Avatar photo

Freelance journalist

Author Bio ▼

Ron Alalouff is a journalist specialising in the fire and security markets, and a former editor of websites and magazines in the same fields.
October 12, 2022


Whitepaper: Enhancing security, resilience and efficiency across a range of industries

Construction products

Draft construction products competency standard is a ‘radical’ response to previous mistakes and shortcomings

The whitepaper on the proposed new standard on construction product competencies, published by the Construction Products Association, is nothing if not ambitious in nature. It’s a bid to fundamentally improve standards in the construction industry. Ron Alalouff reports.

The whitepaper proposes a wide-ranging industry-agreed standard that covers the core criteria for everyone making decisions about products, at all levels of the built environment sector. It sets out a methodology to define how core criteria can be mapped by different built environment industries to their own competence frameworks, and explains how industries and organisations can use these principles to demonstrate that their workforces have the appropriate competence to meet their duties and responsibilities.

The standard applies to a wide-ranging list of job functions in the construction industry, namely those:

  • Designing, marketing, selling or exchanging information about construction products
  • Providing technical support for, installing, handling, owning, maintaining or decommissioning construction products
  • Specifying or designing with construction products
  • Procuring construction products or services
  • Supervising, managing, inspecting or verifying other functions around construction products
  • Holding regulated, dutyholding or statutory roles over built environment assets
  • Regulating the built environment

Previous construction mistakes acknowledged

The document pulls no punches in how fundamentally important it is to get a grip on construction products standards. Its executive summary says: “Regulations and oversight for the built environment is undergoing a revolution and the built environment sector must brace itself for being held accountable, where previously it was not. Considerable work and effort will be necessary to meet new legal requirements, but more than that, industry should work to put in place the necessary checks and balances itself. We must demonstrate to the public that we have recognised our previous mistakes and shortcomings, and take the necessary steps to ensure we perform as we should.”

Built environment – Proposed construction product competence standard – Whitepaper has been developed by Competence Steering Group (CSG) Working Group 12, led by the Construction Products Association. The CSG was tasked with responding to the competence issues raised in Dame Judith Hackitt’s report Building a Safer Future following the Grenfell Tower fire, and to the subsequent requirements set out in the Building Safety Act 2022.

The Construction Products Association says all industries in the built environment sector use construction products, but their misuse can lead to dangerous and potentially fatal outcomes. Ensuring those who use construction products are competent is vital to producing buildings and a built environment that is safe, efficient and performs as required. But there is currently no universal way to demonstrate that an individual has the correct competences for the tasks they are accountable and responsible for. The whitepaper confirms that “radical change” is needed.

Proposed addition to BSI Flex 8670

The proposals are being published to allow everyone in the built environment sector to review and consider how to apply them to their industries. They provide a model for individual industries to develop and apply them to their own workforces, and aim to provide sufficient time for industries to trial them and provide feedback via public consultation.

The whitepaper also proposes that the standard be added to the existing BSI Flex 8670 series, which specifies requirements for competence frameworks for individuals working in the built environment.

“The built environment sector lacks a standard approach to recognising what construction product competence looks like, how to demonstrate it and how to recognise it in others,” the whitepaper says. “Without this key part of the puzzle being addressed, industries within the built environment sector will continue to work in a fashion that has proven dissonant and unpredictable, therefore increasing the risk of things going wrong.”

It adds: “A recurring story within the built environment is of individuals making choices outside their scope of competence to do so, whether that be due to an individual decision, environmental circumstances, or a lack of understanding of the potential consequences of their actions…Responsibility and accountability for decisions needs to sit with those who have competence, who understand the limits of that competence and have the appropriate information necessary to make them.

“There has been a culture of assumptions regarding decision-making on construction products, that the correct decisions have already been made and do not need to be addressed. Individuals need to be aware of how decisions are taken, and the process for challenging where they suspect these may be incorrect.”

Core criteria: five levels

The whitepaper sets out a new standard for construction products competence, describing five levels of core criteria and a methodology of application that can be made applicable to anyone using or otherwise working with construction products. This proposed standard is intended to be used by all industries in the built environment sector to map against their existing training and qualifications, in order to demonstrate the competence of the individuals in their workforce. They may also use it to identify any gaps in their training and qualifications.

The route for industries to implement the proposed standard is set out in a series of steps:

  • Step 1: Publish an industry agreed construction products competence (CPC) standard. This involves the five levels of core criteria and methodology, and is applicable to everyone using or working with construction products. The four pillars of competence have been defined as skill, knowledge, experience and behaviour (SKEB).
  • Step 2: Commit to CPC principles. Industries and organisations accept that those interacting with construction products must be competent to do so and commit to applying the principles of the CPC standard.
  • Step 3: Agree how to demonstrate CPC. Organisations map against training and qualifications and/or industries agree how to demonstrate by mapping against training and qualifications.
  • Step 4: Demonstrate CPC. Organisations ensure that individuals are able to demonstrate CPC and ensure that they only work within the scope of their competence. Verification is assessed by employing organisations.
  • Step 5: Utilise CPC. Clients, employers, duty holders and organisations can require their workforce demonstrate CPC, and regulators can confirm the CPC of a workforce has been verified.
  • Step 6: Review CPC. There should be periodic review of the CPC standard, of the methods of demonstration in different industries, and of individuals achieving and demonstrating CPC.

The following table from the whitepaper sets out the competency requirements for each core level:


Next steps

The whitepaper has been developed to give the built environment sector the opportunity to prepare for the proposed standard, and where possible to implement its principles. The intention is to develop the principles in the whitepaper into an industry-agreed standard, preferably through BSI as part of the BSI 8670 Flex series. This will be the point at which the built environment sector will have the opportunity to submit feedback via the BSI public consultation mechanism.

The issue of the competence of people dealing with construction products has been taken by the scruff of the neck and addressed in a comprehensive and determined manner. It has taken its cues from the Hackitt report – and no doubt some of the evidence of poor specification, wrong assumptions and buck-passing from the Grenfell Tower inquiry – and has provided a response which deserves proper consideration and action.


EBOOK: Lessons from FIREX 2023 – Emerging challenges in fire safety

Read our FREE eBook, which provides a summary of the key debates and presentations that took place at FIREX 2023 in May, alongside additional exclusive content for readers.

Chapters cover new fire safety construction guidance, how to mitigate the risk of lithium-ion battery fires, and evacuation planning. There's also exclusive insight into the resident's view of the building safety crisis, and how the fire safety and sustainability agendas can work together.


Related Topics

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments