Principal Thoughts: Doing our bit to prevent another Grenfell

Welcome to the latest edition of Ashley Wheaton’s ‘Principal Thoughts’. This month, Ashley discusses the launch of UCEM’s new BSc (Hons) Building Control programme and the impact this can have on equipping professionals with the capability to make buildings safer and avoid another Grenfell.

We launched our BSc in Building Control recently and I can’t recall the creation of a more important programme in my six years as Principal.

The BSc, which launched in May, will be joined by our Building Control Surveyor Level 6 Degree Apprenticeship (due for validation on 1 August, 2019) and our MSc in the subject next year.

In the wake of Grenfell, building safety and its importance has never been more obvious. The safety of buildings, of course, should always be paramount in any construction project but it’s fair to say that the terrible event in June 2017 left the industry reeling and has required organisations to examine their practice more critically than ever before.

Dame Judith Hackitt has done a good job in producing her independent report on the fire and a key message from her work on it was that more professionals are needed in building control and, crucially, they need appropriate qualifications to inform their work.

The three new Building Control programmes UCEM is offering can support Dame Hackitt’s assertion and play a part in realising a safer Built Environment. This is the crux of why I am so delighted that these programmes – which we have been working on for the past few years – are being launched.

Background

Conversations with professional bodies about offering Building Control programmes actually started before Grenfell. Our strategy, to be the leading, online, vocational university and a considered plan to extend our range of offered subjects, through the inclusion of Building Control, very much supported that aim.

What Grenfell did do, however, was reinforce our belief in offering Building Control programmes and emphasise the importance of making these programmes the best they can be and delivering them as soon as we could.

Our Academic Team worked tirelessly with the Association of Consultant Approved Inspectors (ACAI) and a supportive employer base to create these programmes and the launch of our BSc is the first milestone in our three-pronged approach.

Anniversary

Last month marked the two-year anniversary of Grenfell. The anniversary should have been an opportunity for reflection on the steps made to make the UK’s buildings safer. Instead, media coverage was saturated with laments of the inaction since that dark day. London Fire Brigade Commissioner, Dany Cotton, conveyed her anger at how slow work to make at-risk building safe was taking and The Guardian reported on the work of campaign group, Grenfell United, in highlighting tower blocks still covered in dangerous cladding.

‘Crisis point’

To compound matters, the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT) reported last month that a shortage of building inspectors is creating a ‘crisis point’ for building control. The crisis point comment came from a spokesperson for ACAI and highlighted how the lack of workers is delaying the necessary improvements being made to make buildings safer.

This situation is also representative of the wider skills crisis in the construction industry and the only way to reverse the situation is to upskill the current workforce and recruit more people into the industry. Our degree programmes support this activity.

Human cost

Our Information Governance Manager, Lucy Roper, recently wrote a blog which featured stories relating to fire standards and building safety and she linked to a video on the BBC website which showed some of the community-led initiatives to remember the victims of Grenfell.

Everyone who plays a role, whether directly or indirectly, in making our buildings safe should take the time to reflect on those who lost their lives two years ago. It’s easy to remember the fire but confronting the devastating impact on those innocent people allows us to use compassion as the foundation by which we construct our buildings in future.

If we all make a positive difference in this way then the necessary actions will swiftly follow.

That is why I am so proud that we are delivering these Building Control programmes and playing our own small part in delivering a safer future.

At UCEM, we are committed to contributing to a better Built Environment sector through excellence in online education. We deliver approved apprenticeship programmes, as well as undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. For more information take a look at our Study With UCEM page.

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