Last reviewed 1 February 2022

The British Standards Institution has developed BS Flex 8670, its new competence framework standard for the built environment. Roland Finch reports.

Following the tragic events at Grenfell Tower in 2017, The report of the inquiry, chaired by Dame Judith Hackett, called for a complete overhaul of the regulatory system for “high risk” residential buildings (HRRBs). The subsequent Building Safety Bill, introduced in the summer of 2020, has as one of its foundations, the need to assess competence for those tasked with designing, constructing and managing these buildings.

Following the inquiry, a Competence Steering Group (CSG) was set up. Its report, Raising the Bar was published in August 2019 and contained a large number of recommendations from 13 working groups. Three fundamental points were made.

  1. Behaviours need to be based on competence. People and organisations carrying out tasks in connection with the construction and use of HRRBs must be demonstrably and measurably competent to do so.

  2. There needs to be a change in culture. Collaboration, standardisation, and predictability needs to improve. Poor financial management and adversarial approaches need to be eradicated.

  3. Continuing Professional Development needs to be improved at all levels. It must be relevant, up to date and properly managed.

As a result, September 2020 saw the publication of BS Flex 8670 v1.0 Built Environment. Overarching Framework for Competence of Individuals. Specification.

This “Flex” standard — described by BSI as “a new, flexible way to develop consensus-based good practice that dynamically adapts to keep pace with fast-changing markets” — sets out proposals for methods that can be used to assess competence in organisations and individuals who will become “duty holders” under the new building safety regime. The aim is to allow the newly-created Building Safety Regulator to check that they meet the relevant standards of skills, knowledge and capability that will be required under the new regime.

The introduction states the following.

“This BSI Flex does not set out all of the specific requirements for any given sector-specific framework but does specify core characteristics to be included.

“This BSI Flex is intended to be used by professional groups, trade associations, trades or any other group from relevant built environment actors looking to develop or achieve recognition for a relevant competence framework. It is anticipated that those frameworks will then be subject to review by a committee on industry competence working under the aegis of the Building Safety Regulator.

“This BSI Flex will be of specific interest to assessment bodies who might be tasked with assessment of competence of individuals against any sector-specific competence framework.”

It is part of an industry-wide initiative sponsored by the UK Ministry of Health, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) aimed at improving standards throughout construction.

The standard aimto provide an overarching framework against which people and practices can be objectively benchmarked, with the specific aim of ensuring that the performance of the three new regulated duty holders — Principal Designer, Principal Contractor and Building Safety Manager — can be measured and compared. It is overseen by a newly established BSI Built Environment Competence Standards (BECS) Strategy Group, made up from all parts of the industry; designers, consultants, constructors and operators, as well as those in the current checking and assurance regime: building control, inspectors and insurers, among others.

The focus will be on two distinct aspects: “competence” and “competency”. These relate to the skills and knowledge to allow a task to be carried out, and the capability to allow it to be carried out effectively, and by extension, safely.

This is part of a wider programme of work within the industry and it is hoped that will bring about lasting change.

Further information is available from the BSI website