Building Standards Futures Board minutes: March 2020

Minutes from the fifth meeting of the Building Standards Futures Board, held on 9 March 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
  • Robert Jopling (RJ), Certification Scheme Providers
  • Stephen Garvin (SGa), Scottish Government
  • Linda Stewart (LS), Scottish Government
  • Steven Scott (SS), Scottish Government
  • Thomas Lennon (TL), 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 5th meeting and thanked Homes for Scotland for hosting today.

Apologies were received from Stephen Good CSIC, Robert Nicol COSLA and Craig Ross RICS.

Neil Mitchell, Fife Council, joins the BSD team to lead the work of the Futures Board.

2. Note of Meeting and Action Points (Paper 23)

SGa updated the meeting on the discussions with colleagues in Skills Division and More Homes, Scottish Government.  It is estimated that the cost for a Graduate Apprentice post is approximately £8,500 per student, per annum.  With the number of students required (estimated as 15 per annual intake) this would require funding over a 4 year period of around £500,000.

The other options of Modern Apprenticeships and/or CPD for existing staff need to be progressed.  It was agreed that further work was required to develop requirements and options so that when funding is available, Building Standards are ready.

SGa provided an update on the recent meeting with COSLA where the Workforce Strategy including qualifications and training was discussed.  There are similar issues facing other local authority services such as Environmental Services, Trading Standards etc. and work to address the issues is also underway with a willingness to work together.  The next meeting is scheduled for the end of March (note now postponed till a later date).

AF advised that within local authorities there is the recognition that building standards needs to be supported going forward and COSLA are keen to support work aimed at developing and improving skills.  While there are no funds, at this time, available through Skills Development Scotland there is the need for local authorities to recognise that funding support from within their organisations will be required.  Providing this investment will go some way to underlining the commitment to building standards.  Within industry, funding is provided to support training and this would be the expected position within local authorities.  Feedback from industry is that there is a willingness to spend more on building warrants (BW) if the system, in terms of turnaround of BWs and consistency of service improved.

Skills and training is a feature in a number of the Future Board work streams.  Proposals being made through the Compliance Plan work, potentially may require additional skills within local authority workforces to implement changes.  Skills and training are also part of the Workforce Strategy.  In additional to these as a verifier, local authorities are asked to ensure that they have the right level of staffing as well as the right skills to deliver the verification service.  In future, there is the potential for this to become a requirement for verifier appointment.

At the December 2019 meeting, it was reported that in Ireland architects were not facing problems securing Public Indemnity (PI) Insurance.  GM advised that colleagues in Ireland had reported that securing PI for projects was difficult.  This issue is being explored within the research supporting the Compliance Plan.

The note of the meeting held on 16 December 2019 was accepted with one change.  The  Federation of Master Builders, CEO is Brian Berry not Barry Berry as noted.

3. Progress Report – Technical Strategy (Paper 24)

A presentation on the Technical Strategy work stream was provided to the Board.  To deliver the work stream a review of how guidance is developed and communicated (Technical Handbooks and supporting guidance) as well as establishing where processes or output can be changed is being undertaken.  A survey was issued, at the end of 2019, to local authority building standards managers, Local Authority Building Standards Scotland (LABSS), professional organisations, architects, designers and other building standard professionals and associated construction professionals. Focussing on the Technical Handbooks (THs) the survey covered clarity of purpose; coverage of topics; conflicts in presentation of information; range of publications and navigation of guidance including format and layout.

The findings of the survey were discussed.  The response rate was disappointingly low (29) however, there are a number of recurring themes and trends.  These include the need for clarification of guidance, improved maintenance of the technical handbooks, i.e. hyperlinks, need for improved and interactive diagrams and an improved building standards website with access to archived guidance.

To support the work stream a technical authors working group will be set up.  The group will consider the survey feedback including issues of contradiction that have been identified as well as identifying longer-term requirements.  GM advised that he was not aware if RIAS had been sent the survey. SGa apologised that GM had not received the survey and advised that the team will check if a copy had been sent to RIAS.  Output from the survey would be shared with GM.

Focusing on the technical guidance there is potential for the Technical Strategy to be taken forward in two stages.  The maintenance stage, identify quick fixes to improve users experience using and navigating the guidance.  The second stage will cover the development of a strategy identifying key areas that require further work.  The meeting discussed the mechanism in place for feeding back issues, lack of consistency or areas of concern.  This is managed by the sections technical author.

The THs are a tool used to inform and interpret regulations when meeting building standards.  TL advised that generally, Building Standards Division does not receive a lot  of questions about the guidance in the THs or in other documents.  Suggesting that most users are happy with the content and delivery.  Questions tend to be around the interpretation of guidance.  Support for users is also provided by the LABSS conflict resolution service. CP asked if comments and feedback have been sought from out with Scotland as it may be helpful to have evidence from users who are based outside Scotland but undertake work in Scotland.

SGa advised that the focus of the Technical Strategy has been the THs.  However, there is the potential to extend the scope of the strategy and the Board were asked to consider and identify other areas or issues that should be taken forward.  An email will be issued to the Board seeking feedback and ideas in relation to this and the points raised in Section 6 of the paper (24).

The meeting discussed the benefits and importance of forward looking to identify up and coming issues.  Innovation and advances in technology mean there is a need for staff managing the technical sections to keep up to date and abreast of developments.  TL advised that this would be taken forward through the technical author working group. There is also the opportunity to work with other networks to inform the guidance including LABSS Consortia Technical Working Group and the RIAS Technical Group.

4. Highlight Report - Certification, Digital, Compliance Plan, Verification and Workforce (Paper 25)

RAG Status: Amber/Red.  Detail on the Certification Strategy was provided.  The process for re-appointment of Certification Scheme Providers (SPs) is due to be completed by 31 March 2020 however, only one full application has been received.  The evaluation panel to assess applications is planned for middle/end March.  Research commissioned to support the work stream is nearing completion and will be used to inform the Strategy document being prepared for the end of March.  The application expected from a new SP has not yet been received.

SGa advised that the work stream had developed slower than planned because of the need to provide staff resources to deal with the Mortgage Lending issues, which had arisen after Grenfell.

RJ asked if an update could be provided to SPs on the appointment process.  Additionally, it would be helpful if the SPs were consulted on any proposed changes to the status of ‘Approved Bodies’.

Digital Strategy

RAG Status: Green.  A  workshop on Digital Transformation was held on 25 February attended by staff from across local authorities.  Presentations by Morrison Construction and Highland Council demonstrated how they are using software to assist with plan checking and site inspections.  Possible barriers and quick wins to inform short, medium and long-term aims were identified.  Work is being undertaken to identify a potential project that could be progressed through the SG digital incubator CivTech.

An update and way forward document being prepared for March 2020.

Verification Standard

RAG Status: Amber.  Revised and updated appointment criteria for local authorities has been developed using the Key Performance Outcomes and Performance Framework.  Both Frameworks will be reviewed in 2020 and the opportunity to develop standards for verification as well as other cross-cutting Future Board work streams will be taken.  A pilot of the self-assessment tool is ongoing in East Dunbartonshire Council.  However, the development of improvement logs and focus groups has been delayed to allow external support to be identified.  An independent review of the annual Customer Satisfaction Survey is underway.

An update and way forward document being prepared for March 2020.

Workforce Strategy

RAG Status: Green.  The Workforce Strategy has been issued for final consultation before its Ministerial launch at the LABSS AGM at the end of May.  Comments from the Futures Board to be submitted by 16 March.  Work is ongoing with LABSS on the Competency Assessment System.  Discussions to identify potential funding streams to support education continues as does work to raise the profile of building standards as a career destination.

An update and way forward document being prepared for March 2020.

GM noted that the Workforce Strategy is based on the status quo of the present model as well as the average number of staff and warrants.  This will raise issues should the system be changed.  The strategy will be used to identify the workforce needed to deliver the service and should the delivery model change the workforce strategy will need to reflect this.  The document is intended to be a living document.

The point raised in relation to the ‘one size fits all’ will be considered within the work being taken forward on the compliance plan.

5. Roles and Responsibilities (Paper 26)

The Futures Board was set up to oversee the development and implementation of the Building Standards Futures programme with the roles and responsibilities agreed at the first meeting.

AF advised the meeting that as the Board has been in place for nearly a year and with work streams underway there is a need to check that the roles and responsibilities reflect the work of the Board.  This also provides an opportunity to make sure the Board is happy with progress and their involvement.

Board Members bring a broad range of skills and experience to the work being taken forward. It was acknowledged that at times discussions can be of a technical nature however, it is important to have a mix of views and experience.  Workshop sessions have been introduced to give more dedicated discussion time.  The Board asked that where possible technical terms are kept to a minimum and/or explained to help with understanding.  It is important to recognise that there is a need to produce documents for a non-technical audience.  This will help Members to provide updates to their stakeholders.  It was also agreed that it would be helpful if, where possible, expected or desired outcomes for each work stream are identified in the papers being presented so that benefits and implications are clear.

SGa aware that work streams are at different stages and progressing at different paces. The expertise of the Board will guide the strategic direction of the work streams as well as acting as the link to stakeholder groups. While there has been considerable progress over the last year the planning and implementation overall is still being developed and BSD are relying on the Board to keep their members up to date.  Future Board meetings are the main opportunity for BSD to deliver information however, we are happy for engagement out with this time should that be necessary.

6. Progress Report – Delivery Model (Paper 27)


A presentation on the Delivery Model work stream was provided to the Board.  The report by the Review Panel on Compliance and Enforcement concluded that, while the Scottish system is not broken there is evidence to suggest there is a need to strengthen compliance in relation to statutory procedural requirements and in addressing non-compliant work on site.

The meeting discussed the differences between the systems in Scotland and England.  To support the work stream research was commissioned to review the current verification delivery model and identify options for improvement and/or different models. The research has gathered a broad range of information and presents a number of potential options.  This work is ongoing and the final report will be shared with Members.

SGa informed the meeting that LABSS had tabled a paper ‘Proposed Verification Delivery Model for Scotland’ copies were circulated. DA introduced the Options Appraisal paper, which investigates the potential to improve and reshape the verification delivery model and address any identified weaknesses.  An overview of the background, issues being considered and the proposed options was provided.  The paper has been produced for consideration as part of the development of the work stream.

The ongoing joint working across local authorities building standards teams was acchnologed and the introduction of eBuilding Standards has facilitated this.  The paper highlights the need for change to ensure building standards staff are resourced to provide a verification service.  Staff duties go beyond approving building warrants and include other statutory functions including enforcement, dangerous buildings and licencing.  The paper identifies the potential to retain the current set up of 32 building standard offices with the addition of a framework to support a formal agreement to share workload and expertise.  This would be supplemented by a Hub to provide support and tackle national issues.  LABSS, is not a statute body however, the demands from a national level have continued to grow and the group is reaching capacity.

The meeting discussed the potential for a Hub to support the service and agreed that this would need to be investigated further.  There is a need to identify and recognise the critical issues that any Delivery Model needs to address. Local authorities have different  sized teams to support their local areas but there is a need to ensure that not only is there capacity and capability at a local level but also at a national level.   The meeting discussed the changes in service as a result of eBuilding Standards and the continuing issues around recruitment and vacant posts. It is increasingly difficult to maintain expertise within every verifier, especially fire engineering and future models need to ensure there is the facility to provide mechanisms to manage this.  There is also the need to investigate the role of certifiers of design as part of delivering specialist expertise and supporting capability and capacity of the service.

Members advised that Industry remains concerned about the speed of processing of applications. Certainty of timescale is important to Developers.  However, it is appreciated that delays can occur at all stages and is not necessary a result of a problem in one area of the system.  There is also the need to look at the profile of work coming forward to identify the needs and resources required to deliver future projects.

The provision of services was discussed and it was agreed that there is a need to identify services with the potential to be consolidated and delivered at a national level i.e. building standards registers.

The meeting agreed that there are a number of requirements a future model needs.  It should ensure it has capacity as well as capability.  There is a need for consistency of service as well as a clear cost structure.  Developers also want to see certainty in the system and the wider system must promote compliance.  These all need to be elements of the right model.

7. AOB

The date of the next meeting is 16 June 2020.

The meeting was advised that two surveys have recently been issued:

Action Points

1. RIAS reported that securing Public Indemnity (PI) Insurance in Ireland for projects was becoming difficult. To be followed up.

2. RIAS reported that the survey for feedback on the Technical Handbook had not been distributed to the RIAS.  Post meeting: Survey link was sent to 4 RIAS email addresses on the BSD stakeholder list, including the info@rias mail box.  Members of the Futures Board will receive, in future, notification of all work being undertaken to support work streams.

3. The output from the Technical Handbook survey to be shared with RIAS.

4. Team to seek comments from users from out with Scotland who use the Technical Handbooks.

5. A formal request will be sent to Board Members seeking views on the remit of the Technical strategy and the points raised in Section 6 of the Technical Strategy paper (24).

6. An update on the appointment process for Certification Scheme Providers, including timescales, will be requested from the team.

7. Request that views of Certification Scheme Providers are sought on changes to legislation.

8. A reminder to teams that papers should be prepared for a non-technical audience.  This will help understanding as well as making it easier for members to report to their stakeholders.

9. Work required to identify services, that have the potential to be consolidated and delivered at a national level i.e. building standards registers.

10. To progress the research on the Delivery model and prepare options for further consideration.

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