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Only a quarter of construction firms prepared for new Building Safety Bill

Only a quarter (23%) of construction professionals think that they and their organisations are ready for the new Building Safety Bill currently passing through parliament.

That’s according to a new survey conducted by Construction Management magazine, as the passing of the bill nears.

The government has described the bill, which follows the Grenfell Tower disaster and Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent review of fire safety and building regulations, as one of the “biggest changes to building safety regulations in a generation”.

The bill is expected to impact not only the design and construction of “higher risk” buildings but also the way in which they are managed.

Despite the bill’s far-reaching impact, only 23% of respondents said they were prepared for it. Another third of respondents said they know what they need to do in advance of the passing of the bill, but a substantial 43% said they were unsure how to prepare.

Competency preparedness

When it came to the way in which the new building safety regime is expected to raise the bar on competency requirements across the sector, the picture was more positive. More than a third (33.9%) of respondents said they were already taking action, and another 29% said they had plans in place to improve competency.

However, nearly 37% said they were unsure what the competency requirements were.

One of Dame Judith Hackitt’s key messages to the construction industry in the wake of the Grenfell disaster was that company culture had to change. Earlier this year, she expressed “serious concern” over a lack of take-up by the industry of tools and frameworks designed to make high-rise residential buildings safer.

Nearly five years on from the tragedy which claimed 72 lives, almost 37% of respondents to CM’s survey claimed that there was “clear evidence” of culture change in their organisations.

Another 31% confirmed that there are plans in place to change their work culture. Worryingly, however, nearly a third (32%) said the culture at their organisation is the same as it was before.

Clients are biggest obstacle

When it came to respondents’ concerns about their organisation’s ability to deliver the requirements of the new building safety regime, clients’ lack of awareness was cited as the biggest obstacle (68.9%).

Other significant concerns centred around procurement still being based on lowest price (59%), industry culture (52%) and competency standards (50.3%).

The Building Safety Bill has passed through both the House of Commons and the House of Lords and is now in its final stages. A series of amendments are currently being considered before it receives Royal Assent, which is expected at some point between now and July this year.

The survey is based on 186 responses from clients, consultants and contractors. Over 40% of respondents said they work in housing.

The Building Safety Bill is in its final stages of passing through parliament

CM survey respondents on…

…their readiness for the bill

“We’re principal designers and have seen quite a bit of contradictory information. We understand that elements of the Hackitt report have been removed from the bill, but we do not know what has been retained.”

“As with all legislation, the devil is in the detail and we don’t know exactly what will be in the final version.”

“As a client institution we are reliant, maybe too reliant, on our suppliers to be fully aware of the bill and requirements.”

…on competence

“I have concerns across the sector in regard to competency. There seems to be a belief that training courses equal competence. There appears to be little by way of linking competency to capability.”

“As the competency standards are still being developed for certain disciplines, it is difficult to be proactive in any meaningful way.”

“We have a statutory duty to maintain our competency and we always took that seriously.”

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Comments

  1. Can’t see this amounting to anything to be fair. It’s basically just CDM on steroids to cover arses, and contractors’ activities will always be governed by client demands and budgets, as pointed out in the article.

    The trouble is we also have an ivory tower approach to legislation, which is something that needs changing. Until the real issues are dealt with, including “value engineering”, which, let’s face it, was the real cause of Grenfell regardless of how it was dressed up, and it was compounded with more cheap substandard rubbish being brought in to save money being stuck to the side of the building.

    Legislation can only do so much ultimately, and it will be down to the knowledge and involvement of senior management in businesses to make things safer and grow the knowledge base and overall competence of their staff – which will also involve money – which will, in many cases, never be spent.

    Sorry to sound so pesimistic, but can’t see this changing anything.

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