With the Building Safety Act ratcheting up this month, we find ourselves at a pivotal moment to explore opportunities for both individual and collective change for the better.

The FIS Conference provided us with an opportunity to explore avenues for individual and collective change and the support needed to make it. We covered a lot of ground, but it really struck me that, regardless of the question, the obstacles and the answers were similar and lean into core principles that are highlighted in the April edition of SpecFinish. These include:

  • Instrumental to unlocking change is earlier supply chain engagement centered on better risk management and a clear Contractor Design Development Process.
  • The Design Responsibility Matrix plays a crucial role here. It is imperative that it accurately reflects what is embedded in the contract and ensures absolute clarity regarding each party’s responsibilities.
  • The routine amendment of contracts has gotten out of hand. It has become more than an expensive and unnecessary process that damages relationships; the confusion and distortion of risk have a direct impact on the insurability of projects. A genuine, concerted effort is needed to outlaw the routine amendments that distort risk and mask problems.
  • We have mistaken overlapping stages within the Plan of Works to mean that tasks can be completed last-minute. The point is that Design needs to be a circular and inclusive process that brings the key parties together as early as is practicable.
  • We need to be clearer on the value in a job to help push back on lowest cost tendering. The capital outlay and design intent have to be assessed better in the context of operational performance and, ultimately, demolition costs (from both a cash and carbon perspective).
  • Stepping outside of the project is critical. We get sucked in and there is little energy and strained relationships at the end. Consequently, we fail to dedicate enough time to learning from the brutal lessons that construction presents. A more circular supply chain, built on partnerships, is critical for safety, productivity improvements and sustainability.

I genuinely believe we are at a tipping point. This month heralds the ratcheting up of the Building Safety Act. It doesn’t mean everything changes from the 6 April, but we are turning the page to the next chapter for construction. In this chapter, the regulator, armed with stronger enforcement powers, truly begins to scale up.

The initial focus is on higher-risk buildings, but don’t be fooled into thinking that the world will carry on as normal for everyone else. The Competency Requirements in the Building Regulations apply to all jobs. If you have more than one contractor working on a project, a principal designer and principal contractor will need to be appointed. If you are carrying out any part of the project’s building work, you must consider how your building work interacts with other building work. You must inform the principal contractor if you are concerned that your building work makes other building work non-compliant or if other building work makes your building work non-compliant.

If you appoint other contractors to work on the project, you must ensure they have the required competence to carry out the work. If you are assuming any design responsibility, you must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the design work carried out by you or other designers you manage is effectively planned, managed, and monitored. All companies need to provide competence declarations. How do you evidence that builders and designers under your responsibility are competent, and that you have robust control processes in place? At the end of the job, individuals will need to sign statements as principal contractor and principal designer to say that they have fulfi lled their duties under the Building Regulations.

The construction industry has discussed early supply chain involvement since the inception of supply chains, and we’ve talked about transformation, but only paid lip service to change. Will the Building Safety Act bring about overnight change? Of course not. However, the risk of staying the same has significantly increased and ultimately, in the words of the formidable Tony Robbins: “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change”