Some 13 years ago, when I was at construction collaboration technology provider BIW Technologies (today Conject), the company formed a partnership with TSO (The Stationery Office, the privatised enterprise that was formerly Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, HMSO) to provide online access to building regulations information. At the time, as a tax-payer, I remember thinking that surely this TSO information governing the design and delivery of buildings used by UK citizens should be freely available, but then it was seen as a potential money-spinner for that VC-backed, management-owned company.
Roll forward to 2014. The latest building regulations can still be purchased online if you really want to, but they are now freely available from the UK Government’s online Planning Portal, or “with permission under the Open Government Licence” from commercial operators such as SpecifiedBy.
Eventually launched in early 2013 (post), SpecifiedBy set out to offer an alternative to conventional building product directories, providing manufacturer customers with richer analytics and reporting functionality, and social sharing or recommendation capabilities – such as @SocialSpec, started in April 2013. Founder Darren Lester’s latest ‘disruption’ is the free availability of Building Regulations information, taking advantage of the UK Government’s enthusiasm for open public data.
Moreover, SpecifiedBy is making the information available via HTML web pages rather than in the somewhat cumbersome PDF:
… wouldn’t it be great to be able to quickly and freely access these documents in a user friendly format, that let’s you use the information how you want to and on any device?
Imagine being able to:
- Smoothly navigate and search through each document
- Copy text, tables or images for reference
- Link your own documents to specific sections of the regulations
This is a fast changing area too. This week saw the UK Government, somewhat controversially, announce the withdrawal or relaxation of 100s of regulations, many of which directly affect the built environment, supposedly to make it easier for business to meet environmental regulations (see Guardian timeline of announcement and industry reaction).
Update (27 June 2014) – SpecifiedBy’s Darren Lester has confirmed to me that the free online versions of the Building Regulations Approved Documents are now available.
The Year Ahead in Construction
With UK construction on the threshold of a recovery (depending on which forecasts you read), such initiatives will be welcomed by some, condemned by others. The final 17 months of the current Coalition Government will therefore be carefully scrutinised by many in the construction, property and public affairs sectors. If this interests you, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations‘ Construction and Property Special Interest Group (CAPSIG) will be discussing what they want to see in the forthcoming Budget statement and in the final year of the current administration with a panel of industry experts, including Brian Green (Brickonomics) and John Slaughter (director of external affairs at the Home Builders Federation), on 13 February at the Building Centre in London (more details/registration here).
[Disclosure: I am a current committee member of CIPR CAPSIG.]