Emerging from a difficult period for the construction industry marred by tragedy and concerns over safety, the recently launched Building in Quality (BiQ) Tracker aims to end spec-breaking in building projects. Tamlite Lighting Managing Director John Allden explains why the application of BiQ principles to lighting will bring benefits all-round.
If there had been a common feeling for a while that something needed to be done to guarantee greater consistency of quality and safety throughout the construction industry, then the events of June 14, 2017, brought it into a terrible new focus. The death or injury of nearly 150 people as the result of the Grenfell Tower fire in Kensington, London, led to several reports and reviews concerning building design and maintenance, with particular concern voiced over the safety of high-rise residential blocks.
The findings of an independent review of building regulations and fire safety – led by Dame Judith Hackitt and published in May 2018 – make for especially sober reading. Identifying a lack of skills, knowledge and experience at every stage of the lifecycle of higher-risk residential buildings, the report sets out more than 50 recommendations for the Government about delivering a more robust regulatory system.
But whilst the Government has announced its plans to implement the Hackitt recommendations in full, a number of other initiatives look set to bring much-needed change to the construction sector. Arguably the most significant of these is the Building in Quality (BiQ) Tracker, which was launched during UK Construction Week last autumn. Led by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), agreed by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), and developed in consultation with key members of the industry, the Quality Tracker establishes a chain of custody that allows project teams to track quality throughout a construction project.
Intended to provide a constant reminder of quality targets, the Tracker – which can be accessed as a free-to-download digital tool – will allow prospective and current members of a project team to better understand their risks. By allowing clients who adopt the BiQ Tracker to demonstrate their commitment to quality, the scheme is set to lead to an overall boost in building standards and safety. Critically, for tenants and owners/investors, the Tracker will also provide long-term reassurance in the form of a straightforward account about the quality targets for, and development history of, a given building.
Pilot projects in support of BiQ Tracker are already taking place, and the early indications are that the construction industry and its service providers have already recognised the many potential benefits of the scheme.
As a technology provider to many areas of construction, we believe that the BiQ Tracker could play a significant role in restoring confidence. As well as the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the potentially hazardous defects found in schools across Scotland in recent years – which entailed the temporary closure of 17 schools in Edinburgh alone during 2016 – also remain near the forefront of public consciousness. In short, not only do construction firms and their partners need to do everything they can to make new builds as safe as possible – they also need to be seen to be doing so. An initiative like the BiQ Tracker can provide precisely that kind of transparent reassurance.
With over five decades of experience to draw on, Tamlite is acutely aware that the type of spec-breaking that the BiQ Tracker seeks to eliminate can and does affect the specification of lighting systems. Whatever the type of building, whatever the kind of scheme, budgets are always under pressure, with builders and designers always on the lookout to bring down costs. Regrettably, lighting has often been an area that has fallen victim to economisation, and it’s arguable that the issue has become more acute in the LED era with a fresh wave of low-price – but not always high-quality – luminaires hitting the market.
The fact is that ‘value engineering’ – or, less politely, ‘cutting corners’ – when it comes to lighting can lead to all kinds of issues post-installation. Not only do lower-price systems potentially herald safety concerns for residents and maintenance teams, they are also less likely to deliver the energy savings and quality of illumination that can be enjoyed with higher-end schemes. With the possibility of more frequent failures and thus replacements, choosing lower-value systems can often be a misstep in every conceivable sense: financial, practical and technological.
Quite rightly, there is a feeling that the landscape of our industry has changed irrevocably since Grenfell. Hand in hand with a need for more accountability at every stage of the construction process, there is a renewed focus on the standard of materials and systems. If there was ever any doubt before, it is now clear that quality cannot be compromised at any point in the supply chain.
As a leading lighting manufacturer, we want to take a leadership role, and as part of that we intend to encourage awareness of the BiQ Tracker. It is evident that we have an important part to play in steering customers away from lower-quality products, towards solutions that can deliver quality, consistency and peace of mind. More than ever, making the case for the long-term benefits of higher-end solutions is going to be integral to our entire approach.
To this end, Tamlite has made an FAQ document about the BiQ Tracker available for download from its website (www.tamlite.co.uk/t-word/guide-to-biq-quality-tracker), along with a wealth of other existing information about LED lighting.
There is no doubt that it will take some years for the public in general to feel confident about the safety of, in particular, new high-rise developments. But initiatives like the BiQ Tracker provide a very concise and practical way forward to a brighter, safer future, and as a supplier we will offer them all the active support that we can.
This article has been published in the Electrical Review Annual Suppliers Guide.