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t’s a fairly startling fact, but literally anyone can legally set themselves up as a housebuilder tomorrow, with no qualifications. GPs, who arguably only occasionally affect people’s lives as fundamentally as people who build their homes, have to train for eight years. Architects, whose decisions do of course have qualitative impacts to a greater or lesser extent across the built environment, have a similar training gestation of around seven years.

The dwellings people live in fundamentally affect their health and safety. From how well they deal with moisture, overheating, or subtler factors like acoustic control – so many aspects can impact on the health of occupants. However, builders’ contribution to this, not to mention whether a building is structurally sound, is largely unregulated, beyond Building Regulations compliance.

Although representing SME builders, The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) is taking a firm stand against this longstanding anomaly. It has long campaigned for higher (or any) quality standards for those who construct buildings, and for a quality bar to entering the industry to be erected. This organisation, which has successfully gained the attention of Ministers over the years, has now formed a powerful Task Force to create a mandatory (not a word often heard around housebuilding) licensing scheme for builders.

Alongside the FMB, the group also includes the Association of Consultancy and Engineering, the British Property Federation, the Chartered Institute of Building, Construction Products Association, Building Control, RICS, TrustMark, and Which? The body hopes to introduce legislation soon that will show this is far from just a talking shop.

At the initiative’s launch, its chair Liz Peace said that “quality and professionalism is falling short. What we’re trying to do is increase protection for the ordinary person who engages with the construction sector.” According to FMB research, a third of homeowners are avoiding commissioning work completely due to worries about the quality of service they may receive.

The FMB, perhaps optimistically, believes most of the industry will welcome this new hurdle to jump over before they can begin selling their services. Liz Peace reckons that the key message is that “the good guys shouldn’t be worrying, they will sail through the process and it’ll actually make their lives easier.”

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However, it’s true that the industry is facing a major shortage of SME building firms, as it continues to undershoot the 300,000 homes per year target. Bars to entry to the industry, even if well-intentioned regulation, need to be very carefully handled so they don’t contribute to this problem.

The Public Accounts Committee’s recent report on housing delivery was fairly stark on how the Government’s ambitious targets were being hampered by local authorities failing to deliver housing plans, and that infrastructure delays were holding up developments. While many housebuilders are struggling to build the homes called for, whether the timing is ideal for an industry clean-up, overdue or not, is debatable.

James Parker Editor


ON THE COVER... The LocHal by CIVIC Architects is an adaptive reuse project which presents a ‘new chapter’ for public libraries, offering much more than just a repository for books to the city of Tilburg

LOCHAL, TILBURG, THE NETHERLANDS ADF reports on an adaptive reuse project that breathed new life into a former train shed in Tilburg to create an open library and event space

ACER NORTHCOTT SPORTS CENTRE, OXFORD A centre with the UK’s first sprung glass sports floor for a prestigious site

For the full report on this project, go to page 42 Cover Image © Stijn Bollaert



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