Building Standards Futures Board minutes: October 2020

Minutes from the seventh meeting of the Building Standards Futures Board, held on 6 October 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
  • Robert Nicol (RN), COSLA
  • Stephen Garvin (SGa), Scottish Government
  • Linda Stewart (LS), Scottish Government
  • Neil Mitchell (NM), Scottish Government
  • Colette Templeton (CT), Scottish Government
  • Anne Marie Hughes (AMH), Scottish Government

Items and actions

Welcome and apologies

The Chair welcomed everyone to the 7th meeting. Apologies were received from Robert Jopling, SER representing certification scheme providers and Steven Scott, Scottish Government.

Note of meeting and action points (paper 31)

The note of the minute from 16 June was accepted without amendment. Progress and updates on the action points detailed within paper 31, were noted.

COVID-19: Building Standards Response and Impact on programme

SGa provided an update on the work undertaken to support the building standards system in Scotland necessitated by COVID. This included the issue of eight letters of guidance to Local Authority Chief Executives and Building Standards Managers. One letter has since been withdrawn, and re-issued. He advised that there were no plans to issue further guidance at this time, but this would be kept under review.  

The Building Standards Resilience Group and Construction Leaders Forum (CLF) comprising of representatives across  a numbers of sectors, including members of the Futures Board has been established to develop guidance to reflect how people could work safely during the pandemic to support  the construction of temporary health care facilities and also a plan to minimise the economic impact in the recovery phase.  

Construction Leadership Forum and Transformation Sub Group - update

The CLF, which was chaired by the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Planning had published a restart plan for the construction industry. CP confirmed that four key themes had been identified, Pipeline and Commercial, Transformation, Supply chains, Skills and Workforce Planning.  From the feedback received, no changes had been identified. Work would now begin on delivery with teams working with a number of interests including Highlands and Island, micro businesses, and local authorities. Timescales has been determined as short term (Dec 2020), medium (end 2021) and long term (2022) and beyond. Work identified within the FB work streams would likely fall into the short term timeline.

Remote Verification Inspection (RVI)

NM explained that COVID had challenged building standards compliance on a number of levels, however this had highlighted the use of RVI as an alternative to physical inspection. LABSS had established a digital transformation group which reported that 35% of verifiers were using video as part of the compliance process. The potential benefits of RVI were noted, however, the group recognised the need for robust guidance and for consistency of approach. DA stated that a ‘blended’ approach was the preferred option for LABSS, and provided an update on a learning module being devised by Dundee/Angus college on safety critical features. The differing IT systems used by Local Authorities, capacity for electronic document storage and potential costs of IT upgrades, were highlighted as potential barriers. AF suggested that a guidance note should be prepared which provides detail on what work is appropriate for RVI. AF suggested that the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE) be approached to consider benefits in terms of efficiency savings such as staff travel time costs, accelerating warrant application timescales) which could be created going forward.

CR advised that RICS were undertaking work to identify how to support the profession in regard to approved inspectors. A guidance note is  being prepared  which will include details on RVI. 

The meeting acknowledged the publication in England of the ‘Raising the Bar’ report. There a number of recommendations on the implementation of working practices, which are already in place in Scotland.  BSD have still to review report.

Futures Board: Work stream update and timeline (paper 32) 

NM explained that the demand on Scottish Government staff to work in priority policy areas, and changes to the recruitment policy had impacted on the FB work streams and timescales. Staffing will be sourced from the existing staffing resource, secondment opportunities and external recruitment. Staffing requirements for the current and next financial year had been detailed within the paper circulated to the Board. Job specifications would be shared with the Board to circulate to their members who may have an interest in a secondment opportunity.

Compliance plan approach

This work stream had been identified as a priority. Following completion of research a working group has  been established and would be chaired by GN. An initial meeting between GN and BSD has taken place with the first working group meeting being held on 28th October. NM stressed that the role of the Group was to recommend methods to strengthen the current system, issues currently identified for consideration included the definition of ‘high risk, high value; projects, and occupation prior to issue of a completion certificate. Consultation on any proposed changes will be undertaken during the current financial year, which would be challenging. AF thanked GN for agreeing to act as chair, and asked if the research could be shared. CT undertook to circulate to FB members. RAG Staffing – Amber.

Certification strategy

The re-appointment process was nearing completion with four organisations approved for a period of six years, decisions on the two remaining applications were expected soon. Throughout the pandemic regular meetings with Scheme Providers have been held, with certification being identified by Scottish Government in guidance as a service beneficial to reduce the number of people on site thus reducing the risk of  infection  during the pandemic. A working group, will be established to consider  recommendations from research into establishing fire – stopping certification, alignment with eBuilding Standards and identification of the benefits and value of certification in Scotland. RAG Staffing – Green.

Delivery model

This work stream is a priority for development but has been constrained due to lack of staff resources. Work will be progressed during November with the formation of a working group, completion of a paper on the strengths and weaknesses of delivery models and a questionnaire. Research to support the first phase of this work  has been completed and would be circulated to the Board. RAG Staffing – Amber.

Digital strategy

NM explained that progress on this work stream had been constrained by lack of staff resource. The proposals are to recruit a team leader with the requisite technical skills to drive the work stream. Progress is being made with the formation of the LABSS Digital Transformation Group. Working with SG Planning Digital Team. BSD will look at the potential to improve the existing eBuilding Standards portal following feedback from members from  Homes for Scotland. RAG Staffing – Amber.

Verification standard

NM outlined the work undertaken on the Local Authority delivery of building standards, including research on the content of the customer satisfaction survey, use of focus groups and development of a staff self-assessment tool on service delivery. The links to the Delivery Model work stream were highlighted, particularly on the verification standard. RAG Staffing – Amber.

Technical strategy

Following the ‘call for evidence’ BSD Technical authors are reviewing the feedback. Work in relation to future delivery of guidance are resource dependent and will be progressed when additional staff are in place. It was noted that further staff recruitment would have to take place before further detail on ambitions could be shared. RAG Staffing – Red.

The update on work streams was discussed. DA highlighted the impact of COVID on both FB work streams, and local authority workplans. He cited the impact of introduction of emergency legislation in relation to sports activities/social distancing and resulting workloads. He asked that the economic impact of COVID be reflected and the role of the Local Authorities be considered  in terms of monitoring of their performance and KPIs. SGa, agreed that this should and would be monitored. 

AF confirmed that he was content with the proposals set out within the paper presented.

Workforce strategy 

LS gave a presentation (appendix A) on the Workforce Strategy launched by Kevin Stewart on 1 October. There are 43 actions and four themes underpinned by a measurement framework which would be shared with verifiers on an annual basis. In setting out the roadmap, LS confirmed that delivery is being taken forward with Skills Development Scotland and Local Authority HR departments to make sure  systems are fit for purpose. 

The implementation of the Competency Assessment System (CAS) would be challenging with a draft timetable to be in place by December. The system will be used to identify gaps in staff skills and training provided on a rolling basis. An information pack is also being developed for career changers which would be promoted through the ambassador framework. The FB were also updated on the work on staff career development and research project to be undertaken to identify a model for a development and learning hub.

NB welcomed the detail and highlighted the scale of the challenge for local authorities for the next 5-10 years in relation to the percentage of staffing due to retire. LS acknowledged that there was work to be done, and that staffing levels and options were being monitored flagging the modern apprenticeship scheme as one route which is being considered. This would be added to the agenda for discussion with SOLACE and COSLA.

In response to NB, LS confirmed that there was no building standards professional qualifications, but that training modules were being developed with higher education providers.


There was no other business raised. The date of the next meeting was confirmed as 2 February 2021. NB offered to host the meeting using Microsoft Teams.

Action points:

  • guidance note on suitable examples for using RVI to be prepared
  • approach SOLACE to discuss benefits and efficiency savings in relation to RVI
  • research undertaken to support the Compliance Plan Approach and Delivery Model to be sent to Board
  • meeting notes from Compliance WG to be circulated to Board
  • job specifications for FB team to be shared with Board for secondment opportunity
  • presentation on the Workforce Strategy to be shared with Board (appendix A)
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