Industry must drive the revolution not be a victim of it

BESA, BESA National Conference 2019, David Frise, John Norfolk, certification, training, energy gap

The 2019 BESA National Conference called on the building services sector to make changes in its practices before they are imposed by government.

BESA chief executive David Frise said: “If we don’t come up with a solution ourselves, someone will do it to us, and we all know that won’t work.”

Over 200 delegates attended the conference which took place in London on 21st November. Frise was clear about the challenge facing the sector, saying: “The requirements of the Construction Sector Agreement are impossible to meet unless we change. We must focus on outcomes.”

His words were echoed in the welcoming address of BESA President John Norfolk who said: “Our sector has a huge part to play in the political and technical agendas. But that means that BESA must continue to champion the high technical standards we have always stood for and stress the need for our clients to insist of seeing evidence of competence.”

Tools like building information modelling (BIM) are useful but delegates were warned that they are not the real solution: “BIM isn’t the answer unless you change the process,” said Frise.

The fact that buildings are not meeting energy performance targets should be regarded as a symptom of the wider problem. “The energy gap is a tell,” said Frise. “There has to be something wrong with everything. The holes where the energy gets out are where the pollution and fire get in.”

The key message for delegates at the Conference was that the industry must develop, adopt and apply solutions for issues such as training, competence and accreditation itself. These were all issues raised by speakers during the whole conference, with basic errors being made on site due to lack of training. One-day courses in pipework are not enough to provide operatives with the skills required to work on commercial buildings.

The industry has a number of key opportunities to grasp in the next few years, but it must be ready to rise to higher standards as government increases pressure to prove competence. Norfolk concluded: “If you want high quality buildings then you must employ competent people focused on doing a good job. In other words, clients need to be talking to BESA members and we need to be stepping up to the plate to demonstrate our value to society.”

Photography: Edwin Ladd 

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