BSI competence frameworks nearing completion

23 Feb 22

Competence documents for newly regulated construction industry roles are expected to be published in the next few months, delegates at the latest GIRI members’ meeting heard. At the online meeting on 10 February, Claire Price, BSi sector lead for the built environment, said that development of the documents, which cover the roles of principal designer, principal contractor and building safety manager, is well under way and they should be published in the summer.

The BSI is the national standards body in the UK and works with industry and stakeholders in a neutral role to develop standards with the people who will use them to ‘establish what good looks like’. It has been the BSI’s role to develop competence frameworks for the sector in the wake of Grenfell and the Hackitt Report. 

“Our role as neutral facilitators is especially important for programmes like the Built Environment Competence Programme, when there is a lot riding on what we develop,” said Claire. “It enables us to bring people together and get the right document for people to actually use.”

The Hackitt Report challenged industry to develop an improved set of systemic competencies. The Competence Steering Group’s 2019 Raising the Bar report, produced in response to the Hackitt Report, recommended the creation of a suite of standards and supporting documents. These include a framework benchmarking competence across the sector as well as documents setting competences beyond sector-specific competences for the three newly regulated roles: principal designer, principal contractor, and building safety manager, to be underpinned by accredited third-party approval.

BSI’s work on the frameworks started in March 2020 and is expected to run until mid-2022. A strategy group was set up initially to advise on the first phase, and this has now been converted to Technical Committee CPB/1 Competence in the Built Environment. Membership is made up of stakeholder representatives from membership groups. “Each individual represents key organisations and relevant stakeholders. The BSB is an English bill, but we have representatives of the devolved governments because we are the national standards body, and the standards output is nationwide.”

BSI Flex 8670 is the overarching competence framework. Its full title is BSI Flex 8670 V3.0:2021 Built Environment – Core Criteria for Building Safety in Competence Frameworks – code of practice, and it is available to download for free from the BSI website. It provides recommendations for core criteria for building safety to promote high standards of protection for people in and around buildings and is applicable to buildings of all types and scales.

The framework is relevant to regulated duty-holding or statutory roles such as principal designers, principal contractors, designers, contractors, building safety managers, building control professionals and responsible persons for buildings in occupation. It sets core criteria for behaviours and building safety elements, including fire, structural and public safety, managing building safety, knowledge management and communication, and building as system.

“It is a framework for frameworks,” said Claire. “It sets the requirements for anyone developing a sector or sub-sector framework of competence. We developed three versions and each one went out for public consultation, and each one received 800 to 900 comments. It was developed not just with consensus around the table but from the much wider community.”

Work to convert this to a British Standard will start in June and is expected to run until 2024. 

The three competence documents for principal designer, principal contractor, and building safety manager are still in development, with the expectation that they will be published this summer. Each one received several hundred comments at consultation. As a newly created role, the building safety manager document has been the most complex, said Claire. It covers competence with regards to building structures and systems, the interaction of systems and components, operation practices required to maintain safe occupancy of buildings, risk management, managing change, leadership, communication, and planning skills, and ethical and professional behaviour. 

However, the standards themselves are just the beginning. “We develop the standards, but we are aware that it still a journey for industry to adopt and use them,” said Claire. “There will be some kind of third-party approval and certification underpinning these standards, so we expect accreditation organisations to become involved to develop schemes to measure against the standards. And clearly training needs to be established to support those schemes, and only once this is in place can industry really adopt and use the standards.”

Claire closed by briefly outlining potential further and related work in this area. This includes ongoing discussions for other standards, including competence around construction products, behaviours and ethics, and safety critical scrutiny, as well as ideas for competence standards for CDM and other roles. “There is still a lot of work to do, and it will be ongoing for some years to come.”

Read Dawn Hillier's update on developing competence frameworks for installers.

Read Anthony Taylor's update on competence assessment for building safety managers.

Read Brendan van Rooyen's update on changes to the ICE's CPD framework

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