE into the Construction of Edinburgh schools published a report which looked into the collapse of an external wall at Oxgangs Primary School in January 2016 and the subsequent closure of 16 other schools which were found to have similar defects. The report includes 40 recommendations in relation to matters such as procurement, independent certification, training and recruitment, Building Standards and sharing of information. Critically, the report identified a lack of appropriate training courses for Building Standards Inspectors and suggested that the appropriate authorities review the current level of training.
Details of the report can be found at:
Finally, I would like to touch on the work of the Building Control Alliance. As well as offering a mediation service for Building Control bodies, the BCA has a hard-working technical group which produces guidance to assist those in building control in dealing with some practical aspects of interpretation or to deliver pragmatic solutions to problems.
The Building Control Alliance recently issued a circular letter to all Building Control bodies regarding the duty to consult under local Acts as, despite the popular misconception, there are a number of these still in effect.
This Circular Letter will shortly be found on a new and improved BCA website: www.buildingcontrolalliance.org