With a new safety regime for 2023 on the horizon for construction, boardrooms are being warned to start the process of change within their organisations now or risk harsh penalties.

The advice came from Dame Judith Hackitt, the author of recommendations for the construction industry in her report following the Grenfell fire of 2017.  Speaking at the recent Construction Leader’s Summit, she said: “Any part of this sector that thinks they can survive by standing still or defending their current territory is sadly mistaken. The place to be starting this is in the boardrooms and I think that in every organisation if that conversation hasn’t already started, it should.”

The government’s Building Safety Bill is currently working its way through Parliament after the draft was published in the summer.  It sets out details of new legislation for building regulations designed to prevent another Grenfell fire.

The appointment of a new Building Safety Regulator is a key component of the bill, along with a framework of competence for anyone designing, building or inspecting a high rise residential building.

The bill has been broadly welcomed by organisations across the industry, including the Chartered Institute of Building, Construction Products Association and RICS.

For many companies managing their operations through a pandemic crisis, the temptation will likely be that 2023 is a long way off with plenty of time to look at compliance.  But what the entire sector needs to understand is that the bill will force a fundamental systemic change that will require much more collaboration throughout the supply chain. It will take time and some bravery to move away from lowest bid wins to a more value oriented procurement approach. Many of the procurement processes currently in operation will not survive once the new laws come into operation.

Once again, construction has an opportunity to seize the moment and overcome the lack of inertia in procurement. The design and build model as we know it faces real challenge so needs to shift the value judgements and is till a collaborative culture throughout the supply chain.

The Chartered Institute of Building describes the bill as the “once in a generation opportunity for change”. The question is whether the industry recognises this and acts now to avoid the risk of waiting until the deadline and paying a heavy price in the future.