A question following a lecture I gave at the Building Centre the other morning asked why it is that Part L of the Building Regulations is still failing to deliver substantial improvements in building performance. The answer is so obvious that I thought I’d better share it more widely.
“Commercial competition drives quality standards down”.
In the case of building regulation, a previous government thought that it would be a good idea to open Building Control up to competition from the private sector in the form of Approved Inspectors. Once you remove the protected status of Building Control then the whole field of regulation actually becomes one of competition for work.
Now consider, if a Building Control Officer or an Approved Inspector needs to be concerned about where future work will come from, their priority is to ensure that their clients are happy with their service. Happy clients will return or recommend the service to others. This is a basic requisite of business, but it is entirely contrary to the need for a regulator to enforce unpopular regulations. The basic incentive of continuing employment means that the regulator is unlikely to insist on strict compliance but will work to find loopholes for the client to exploit.
Enforcing regulations will inevitably create conflict. That is why the jobs of the enforcers need to be protected against unhappy clients and developers who have fallen foul of the regulations.