An effective approach to self-certification

Competent-persons schemes explained — Bill Belshaw.
With the plethora of competent-persons schemes that have sprung up in the HVACR sector, BILL BELSHAW clarifies some of the most commonly asked questions to help dispel the myths and bring some clarity to the issue.What are competent-persons schemes and why are they important to the HVACR sector? The concept of self-certification of work under the Building Regulations was first introduced in 2002 to cover notification of work relating to elements that go inside a new building, for example replacement windows and doors, and heating appliances. The rationale behind competent-persons schemes such as BESCA is to authorise scheme members who are adjudged competent in their work, to self-certify that a job has been carried out in a safe, efficient way and in compliance with all applicable requirements of the Building Regulations. All competent-persons businesses have to be independently audited to the standards set by the scheme to achieve accreditation to self-certify, and are re-assessed on an annual basis. The aim is that only trained and qualified individuals are allowed to self-certify work done by the business. This will help raise the profile of the HVACR sector so they become regarded as professional and competent specialists, and drive out ‘cowboy’ installers. Competent-persons schemes are also important to the HVACR industry as they offer the best chance of meeting the standards required by the Building Regulations and will help the country towards realising its energy efficiency targets. What are the benefits of being a competent person? Competent-persons schemes like BESCA offer benefits to both the HVACR industry and its customers. For businesses that join these schemes, the move towards self-certification will potentially save time and reduce costs, yet still enable them to fulfil their statutory obligations. There will be no need to wait for work to be approved and inspected by local-authority Building Control. Indeed many building-control departments have now indicated that they may not even have the resources to deal with this new workload. They are therefore unlikely to be able to respond to inspection requests under the new regulations. Savings can also be made on the expense of submitting a building notice. Average charges for inspection and notification start at about £350 per job. If companies wish to engage an approved inspector due to lack of local-authority resources, they are likely to incur significant cost. Customers will benefit from lower prices, as building-control fees are not payable, delays will be reduced delays, and they will readily be able to identify competent firms. This will help to eradicate ‘rogue traders’ from operating in this sector by assisting local authorities with the enforcement of the Building Regulations. BESCA is the only competent-person scheme to cover work in buildings that are not dwellings under Parts F and L. What is BESCA? BESCA (it stands for Building Engineering Services Competence Accreditation Ltd) has been set up by the Heating & Ventilating Contractors’ Association to provide a competent-persons scheme for the HVCAR sector. It can deal with notifications of HVACR work in both domestic dwellings and other buildings under the Building Regulations for England and Wales. BESCA is authorised by the Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG) to operate a competent-persons scheme covering Approved Documents F, G, J, L1 and L2 of the Building Regulations and acts as an independent assessment-and-certification body for the building-services industry. The web site is easy to use and provides an essential day-to-day resource, enabling a user to store records, refer to completed work and access the very latest information on the new Building Regulations. BESCA provides a knowledgeable, reliable service to guide HVACR contractors through the self-certification process. With all this, and a dedicated support team on hand, its best to go to BESCA. Who should use BESCA? A business should use BESCA if it carries out heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration contracting for domestic dwellings and other buildings in England or Wales. The scheme provides for any companies that wish to self-certify their work under the following parts of the Building Regulations.
• Parts G, J and L1 covering, respectively, plumbing, heating and energy efficiency in dwellings.
• Parts F and L2 covering ventilation and energy efficiency in other buildings. Why choose BESCA? There are several self-certification schemes in the domestic sector, most of which are schemes for a single fuel — with confusing implications for businesses wishing to notify their work to local authorities. Established by industry-leading body HVCA, BESCA is a transparent, accountable scheme committed to providing a service to the highest standards. It is the only scheme that covers HVACR work in both domestic dwellings and other buildings under part L of the Building Regulations for England and Wales. It is the ideal option for the many businesses that take on both domestic jobs and larger commercial projects. The BESCA website allows you to notify HVACR work quickly and easily at one location online. BESCA automatically sends job details to the relevant building-control officer. All the contractor then has to do is print off a controlled compliance certificate for the client. This service is available 24 hours a day and will save time and money. The web site also enables businesses to call up records of completed work which has been notified. Alongside users’ own areas within the site, there is a useful downloads section featuring registration forms, rules, regulations and guidance notes. BESCA provides a knowledgeable, reliable service including a dedicated support team to guide you through the self-certification process. Additionally, BESCA is committed to putting any surpluses generated back into the scheme for the benefit of users, the industry and the environment, arranging associated training courses, lowering costs and raising awareness to ensure that the HVACR sector is up to speed with the benefits of self-certification and relevant legislation. How to register with BESCA? Application packs, scheme fees and scheme information can be requested from the BESCA website. On receipt of the completed application, supporting documents and registration fee, BESCA will arrange for your business to be independently audited to the standards set by the scheme. If successful, BESCA will then issue you with a current registrants certificate, a copy of the registrants guide and will enter the business’s name on the BESCA database of registered competent persons. You will then be able to self-certify any work which is covered by the Building Regulations at the BESCA web site. All registered businesses are re-audited annually. How does on line self-certification work? Once a job has been completed, simply notify it quickly and simply online. BESCA automatically sends job details to the appropriate building-control body. All you need to do is print off a controlled compliance certificate for your client. The service all available 24 hours a day. Does a sub contractor have to notify work, or is it the responsibility of the main contractor/client’s agent? The BESCA scheme is set up to allow self-certification and notification following a number of scenarios. For example, for large buildings where the main HVCAR contractor has carried out a range of work, some by its own staff and other work using specialist subcontractors, and this work has been supervised, the main contractor may wish to certify all the work himself and submit one notification covering all of the HVCAR work. Equally, the main contractor may wish to see the subcontractor carrying out the notification process for its work; unless contracted not to do so, this is the route that we expect most notifications will follow. Is it the installation that is certified or the design? It is the installation that is certified — not the design. When registered businesses self-certify and notify, they are confirming that the work they have carried out complies with all of the requirements of the Building Regulations sections A through to P. With Approved Document L, for example, it is the whole building design that is critical to achieving an energy-efficient building. For non-dwellings, the designer will need to enter his design into the national calculation tool, which is referred to as SBEM, to establish if it is compliant. The designer has some leeway within the design process, allowing him to trade off different factors in the design to achieve an overall compliant building. For example, the inclusion of some low- or zero-carbon (LZC) technology in the project can change the design parameters within Approved Document L and SBEM. A BESCA-registered HVACR contractor will need to be able to deliver its part of the overall package to the designer, and thus should self-certify that the work is compliant with all the technical requirements of the Building Regulations and delivers the energy outputs that the designer requires. Failure to deliver or better the design requirements will mean that the total building is likely to be non-compliant. It must be remembered that the designer must enter the as-built data from commissioning into SBEM to ensure the finished item is still compliant. Whose responsibility is it to ensure consequential improvements — the designer, the main contractor or the subcontractor? Where the building has a floor area of over 1000 m2, the requirement to achieve ‘consequential improvements’ comes into effect. It is important to note that such improvements must be technically, functionally and economically feasible. The contractor will need to see evidence that the issue of consequential improvements comes into effect, that it has been considered by the building owner, designer or contractor and has been added into the project or discounted prior to the original work activity being self-certified and notified. It is likely that the contractor will have to advise clients on the need to deliver consequential improvements in addition to the original work activity, following the requirements set out in Regulation 17D of Approved Document Part L. What happens if I choose not to comply with the new Building Regulations? Part L of the Building Regulations came into force on 6 April 2006, together with more extensive regulations covering reporting to Building Control and/or self-certification. Failure to comply with the technical requirements or to advise Building Control of notifiable works could expose the contractor, client or customer to prosecution under the Building Act. Additionally, domestic customers are likely to insist on self-certification, as documentary proof of compliance is likely to be a requirement for the Home Information Pack (HIP) to be introduced in June 2007. Bill Belshaw is chairman of BESCA, Old Mansion House, Eamont Bridge, Penrith CA10 2BX.
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