Building Standards Futures Board minutes: September 2019

Minutes from the third meeting of the Building Standards Futures Board, held on 23 September 2019.

Attendees and apologies


  • Aubrey Fawcett (Chair), SOLACE
  • Dave Aitken (DA), Local Authority Building Standards Scotland (LABSS)
  • Nicola Barclay (NB), Homes for Scotland
  • Ron Fraser (RF), Construction Scotland
  • Colin Proctor (CP), Scottish Futures Trust
  • Mike Foy (MF), Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB)
  • Stephen Good (SGo), Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC)
  • Gordon Nelson (GN), Federation of Master Builders (FMB)
  • Graham Martin (GM) , Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS)
  • Robert Nicol (RN), COSLA
  • Craig Ross (CR), Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
  • Robert Jopling (RJ), Structural Engineering Registration Ltd
  • Stephen Garvin (SGa), Scottish Government
  • Linda Stewart (LS), Scottish Government
  • Steven Scott (SS), Scottish Government
  • Ken Craig (KC), Scottish Government
  • Colette Templeton , Scottish Government
  • Shona Harper (SH), Scottish Government (left after Certification item) 

Items and actions

1. Welcome

The Chair welcomed everyone to today’s meeting and everyone introduced themselves. Attending today were Colin Proctor, Scottish Futures Trust, Robert Jopling, Certification Scheme Providers representative and Craig Ross, RICS.

2. Note of Meeting and Action Points (Paper 07)

The Board accepted the note of the meeting held on 2 July without change. Updates on the Action Points were provided with a number of items being covered by papers at today’s meeting.

3. RIAS Paper No 3 re Building Standards – Futures Board (Paper 08)

The paper providing an outline of the views of RIAS on Competency within Building Standards and the role of registered architects was introduced. The paper gives a detailed response to issues discussed at the Boards meeting on 2 July. The Addendum focuses on issues in relation to building standards guidance and RIAS would pick these up separately with BSD. SGa advised the Board that he had met separately with GM and RIAS to discuss and understand issues being raised in regard to roles and responsibilities and how they contribute towards the role of the relevant person. GM said that RIAS were confident that there would be no issues in regard to the provision of indemnity insurance for professions where a defined role is provided.

The meeting agreed that the focus should be the competence of the relevant person. This must not be constrained by profession but should reflect the compliance journey and potential for the compliance lead to change over the lifetime of a project.

There were issues of continuity, independence and golden thread in compliance. In the view of RIAS, Chartered architects are the profession to provide these with no other professions coming forward that tick all the boxes required to demonstrate competence. Having architects as the competent person with a defined role will provide insurers with comfort to provide insurance.

The meeting recognised the ongoing work of the Industry Safety Steering Group (ISSG) in England, which was taking forward recommendations from Judith Hackitt’s review of building regulations and fire safety.  The issues being considered are complex and take time to develop and work through. Members of the Board advised that they are members of working groups considering Competence and Procurement and there is a lot of interest in the Scottish System, which was considered by many to be an effective model.

RIAS has contacted all architects involved in the Quality Construction Assurance Initiative.  All were keen to share their experiences and RIAS would facilitate this.

4. Progress Report: Digital Transformation (Paper 09)

A presentation on the Digital Transformation work stream was given. The work stream aims to, in collaboration with industry and verifiers explore how digital technologies can be used to improve the ‘verification’ process and procedures in relation to compliance.

Scottish Government (SG) Digital Transformation colleagues have undertaken a scoping study to identify approaches and benefits, overlaps and synergies with the existing digital planning programme. This includes providing outline costs for the development of a digital strategy and a vision of a digital future for building standards. The report is being reviewed internally and will be used to inform the development of a route map. Both documents will be shared with the Board at the December meeting.

There is potential to link into the Digital Place Initiative and working with SG colleagues common entry points will be identified. The introduction of eBuilding Standards provided a digital platform however, the transformation of local authority building standards services has been mixed with some operating a full electronic BS system with others still requesting paper copies of plans.

The Board heard that Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Snagmaster is being trialled by the building standard teams in Highland (CQI pilot site), West Lothian and East Lothian on local construction projects. These software tools enable more efficient planning, design, construction, and management of buildings and infrastructure as well as the management of the completion and handover process of construction projects.    There is however, privacy concerns in relation to open access of information and industry is working to investigate the potential to restrict access to different levels of information within the tools.

There are plans to hold stakeholder workshops in November. These will explore how digital software, including BIM, could assist verification services as well as consider how technology can help the further development of digital platforms for the building standards system. There will also be the opportunity to identify ways of working in collaboration with the construction industry.

SGa recently attended a Conference looking at the benefits and implementation of BIM with a presentation by Scottish Futures Trust demonstrating the need for digital leadership in the public sector. SGa stressed the importance of digital transformation and the need to be involved in the process.  There is no benefit in waiting a few years to see what happens to then find out that we have fallen further behind. There is a need to develop digital platforms to ensure sharing and development takes place. How this will be realised, in practice, is not clearly set out at this time however, there is a need to recognise the need to invest and embrace change.

AF advised that there is also a need to consider other software tools. BIM is one solution but there are other tools, which offer similar services, and it will be up to verifiers to choose the one which best suits their needs. 

The Board recognised that there is considerable work required to investigate what tools are available, as well as resolving issues around security and access to data. RICS were hosting an event on 22 October on BIM and security. Interested members were invited to attend. SGo and CP also gave offers of assistance.

NB asked that consideration be given to how homeowners access and store information about their homes. Traditionally, new homeowners are given a copy of information relating to their home. The use of technology and software products will change this transfer of information.

The Board agreed that they were content with the direction of travel and timescales for the next step activities.

5. Progress Report: Certification Strategy (Papers 10, 11 and 17)

A progress update on Certification was provided (Paper 10). The purpose of the work stream is to consider the potential future growth of Certification schemes within the construction process. A review of the current scheme and membership documentation has been undertaken. The re-appointment process is ongoing and due to be concluded by March 2020.

Paper 17 provides a rationale for the proposed strategy highlighting four primary work strands. Strand one is progressing with the other three requiring further development. The Board were advised that it is currently unclear if the provision for licencing of contractors will be a reserved or devolved matter. Discussions with GN have taken place and contact has been made with colleagues in MHCLG. The Programme for Government has set out the intention to take forward work on the ‘Protection of Title for Electricians’. The potential for future development of certification services (strand 4) particularly the safety critical elements of construction will be taken forward through research. RF and CP both offered assistance in relation to considering fire stopping and non- warrantable work.

DA advised of the need to be aware of the potential impact on verifiers of introducing additional certification schemes. This is particularly important when other work streams are considering workforce and education.  Any reduction in services provided by verifiers could affect the level of fees and have a consequential impact on recruitment and upskilling of existing and future building standards staff. This was acknowledged and the potential impact would be fully considered.

The meeting heard that the SER Certification of Design Scheme is successful with a high level of members and certificates being issued. This however, is not the same for all Schemes adding that it may be useful to undertake some research to investigate why there is a difference in the level of uptake. Consideration should be given to the potential for introducing/offering incentives for the development of new schemes and on promoting the benefits of certification. It was agreed that it might be beneficial to investigate the difference in numbers of uptake across Schemes.

AF asked that the potential volatility of the market be taken into account when considering licencing of contractors as some industries experience a high turnover of contractors because of the nature of the business.
GN informed the Board that he was a member of the UK Licencing Taskforce and he will provide an update on the Taskforce at the Board’s meeting in December.

The Board agreed that they were content with the direction of travel and timescales for the next step activities.

6. Highlight  Report – Compliance Plan and Workforce Strategy (Paper 12)

Compliance Plan 

The work stream has been progressing on a number of fronts to support the Compliance Quality Initiative.  Projects have been identified in West Lothian and East Lothian where the building standards teams are keen to be involved. If the Board have no suggested projects, BSD will go ahead and approach LABSS for additional potential projects.  Sam Hart has joined the team from Construction Scotland Innovation Centre until March 2020 to provide additional resource across the SG building standards and procurement teams. A number of research ideas are being identified with the proposal to consider compliance approaches in other countries where national building regulations/code apply.

Workforce Strategy

Work is progressing with appointment of a contractor to develop a workforce strategy for the building standards verification service. The first meeting of the Working Group took place on 2 September with representatives from local authorities, building standards, HR, education sector, industry and professional organisations. The next meeting is being held in November. A data collection exercise is underway with findings underlining that the profession is facing the problem of an aging workforce. One of the aims of the workforce strategy is to support recruitment pathways into the profession including education and funding. The Board agreed that the aging demographic was a pressing issue and a report on the issues including recruitment, retention and education will be prepared and presented to SOLACE.

7. Position Papers

The following papers provide an update on the final three Futures Board work streams. These work streams will take longer to develop due to limited resources but all are now being developed.

Verification Delivery Model (Paper 13)

The paper recommends the need to consider the potential for an improved and reshaped verification delivery model.

The Compliance and Enforcement Review Panel concluded that, whilst the core elements of the current building standards system should be maintained, some reshaping of the system is necessary to ensure that it addresses identified weaknesses.  A list of 6 benefits that any new verification model should influence have been identified.

The work stream will consider the potential for ‘a hub of expertise’ and a central resource particular around fire engineering as identified by the Fire Safety Review Panel.  A timescale for the delivery of the work streams was requested and SGa advised that the plan is to have this, and the following two work streams, at the concept stage by March 2020. What is required beyond this timescale has still to be identified.

The meeting discussed the need for a centre of expertise and the potential impact this may have on verifiers. The Board heard that in regard to identifying gaps in skills and expertise LA building standards teams were at different stages. A central hub of expertise would provide support to LAs which do not have access to certain specialisms.  There is however a lot of shared working currently ongoing across the building standards service.

Technical Strategy (Paper 14)

The Strategy will review how the technical information used to inform compliance with building regulations is developed and communicated to ensure it is fit for the future.
A number of areas have been identified for investigation which include:

  • Accessing guidance
  • Responsiveness to feedback
  • Communicating change
  • Liaison with industry

RF and NB gave offers of assistance from their organisations.  

Verification Standard (Paper 15)

The work stream will take forward a review of the Operating Framework (OF) and the Performance Framework (PF) to consider and reflect any changes to the service delivery aspects arising from the ongoing work to improve compliance and enforcement.

There is considerable linkages between this work and the other work streams. Data on performance is currently collected through the PF but there is a need to consider if quantitative data is required. The meeting heard that there is peer review process undertaken in planning with results reported to Heads of Planning (HOPS).  By adopting a similar process for building standards there would be evidence to demonstrate if LAs are adhering to the PF.  CR offered to provide a copy of a building control document in relation to performance.

The Board were happy to support the recommendations in each of the Position Papers.

8. Metrics of Success for Work Streams (Paper 16)

The paper sets out the metrics for success for each of the work streams. Details have also been added to the relevant Position Papers. SGa advised that the aim is for a 1st class building standards system for Scotland. The Board agreed that it was helpful to have this detail and useful to see the linkages between each of the work streams. It was recognised that the metrics may need to be refined and may change over time.  It was agreed that timescales, and SMART measures where possible, should be added.

9. AOB and Next Meeting

No other business was raised.
The 4th meeting will be held on Monday 16 December at 11am, The Construction Scotland Innovation Centre, Hamilton G72 0AH.

Action Points

  1. Scoping Paper on the Digital Transformation of the Building Standards Service and the Route Map to be prepared for the next meeting.
  2. Digital Transformation work stream lead to follow up on offers of assistance from SGo and CP.
  3. Certification Strategy work stream lead to follow up on offers of assistance from RF, CP, GM and SGo in relation to fire stopping and non- warrantable work.
  4. Consider the need for research to investigate the difference in numbers of uptake across Certification Schemes.
  5. An update on the UK Licencing Taskforce from GN will be given at the next meeting. 
  6. Compliance Plan work stream lead to contact LABSS seeking projects at an early construction stage to be part of the CQI. 
  7. A report to SOLACE to be prepared on the issues facing the Building Standards workforce in relation to ageing demographic, recruitment, retention and education.
  8. Verification Standard work stream lead to consider the peer review process undertaken in planning in relation to performance data.
  9. Timescales and SMART measures to be added to the Metrics of Success. 
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