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"Progress on retentions, more work needed on technical issues" says HVAC body's chief

Building Engineering Services Association chief executive Paul McLaughlin says on eve of Westminster debate  “We are closer than we have ever been to winning the war on retentions” 

At the press lunch for the freshly rebranded HVAC body the Building Engineering Services Association (formerly known as B&ES), BESA chief executive expressed confidence in the progress being made towards improving payment practices for specialists down the supply chain, but added that there is work to do in improving matters in technical areas, such as BIM and Indoor Air Quality..

He said that lobbying by BESA with umbrella group the Specialist Engineering Contractors Council had focused the government and wider industry on the injustice of the practice of witholding payment as retentions. He said: ”It is a key part of many Tier One contractors’ business models so it is not going to magically disappear, but there has been significant progress.” A key indicator of this progress is the increasing adoption of project bank accounts, he said.

The issue is being debated by MPs and interested parties at a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday January 27th and Mr McLaughlin added: “We are closer than we have ever been to winning the war on retentions.”

BESA legal manager Rob Driscoll said that the progress was significant against a background of decades of industry practice. “It is about putting working capital back where it should be in construction. For too long it has been in the wrong place - not with the supply chain.”

But at the same time Mr McLaughlin said that there were technical issues that needed further work they were to benefit contractors and clients alike. One of these is BIM, where he warned that the development of the processes and protocols s in danger of losing focus. ”It is in danger of becoming an IT conversation not one about the business benefits. It should be a no brainer because it enables the client to get what he thought he was going to get, not something that has been value engineered on the way.”

Mr McLaughlin said he would push for straightforward clear guidance for contractors, in his new position as vice president of Build UK’s BIM Group. ”The use of BIM has got to generate savings,” he added.

He said he wanted BESA to return to leading the technical agenda, given its members’ importance to the performance of buildings:  “We need to be on the front foot, our members are the 80 per cent in the 10:80:10 sandwich.”

Indoor Air Quality is another area in which BESA is working to improve standards, in response to the government’s apparent unwillingness to consider amendments to planning or building regulations to improve the air breathed. “Pollution doesn’t disappear when it reaches a building,” said sustainability manager David Frise, “but there is little monitoring done. It seems that people think if they don’t detect it, they wont have to deal with it.”

The BESA has created an IAQ strategy group to make contact with local and national governments and with pressure grops to press for change.





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