New FIS Course:  Getting Started with Digital Construction

New FIS Course: Getting Started with Digital Construction

To support the digital revolution in the finishes and interiors sector, FIS has team up with digital specialists Digital Construction Skills to deliver a new course – Getting Started with Digital Construction, designed to help FIS Members pick through the vast array of digital tools available and to help you make sense of them and work out which ones will have the most positive impact on your business, aligned with your business goals.  This targeted is backed by a strategy support toolkit, that will help you develop a structured digital construction strategy and give your teams the skills and confidence they need to drive change in your business.

This CITB Assured course (Grant Tier 1) is aimed at construction professionals in the Finishes and Interiors sector who would like to learn how digital technologies can benefit their business and to explore the factors they should take into account when considering possible digital solutions. It will help delegates to implement new digital technologies whilst ensuring the greatest chance of successful implementation and avoiding common pitfalls.

Who the course is aimed at:

  • Managers and decision makers
  • Business owners
  • Directors
  • Engineers
  • Project Managers
  • Quantity Surveyors/Commercial Functions
  • SHEQ Staff
  • Team Leaders

Course Content

By the end of the course, delegates will be able to:

  • List the broad categories of digital tools available
  • Describe the possible benefits of implementing digital solutions
  • List the factors they need to take into account when selecting a new digital solution
  • Identify areas of strengths and weakness within their business in terms of readiness for implementing digital construction
  • Identify the supporting skills required to successfully implement the digital tools identified for their business
  • Explain how to identify specific problems within their business which could be solved with digital solutions

The course is split over two consecutive afternoons and will take place on Wednesday 6th and Thursday 7th October 2021 and 2-5pm

To reserve you slot click here

 

Embracing Change – the story so far

Embracing Change – the story so far

The FIS Conference has been focussing on levers for change in the construction sector, how we rechart a course and go through the gears to delivering a better construction product in a healthier and sustainable supply chain.  Each week we are debating the levers and barriers to change and two of the five virtual roundtables that we are hosting are now available for members to “listen again”.

Key themes explored in our first session Building Trends in the finishes and interiors sector were how sustainable the recovery is, what is driving investment, regulatory change, how the office is really likely to change from a practical perspective and what this means to construction and how wider design and specification trends are likely to be impacting on future works.  Without spoiling the ending, there was some cause for optimism from most of the panel.

In the second session A Path to Net Zero we explored whether sustainability is driving change and the pressure that is washing through the supply chain, focussing not just on how we react, but the need to be proactive as a supply chain.  “Don’t wait” was a key message as was the theme, which is further developing through our upcoming sessions, “how do we collaborate outside of the project” and focus on what is important and we can change.

This week our focus was Shortages, Employment Models, Recruitment and Competence and we move to Procurement and Contracts next week and finish looking at Innovation in the finishes and interiors sector.

You can get early access and engage in the debate by booking your place here.

Sector experts debate the benefits of flexible working

Sector experts debate the benefits of flexible working

‘Worth more than pay’ – sector experts debate the benefits of flexible working

Demand for flexible working has grown in the wake of the pandemic, but does flexibility fit with construction, and can it ease the sector’s gender balance and skills issues? Recently Build UK Chief Executive Suzannah Nichol joined a Construction News roundtable to highlight how it is key to retaining a more diverse workforce.

Suzannah said:

“We keep talking about more diversity in construction but we’ve actually got to do things differently to make a difference”.

“It feels like we’ve been through a massive social experiment over the last 18 months and the virus crisis has instigated many conversations about people, processes and productivity “that we’re not generally very good at having in construction”.

You can read the full aticle at https://www.constructionnews.co.uk/agenda/worth-more-than-pay-sector-experts-debate-the-benefits-of-flexible-working-24-08-2021/

Build UK has created a toolkit to assist businesses in implementing flexible working across your business, which includes a 10‐point action plan that companies of all sizes can use.

Is this finally the beginning of the end for retentions in Scotland?

Is this finally the beginning of the end for retentions in Scotland?

Following the formation of a small working group in Scotland to look at retentions, a new paper has been presented to Scottish Government.

Retentions have long blighted construction and this paper sets out conclusions from the working group together with clear recommendations designed to support the construction sector and improve cash flow and business sustainability, particularly for small and medium sized businesses.

Whilst the recommendations fall short of recommending an outright ban on retentions it recommends automatic release and legislation that will ensure retentions are held in a Retention Deposit Scheme.

The ten key recommendations are as follows:

  • Scottish Ministers should take forward legislation that will apply to both public and private sector construction contracts to establish a statutory custodial Retention Deposit Scheme, following development of a detailed business case
  • Scottish Government should publish a retention best practice policy note for contracting organisations by end January 2022 and consider with contractors, professional bodies and the wider industry, how best to disseminate and promote compliance. This should include a move towards automatic release of retentions at the earliest opportunity unless a clear issue had been identified and an approach to, and timetable for, resolution set out. It will also provide a requirement that organisations withholding a cash retention should not:
    • repay late or partially, without full and clearly articulated justification
    • render it liable to claim by an upstream insolvent supply chain party
    • use more than one form of assurance on construction contracts
  • by end January 2022 the Scottish Government should invite all contracting authorities involved with major construction projects (a major construction contract is defined in the Scottish Public Finance Manual as one which “has a total anticipated whole life cost of £5m+) to publish their retention policy and monitor and report on compliance. This should be a requirement for all major projects delivered using Scottish Government finance
  • within six months of project handover (practical completion) for each major construction contract, require contracting authorities to publish their compliance with retention best practice or explain how and why they have deviated from it
  • Scottish Government should ensure that reference to retentions and fair payment is included within the Construction Accord
  • Scottish Government to work with industry to ensure retention best practice is reflected in standard construction contracts, including dispute resolution and conflict avoidance procedures and agreed payment procedures
  • promote further consideration/implementation across the sector of the removal of retentions from contracts as demonstrated by Network Rail.  This includes;
    • progress payments not subject to automatic deduction as work
      proceeds
    • the final payment adjusted to place greater emphasis on completing project closure activities such as the Health and Safety file and producing a [priced] list of patent defects
  • upon publication of best practice policy notes, Scottish Government and industry should host a major conference or series of webinars to focus on the promotion and implementation of retention best practice, including conflict avoidance
  • invite Government Enterprise Agencies to work with representative bodies and businesses in the construction sector to identify and deliver efficiency opportunities. This might include a feasibility study to consider implementing an approach to the management of construction project cash-flow using digital technologies such as smart contracts

Commenting on the report, FIS CEO Iain McIlwee said:

“This is another welcome intervention from Scottish Government and we are keen to support this progress.  Whilst we would all like to see a complete end to the practice of holding retentions, at least this way we see the link between working capital and retention broken in a similar way to the Aldous Bill in England which FIS Members supported.”

The full report Cash retention under construction contracts: short life working group final report and recommendations can be read here 

The FIS formal Position on retentions and Contractual reform can be read here 

Is this finally the beginning of the end for retentions in Scotland?

New Procurement Policy Note in Scotland calls for fluctuations

Following successful lobbying by the CICV Forum in Scotland (of which FIS is an active member), the Scottish Government have issued a new Construction Policy Note (CPN) that sets out measures for contracting authorities to manage and mitigate market pressures affecting the availability and affordability of construction sector resources.

Amongst the key recommendations in the note that call for fairness, a focus on conflict avoidance is the recommendation to adopt fluctuations clauses, specifically:

“Contracting authorities may wish to consider writing formal price fluctuation clauses into tender documents. This should reassure bidders that they will not be exposed to large and unpredictable movements in the prime cost of materials during the course of the contract. It should reduce the pricing cover included in bids for unquantifiable inflation risk thereby bringing them in scope of a well-estimated client budget. It will also return prime cost decreases to the client, should such occur during the project.”

Commenting on the note FIS CEO, Iain McIlwee said, “This is a real triumph for the CICV and shows what can be achieved when the industry works together and provides a clear message to government.  It simply isn’t reasonable to expect the supply chain to absorb ever more risk on the thin margins that construction now offers and we are grateful to the Scottish Government for stepping in.  This note should be welcomed by construction businesses across Scotland”.

The full policy note Resources for construction projects: CPN 3/2021 can be read here.

Some concerns related to the disproportionate impact of the Building Safety Bill

Some concerns related to the disproportionate impact of the Building Safety Bill

FIS Statement on the Building Safety Bill

The main impact of the Building Safety Bill centres on who and how the building process will be regulated and who is accountable for what.  It is, for the most part, a huge improvement to the regulatory landscape and will, without question drive a healthier culture centred on improvements in the exchange of information, better design and specification, considered procurement and ensure key details are decided before we are stood on site, scratching heads.  An area of concern is, however, the accompanying changes to the Defective Premises Act and particularly the intent for retrospective application which potentially places a significant and disproportionate burden on contractors and suppliers.

The Building Safety Bill – Headline Changes

The Bill will see the implementation of specific gateway points at design, construction and completion phases to ensure that safety is considered at each and every stage of a building’s construction, and safety risks are considered at the earliest stage of the planning process.

It also focusses on key roles for individuals during the design, build and occupation of a high-rise residential building.  These roles come with clearly defined accountability and responsibility.

Two new regulators are being created through the Bill.  The Building Safety Regulator will be holding individuals to account and taking enforcement action when required.  It also defines the role of the Construction Products Regulator in providing oversight for testing and control of the supply of construction products and sets the ground for the n Building

Other key areas covered by the Bill include:

  • Building Safety Risks defined as fire spread (one flat to another or one floor to another) and structural failure.
  • High Risk Buildings defined as those that are at least 18m in height or have at least 7 storeys and have at least two residential units (a dwelling, flat bedroom in a hall of residence or any other unit of living accommodation)
    • This brings into scope care homes and hospitals meeting the same height threshold during design and construction
    • It also brings into scope buildings owned or occupied by the Crown which meet the scope criteria e.g. Crown Estates, Duchy of Lancaster or Duchy of Cornwall or Government Departments. This is in line with the Fire Safety Order and Health and Safety at Work Act which applies to Crown buildings
  • Draft secondary legislation sets out technical definitions, excludes certain buildings from the regime and, for design and construction purposes, defines the use criteria for a building to be covered.
  • Secondary legislation is also drafted to confirm height will be measured from ground level on the lowest side of the building to the floor surface of the top storey (which does not exclusively contain roof-top machinery or a plant room)
  • New powers for the Secretary of State to use secondary legislation to amend definitions written in the Bill
  • Introduction of a new developer tax a levy on developers ”to ensure that the industry makes a contribution to setting things right”.

Areas of concerns – Retrospective extension of the Defective Premises Act (DPA) 1972

Whilst there are many reasons to applaud the introduction of the Building Safety Bill and the positive impact it is undoubtedly going to have on the construction process going forward, our applause missed a beat when we read and absorbed the impact of section 125 related to the extension of the Defective Premises Act (DPA) 1972.  You may not be familiar with this particular piece of legislation, but it is where the 6 year liability related to claims against defective works is rooted.

The phrase: “Where by virtue of a relevant provision a person becomes entitled to bring an action against any other person, no action may be brought after the expiration of 15 years from the date on which the right of action accrued.” has massive implications for the construction sector moving forwards, but our main concern is when combined the commentary from Robert Jenwick that made it clear that the intention will be for changes to apply retrospectively, allowing claims from 2010.

The wording also indicates that this claims window would be applicable to all “relevant building” effectively extending the scope of the DPA away from new premises to cover all refurbishment and renovation work.

Should this Bill pass through Parliament unamended, clients bringing claims based on workmanship issues from 2010 in “relevant buildings” would have a 15 year window (way beyond existing typical contractual defect liability terms) to bring a claim against the contractor.

Timescales for the Building Safety Bill

The Building Safety Bill is not law yet, it was introduced into Parliament on 30 June 2021 and the process of scrutiny by Commons and Lords is expected to take no less than 9 months at which point Royal Assent will be granted..  The timescales below give insight into when and how the various elements are anticipated to come to bear.

FIS is currently seeking clarification on the changes to the DPA (an initial view has been provided here as part of a SpecFinish article by Michael Woolley, Legal Director of Hill Dickinson LLP.  We remain concerned that the Building Safety Fund and various cladding and remediation and support do not adequately address legacy issues.  The legal requirement for building owners to prove that they have explored alternative ways to meet remediation costs before passing these onto leaseholders means that we are also likely to see surveyors commissioned to find problems, actively seeking to find ways to impose the cost on contractors as an easier route than addressing poor procurement and failings in the regulatory environment.

We will continue our work with the wider construction sector in representing the views of our members on this matter and will be raising these concerns through the Civil Service and relevant Politicians over the coming months.

Building Safety Bill documents

FIS hosted an update and debate on the introduction of the Building Safety Bill in October 2020 – you can access a recording of the event here

View the original announcement of the Building Safety Bill here.