The built environment and the way in which it is regulated is changing. Unforeseen disruption can expose those in charge of keeping buildings safe to a myriad of penalties. In this blog, Operations Manager Harrison Briggs asks: can we forecast changes to regulation and become more proactive with our future compliance obligations?
As the old saying goes, failure to plan is planning to fail. This modern-day proverb from time-management guru Alan Lakein continues to ring true in both life and work, and none more so than within compliance. But what about the things that cannot be fully prepared for?
The hallmark of any compliant organisation is its capacity to plan, prepare and act accordingly. Businesses without this degree of organisation (and there are many) will typically encounter serious regulatory issues at some point down the line. But in a world that is changing in unprecedented ways – not to mention rapidly – even the most rigorous organisation will find itself in a less than satisfactory position. Unfortunately, for those of us working in the built environment that is the price of progress. Every gain we make in one area of a building creates risks in another.
For most professionals this kind of disruption will rarely cause headaches. In fact, it will most probably end up making their roles more straightforward to carry out – progress is progress after all. Yet the change is much more complex in a regulatory capacity because the state of being compliant is never a grey area. A business is either compliant and on the right side of the law or it is not. An awareness of what’s on the horizon is therefore of critical importance for compliance managers as it allows them to anticipate the impact to a business and introduce measures which mitigate the risks associated with change.
The question is, then, what are these changes? Do we have any indication of where things are heading? Perhaps the most obvious sea change for property compliance is in the emergence of smart buildings, which use telemetry to give professionals detailed insights about the function and efficiency of an asset. With such large networks to maintain, it’s not outside the realms of possibility to think that compliance officers will eventually join forces with IT to ensure this equipment remains safe and secure, both physically and digitally. Moreover, with a slew of data to decipher, it’s quite possible that analytics will begin to form a large part of the future compliance manager’s remit, especially as smart building technology becomes more commonplace.
Immediate problems from today’s world can also inform our understanding of what’s arriving in the near future. Take air pollution for example, a growing concern for governments and inhabitants of urban areas worldwide. Indeed, consider the sobering statistic that some 95 per cent (yes, 95), currently breathe unsafe air. With our use of fossil fuels continuing unabated, the requirement for clean and safe air inside buildings will only grow with time. The onus to deliver and maintain this will likely fall squarely in the lap of building compliance officers.
Yet despite the inevitable of buildings becoming ‘smarter’ – which will bring with them their own set of new challenges – it’s also evident that some tasks will remain the same. As a London Infrastructure 2050 report shows, the capital has some of the oldest and most energy inefficient building stock in Europe, and it’s expected that 80 per cent of these will still be standing in 30 years’ time. These legacy buildings will of course still need maintaining to ensure they are safe and compliant for their inhabitants. In short, a compliance officer’s to-do list is only going to grow even as technology gets better.
No one can say for certain what the future holds, but we can say with some confidence that a compliance officer’s role will get more complex as time marches on. The right tools are desperately needed to help visualise the changing nature of the built environment. In a world of growing ones and zeroes it makes sense to respond in kind. Simple digital platforms that structure the dynamic nature of compliance will therefore go a long way towards eliminating the uncertainty around current and future obligations. Digital compliance for a digital world.