The Scottish Government has issued guidance to local authorities in Scotland on building verification during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The guidance addresses the use of remote verification inspections ("RVI") as supplementary to physical inspections during COVID-19. The use of RVI has allowed work around some building verification to proceed in light of physical distancing measures, and the guidance refers to occasions when remote inspections by way of live video link between an inspecting officer and a site representative have substituted for physical inspections. RVI allows local authority verifiers and developers to achieve the necessary level of compliance while also saving cost and time. All non-essential work is currently suspended and therefore the use of RVI will be limited to essential construction projects, but the Scottish Government anticipates that RVI will play an increasing role as more building works commence or continue during the COVID-19 recovery, and also in the longer term as RVI is used to save costs.
In deciding whether to implement RVI, the guidance suggests that local authorities should consider the following factors:
- whether it is possible or desirable to make a physical inspection rather than a remote inspection, taking into account health risks associated with physical inspections and compliance risks associated with remote inspections;
- the complexity of the project;
- the complexity of the Construction Compliance and Notification Plan created for the project;
- compliance failures (if any) noted against the project; and
- the risk of a remote inspection being insufficient to demonstrate compliance to the required extent.
Other practical considerations will inform local authorities' use of RVI, such as verification of the relevant persons for the purposes of compliance with health and safety and submission of documentation in a manner that is compliant with the Scottish Building Standards Procedural Handbook. However, the guidance encourages local authorities to consider the extent to which they are able to promote the possibility of RVI, taking into account general COVID-19 restrictions on a local authority's ability to carry out inspections, and IT limitations.
It is clear from the guidance that there is a wide range of factors that local authorities should take into account when considering whether to implement RVI, and that there may be benefits to adopting remote inspections where possible during the COVID-19 recovery and beyond.