The announcement of a regulator to hold the industry to account combines with work already under way to bring about much-needed improvement, says the CPA’s Peter Caplehorn
The construction industry as we know it has to change. There is clear evidence that, in many areas, deficiencies exist that can no longer go unaddressed. This was made abundantly clear in Dame Judith Hackitt’s report and the subsequent responses from government in support of her recommendations.
As part of the range of measures working their way through government, we can see a variety of new bodies, regulators and regulations starting to emerge. This will come as no surprise to those working in the built environment post-Grenfell. The government’s commitment to reform has been clear and the building blocks are gradually being put in place to drive that much-needed change.
While we wait for the primary and secondary legislation that will drive this new regulatory regime, the government recently announced its ambition to regulate construction products. Product safety has taken a step forward with the formal announcement of a new construction products safety regulator.
The regulator will be based within the Office for Product Safety and Standards, which will be expanded and given a significant £10m budget.
First mentioned in the Hackitt review, the announcement is a significant step towards developing controls that will ensure that construction products are subject to scrutiny, controls and, possibly, sanctions if things go wrong with performance.
At the Construction Products Association (CPA), we are still awaiting the detailed remit, scope and mode of operations for the regulator from the government. It is clear, however, that this announcement will bring a new drive towards addressing construction product and building safety that has been lacking in recent years.
The CPA has already engaged with the team in the Office for Product Safety and Standards and will continue to work closely to crystallise a beneficial and harmonious working relationship from the moment the new regulator’s office becomes operational.
The industry has also been working hard to reform itself, identifying where improvements can be made that will support and reflect policy positions being delivered by the government. For instance, work on competence as identified in the Raising/Setting the Bar reports has been under way for some time.
As part of a wider approach towards improving competence in the industry, there has been a focus on competence in the use of products. This work will develop into a framework allowing the industry to identify the appropriate levels of experience and understanding required to safely specify, install and maintain products at all stages of any project.
In addition, the CPA has recently launched a consultation on the proposed Code for Construction Products Information (CCPI). This has been developed by a group of experts from the CPA’s marketing integrity group and is intended to address shortcomings in the quality of product information.
Both the new regulator and the proposed code should be well on the way to affecting significant change within the industry by the end of this year
The scheme deploying the code, which will be launched after the consultation feedback has been taken into account, will enable manufacturers to certify that their product information is clear, accurate, up-to-date, accessible and unambiguous. The scheme will also involve third-party verification, with checks and balances to maintain an independent focus and objective approach.
There will also be a way for businesses other than manufacturers to support the scheme. It is hoped that this will be a significant step forward by the industry and will align and support the work of the products regulator. Further information on the new code and how to respond to the consultation can be found at our dedicated microsite: https://buildingsafely.co.uk/
Both the new regulator and the proposed code should be well on the way to affecting significant change within the industry by the end of this year. It is, hopefully, a welcome change to the benefit of everyone, be they creators or users of the built environment.
Peter Caplehorn is chief executive at the Construction Products Association