Responding in a crisis
The restrictions on usual business practices as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have posed tough challenges for all of us. I want to start by recognising the fast response by local authorities to ensure the building standard service has been able to continue and commend everyone involved for going the extra mile to maintain services to their customers. Thank you for all you’ve done.
Building Standards Division is keeping in touch with verifiers on a weekly basis to monitor the impact of the restricted working conditions in line with UK and Scottish Government guidance. I’ve been impressed by how quickly everyone has adapted to new home working arrangements and also how the e-building standards portal has enabled individuals and businesses to continue to submit their building warrant applications. The benefits of using digital technology to support new ways of working are clear. Increasing the use of technologies in the building standards system will remain a priority in the recovery period when restrictions can be lifted to allow a safe return to our offices and construction sites.
I appreciate the difficulties with carrying out site inspections at the moment. The need to maintain physical distancing and ensuring we all stay safe means that site inspections by verifiers are limited. Special measures are in place to support a flexible approach to accepting evidence of compliance. Guidance has been issued around the use of temporary completion certificates when inspections leading to acceptance of completion certificates isn’t possible.
Building Standards Division is working with Local Authority Building Standards Scotland (LABSS) and industry to develop best practice guidance on remote verification inspections for verifiers and developers. The guidance is based on a risk protocol to enable video and other digital formats to be presented and accepted as evidence of compliance with building regulations. This will help move the use of technology forward faster in response to the current restrictions and will complement well established inspection regimes in the future.
I am also working closely with a range of industry representatives and LABSS on ensuring verifiers are able to respond quickly once construction sites can reopen safely. The Building Standards Resilience Liaison Group has been meeting weekly to discuss how we can collectively ensure the restart of work is supported with building warrant approvals and those properties requiring completion certificates are processed as quickly as possible. The Liaison Group is closely aligned with the Construction Leadership Forum and it’s work to determine how the sector can adapt to a new normal.
I’m keen that verifiers are able to raise issues for consideration by the Liaison Group. This can be done directly with Building Standards Division officials or through LABSS representatives to make sure the views of verifiers are put forward at the meetings.
The weeks ahead will require us to review the guidance on special measures and adapt to the changing situation so our response to the COVID-19 crisis is effective. However, I am reassured that the building standards system is in good shape and verifiers will be ready to meet the demand for their services once the current restrictions are eased. Building Standards has a key role to play in the economic recovery process and supporting other sectors to adapt safely.