The benefit of clear guidance
With over 25 years of experience operating as an Approved Inspector and 400 technical experts to call on in-house, NHBC is uniquely placed to provide clear and authoritative guidance to clients whatever their project. The organisation’s project portfolio ranges from small, traditional residential developments to the most prestigious, contemporary commercial and mixed-use schemes in England and Wales.
NHBC’s relationship with the Consortium of European Building Control (CEBC) stretches back more than 20 years to the late 1980s when the organisation became one of the founding members of the forum.
The CEBC was originally established to provide a platform for all organisations involved in Building Regulations across Europe. Now in its 23rd year the CEBC was formed in 1989 following discussions between the Institute of Building Control (now amalgamated with RICS) and the European Commission.
Recognising the need to safeguard Building Control activities and promote their significance within the rapidly changing European landscape, the forum was introduced and has grown in size and influence over intervening years. Indeed, involvement now stretches beyond Europe as recent members have included guests from America and the Middle East.
With more than 35 organisations now on board and meeting twice a year, members include government departments, regulators, professional institutions as well as private companies, but NHBC is the only practitioner member on board which allows for a unique perspective and involvement with the CEBC.
We value our membership of the CEBC and over the last 23 years our involvement has allowed for an improved understanding of building control on a wider scale, where we have been able to assess methods and challenges seen in other countries.
As a result there is a mutual benefit of increased awareness for all concerned; where, for example, we can educate and inform on the key challenges the UK is currently facing from any number of situations, whether it is a legislation issue, planning concern or construction query.
As the UK is the only European member state with dual building control systems, comprised of public bodies and private companies (similar systems outside of Europe include those in Canada and Australia) NHBC are able to assess the pros and cons of this method and share our knowledge with other members of the benefits that this system has brought to the industry and the profession since its introduction in 1985. Currently an exclusively private system does not exist in any European member state.
As the only Building Control Practitioner, NHBC can speak with first-hand experience on the impact of legislative and regulative changes, a perspective which may not be appreciated by other members of the consortium who would mainly be from a policy making perspective. Recent examples of this would be the impact of the European Products Building Directive which has been implemented to differing degrees across the membership. NHBC has been able to provide feedback on the difficulties with differing levels of information and in some cases the duplication of regimes brought about by legislation made to be implemented across wide cultural borders.
In certain scenarios we are also able to speak up for the homeowner and offer insight to the forum from their standpoint, most notably in terms of how we provide warranty and ensure best practise for the majority of new-build housing in the UK.
We have also had a key role in the three reports produced by CEBC in respect of the Building Control Systems across Europe, Access for All in Europe and the most recent report a Study into Self Confirmation in Building Control in Europe. The reports are mainly compilations of the differing standards rather than a critique of the advantages and disadvantages encountered with them.
However, I believe the forum operates most successfully as an information-sharing platform and to ensure continuing and healthy debate as building control issues evolve.
For example, at the most recent CEBC meeting we had discussions on Building Control in France, in terms of how public authorities check how regulations are applied and also covering how third party involvement in quality is assessed. The Value of Building Control was also on the agenda with workshops to discuss a number of pre-set questions to establish an evidence base for use by all member bodies.
As a Building Control practitioner NHBC was able to contribute to the debate with first-hand experience of how the Building Control System in England and Wales has a positive impact on helping our customers achieve compliance with the building regulations. Building Control’s role in working with designers, owners and builders as part of the end to end construction process can be measured in many ways but mostly by the extremely low number of building failures and the improvements of modern buildings in areas like fire safety, access and energy performance.
Further evidence can be shown by member states who have previously removed third party building control, only to re-introduce it later following an increase in building failures and non-compliances.
NHBC Building Control is adding to this evidence base alongside all other Building Control Bodies in England and Wales by recording all positive interactions or Compliance Actions that building control professionals have during the month of November. The information gathered from the industry wide survey will not only be fed into our government here in the UK but also has the potential to be used by CEBC to add into the overall picture of building control across Europe and beyond.
Hearing first-hand how challenges are dealt with across the globe enables NHBC to gain an invaluable insight into how we can learn from different building control models and simultaneously provide knowledge and advice from a practitioner’s point of view to fellow members on the board which ultimately is a benefit for the whole industry.