Members will know that the building standards system in Scotland is pre-emptive and operates in two phases – design and construction. Applications for building warrants are made at the design stage and the granting of the warrant confirms that the proposed building meets the current building regulations. On completion of the building work, the owner / developer makes a completion certificate submission confirming that the work is complete and complies with the approved building warrant and the building regulations.
It is worth spelling this out as Scotland’s building standards system is very different from the system in England. In recent years, a number of events have focused awareness across the UK, on how buildings are designed, constructed, and procured. In recent years, a number of events have focused awareness across the UK, on how buildings are designed, constructed, and procured. These include:
- The Grenfell Tower fire in London in 2017.
- The collapse of part of an external wall in Oxgangs primary school in Edinburgh in 2016 and the subsequent discovery of similar defects in 16 other schools.
- The closure of the DG One leisure centre in Dumfries in 2014 following identification of a range of defects arising throughout the building
In 2018 FMB launched the campaign to licence UK construction which is aimed at increasing quality and standards across the industry. At the same time ministerial working groups were established, reports produced, and discussions held between the Scottish Government, industry and local authority building standards teams. Whilst licensing the industry is in the hands of the UK Government, various parties, including the FMB agreed that the Scottish building standards system needed to be strengthened. One outcome was the creation of the compliance plan working group in October 2020. The FMB were invited to chair this group made up of industry representatives, regulators, and others with an expertise on building regulations.
A new role, but how will this impact FMB Members?
I chaired the fifth meeting of the working group on 26 April and whilst I can’t share the papers and details of the discussions, I can give members an insight into what the future of compliance may look like. A new role: the Compliance Plan Manager (CPM) is to be introduced to the building standards system. The CPM would be appointed for all high-risk building (HRB) projects. To give you an indication, HRBs would include hospitals, residential care buildings, schools, and non-domestic buildings under local authority control. For lower risk and lower value projects, the view is that it would be more feasible for the developer / owner or the building contractor, to act as the compliance agent. Sensible and proportionate.
Members may ask, where would the CPM come from? It is envisaged that a chartered construction professional: an architect, structural engineer or surveyor would perform this role. The CPM would not be supervising the work of contractors, but they would need to sign off the compliance plan before a completion certificate could be issued. One key point, which affects all types of building projects, whatever their scale, is that it is envisaged that there should be a duty to produce a compliance plan for local authority verifier approval at the building warrant stage for all building warrants.
Now we are at least two years away from changes being made to the regulations and the system in Scotland. I will keep members informed as the compliance space develops especially at our AGM and Summer Reception on Thursday 23 June in Edinburgh.