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There has been a lot of focus in the construction and property industries about the Building Safety Act and the new building regime coming into force. The act significantly changes the way we will approach projects and aims to improve building safety across the industry, particularly on higher-risk buildings (HRBs).
It effects more than just higher-risk buildings though, which is a common misconception in the industry, bringing in new duty holders and responsibilities for all construction works. It is probably the biggest change to the construction industry for over 30 years.
There has been a mixed reaction by the industry to the act, with some seeing it as an opportunity to improve and build safer buildings, whereas some see it as a barrier to development and a creator of more project administration. There also remain concerns about the readiness of the systems and processes put in place by the regulator, as well as the readiness of the regulator itself.
On the face of it the act is obviously about improving building safety, but does it not represent a watershed moment for construction to drive positive fundamental change to an industry that needs to evolve?
There is no rocket science in the Building Safety Act. Ultimately it is about constructing buildings correctly and improving the quality of buildings, but the act has knock on impacts which could help make other positive changes.
Construction is broadly viewed as an inefficient industry, which needs to embrace change as other industries have. If you compare the construction industry to manufacturing, aviation, or retail, these industries have all developed, changed and evolved. As an example, manufacturing has embraced the technology revolution over the years and cut costs, making itself more efficient. Retail has similarly gone through an online ‘evolve or die’ period.
Construction has had periods where the opportunity has been there to evolve and make positive change such as initiatives to introduce BIM and digital transformation or the net zero and sustainable construction journey which is currently underway. The industry has grappled with these opportunities to progress but never fully embraced these industry changes.
The new building safety regime can help make these positive initiatives business as usual for the industry and the norm for any new construction or development. But how?
For example, the incoming Building Safety Act requires that a golden thread of information should be in place via a digital platform. All of the design, changes and decision points must be tracked through the golden thread of information. It requires clear information protocols and gateways to confirm that building information is accurate.
The use of BIM and information management protocols on projects should now just become a standard practice within the construction industry to help achieve the golden thread. Theoretically if you used BIM level 2 on your project, you should really be able to provide 90% of the information required by the regulator for HRBs via the BIM model.
One clear message which has come from the Hackitt Report was that construction requires a behavioural and culture shift. Again, the Building Safety Act should be used as an opportunity to reset the culture and improve collaborative working. More collaboration is going to be required from project team if developments are to be successful navigating the Building Safety Act going forwards, such as the Principal Designer working closely with the wider design team. We should also be upskilling our work force, ensuring that people in roles are competent, just as the act focuses on competence in roles. There should be training and knowledge initiative introduced across the industry.
We should be driving the digitalisation of information, processes and management to reduce time, costs and make what skilled people we have in the industry as productive as possible. Again, this aligns with the principles of the construction control plan and golden thread which are introduced through the act.
For us, the introduction of the Building Safety Act represents an opportunity to tackle some of the inefficiencies in the industry and build safer, better-quality buildings. As has been said before, the act touches all corners of the industry, and therefore it should also be viewed as an opportunity to improve all corners of the industry.
It should be a watershed moment to make all of the good initiatives mentioned above which have been half tackled by construction business as usual, such as BIM, digitalisation, building net zero, a cultural and behavioural reset, along with the obvious objectives of the building safety regime.
Get in touch with us here if you need any support or guidance on the building safety act or support getting compliant.