It is almost a year since the Hackitt Review into building regulations and fire safety was published, and almost two years since the Grenfell Tower disaster which prompted its creation. So much has been said about the ‘need for change’, and the requirement for immediate action. However, beyond a lot of posturing by people trying to site themselves and their businesses into a thought leadership position, not enough has been achieved nor seems likely in 2019.
Government did accept the findings of the Hackitt Review but is yet to give an indication of how many of the 53 recommendations will be implemented. What we do know is that there will be some significant changes to the building regulations that will impact our industry. Each sector within construction starts from a different position but the focus of regulation and the need for improvement will be seen by all.
No real impact
We have seen a number of campaigns launch and build some momentum, but again no real impact, including the Licence to Build and 100% Hackitt campaigns from Federation of Master Builders and Local Authority Building Control (LABC). Without cross-industry acceptance and a collective approach the results for any such initiatives are a long way off from affecting any worthy progress. Licencing systems for all construction firms are present in other countries, but the UK would need to undergo a shift in the operating models of up to a million businesses of varying sizes to make it work.
LABC is often critical of others in its pursuit of ensuring standards, but the lack of enforcement by authorities has restricted a major deterrent against those who cut corners. Prosecutions have reduced by about 75% in the last ten years and whilst the finances around court procedures work in favour of the perpetrator and against the authority, nothing will change.
Regarding glazing work within homes, there are several in the glazing industry who point to the need for a qualified workforce and lobby government for that position. The Gas industry is often cited as an example of what we need, but the failure of Corgi as highlighted by the Frontline review in 2006 leading to the loss of its HSE licence shows that all was not good. Gas Safe Register is now 10 years in operation, but even this has been met with the need of tighter controls in the agreed relicense to Capita that commenced in April 2019.
Gas may have a fully qualified workforce, but this has not resulted in a system of perfect delivery nor consumer protection from poor workmanship or shoddy business practice. Continued assessment of the business and work of individuals is always required, as it is the combination of competent engineers and a competent business operational structure, with appropriate financial protection, that offers the best position to a consumer and their home.
Time to address the home truths
Glazing is now in a similar position to the Roofing industry of about 18 months ago, when CITB chose to fund the RoofCERT initiative to accredit the roofing industry and professionalise the sector. RoofCERT is striding forward and associations within roofing have united to share knowledge and ensure best practice is adopted. This has led to partnerships forming with major influencers external to the industry so that roofing is no longer working in isolation.
Roofing has basically chosen to sort itself out and has collaborated to achieve this, ensuring there are answers to key industry issues such as withdrawal of experienced worker CSCS blue card and lack of career paths that inspire Centennials.
Roofing accepted some home truths that are also relevant to glazing: Competence of individuals with a qualification varies hugely throughout the country; there is a lack of quality assessors; people beyond the family & friends network do not want to join the sector; consumer perception is poor; the inspection failure rate is too high in both commercial and residential.
Glazing is significantly behind
So as roofing moves forward it is able to speak to government acknowledging what it needs to change and demonstrate how it is achieving this collaboratively.
Glazing, however, is significantly behind in comparison. When statistically provable truths are levelled at glazing, those who speak out are often vilified. So how can we ever improve if we are unwilling to accept our faults? Government is not foolish and is well aware of the complaints against our industry’s larger players, especially within the conservatory arena.
Nevertheless, as regulatory change occurs, the influence that our industry can convey on government will be limited by the fact that even though our products are transparent, the positions we adopt are often commercially led.
So, whilst new regulation is still a concern for tomorrow, our industry needs to look at how it can collaborate today to represent or be swept along by changes decided by those not directly related to glazing.