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Masterminds of Construction: LABC (Video)

This video is part of a series of films produced in association with CIOB "Masterminds of Construction". It looks at how local authority building control teams help deliver construction projects (whether large or small) in a timely and efficient manner.

Our members aren't there just for the policing of building control regulations: involvement from as early as the pre-planning stage helps developers and self-builders produce excellent builldings on time and within budget.

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Read the transcript

From small private house extensions to multi-million pound new housing or commercial projects there's one team who see the project through from the pre planning stage to completion and that's local authority building control. Nick Thatcher went to Cambridge to see how LABC work with developers and contractors to build safe, healthy and inclusive high performance buildings.

Cambridge is a city proud of its heritage but it's also a modern city looking to move with the times. Thousands of new homes together with supporting infrastructure are being built here and in the surrounding areas.

And the local authority building control team plays a crucial role in supporting building contractors to ensure all this new construction is fit for purpose.

Izabela Urbaniak, LABC Surveyor, 3C Shared Services: "We work as a team and building control is a part of that team. Our role in industry is to inspect and provide our advice.

"Today we haven't had any issues but if there were any issues we would feed back and I think the perfect relationship is when the contractor wants to sort them out and they feel like we're here to help them rather than police them."

Building control is the only regulated service which is in competition with the private sector but after more than 30 years of competition local authority building teams still receive two-thirds of all building control applications on projects both large and small.

Matthew Wilson, Regional Technical Manager, Hill: "Local authority building control is fantastic for us. They know the area well, they know previous schemes so they can tell us about any issues, historical, flooding issues, drainage issues and also they have forged very good relationships with other sorts of regulatory bodies that we need to gain sign-off from.

"So they're not seen as a process that needs to be followed. They're seen more as a team member all the way through."

And that team working between a contractor and local authority building control often begins at the planning stage, sometimes even before a formal planning application is made.

And by spotting possible flaws in plans and proposing different options at an early stage it can often save the massive costs of alterations during construction.

Nick Kendall, Principal LABC Surveyor, 3C Shared Services: "It's important to be in at the beginning and get things right on paper. That way we can save time and money for the contractor. They don't have to worry about experimenting on site and trying to get the right solution. We can refine that at the plan checking process where it's not as expensive.

"You're always learning, the regulations are always changing and we're having to keep abreast of those so that we can keep the builders and the public up-to-date. So we are ensuring that the buildings that are being built are as safe as they can be and as healthy and as environmentally friendly and thermally efficient. And all that safeguards the public."

And supported by LABC nationally which represents all local authority building control teams in England and Wales new models of cooperation are being developed. Here in Cambridge, the City Council works with two local district councils to provide a new shared service which it describes as efficient, professional and excellent value for money.

Stephen Kelly, Joint Director of Planning & Development, 3C Shared Services: "It's a challenge and obviously the local authority building control sector is in a competitive marketplace. We're trying to modernise the services and the offer that we can provide. We're thinking about how we can adapt to our different clients' needs. We aim to be outcome-focused and in that way we hope to minimise the policing role of building control and emphasise its ability to facilitate earlier and timely and efficient delivery of construction projects and programs." 

Modern building control is no longer seen as a necessary evil.

It's all about cooperation and being an integral part of every construction team, adding value and certainty to all stages of the design and build process and helping to deliver the high quality homes and buildings that will keep people and communities safe.