Fragmented industry bodies ‘affecting competency’

The presence of too many trade associations in the envelope sector means agreeing on one set of competency standards is a “challenge”, the CEO of a specialist contractor has said.

Building-safety competence is an issue at the forefront of the construction industry – in particular among envelope and cladding firms, given the spotlight that has been cast on them since the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Clarison Group chief executive Mark Oliver told Construction News that the number of trade bodies was holding back the sector.

“The trouble with envelopes is you’ve not got any one trade association that covers the whole industry, and even when you go into, say, curtain walling or windows, there are hundreds of players,” he said.

Among representative organisations in the sector are: the Metal Cladding and Roofing Manufacturers Association (MCRMA), the Centre for Windows and Cladding Technology, the Insulated Render and Cladding Association, the Timber Decking and Cladding Association, the Confederation of Roofing Contractors and the National Federation of Roofing Contractors.

Oliver said this leaves the envelope industry “too fragmented”. He added: “In terms of coordinating competency standards across an industry, that’s a challenge.”

Oliver moved to Clarison Group from ventilation systems specialist Colt Group in January 2021. He said there was just one main trade association in the ventilation sector, meaning “industry-wide competency standards” could easily be put in place, and called for the simplification of organisations involved in the envelope space.

A manoeuvre similar to the creation of Build UK in 2015 could help, he claimed. In 2015, the UK Contractors Group merged with the National Specialist Contractors’ Council to form Build UK. The move brought together bodies representing both main contractors and subcontractors, although there remain several representative bodies in that space.

“It doesn’t make sense for everybody to reinvent the wheel so it’d be better to coordinate,” he said, adding that combining various trade associations would help to set more wide-reaching competency standards. But he also said parts of the industry were already starting to coordinate their competency efforts.

MCRMA director Carlton Jones said that trade associations in the sector know each other and work together, including through the Construction Products Association, where they have developed competency documents for manufacturers, as well as a tier one contractors group that looks at competency issues.

He added: “The trade associations fully agree that there is a need to collaborate and are actively involved in many different areas of activity.” He added that the associations “all know each other and have, in many cases, regular contact with each other.”

But he also said that the different trade bodies have different areas of focus and activity, such as the MCRMA’s focus on metal-based roofing and cladding, while others focus on different types of facade or roofing.

“I’m sure the industry would welcome discussions with Mark Oliver to establish how we could further add to the development of competency standards,” he said.

Construction News contacted all of the industry bodies mentioned on the issue.

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