New London Architecture

Expert Panel on Technical Competency

Tuesday 14 June 2022

Federico Ortiz

Head of Research

June 2022 marks five years since the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower that claimed 72 lives. Since then, the industry has been trying to adjust to new rules, regulations and demands that The NLA Expert Panel on Technical Competency met to discuss the tensions behind these changes and the need to adapt  
  • Building safety: there is new regulation coming in but is the profession up to speed? Experts around the table agreed that the industry needs a cultural change. This is new territory for both the government and the industry, and with uncertainty around upcoming policy (including over 30 new statutory instruments), how can professionals get on without unclear regulations? From roles and responsibilities to the golden thread of documentation, the panel asked for clarity and joined-up information that the industry can share among peers to progressing the building safety agenda even before regulations are in place. Going beyond the bottom line of standard regulations, the panel also shared good news of clients already demanding to go beyond minimum building regulations - a push driven by the insurance sector.   
  • Competence, skills and retrofit: this cultural change involves not just professional upskilling and competence improvement, but also a change in the behaviour of the construction industry and a better sharing of information to residents and building users. And what better place to start with this task that at architecture schools? Panellists agreed that education is key in driving the competence agenda if we want to achieve a cultural change. With the specific skills needed for the challenge, retrofit seems a good place to start with as it now has the political attention given the need to tackle carbon and energy pressures. Retrofitting the existing building stock can work as a vehicle for upskilling the sector.  
  • Digital transformation: finally, a cultural change goes hand in hand with a digital revolution. BIM has been discussed and implemented for years now, and the industry is driving the evolution of digital technologies. But a joined-up standardised use of tools and software is needed to be shared across the industry. And it's not just tools but also access to data and information that can guarantee the continuity of the golden thread. The panel highlighted that there still needs to be a public body which is responsible for securing this cross-industry digital transformation. 
These points and recommendations will inform NLA's Technical Programme, with a new year-round series of events, news and article to support the improvement of professional competence across the construction industry, and will feed into the New London Agenda, NLA's multi-year project that will develop a joined-up vision for London to be presented to the next mayoral candidates.

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Federico Ortiz

Head of Research




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