Happy New Year everyone. If I have to use one word to demonstrate what has changed in 2017 it must be ‘Collaboration’. I recall from the 1980s that many professional bodies had a turf war as collaboration posed a challenge to the most basic advantage of associations: exclusivity – access to something non-members don’t have. But just as the idea of joining a club now seems rather quaint, so does the idea of associations jealously guarding their exclusivity as though it were the kernel of their organisation.
Digital media and its sibling, social media, have blown a hole a mile wide in the notion that ideas, knowledge-sharing and networking can be ring-fenced and monitored by organisations.
With so much competition, associations are realising that to attract and retain members they must raise their game, and one way to do that is by pooling talent, expertise and resources through areas such as conferences and continuing professional development. Of course associations can differentiate themselves by focusing on membership benefits which are really useful to members, and in 2017 CABE introduced, amongst other things, a wider range of benefits which has been well received.
During 2018 the new five-year plan for the Association will be concluded, being led by Dr Gavin Dunn who will take over from me when I retire. I know Gavin will bring a lot to the Association as he knows it well; in fact, he used to work for ABE, as was, many years ago. I know from our conversations that there will be continuity in the work we have been doing in relation to growing the membership, both in the UK and abroad.
In 2017 I attended an event where I heard about Dubai’s efforts to turn the emirate into a hotbed of international associations and I have no doubt that in 2018 CABE will have a licence to operate in Dubai and extend our footprint in the Middle East and beyond. I know we will continue to develop new Chapters in different countries and this international recognition, together with a sustained programme of raising our profile, will be good for all members.
Another area we will definitely be strengthening is that of influence with governments, contributing in a significant way for the future. You will be hearing a lot more about the plans when the five-year plan is signed off in June.
There is a tremendous amount of work being done in the built environment and the Construction Industry Council provides regular updates. CABE contributes to the relevant parts of this in areas such as the Grenfell Tower tragedy enquiry – we will make our views known to the Independent Review led by Dame Judith Hackitt, Chair of the EEF. The review is looking at current regulations and fire safety with a focus on the regulatory system around design and construction as well as the ongoing management of buildings in relation to fire safety. It will also review compliance and enforcement issues and the experience of international regulation in this area. There have been 22,800 fires in commercial and industrial premises in the past three years. There are, of course, different views about what should be done but CABE, with others, believes a broad in-depth and comprehensive focus is necessary. Automatic fire sprinklers are not necessarily always the answer but they should be considered in all buildings regardless of height.
There will, no doubt, be necessary changes to the Building Act and Building Regulations. The Association of British Insurers’ figures show that 70% of fire property claims arise from industrial and commercial properties. Recent work by BRE, noted at their Third Annual Fire Conference in June 2017, would indicate that modern methods of construction contribute to larger fire sizes. We can probably expect changes to Approved Document B.
The other enquiry taking place as a result of the Grenfell tragedy is Sir Martin Moore-Bick’s public enquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire which, in Phase 1, is looking at how the fire started and spread, the responses of the emergency services and the evacuation of residents. Phase 2 will look at the design and refurbishment of the building, the relevant decision-making processes involved in delivering the refurbishment and the efforts to provide food and shelter to survivors. We are expecting an interim report by Easter 2018.
Whatever the recommendations of these two reports, they are likely to have a significant impact on the construction industry. A key concern will be whether buildings are safe and whether compliance with existing building regulations is sufficient to ensure such safety.
The outcome could include new building regulations, amendments to fire safety procedures and changes to the allocation of supervising responsibilities during construction. The most important issue for all concerned will be to ensure that any changes are fit for purpose and minimise the risk of another tragedy like the Grenfell Tower disaster.
Coming back to CABE, there appears to be some misinformation about the EGM which will take place this year, and the reason for it. As with all these things, it is best to wait until the facts are presented to you, then ask questions, satisfy yourself that you can make an informed decision and then vote. A presentation will be made at an event in each Region which may be an AGM, existing Regional event or a specific event to ensure all Chartered Members have the opportunity to know why they are being asked to vote in relation to becoming a Licensed Member of the Engineering Council. The presentation will also be on the website in March.
I look forward to seeing you at your meeting in February or March.
Have a great 2018.