Page 1


Driving seat The iincreasing ncrea asing p popularity opularity o off el electric lecttriic vehicles is is creating crea ating g great great opportunities opporttunities ffor or vehicles electriccal contractors contractorrs electrical

01 Connections Scottish Autumn Supplement.indd 1

25/09/2018 15:40


p02_CSS.Aut18.indd 2


25/09/2018 15:55



HELLO 4 We all get that ‘back to school’ feeling in autumn – and it’s a great time to start looking at the new opportunities that lie ahead

INDUSTRY UPDATE 5 NICEIC hits the road, 18th Edition training, and praise in the Scottish Parliament for our Apprentice of the Year

INSIGHT 7 Stuart Thompson explains NICEIC’s proposal to extend Approved Contractor requirements


ELECTRIC VEHICLES 8 More Scots than ever are going electric – creating plenty of opportunities for contractors

CONTRACTOR PROFILE 12 It may be nearing its 100th birthday, but Glasgow electrical contractor Robert Hill & Co shows no signs of slowing down

FIRE SAFETY 14 In the wake of the Grenfell



Tower fire, the Scottish Government has been assessing current building and fire safety regulations


Level 5, 78 Chamber Street, London E1 8BL EDITORIAL General 020 7880 6200 Email Editor Nick Martindale Technical editor Timothy Benstead Sub editor Kate Bennett Senior designer Sarah Auld Picture researcher Akin Falope Publishing and business development director Aaron Nicholls ADVERTISING/MARKETING Senior sales executive Thomas Ainsworth Display/classified 020 7324 2726 Email thomas.ainsworth

PRODUCTION General production enquiries 020 7880 6240 Production manager Jane Easterman Senior production executive Rachel Young Email SUBSCRIPTIONS Should you require your own copy of Connections or multiple copies for your staff, subscriptions are available by calling 020 8950 9117 CONTRIBUTIONS Connections welcomes ideas for contributions. Please email nick.martindale@

© Redactive Publishing Ltd 2018 Level 5, 78 Chamber Street, London E1 8BL. Registered No. 3156216. All rights reserved. This publication (and any part thereof) may not be reproduced, transmitted or stored in any print or electronic format (including but not limited to any online service, any database or any part of the internet) or in any other format in any media whatsoever, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Redactive Publishing Ltd accepts no liability for the accuracy of the contents or any opinions expressed herein. Printed by Gemini Print Southern Ltd

ISSN 2042-5732

WWW.NICEIC.COM ENQUIRIES Certsure 01582 539000 Communications manager Paul Collins 01582 539148 NICEIC Direct Paul Elcock 01582 539709 Twitter @officialNICEIC or @officialELECSA Customer services 0333 015 6625 Sales 0333 015 6626 Training 0333 015 6627 Technical helpline 0333 015 6628 Insurance 0333 015 6629 Legal/tax 24-hour helpline 0117 934 2111 (provided by DAS Business Law)


3 Connections Scottish Autumn Supplement.indd 3

25/09/2018 15:41


Welcome to the latest edition of our Connections magazine, specifically for NICEIC registered contractors in Scotland


elcome to the autumn edition of Connections. It is that time of year again when we look for new starts. Those of you with children at school or college will be familiar with the feeling of getting ready for a new term, and for those of us working, it is chance to look forward to new opportunities ahead now that another summer is behind us. The Scottish Parliament has also been looking forward to its new session, with Nicola Sturgeon’s government announcing plans for the next year. Of interest to those of us in the building trade is the confirmation that it will “strengthen and enhance key aspects of the Scottish Building Standards system including increased emphasis

Emma Clancy is chief executive officer, Certsure

on the roles and responsibilities of key players in the construction journey”. NICEIC has anticipated this move and, as part of our Scottish roadshows over the summer, we have been talking to contractors about the current system and the ways that reports from esteemed professionals such as Professor Coles and Dame Hackitt will impact our industry. We have also been having positive discussions with colleagues across the industry and from Government to find ways to achieve the best outcomes that will further enhance safety, increase customer protection and support registrants. You can find out more about this on page 7, and we look forward to being able to talk more about this in the coming months.

‘We have been having positive discussions to find ways to achieve the best outcomes that will further enhance safety, increase customer protection and support registrants’

N I C E I C I N S COT L AND / ME E T T H E T E AM STUART THOMPSON, SCOTTISH SALES MANAGER Stuart is an experienced commercial manager with previous experience of national account management, project management and marketing. Based in Scotland, he is responsible for NICEIC Scotland membership and works with a wide network of members, key customers, stakeholders, business partners and specifiers.

YVONNE WARNER, AREA ENGINEER Yvonne is an experienced electrician and has worked in all aspects of the electrical industry, from domestic to commercial and industrial. In addition to her role as an electrical inspector, she assesses hazardous areas, as well as MCS solar and wind.

PHILIP MARTIN, AREA ENGINEER Philip is an electrical technician with more than 30 years’ experience in all areas of the electrical engineering and petrochemical industry. Previously a senior qualified supervisor with British Gas, he helped establish its current quality auditing regime, which identifies training needs for all electrical operatives.

EDDIE ARROWSMITH, REGIONAL ENGINEERING MANAGER Eddie is NICEIC’s regional engineering manager, based in Aberdeen. He served his electrical apprenticeship with British Rail and specialised in DC systems, high-voltage AC systems and DC machines. He went on to work for consulting engineers’ practices for 18 years, and was senior electrical engineer with WS Atkins.

JOE GALLAGHER, AREA ENGINEER Joe is a multi-disciplined engineer with more than 30 years’ industry experience, from small domestic to large-scale industrial projects. He is the MCS, CPS and Green Deal inspector for NICEIC, having previously worked as an assessor, centre manager and external verifier.

EDDIE THOMSON, AREA ENGINEER Eddie has been an area engineer with NICEIC since 2001. After serving an apprenticeship with British Rail, he worked with several companies, carrying out electrical, lighting design and project management. He also spent some time in charge of a large maintenance and works depot.

LOUISE FRAME, AREA ENGINEER Louise covers the North Glasgow and Lanarkshire regions. She started her career with an electrical apprenticeship when she was 16. Since then, she has worked in homes, schools, offices and factories, theatres, sports stadia and museums. She became a QS and was in an electrical management role before joining NICEIC.


4 Connections Scottish Autumn Supplement.indd 4

25/09/2018 15:42



NICEIC hits the road in Scotland More than 350 contractors attended our latest round of roadshow events. The team visited Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Dumfries in late August for a series of seminars to discuss the latest industry news. Much of the debate centred around the new 18th Edition regulations. Trainee engineering presenter Jake Green delivered a talk on the most significant changes in the new regulations – a summary of which can be found at the website The team also discussed NICEIC’s proposal to take the electrical industry forward in Scotland by relaunching the Certifier of Construction scheme (see page 7 for more details). The response from contractors was generally very positive, and we will now be using

the feedback in our talks with government ministers. In addition to the technical talks, there were competitions and giveaways at each show – including a free copy of the new regs book, an 18th Edition training course, a beer fridge, a bottle of whisky and a Megger 2-pole tester. There was also an opportunity for attendees to access some great discounts on the latest tools in the exhibition area. Stuart Thompson, NICEIC Scotland manager, said: “The appetite for these events continues to grow year on year, showing the increasing interest and desire to learn more about electrical safety. It is important that we get out and meet contractors to hear their views and work together to take the sector forward.”

18th Edition training opportunities Contractors can now access more NICEIC training courses in Scotland than ever before. We have partnered with more colleges and training providers to ensure we deliver a wider range of courses specific to contractors’ needs. This includes training options surrounding the 18th Edition. We can now offer the full three-day 18th Edition training course or the

one-day update course at venues in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Kirkcaldy. Other industry-associated courses include electric vehicle (EV) charging and a range of courses relating to fire alarm design, installation and maintenance. For more information about dates and times for the course, please visit

Edinburgh-based spark Peter Beattie hit the headlines recently when he made it to the final of a national contest to find the UK’s best tradesperson. Peter, who runs PB Electrical Services, was one of 10 finalists in the Top Tradesperson 2018 competition, sponsored by Screwfix. More than 3,000 tradespeople entered the competition, which covers the length and breadth of the UK. Peter was one of four NICEIC registered electricians who made it to the final. The three other NICEIC contractors were Steven Campbell of Campbell Electric in Hull; Andy Willcox of Andy Willcox Electrical in Stafford; and Louise Shepphard of Shepphard Electrical in Pontypool, Wales. The lucky winner would walk away with the title of Britain’s Top Tradesperson 2018 and the keys to a Mitsubishi L200 Warrior pick-up truck worth £33,000. While none of the NICEIC contractors went on to take the top honour (the title went to carpenter Stuart Roache from Northampton), just making the final was an incredible achievement. Paul Collins, communications manager at NICEIC, commented: “It was great to see so many electrical businesses represented in the final of a national contest which covers all trades. Making the final in any national competition is a great accomplishment – especially when you consider the number of people involved. “It is comforting to see the work of NICEIC registered contractors recognised in such a prestigious way.”


5-6 Connections Scottish Autumn Supplement.indd 5

25/09/2018 15:42


Apprentice winner attracts praise in Parliament about winning the competition but I guess it goes to show how serious the competition is. “The competition was great for my confidence and I am now doing more jobs on my own,” he added. “I don’t feel any extra pressure since winning, but it has been a great experience and I am really enjoying it.” Zach was in attendance at the roadshow with his boss Ian MacCreedie of North Star Electrical. Ian was presented with his prize of a year’s free registration with NICEIC at the Glasgow event, by our own technical expert Darren Stanifiorth. Entries are now open for the 2019 Apprentice of the Year competition. For more information visit

CONSULTATION PAPER ON FIRE SAFETY The subject of fire never seems to be far from the headlines at the moment – sometimes in relation to the unusually hot temperatures we have experienced this year, but more worryingly in relation to buildings such as the Glasgow School of Arts, which has succumbed to its second fire in two years. This, together with recent enquiries into the construction of Edinburgh schools, has focused minds on the building standards regulatory environment – especially in relation to fire safety. The Scottish Government recently issued a consultation paper on looking at: • The level of detail accompanying building warrant applications and completion certificates • The construction of buildings, and • The safety of occupants in the event of a fire in dwellings, particularly those in high-rise buildings. NICEIC responded to the paper, offering our thoughts on how the system can be improved to support safety without completely changing the current system. With Nicola Sturgeon’s government promising to implement the recommendations, we can expect developments that will strengthen and enhance key aspects of the Scottish Building Standards system, including increased emphasis on the roles and responsibilities of key players in the construction journey and the need for effective enforcement. We will keep you posted on the outcome, which is expected early in 2019.


One of the guests at our Glasgow roadshow was Zach Swift – the 2018 winner of NICEIC’s apprentice of the year competition. It has been a busy time for 21-yearold Zach since taking the crown in June. In addition to planning a holiday to Mexico with the £2,000 holiday voucher he won, Zach was also mentioned in the Scottish Parliament. Helsingburgh MSP Jackie Baillie lodged a members’ motion at Holyrood, which was supported by 10 other MSPs, congratulating Zach and wishing him well in his future career. Zach said: “I saw that in the paper. I thought it was fantastic. I also received a letter from an MP in London, which is great. I never expected to get recognition from MPs or MSPs


5-6 Connections Scottish Autumn Supplement.indd 6

25/09/2018 15:42


Pressure is growing to address the threat of rogue electricians and improve electrical safety. One solution is to extend the scope of existing Approved Contractor scheme requirements


Stuart Thompson is manager of NICEIC Scotland

ver the past 18 months, the Scottish Government, supported by a working group from the electrical industry, has been investigating the topic of electrical safety in Scotland. In particular, it has been looking at the issue of rogue electricians and the threat they pose to public safety. As a result, the government has committed to: • Work with the sector to develop options for a consumer mark or register to support consumer awareness of qualified, assessed electricians • Independently assess the current risk and, if deemed necessary, build a business case to determine a proportionate response. Further, there is a Scottish Government commitment to consider whether primary or secondary legislation requires reviewing, and whether the most common types of works that do not require a Building Warrant under the Building (Scotland) Act 2003 need to be amended. There is potential for the Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004 Regulation 5, Schedule 3 Guidance on electrical work not requiring a warrant to be altered. In conjunction with these proposals, there is the opportunity to look at the current Certificate of Construction issued in respect of warrantable electrical work, to determine whether a single certificate satisfying both BS 7671 and the verifiers in Local Authority requirements could replace it. Alongside this work, NICEIC has been presenting to government and other interested parties suggestions, based on objective research and feedback from electrical contractors in Scotland, on how to enhance the scheme that is already in place while providing protection for consumers should something ever go wrong. NICEIC PROPOSAL The NICEIC proposal is to extend the scope of its current Approved Contractor scheme requirements to include those related to the Certification of Construction scheme, all at no additional cost to registered and future applicants. Through a simplification of the application process, including making the required Scottish Building Regulations training available free of charge, NICEIC believes that, by making the scheme the number one choice in Scotland, there is an opportunity to build and improve on what is already in place. Trust is a critical element of any register of skilled and competent enterprises that the consumer will

‘NICEIC believes that, by making the scheme the number one choice in Scotland, there is an opportunity to build and improve on what is already in place’ successfully engage with. This will be a key strength, as it brings together the trusted and respected NICEIC registered contractor with the Scottish Governmentapproved branding, thus providing an independent and impartial resource for all. The belief is that this will become the option of choice for everyone connected to the electrical industry in Scotland and result in anyone employing an electrician – be it for domestic or non-domestic work – using only those registered on the scheme. This will go a long way to satisfying the ministers’ hope that certification becomes the norm in Scotland. The potential for the widening of the scope of work requiring certification is a further important element of our proposals, and our actions will position all NICEIC Approved Contractors in Scotland to be ready to respond to any changes that do materialise and, importantly, provide the consumer with assurance while deterring rogue traders. CONCLUSION NICEIC registered contractors already issue in excess of 160,000 model forms of certificates and reports for electrical work. By combining the two schemes we will create a more comprehensive and documented record of electrical work carried out in Scotland. Additionally, all work carried out by NICEIC registrants comes with our platinum promise guarantee – an assurance to customers that any work that has not been carried out in compliance with BS 7671 and the Technical Standards will be rectified and put right at no cost to the consumer. NICEIC remains dedicated to supporting whatever route the Scottish Government decides to follow, and is committed to ensuring the promotion of NICEIC Approved Contractors, electrical safety, consumer protection and the elimination of rogue trading are at the core of any future developments.


7 Connections Scottish Autumn Supplement.indd 7

25/09/2018 15:43


Driving seat


8-10 Connections Scottish Autumn Supplement.indd 8

25/09/2018 15:58

Scotland is leading the way in the adoption of electric vehicles, with the government committed to phasing out the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2032. This should create opportunities for contractors as the installation of a network of charging points gathers pace BY ROB SHEPHERD


ew UK registrations of plug-in cars increased from 3,500 in 2013 to more than 150,000 by May 2018. In Scotland, electric vehicle (EV) uptake is increasing due to a combination of environmental awareness, lower running costs, legislation and government initiatives. There are now 16,400 EVs registered in Scotland, with 4,800 of these newly registered in 2016 – this is seven per cent more than in 2015. More EVs were sold in 2015 than in the previous four years combined, according to Transport Scotland. The profile of EVs is growing, and they are an important element of the Scottish Government’s climate change and transport policies. It recently announced that it will create Scotland’s first ‘electric highway’ on the A9, including charging points along the route, and it aims to transform public sector car and van fleets by the mid2020s, as well as commercial bus fleets by the early 2030s. While greenhouse gas emissions have fallen dramatically in recent years – Scotland achieved its 2020 target for a 42 per cent reduction six years early – transport emissions remain high. In September 2017 the Scottish Government announced that it plans to phase out all new fossil fuel engines by 2032. Much of the uptake of EVs can be attributed to the UK-wide Plug-In Car Grant, which was launched in 2011; the Plug-In Van Grant followed in 2012. Purchasers are able to save 35 per cent off the cost of a car, up to a maximum of £4,500, and 20 per cent off the cost of a van, up to a maximum of £8,000. At the end of September 2017 there were 6,284 EVs licensed in Scotland eligible for the Plug-In Car and Plug-In Van Grant schemes, RAC statistics show.

Scotland’s Electric Vehicle Loan Scheme is in addition to the UK government’s Plug-in Vehicle Grant. Funded by Transport Scotland, it offers loans of up to £35,000 to cover the cost of purchasing a new, purely electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle, and is repaid over a period of up to six years. Second-hand vehicles are not eligible and an applicant must not already own an electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle.


TAKING CHARGE One of the factors holding back the development of the market is the range that vehicles can travel on a single charge. Most EVs currently have a range of 100-150 miles before the battery runs flat, although some top-end cars can run for more than 300 miles. In the early days of EVs, initial slow take-up was blamed on an inadequate charging infrastructure, yet the UK network of EV charging points has increased from a few hundred in 2011 to more than 17,000 today, according to Zap-Map. Funding is available via the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme and Energy Saving Trust

‘Purchasers are able to save 35 per cent off the cost of a car, up to a maximum of £4,500, and 20 per cent off the cost of a van, up to a maximum of £8,000’ to cover part of the cost of installing a home charge point for an EV. Meanwhile, ChargePlace Scotland (CPS) provides grant funding to local authorities and other organisations for the installation of publicly available charge points. The bulk of the charge points in the CPS network are publicly accessible, although some


8-10 Connections Scottish Autumn Supplement.indd 9

25/09/2018 15:43


Verification clarification

are located on private commercial premises and have limited public availability. As of August 2017, there were 1,133 charging points in the CPS network, with a total of 2,089 sockets between them. A year earlier, there were 870 charge points and 1,772 connectors. Furthermore, Scotland is ranked second in the UK for providing EV charging points and has some of the UK’s most well-developed publicly funded EV infrastructure – the north-east of England has the highest level of provision. Charging technologies can be classified into three key groups – slow, fast and rapid. Slow charging units, typically up to 3kW, are suitable for a six to eight-hour overnight charge; 7-22kW fast chargers can complete a charge in three to four hours; while 43-50kW rapid charging units are able to provide an 80 per cent charge in around 30 minutes. The use of EV charge points in Scotland increased by 43 per cent in 2017, and charging stations across the country were used 37,433 times during August 2017, compared with 26,119 times in the same month a year earlier. Despite the overall increase in usage, 23 per cent of charge points were not used at all during August

NICEIC has stepped in to help resolve an issue NICEIC registered Approved Contractors based in Scotland faced when attempting to fulfil the company validation checks during the application process to be recognised as an Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) authorised supplier. Historically, the OLEV authorisations team required applicants to identify which MHCLG approved competent scheme member they were registered with and provide evidence of registration by submitting a copy of their certificate of registration. However, with CPS schemes not operating in Scotland, NICEIC approached the DVLA authorisation team, which advised that its current provider was unaware that electrical competent persons schemes only covered England and Wales. Following NICEIC’s intervention, OLEV has amended its procedures and NICEIC registered Scottish installers can now rely upon as an accepted method of verification.


‘Dundee is being held up as an example to other Scottish cities on how to roll out EV infrastructure’ 2017. For those that were used, the mean charge duration was four hours and 12 minutes, and there was an average of 43 charging sessions at every used charge point across the network that month, according to the Energy Saving Trust. LEADING BY EXAMPLE A number of Scottish local authorities have demonstrated their commitment to EVs, and Dundee is being held up as an example to other Scottish cities on how to roll out EV infrastructure. Its charging points are also the most used in all of Scotland, with 76 charge points used at least once in 2017, while its rapid charger in Broughty Ferry is the most used in Scotland, averaging 18 charges per day, figures from Dundee City Council suggest.


Other Scottish local authorities are trying to emulate this success. In 2011 there were just nine registered EVs in Edinburgh, but by the end of June 2017 this had increased to 489, and 23 per cent of all licensed EVs in Scotland are now in the Edinburgh city region. The number of available charging points for EVs in the city has also increased – in 2013, there were eight, but by October 2017 this had increased to 89. Of these, 58 are available to the public, according to figures from Edinburgh City Council. Since 2014, data has been compiled for the number of charging sessions and the amount of electricity used at locations across Edinburgh, and with additional infrastructure provision and more EVs, there has been an increase in usage. There has, however, been concern that it could lead to a doubling up of deliveries, with diesel-powered trucks unloading at out-of-town distribution centres and goods brought into cities by smaller EVs. It has been suggested that this could lead to increased prices for consumers and questions around how any extra electricity will be generated. The growth of EVs in Scotland is certainly heading in the right direction, and further demand will be helped by increased production, lower vehicle prices, greater choice, improved battery technology, a better charging infrastructure and more incentives for drivers to purchase them. Incentives such as exemption from certain taxes and lower running costs overall are key to winning over the average Scottish motorist. This is a summary of a more comprehensive white paper produced by NICEIC, looking at the electric vehicles sector in Scotland. To access your free copy of the full version visit Rob Shepherd is a freelance business journalist who specialises in the building services industry

The percentage increase in the use of electric charging in Scotland during 2017

8-10 Connections Scottish Autumn Supplement.indd 10

25/09/2018 15:43


18th Edition Full Course Aberdeen 13th November 2018 Inverness 22nd January 2019 18th Edition Update Inverness 21st January 2019

Inverness Aberdeen

Electrical Vehicle Charging Glasgow 16th November 2018 Fire Alarm Glasgow 18th February 2019 Other courses in Scotland: Emergency Lighting Periodic Inspection Initial VeriďŹ cation PAT

Glasgow Edinburgh


the power behind your business

p11_CSS.Aut18.indd 11

26/09/2018 11:04


Robert Hill & Co has been providing electrical contracting services to the people of Glasgow for nearly 100 years, stewarded by three generations of the same family BY NICK MARTINDALE

PASS IT ON C lose to 100 years ago, back in 1919, Robert Hill started his own electrical contracting business based on Garscube Road in Glasgow. It was a small affair, consisting of Robert supported by a young lad, but has stood the test of time, moving through three generations to its current ownership under Mark, Robert’s grandson. The business moved to new premises in Milngavie in 1929, where it remains, and Mark’s father William and his brother Robert took over in 1953, after the senior Robert died suddenly. “My father and uncle pushed it on much more and it grew to quite a big company,” says Mark. “My father was quite entrepreneurial and he branched out into plumbing and heating and set up a company doing control panels, which ended up fitting panels on the Royal Yacht Britannia.” In 1960, the firm joined NICEIC, which had been set up just four years earlier – making it one of the oldest firms on the books today. On the electrical side, the focus initially was on the commercial sector, with a team of 35 electricians at one point working on large buildings in Glasgow on contracts that could last up to three years. Over time, this shifted towards high-end domestic work, working in northern Glasgow and the surrounding countryside areas.

Robert Hill & Co has been operating from its Milngavie premises since 1929

“That has been our niche for as long as I can remember,” says Mark. “It’s an affluent area where we work in Milngavie, and we work for a lot of the big houses in this area. We do all the work in the local churches, including Bearsden Cross Church; three years ago we rewired Duntreath Castle, owned by Sir Archie Edmonstone, and I actually found that 53 years previously my father had rewired it. But our bread and butter has always been local people, so the old lady who wants an extra socket for her television will get the same attention as Sir Archie Edmonstone, and that’s why we’ve been in the same area now for 100 years.”

‘When I was a wee boy I would earn my pocket money by burning all the cables so you could take the conduit for scrap’

MAKING HIS WAY Mark joined the firm on his 17th birthday, but had been involved in the business from an early age. “When I was a wee boy I would earn my pocket money by cleaning the vans on a Saturday morning and burning all the cables so you could take the conduit for scrap,” he says. “It progressed from that to working there in summer holidays with the men and getting pocket money.”


12-13 Connections Scottish Autumn Supplement.indd 6

25/09/2018 15:44

An old-style van from the 1950s

He worked his way up in the business and found himself running the electrical contracting side when a director of the controls panel business died unexpectedly, meaning his father had to devote more time to that firm. “Overnight I was taken off the tools and had to learn the other side of business, so I was dropped in the deep end,” he says. “It was a bit worrying at the time. “I still like to get my hands dirty, but predominantly I’m now out doing specifications, quoting for jobs and just running the day-to-day business. When I’ve been in the office for a couple of days I still miss it, although I’m 55 now and when I see the guys heading off to wire outside lighting in the lashing rain I realise that perhaps I don’t miss it as much as I thought I did.” Today, the firm employs nine people, including Mark and four electrical contractors – three of whom have come through apprenticeships – as well as a foreman, an engineer, an administrator and a gas engineer, who oversees all gas and central heating work. “We actually have three of the foreman’s sons working for us, so there’s almost two families,” he says. “We’ve been about that size, with five or six electricians, for about 30 or 40 years.” A typical job would be around £3,000 to £12,000, he says, but he’d be confident taking on projects of up to £90,000. “Anything more than that and I’d need to know the customer; not everyone is as honourable as they make out,” he adds. The business currently turns over around £500,000 a year, in a way that Mark describes as “manageable”. “In the earlier years I used to work every weekend and my father worked every Saturday morning for his entire life,” he recalls. “But I try not to work weekends now I have children.” The company’s location, on the northern edge of Glasgow, plays an important role in the firm’s

Company Robert Hill & Co Established 1919

strategy. “Milngavie is a suburb of Glasgow but literally 1,000 yards past our workshop you’re into beautiful countryside, so we do a lot of rural work as well,” he says. “We have a nice big showroom, four offices and a big store, and you can park six vans offroad. We’re also in a good catchment area for people driving by, so I couldn’t think of a better spot to be in.” There’s also a small white goods retail element to the firm, based out of a showroom on its premises. This developed from an earlier repair centre, which would fix washing machines, refrigerators and cookers. “In the early days I had to do what we call time in the store; we used to repair kettles and toasters but clearly those days have gone,” he recalls. THE NEXT GENERATION Mark’s father William remained involved in the business even after he had supposedly retired, coming in every day with his stick until his death in 2011 – despite being in his 80s. “He kept coming down and telling me I needed to push on, and when his legs were weary he would phone and I had to leave the office and bring him down for his morning coffee,” he says. With the company set to turn 100 years old next year, Mark is already planning how

‘When I see the guys heading off in the lashing rain I realise that I don’t miss it as much as I thought I did’


to celebrate. “We’re just at the stage now of starting to talk about it, but we will hold something, because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime event,” he says. With the family history connected to the firm, it’s no surprise that Mark feels strongly about keeping the business going and maintaining its place in the local community. “My boy is 11 and I’m hoping one day he may come over and let me go off into the distance,” he says. “It would be wonderful to get it into a fourth generation, but I’d never push anyone into anything. He thinks he wants to but what you think when you’re 11 and what you think when you’re 16 are two very different things. “But if he doesn’t want to get involved then we have a lot of young people in their 30s, and I would like to think that they would then take it over,” he says. “When I’m old and retired I want to drive by and see the name Robert Hill & Company still here. People think it’s a business but it’s a huge amount more than that to me.” Nick Martindale is editor of Connections

The number of generations that have run Robert Hill

12-13 Connections Scottish Autumn Supplement.indd 7

25/09/2018 15:44


LESSONS A LEARNED The tragic events at Grenfell Tower prompted the Scottish Government to set up a Ministerial Working Group to assess the current building and fire safety regulations BY STEPHEN GARVIN

s a result of the tragic events at Grenfell Tower in London on 14 June 2017, a Ministerial Working Group was set up by the Scottish Government to oversee a review of building and fire safety regulatory frameworks. The remit was to ensure that people are safe in Scotland’s buildings, and make any recommendations for improvement as required. As part of this work, two expert review panels were set up to review aspects of the Scottish building standards system. The review panels covered two main areas, as follows: • The roles and responsibilities of people verifying, inspecting and certifying building work, and strengthening compliance with and enforcement of building regulations; • The fire safety standards relating to high rise domestic buildings and their verification. The approach taken to the review was to set up panels formed of experts from public and private sector bodies related to the design and construction industries, to facilitate analysis of the issues from a full range of perspectives. The review panel provided a forum for the presentation of evidence, with the opportunity to debate and test current theory and practice.


COMPLIANCE AND ENFORCEMENT The focus of the compliance and enforcement review was driven to a large extent by failings noted in the Schools Closure Report (Prof J Cole CBE, 2017). At a number of schools, failure to properly install wall ties and fire stopping had been found following a wall collapse at Oxgangs Primary School in Edinburgh. The review panel considered that the building standards system in Scotland has worked well since its introduction in 2005. The pre-emptive approach to the system has in fact been highlighted as beneficial in Dame Judith Hackitt’s report into the development of the system in England for high-rise residential buildings. The review concluded, however, that while the core elements of the current system should be maintained, some reshaping of the system is necessary to ensure that it addresses the identified weaknesses. The focus of this reshaping should be to improve aspects of the current system and its implementation, not to fundamentally change the system. The review also concluded that the approach to enforcement where non-compliance has been observed, as currently practised by verifiers, does not appear to be effective, and that enforcement needs to be undertaken more frequently by local authorities, with greater penalties.


14-15 Connections Scottish Autumn Supplement.indd 10

25/09/2018 15:44

testing should still be an alternative method of showing compliance • Changes are needed to the simple guidance on escape. In particular, in domestic buildings over 18m, there should be two stairways and fire service activated evacuation sounders in each flat • The requirement for automatic fire suppression systems should be extended to some additional building groups – in particular, houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) used for ‘care’ 24/7, HMOs with 10 or more residents and potentially all flatted development.

Workmen carry out repairs at Oxgangs Primary School in Edinburgh

The review addressed the roles and responsibilities of the local authority verifier, as well as that of the applicant. The responsibility for producing the completion certificate rests with the building owner, who will rely on professional consultants and contractors. Shifting the emphasis from the owner to the professional was considered a key area of ‘reshaping’ the system by the panel.

OTHER ISSUES The review panel on compliance and enforcement also recognised that issues related to skills, regulation of contractors and certification were key to ensuring a successful

‘Shifting the emphasis from the owner to the professional was considered a key area of ‘reshaping’ the system’

FIRE SAFETY STANDARDS The Ministerial Working Group had a focus on the issues arising from the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy. The Fire Safety Standards Review Panel met three times between late 2017 and the spring of 2018 and considered a range of issues that impact on the safety of high-rise domestic buildings. As well as the national review panel, a small international group of experts was formed to compare practice in other countries. The main conclusions and recommendations of the review panel were as follows: • The Technical Handbooks should make clearer the status, functions and limitations of the guidance • A better mechanism is required for the verification of fire safety engineering solutions for complex buildings, and this might be in the form of a national ‘hub’ to verify such applications • Changes are needed to the guidance on external cladding, cavities and fire spread on external walls. In particular, the restrictions on the use of certain materials should be applied to all buildings with a storey at a height of over 11m, rather than 18m as at present. Further, these restrictions should apply to entertainment and assembly buildings, residential care homes and hospitals of any height. However, full-scale fire


building standards system in Scotland. Specific issues raised were as follows: • The construction industry has been experiencing skills shortages and the panel considered ways to develop and promote building standards training and opportunities • The panel considered that certification of design and construction should be further developed where possible, particularly for safety critical elements, such as fire safety engineering, fire-stopping and the certification of structural construction work • The panel also considered how contractors can take more responsibility for their work and provide reassurance to owners and developers. The Scottish Government has committed to taking forward the recommendations of the Review Panels. The proposals will result in changes to the Building Standards system with the main aims of improving the safety of the final buildings and ensuring greater levels of compliance. There is a connection between the quality of the final build and the extent to which it complies with approved designs. However, for the quality of construction to improve substantially, more needs to be done to ensure that the workforce is skilled and knowledgeable, as well as more incentivised to get things right than to get them wrong. Stephen Garvin is head of building standards at the Scottish Government

The number of stairways proposed 11 in domestic buildings over 18m SCOTLAND SPRINMG 2018

14-15 Connections Scottish Autumn Supplement.indd 11

26/09/2018 10:07

p16_CSS.Aut18.indd 16

26/09/2018 11:05

Connections Scotland Autumn 2018  
Connections Scotland Autumn 2018