The CIOB investigation was prompted by the Cole Report that was published in the wake of a wall failure at Oxgangs Primary School in Edinburgh in January 2016.
However, it is has taken on a new significance with more recent events, with police investigations into what role Grenfell Tower’s cladding played in the fire there last week.
It was only by chance that the primary school was closed when brickwork fell off it in a storm, so no one was hurt. At Grenfell Tower, however, 79 people (at the current count) lost their lives.
The construction industry has been slow to get its act together in response to Professor John Cole’s findings, which were published four months ago. Prof Cole said that the Oxgangs failings were down to poor construction and inadequate supervision. [See our previous report here.] He said that inadequate quality assurance procedures were endemic in the industry. The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) said in its evidence to his inquiry that the root issue behind the wall collapse was lack of independent supervision. It is a direct consequence of the rise of Design & Build and the decline of the third-party independent Engineer/Architect, the architects said, and Prof Cole seemed to agree.
Significantly, at both Oxgangs and Grenfell Tower any build quality issues were not readily apparent after project completion; they would have only come to light through independent inspection during construction when wall tie fixings (in Oxgangs' case) and materials (during Grenfell's recent refurbishment) were evident.
Now the CIOB is acting. It has announced the formation of a commission of past presidents to investigate the issue of build quality in the construction industry, and what needs to be done to address it.
The commission will consider what steps the CIOB itself needs to take to address the already identified issues around management and supervision, it said, and what further steps the industry should take to improve build quality.
The commission is being chaired by immediate past president Paul Nash, who said: “The recent tragic events at Grenfell Tower have further underlined the need for an urgent review of the way in which quality is managed in our industry. Whilst aspects of the public inquiry must necessarily focus on the issues of regulation and inspection, I think we have to look beyond this at the behaviours that have led to a lack of focus on quality at all stages of the build process, from design and procurement through to construction and re-fit.
“The CIOB has a duty to respond to this issue, acting in the public interest. As professionals we have a duty to the industry and wider society to act responsibly and ethically. This defines what it means to be a professional. And we all have a responsibility for the reputation of our industry and, most importantly, the wellbeing of those who use the buildings that we create.”