Stronger and clearer framework

By Lee Jones, head of manufacturer solutions, NBS.

Construction is clearly high on the new government’s agenda and its ambitious plans are cause for optimism.

However, until the March budget is announced we can’t be clear exactly what is involved. Regardless of the exact amount, having £billions earmarked for schools, hospitals, infrastructure and annual targets for hundreds of thousands of homes will provide manufacturers with opportunities to seize.

At the same time, there have been wide-ranging plans outlined to improve building safety and increase regulation for construction projects and products. This is something to be embraced by glass manufacturers, as the regulator looks set to ensure strict compliance with safety regulations by contractors, designers and building owners.

Responsibility for building safety will be shared between at least five different parties including the principal contractor and designer. This robust and rigorously enforced new law will no doubt improve practice.

Across the UK, there will be a stronger and clearer framework providing national oversight of construction products. All products will be expected to meet high-performance standards.

This enhanced regulation will have an impact on those manufacturers producing for construction projects. There are likely to be some anxieties about what this will involve and how it will play out. Here are three ways to get ahead:

Understand what specifiers want. The overwhelming priorities are access to technical information (87% of specifiers according to a recent CPA report), relevant certifications (79%), and application information (79%). They are also keen to know about fire performance, maintenance and sustainability. Only 11% of those using construction products think that the information they get is accurate all of the time, and even fewer (7%) believe it’s always up to date.

The same report revealed that nearly all believe it is important for the individual reviewing product information to be able to understand, analyse and interpret that information. There is a mirror responsibility on the manufacturer side, and that is to design information to be clear, unambiguous and factual. This is not the time for marketing hype.

Digital first. Like pretty much everyone, specifiers turn to Google (81%), yet only seven out of 10 manufacturers present information in a way that is easy to find online. Having detailed technical information on your website and on professional digital platforms will make it easier for specifiers to choose your products. Likewise, having BIM models to drop in could help to facilitate the process.

Performance and third-party testing. Make sure that all your testing is kept up-to-date and that your performance information is easy for specifiers to find swiftly.

One clear, holistic regulatory route is via improved auditing and record keeping. There is a lot of discussion around the ‘golden thread of information’. From design to occupation and through connected technology, data will provide an accurate and up-to-date record of what has gone into a building, how it was installed and maintained.

The Building a Safer Future governmental consultation from summer 2019 made it explicit: “This should include duty holders providing detailed specifications of building works in respect of fire and structural safety as a minimum (alongside the necessary specification in all other aspects of the Building Regulations).”

The liberal use of the term ‘specification’ in Building a Safer Future provides a likely roadmap as to the forthcoming regulation. There will be a requirement to be explicit about the systems, products and materials being used in a building project. The actual products installed will be recorded along with a clear rationale for how these meet the design requirements. At the same time, the record would verify and record work against the original specification. Importantly this would also address who was accountable for those choices.

We are going to see the focus on construction products and around Building Regulations continue to increase. Thus, manufacturers need to think ‘digital first’ when communicating with specifiers.

Responsible manufacturers who provide robust performance and certification information will benefit.