A new competence framework that applies to the management of projects in the built environment has been launched, following changes in the recently introduced Building Safety Act.
Introduced in response to learnings from the Grenfell Tower tragedy, this new framework will have significant implications for project professionals working in the built environment. Association for Project Management (APM) is proud to have played a pivotal role in shaping these changes, to ensure project professionals have a clear understanding of how safer buildings can be created.
This article summarises the background to these changes, what the changes mean for project professionals, and looks ahead to what’s next.
The Grenfell Tower tragedy on 14 June 2017 was the worst residential fire in the UK since World War 2. It resulted in the deaths of 72 people, with a further 70 being injured.
Following the tragedy, the Government commissioned a report, the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, to make recommendations on the future regulatory system. Those recommendations provided the framework for the Building Safety Act which received Royal Assent in April 2022.
The Building Safety Act overhauls the way buildings are constructed and maintained in England. The Act is impacting all levels of the construction and building industry. It applies to all buildings of any size, with additional requirements for ‘Higher Risk Buildings’. The Building Safety Act has also led to the creation of the new Building Safety Regulator (BSR) to oversee the safety and standards of all buildings.
APM’s involvement in the changes
The Building Safety Act has introduced new responsibilities and systems, many of which came into effect on 1 October 2023. Many of these changes relate to specific roles and specialisms within the building and construction industry. A summary of the new changes that apply in England is available on the government’s website, along with links to further resources.
The Building Safety Act is also introducing new practices to raise levels of competence, building safety and consistency. This places a legal duty on anyone in the wider construction and building industry to ensure those employed or appointed by them are competent, or are supervised by someone who is competent.
One of the ways this can be done is through occupational competence, as defined by the Competence Steering Group (CSG); a group set up in the immediate aftermath of the Grenfell fire by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Build UK, the Construction Industry Council and Construction Products Association and the National Fire Chiefs’ Council.
The CSG identified 12 specialisms involved in construction and the built environment, and created a dedicated Working Group for each of them to create and publish new competence frameworks. One of these groups – Working Group 10 – is focused on project managers. This group has been chaired by Gill Hancock, Head of Qualifications and Standards Development at APM, in partnership with the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
How can project managers demonstrate competence?
Between now and September 2025, competence can be demonstrated to the regulator by achieving Chartered status with APM, CIOB or RICS, and demonstrating relevant experience in the built environment.
APM’s Chartered Project Professional (ChPP) standard is a professional benchmark that demonstrates attainment of a defined level of technical knowledge, professional practice and ethical behaviour. People who already hold ChPP status, and have the relevant experience in the built environment, will be regarded as being able to demonstrate competence until September 2025.
From September 2025 until 2027, project managers in the built environment will be able to demonstrate competence either by achieving certification against the new competence framework, or by holding chartered status with APM, CIOB or RICS and having the relevant experience in the built environment.
From September 2027, competence against the new framework can only be achieved through assessment against the new competence framework.
Gill Hancock said: “As the chartered membership organisation for the project profession, APM is pleased that the importance of project management in creating safe buildings has been recognised. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of good project management in creating safe buildings, so it is right that project managers be held to a high standard when it comes to demonstrating competence. We’re proud to have played a leading role in creating the new competence framework and creating pathways that will enable project managers to demonstrate their competence, so they can contribute to the creation of safe buildings that will benefit individuals and communities, now and in the future.
“While we will be pleased to launch the new competence framework in January, we do not see this as the end of this process. APM will continue working with other organisations that represent the project profession – and other organisations whose members contribute to building and construction projects – to promote good practice across the entire project profession.”
APM will be holding a free webinar on Thursday 29 February to help project and programme professionals in the built environment understand the implications for their roles and potential impacts on future projects.
The event will be chaired by Gill Hancock and feature Steven Thompson, Senior Specialist - Construction, Professional Practice and Development at RICS, and Rosalind Thorpe, Director of Education and Standards at CIOB.
 Higher Risk Buildings are defined as being at least 18 metres or seven storeys in height or containing at least two residential units. Hospitals and care homes are also classed as Higher Risk Buildings.