- 22 Jul 2020
Attendees and apologies
- Aubrey Fawcett (Chair), SOLACE
- Dave Aitken (DA), LABSS
- Nicola Barclay (NB), Homes for Scotland
- Ron Fraser (RF), Construction Scotland
- Colin Proctor (CP), Scottish Futures Trust
- Mike Foy (MF), CIOB
- Gordon Nelson (GN), FMB
- Graham Martin (GM), RIAS
- Craig Ross (CR), RICS
- Stephen Good (SG), CSIC
- Stewart Macartney (SM), Scottish Registration Board on behalf of Certification Scheme Providers
- Stephen Garvin (SGa), Scottish Government
- Linda Stewart (LS), Scottish Government
- Steven Scott (SS), Scottish Government
- Neil Mitchell (NM), Scottish Government
- Colette Templeton (CT), Scottish Government
Items and actions
1. Welcome and Apologies
The Chair welcomed everyone to the 6th meeting.
Apologies were received from Robert Jopling, SER. Stewart Macartney, Scottish Registration Board represented the Certification Scheme Providers.
2. Note of Meeting and Action Points (Paper 28)
The note of the March 2020 meeting had been issued in draft due to the pressures of the COVID-19 crisis. Members accepted the note and CT undertook to finalise and update the text under AOB in respect of the 16 June meeting.
The Action Points were reviewed and Members were content.
3. COVID-19: Building Standards Response and Impact on programme
Shortly after the March meeting the COVID-19 crisis hit the UK. The resulting lockdown has required a lot of change to the way in which we all work. Construction and Business resilience groups have been set up by Building Standards Division (BSD) to support the industry with Future Board Members involved in these. Progress is now being made and the construction industry is starting to move out of lockdown. BSD are fully working from home. Home working as well as the lockdown has affected how work on the Futures Board work streams is being taken forward.
Our plan was to, over the current year, add additional staff resource to support the work of the Futures Board. However, the organisation wide recruitment freeze presently prevents us from bringing new people in or advertising to staff within the Scottish Government. The Scottish Government’s focus remains on dealing with the COVID-19 crisis and while BSD have been able to move work forward on a number of fronts we are also undertaking work to support the wider organisation. This pressure continues and we may see the need for more BSD staff to divert their time to non-building standards related work. A COVID-19 business resilience plan for BSD has been prepared.
There have been some positive outcomes from the current crisis. The eBuilding Standard system has ensured that verifiers have been able to continue the business of building warrant applications and approvals. Since the beginning of lockdown BSD have been in touch with verifiers on a weekly basis and monitor the number of building warrant (BW) applications received. Applications are down around 25% on this time last year and in recent weeks; this fell as low as 40%. The crisis has also necessitated closer working and a strengthening of relationships and understanding across the sector. BSD will look to build on these strengths as we move forward through the recovery phase.
Guidance, on the use of remote inspections, has been issued to support the verification inspection process. Remote inspections introduce a change in process and there is a need for further support and commitment from builders as well as the wider construction sector to ensure it delivers. The guidance was developed under the Digital work stream and we are working with verifiers and Local Authorities Building Standards Scotland (LABSS) to identify case studies to support and develop learning.
Weekly meetings are also in place with the Certification Scheme Providers. Today the Minister has written to all LAs about the benefits of increasing the use of certification to support the building warrant process. The letter highlights the potential to help reduce the risk of transmission of the coronavirus by using certification services to limit the number of people visiting building sites (letter attached for information).
AF pleased that work has continued and recognised the support BSD has given to the construction sector and LA Building Standards. NB advised that Homes for Scotland members were particularly pleased with the support and response from BSD. The setting up of resilience groups, provision of guidance and turnaround of responses and solutions has been very welcomed. Working closely with LABSS has resulted in a strong collaborative approach.
Reflecting on the positive outcomes MF asked if there had been evidence yet, of less than positive outcomes to the changes being introduced around remote verification and submission of photographic evidence. DA advised that from a verifier perspective it is too early to say if the changes will lead to problems. As lockdown is relaxed and work begins, this will test procedures. NM explained that remote verification is risk based and it is expected that contractor’s previous performance will be considered when using this solution. The use of a video link will provide real time evidence. Remote verification is not expected to supersede on-site inspection but will be used to complement it. AF informed the Board that work on a health centre project in Inverclyde had continued throughout the crisis. Submitting video and photographic evidence to support the process presented challenges to the BS teams working at home. Moving forward there is a need for guidance to be provided on the type of evidence required to support the process to ensure it is concise, relevant and confirms compliance.
4. Futures Board: Update and review of work streams (Paper 29)
The paper provides an update on each work streams, identifying work undertaken, next steps and any issues, risks or blockers. Detail on timescales for the work streams has not been provided because of the uncertainties around staff resources.
The next stage will be to undertake scenario planning and identify time scales for work to be taken forward. Proposals that are more detailed will be prepared for the Boards next meeting.
Workforce Strategy – RAG Green
The Workforce strategy has been issued for comment and the work stream is at a developed stage. Further discussion will take place under the next agenda item.
Delivery Model – RAG Green
The recommendation from the Review Panel on Compliance and Enforcement was that while the building standards system was not broken there was a need for some reshaping. Using an external contractor research has been undertaken to review the current verification delivery model and identify options for improvement. Stakeholder engagement took place to consider the need for specialist hubs as well as funding of the service.
It is proposed that a Working Group is established to consider the findings from the research as well as the LABSS Options paper received in March. There is a need to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the proposed options that will enable a strategy to be developed. Consideration is needed on the requirement for specialist Hubs especially for complex fire solutions. A decision will be required on whether these should be fast tracked or remain as part of the main consideration of the future Delivery Model. This work stream needs to become a priority moving forward as it cuts across the other six work streams. It was agreed at the last meeting that any future model needs to ensure it has capacity and capability as well as consistency of service and a clear cost structure. The impact and learnings from COVID-19 now also needs to be considered.
DA underlined the need to consider the financial impact resulting from COVID-19 and what this could mean for the future delivery of building standards services. The reduction in BW applications will affect the financial viability of services. There is the potential for LA’s to be looking at ways to introduce shared services across all their business areas purely for local cost reduction reasons and not in a way, that strengthens the building standards system.
AF reiterated that LA’s are under many financial pressures made worse by the COVID-19 crisis. Work is ongoing to identify potential additional funding. However, it is important that we continue to support building standards and highlight that the service cannot deliver in the future without investment. The COVID-19 crisis might provide a good opportunity to accelerate consideration of how the building standards delivery model could be changed recognising that funding is a major issue.
Compliance Plan Approach – RAG Green
Non-compliance with building regulations have been the major driver in taking this work stream forward. To support this external research has been completed on the recent reforms to the Republic of Ireland’s building control regime and regulation of compliance in high hazard industries.
This is a further priority work stream and it is proposed that a Working Group is established to support work going forward. A strategy document has been developed and sets out how a Compliance Plan Approach could enhance the construction process with a proposal for a defined compliance manager role. While the focus is on higher risk projects, there is also the need to consider scalability and application to smaller less complex projects. Pilots to test how this would work in practice have not been progressed due to COVID-19. BSD have had initial discussions with verifiers and RIAS and as lockdown eases, we will look for pilots to begin.
SM sought clarification on strengthening the role of Certification moving into the next phase. NM explained that there is a need to explore how Certification could fit and be used in the Compliance Plan Approach to enhance the BW process.
Certification Strategy – RAG Amber/Red
This work stream is considering how Certification can be strengthened and expanded. The aim was to complete the re-appointment process by end of March. However, the slow submission of applications resulted in the deadline being extended and was further impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
All applications are now in and evaluation panels are taking place during June. Weekly update meetings have been introduced during the crisis to support Scheme Providers and work is going to identify the potential for expansion and promotion of schemes. This includes changes to the eBuilding Standards portal providing a link to the certification schemes as well as the Ministers letter, issued today, supporting the using of certification.
GN advised that a licencing scheme for UK construction firms was still under consideration. A policy proposal paper outlining a licencing regime and what a scheme could look like was discussed at the February Taskforce meeting. Minutes of the February meeting and the paper will be circulated to the Futures Board. The Taskforce is scheduled to meet again in late summer. GN undertook to check if the Building and Safety Bill going through Westminster takes account of licencing of contractors.
Verification Standard – RAG Green
The Verification Standard work stream is focussed on improving the consistency of approach and performance of verifiers. Work is on-going with verifiers in a number of areas including establishing a scoring matrix for KPO targets to be used to inform the appointment process. Work will now be taken forward to review the Operating and Performance Frameworks. A review of the Customer Satisfaction Survey is being undertaken and guidance will be developed to improve the quality of BW application submissions as well as working with verifiers to improve consistency of BW technical assessment reports.
Technical Strategy – RAG Amber
The Technical Strategy is reviewing how BSD develop and communicate technical information. The work stream is at Amber, as work has not progressed as quickly as hoped due to conflicting priorities. Technical Section authors are now considering the responses from the ‘call for evidence’ in November 2019. At the March meeting, BSD undertook to seek views from the Board on other areas or issues to be taken forward. Because of the COVID-19 crisis, this was not done and will now be taken forward.
Digital Transformation – RAG Amber
The work stream is exploring options for the digital transformation of the building standards system in Scotland. Sitting at Amber the work stream has not progressed as quickly as intended. Because of the COVID-19 crisis, some pilots had stalled due to stay at home advice although guidance on remote verification has been provided to support verifiers and the construction industry. As lock down eases BSD is looking to establish other pilots so that learning and experiences from remote verification can be gathered and shared wider. With the support of LABSS and building on the success of the Digital workshop, a Digital Transformation Group (DTG) has been set up. The DTG being led by LABSS has issued a Digital Capability survey to all verifiers. Further work and linking with Digital Planning will be undertaken in the coming months.
CR asked if Digital Transformation of the service would support the High Rise Building Inventory established following the fire at Grenfell Tower, London and the need for a Golden Thread of information to provide a digital memory of a building identified by Hackett. NM too early to confirm where and how these will fit however, there has been discussion on the issues and it is recognised that there is need to identify and understand where they will fit. SG offered to discuss after the meeting how the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) could support the integration of the digital focus on BSD/verification around a wider digital transformation programme.
5. Workforce Strategy (Paper 30)
The Workforce Strategy was approved by the Minister and has been issued to all local authorities and the Working Group for final comment. So far, eight responses have been received and the team are reviewing to identify themes and issues. A chase for final responses will be issued. Once complete further discussion with AF will take place ahead of any engagement with COSLA and SOLACE. The Strategy had been due for launch at the LABSS AGM in May. Delayed because of COVID-19 the potential for a launch in September is being considered.
COVID-19 may continue to impact on this work stream however, an action plan to deliver local and nation actions over the next six months is being prepared. Actions include the development of a national Professional Framework with an agreed set of job roles, entry points and progression routes. Working in partnership with LABSS to include the Competency Assessment System they have developed. Verifiers will pilot the system ahead of a full launch. Working in partnership with Skills Development Scotland and My World of Work, we will promote building standards as a career destination for young people.
A new data collection was introduced last year on resources and succession planning. This exercise will be undertaken again and results will be shared with the Board.
6. Forward Look & Next steps
SGa advised that there has been a significant amount of work undertaken on the work streams to reach this stage and detail was provided in the update paper. As a result of COVID-19 there is a degree of uncertainty on how the work will now be taken forward and while work is progressing in a number of work streams a more detailed action plan will now be developed setting out the next stage. It is recognised that work on the Delivery Model is key to the future of the system.
Within the Digital Transformation work stream there is the possibility that the role of BSD will be to enable development and work with partners to generate ideas. BSD do not have the solutions but can help to create an environment to deliver creative solutions. How the construction industry will bounce back from COVID-19 is uncertain but there will be a need to continue to work closely with stakeholders during this time. The wider work of the Division continues with work to support the Climate Emergency as well as on Fire following the fire at Grenfell Tower.
RF advised that the recovery plan for the industry was in its infancy and just beginning to take shape with further work required between industry and Scottish Government. The Futures Board work streams all feed into the recovery plan and reinforce the need for joint working and trust going forward. Licencing of contractors would provide companies with the confidence that they are doing the right thing. However, there is concern that procedures are not being followed at the lower end of the industry and because of this now maybe the right time to introduce a register.
SG informed the Board that CSIC had established an i-Con challenge landing space. The initiative has been created to assist the built environment during the COVID-19 crisis. Further information can be found at https://www.cs-ic.org/innovationcentre/innovation-support/i-con-covid-19-support/
The date of the next meeting is Tuesday 6 October 2020.
1. To update AOB in the note of the March meeting in respect of the 16 June meeting.
2. To under scenario planning identifying time scales for work within each work stream to be taken forward.
3. Provide the policy proposal paper and minutes of the Licencing of Contractors Taskforce.
4. Seek input from the Board on the next steps and issues to be covered under the Technical Strategy work stream.