A new beginning for building control

June is the month of longest day of year – the summer solstice – traditionally associated with change and new beginnings. So unsurprisingly June is also the month when school students finish their exams and look to their futures. 

It is in this June spirit of looking to the future and new beginnings that I want to appeal to every LABC member – whether new to our network or long serving – to think about their future and the future of our profession.

The Building Safety Act sets out a clear new direction for the building control profession. One that focusses on standards, ethics and competence. In the new regime simply having a qualification earned years ago or maintaining professional membership won’t be enough. Building control professionals will have to be competent and will have to prove it and prove it regularly. 

Now with the HSE confirming that the registration of the profession will open in October next year and will be mandatory from October 2024 the profession has a matter of months to get ready.

So, we’re at an important junction and I understand some of our network may feel the direction we’re travelling is not for them. I know that some of our members are anxious about the focus on education and learning and having to be formally tested – I know how you feel – and share some of that anxiety. I took my qualifications 30 years ago in an era when simply having an exam pass, on the job experience or a subscription to a professional body was enough. I know if I was still practising, I would view with apprehension having to complete a formal learning course and taking an exam decades after I last sat in an exam room. It’s tough – but it is the right way to go. 

And I know some are worried that they may not pass. The thing is a robust assessment and validation procedure can’t be easy and can’t pass everyone all the time. I see that as a strength not a weakness. Currently around a third of people who take our assessments don’t pass first time – that means it is a credible test. We provide support and guidance for those who don’t pass and we’re increasingly finding professionals who prove their competence gain kudos and increase career opportunities as a result.

I’m proud LABC have led the way – heeding Dame Judith Hackitt’s advice to the industry not ‘to wait to be told what to do’ – by investing in the education and validation of competence of our surveyor network.

We started work in 2018 with the Institution of Fire Engineers on a competency validation replicating ‘real life’ conditions facing building control surveyors for Building Regulation Fire Safety in Higher Risk Buildings. By the end of last year almost 600 LABC surveyors have gained accreditation through the validation assessment – and it really isn’t too late to join them.

I’m also delighted with how our members have responded – with more than 2,000 of them signing up to subsidised education courses at levels 3, 4, 5 or 6 over the next three years. The cost of this is more than £9 million and LABC has won DLUHC funding for upskilling surveyors in authorities with ‘in scope’ higher risk buildings and is topping this up for other areas and for LABC Cymru members. 

So there really is a golden opportunity for everyone in our network to seize the opportunities in front of them. I urge anyone not yet signed up to a learning or CPD course, or to have their competence validated, to do so – and do it now. Our award-winning learning and development team have produced a handy learning guide that has full details. 

This will be the last summer of the old ways of doing things in building control and public service building control must continue to lead the way to a new and better system. By next summer the Act will be followed by secondary legislation, further regulation and new systems. The whole profession – those in the autumns of their careers, the spring chickens and those in the middle of their careers must step up. A bright future beckons and I want everyone to be part of it.