Consumers

Time to Raise the Level – as published in Total Installer mag

As restrictions and ways of living under COVID-19 are assumed into our daily lives, the Government has returned to the much needed drive for improved standards throughout construction. 

Monday 20th saw the launch of the draft Building Safety Bill, legislation that will ultimately deliver the most fundamental improvements to building safety regulations in 40 years. A drive towards ensuring that residents will be, and will feel, safer in their homes.  

Government is determined to strengthen the whole regulatory system for building safety; ensuring greater accountability and responsibility for fire and structural safety issues throughout the entire lifecycle of buildings (design, construction, and occupation). 

Whilst work is currently concentrating on higher-risk residential buildings (HRRBs), once the new Building Safety Regulator is active there will be a focus across all buildings. 

Fitters who register work through competent person schemes need to be aware of the launch of a review of the Mandatory Technical Competencies (MTCs) that underpin the compliance for their business. Glazing is one of 10 sectors to be reviewed and the working group of schemes will need to produce a pathway forward that ensures consistent evaluation of compliance with the changing regulatory landscape. 

The concern for many in our sector will be that difference in focus on those who follow the rules as opposed to those, often termed cowboys, who work around the system. We need to ensure that across the UK that the knowledge levels within the consumer mindset as regards home improvement are raised. Often this can only be done when homeowners are looking to undertake improvements, so the focus needs to be on those who truly talk to consumers as opposed to those who simply pretend they do because they ran a few TV ads and a non-independent survey. 

It is with this concern in mind that there has been greater collaboration by businesses such as Certass with other cross-industry schemes to ensure promotion of those who work correctly. Greatly increased information from bodies such as LABC, Checkatrade and TrustMark will be disseminated into the consumer market to ensure that only properly accredited businesses are used by homeowners. 

Not enough is known by consumers about how to tell a good tradesperson from bad, and with so much deliberately conflicting information we need to ensure that collaboration between the right bodies is done for the collective good of us all. 

The work programme for the new competency standards starts within a month and will answer questions on how installers and installing businesses prove they are competent in the years to come. What we need beyond this is a concerted effort by all to ensure that the consumer knows the difference.  

A lot of this starts with Government, and as an opening gambit the manual to the Building regulations has been updated to be launched in July 2020. This is in-line with recommendations from Expert Group following the Dame Judith Hackitt led Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety following the Grenfell Tower tragedy.  

The manual is only a summary, but should give insight to all people of how the Building Regulations system currently works and when they apply. It carries information concerning the use of competent person schemes and aims to ensure that consumers are never far away from getting accurate information. 

Our industry has been blighted by COVID-19 and impacted by some poor announcements on additional funds, which has made the finances of many businesses incredibly thin. We will recover but we need to ensure that in doing so we do not try and shortcut a route for some perceived short term gain that puts businesses on the wrong path. 

I have seen some recent marketing that suggests that no MTC is apparently a good thing, as is no insurance backed guarantees. This is clearly in contradiction to the path that our industry needs to take and is only a position that a non-certified body would take.  

The recent letter signed by 9 companies supporting our industry with the Green Homes Grant Scheme was a show that our industry can unite when required, long may such activity continue as the task ahead has become more difficult and due to the financial position of many, more important than ever before.