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It is time for a single UK ‘Construction Improvement Authority’?

SEC Group chief argues that a single industry-wide regulator that can enforce standards and punish bad practice will be key to a more sustainable and effective building services sector

Establishing a statutory ‘Construction Improvement Authority’ for the UK is among drastic changes needed to address significant failings in standards across the HVAC sector.

The calls have been made by Specialist Engineering Contractors’ (SEC) Group chief executive Rudi Klein for H&V News’ first Podcast. The Heatingcast, as it is known, is a series of industry interviews for H&V News’ with key industry figures.

Mr Klein said during the two-part Heatingcast that a significant new approach to enforcement is needed in the form of a singular industry-wide body, similar to the communications regulator Ofcom. He added that a single statutory and effectively resourced construction regulator would be a clear sign of intent to tackle the major shortcomings identified in building standards following the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017. (You can listen in the player below).

Mr Klein said, “So a construction delivery authority, initially focused on building services, that will be responsible for driving improvements, making them happen and challenging people who don’t improve.”

“Secondly, it will have to deal with bad practice and have the ability to fine is necessary and thirdly it must provide some support for clients who want to do things better in the longer-term.”

Models of the proposed enforcement organisation that Mr Klein would favour in the UK include several bodies that are already in place in different forms in Singapore and Canada. One such example is the Canadian Federal Procurement Ombudsmen, which focuses on major bad practice issues in construction.

Establishing such as body in the UK to serve as one overarching Construction Improvement Authority would be vital to address concerns raised by Judith Hackitt in her major independent review over the disjointed, cross-organisational approach to building safety and performance standards, Mr Klein added.

He said, “Otherwise, we cannot hope to rid ourselves of embedded bad practice and a lack of improvement in the industry over the years. Where is all this effort to address these issues going to come from? There is nothing there and government is too fragmented.”

Mr Klein also touched on the issues and challenges posed by Brexit during the first part of the Heatingcast.

He added that the UK building services sector was facing significant global pressures to improve a vast number of practices to ensure its survival. Mr Klein argued that ensuring substantial change to thinking was a vital challenge that extended beyond immediate concerns within the HVACR industry on the need to ensure some form of withdrawal agreement in leaving the EU.

He said that many of the accepted practices within the buildings services sector were unsustainable regardless of whether the UK leaves the EU or not (listen below).

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