How’s this for a list of new year’s resolutions? I will not design buildings with sexy floor-to-ceiling glass cladding.
I will reduce the working hours of drivers delivering materials to site. I will ensure that ventilation is improved in all my new buildings. I will employ only site security staff who are licensed. Not the ones you’ve been thinking of making? Well, think again: you will have to understand and comply with at least 13 major regulatory changes in the coming year (see pages 32-37).
Never has the industry been so bound by red tape. Yet since many of these bureaucratic impositions are intended to promote the welfare of people and the planet, it is hard to argue against their introduction. The industry simply has to play its part in reducing carbon dioxide emissions and the health risks associated with the manufacture and installation of building materials. There is also a wide acceptance of the appropriateness of the Building Regulations as a lever for changing behaviour. They create a level playing field. And for some, they also create additional business – just think of the modifications to buildings forced by the Disability Discrimination Act.
But there are legitimate concerns. Often, updates are updated while firms are halfway through implementing them. Or changes are made on an ad hoc basis. Or regulations that make sense individually do not collectively: Part B requires heavy fire doors that close automatically, whereas
Part M requires doors that a disabled person can operate easily. Then there’s the question of enforcement. Building control departments don’t have the manpower or the training programmes
to keep pace with the changes (see page 12). And although the government tries to build in consultation periods for wide-sweeping changes such as the revised Part L, that’s less true of European directives. Most are seemingly dropped on the industry from a great height, without so much as a glance down at the costs involved.
So here are two more resolutions the industry should make. Let’s become more adept at making our voice heard in Europe, and let’s persuade the ODPM to slow the pace of change so the sector gets a bit of a breather. And let’s hope we can keep them going beyond the end of January.
Denise Chevin, editor
Doing the best we can
Twelve days after the tsunamis scoured the shores of the Indian Ocean, stories of tragedy and bravery are still unfolding. In our first issue of the new year, Building is highlighting the impact the events of 26 December have had on UK construction firms, and the deaths of people who worked for them (see news). UK companies have traditionally had strong ties with those regions hit by the disaster – and will no doubt hope to play a big role in rebuilding them. That bond needs to be reflected now in charitable donations, which many firms are already making either by giving cash, or by seconding personnel.