Building control cannot take the responsibility of ensuring everything is built to an acceptable standard on its own – greater awareness of these issues could help the industry raise its game
One of the many consequences of the Grenfell fire has been building control’s new found public profile.
The profession got a beating by Dame Judith Hackitt in her interim report into the disaster.
This highlighted a perception that private approved inspectors are less independent than their local authority counterparts and doubts over the effectiveness of the enforcement regime.
There have been grumblings from both sides of the great building control public private divide for many years. Each side thinks the other gets a better deal, local authority building control doesn’t like the way private approved inspectors cream off the lucrative private sector jobs leaving them with unprofitable domestic work. Local authorities also complain about how the ranks of approved inspectors are filled with their ex-employees leaving them to pick up the training tab and a perception that approved inspectors are in thrall to their clients.
Approved inspectors feel aggrieved there isn’t a level playing field when it comes to regulating the profession – they need formal qualifications and approval to practice, a process that needs to be repeated every five years. They also don’t have enforcement powers and have to refer serious breaches of regulations to local authorities for action.
One of the potential benefits of the increased scrutiny of building control is Hackitt’s upcoming report could help heal these long running sores once and for all.
A common licensing and enforcement regime would help bring greater equality to the profession.
The increased public profile of building control means budget holders in local authorities are taking more notice with the result more resources could be forthcoming. If more money is made available to pay for the costs of enforcement the pitifully low level of prosecutions for serious regulatory breaches could increase and help deter the worst offenders from cutting corners.
The whole business of improving compliance with regulations is invariably linked with building quality. Building control cannot take the responsibility of ensuring everything is built to an acceptable standard on its own – greater awareness of these issues could help the industry raise its game.