Building competence

02/12/2019 12:17
December 2019 - building competence.jpg

Just before 1am on 14 June 2017, a fire broke out in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block of flats in North Kensington, West London, leading to 72 deaths. In the wake of this tragedy, the government commissioned an Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, led by Dame Judith Hackitt.

Dame Judith’s review included recommendations on competence in her report, Building a Safer Future. In response to the report, the Competence Steering Group (CSG) was established to take those recommendations forward.

The CSG in turn produced the Raising the Bar report, in which more detailed recommendations were made. 

These recommendations dovetail with government proposals for implementing Building a Safer Future.

The Engineering Council is a major player within the CSG and IGEM has been part of various working groups involved with the implementation.

The competence frameworks developed by the CSG and its working groups tackle the shortcomings identified in Building a Safer Future by setting out the appropriate knowledge, qualifications and skill sets required for individuals working on high risk residential buildings (HRRBs), how they should be assessed and by whom.

In addition, Raising the Bar calls for: 

  • A new oversight body – the Building Safety Competence Committee – which will monitor assessment processes, draw up a central register of duty holders eligible to work on HRRBs and continually drive improvements across the sector.
  • Government to mandate individuals working on HRRBs to be registered/certified by a recognised professional or certified body.
  • All organisations, including professional bodies, carrying out the assessments and reassessments of an individual’s competence should themselves be subject to a rigorous

    system of oversight by a body such as UKAS or the Engineering Council.

  • The building safety regulator to hold and maintain a register of those qualified to perform the key roles with the advice of the Building Safety Competence Committee. And,

    additionally, to provide sign-posting to registers which should be held by the professional and trade bodies of those qualified and competent to work on HRRBs.

  • The period of reassessment to be no less than every five years.

  • Common principles of continuing professional development (CPD) to be established for each sector, which the Building Safety Competence Committee should use to hold sectors to account.

  • Common principles of continuing professional development (CPD) to be established for each sector, which the Building Safety Competence Committee should use to hold sectors to account.

Assuming the government proposals for implementing Building a Safer Future are accepted and become part of the proposed Building Control regime for high risk residential buildings, (in England and Wales buildings 18m or more above ground level, nominally six storeys or more), it is expected that individuals undertaking the role of either Principal Designer or Principal Contractor will be registered on an approved scheme. 

It is currently anticipated that in the case of Chartered and Incorporated Engineers and Engineering Technicians, IGEM will administer the register with oversight from the Engineering Council. In the case of installers, the registers already operated by Gas Safe and EUSR appear to satisfy the majority if not all of the proposals.

What is competence?

The Engineering Council has divided the work of raising levels of competence into a number of working groups (WG) with WG1 looking at professional engineers and WG2 looking at installers.

According to the Engineering Council, competence is the ability to carry out a task to an effective standard. To achieve competence requires the right level of knowledge, understanding and skill, and a professional attitude. 

Competence is developed through a combination of formal and informal learning, training and experience, generally known as initial professional development. However, these elements are not necessarily separate or sequential and they may not always be formally structured.

Here, IGEM will give a view of the competence requirements to work on/in HRRBs at the time of writing. These requirements will be regularly reviewed to ensure they remain current.

The requirements for engineers 

The following outlines the requirements under the Engineering Council’s UK-SPEC relating to the additional competencies required to register for high risk residential building competence for:

  • Chartered Engineers (CEng)
  • Incorporated Engineers (IEng)
  • Engineering Technicians (EngTech)

Applicants must have previously satisfied the requirements for accreditation at the relevant grade, i.e., education, competence and commitment as defined in IGEM’s document CD/2/06/17 Membership Policies and Procedures Manual.

There are five generic areas of competence and commitment which applicants will be assessed against:

  • Knowledge and understanding
  • Design and development of processes, systems, services and products
  • Responsibility, management or leadership
  • Communication and inter-personal skills
  • Professional commitment 

The intent is that demonstration of competency, wherever possible, should cover as many of the seven RIBA stages as possible:

  • Preparation
  • Concept design
  • Detailed design
  • Technical design
  • Construction
  • Hand over and close out
  • In use (includes maintenance, e.g., replacement)

Engineering proficiency 

IGEM standard IGEM/TD/102 Competence framework defines three levels of proficiency for practicing engineers. IGEM proposes to align the required competencies for high risk residential buildings (HRRB) with these three levels.

Section 5 of the standard defines the three levels of proficiency: 

  • Foundation: The engineer is able to communicate on the subject clearly and, when required, select from a variety of options and explain the most appropriate, thus demonstrating an understanding of effects and consequences. Is able to carry out work with supervision from someone more proficient.
  • Professional: The engineer demonstrates the competence to select the most appropriate option to improve effectiveness and efficiency. Where required, links across different aspects of the topic, thus creating integrated solutions. Is able to carry out work without supervision from someone more proficient.
  • Mastery: When dealing with conflicting objectives, the engineer uses the optimum option to promote long-lasting achievement. Creating innovative step performance changes which may rely on a new approach. Is able to train and assess others. 

 

In summary, it is currently proposed that the following alignment between engineering proficiency and status is adopted although alignment with other Professional Engineering Institutions (PEIs) needs to be considered: 

  • Engineering Technician: Foundation
  • Incorporated Engineer: Professional
  • Chartered Engineer: Mastery

 

This framework, for professional engineers, covers all aspect of gas engineering; distribution, metering and utilisation.

Assessment of competence and commitment 

Professional Engineering Institution 
In order to become professionally registered for HRRBs, engineers will be required to have their competence and commitment assessed through a process known as a professional review. The Engineering Council is currently working on how this will work in practice given the number of separate and sometimes overlapping PEIs.

This is likely to be a peer review process, carried out by registrants who are competent and trained to undertake this kind of assessment.

Depending on the award level, the assessment process covers all facets of an engineer’s role, including finance, interpersonal skills and communications. However, the emphasis during assessment for HRRB competence should be on gas engineering and its interaction with other disciplines and risk assessment.

On completion of the professional review, a decision will be made by IGEM’s Membership Committee. A positive decision will result in the applicant being able to undertake appropriate roles on HRRBs. Retention of registration will require continued membership of the awarding body, and payment of an annual fee.

Engineering disciplines associated with HRRBs

The following is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but demonstrates the various engineering disciplines that engineers need to consider while working on HRRBs. The degree of consideration will depend on the engineer’s role:

The following is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but demonstrates the various engineering disciplines that engineers need to consider while working on HRRBs. The degree of consideration will depend on the engineer’s role:

  • Structural
  • Fire
  • Water and environmental
  • management
  • Heating and ventilation
  • Electrical
  • Building services
  • Civil
  • Mechanical

 

Employers

Additionally, HRRB practicing engineers may need to demonstrate competence to an employer. IGEM will provide guidance on a HRRB-specific safety and technical framework.

It is recognised that engineers may be employed to operate at a different level from that associated with their professional status. For example, a Chartered Engineer may be undertaking duties for HRRBs at an Incorporated Engineer level and will therefore be required to demonstrate HRRB IEng competence. 

Maintaining competence

Candidates applying for HRRB registration must be committed to maintaining and enhancing their competence. They will be required to show evidence that they have taken steps to ensure this, and that they intend to continue to do this in linewith IGEM’s CPD requirements.

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