How Built Environment Journal covered the key topics of 2023: part one

While fire and building safety have remained priorities, Built Environment Journal continues to apprise professionals of innovation and best practice – as the first of two articles highlights


  • Barney Hatt
  • Adam Bell

19 December 2023

Block of flats

With its remit to keep members in building surveying, building control and building conservation up to date with developments in their respective disciplines, this year's Built Environment Journal articles have naturally concentrated on the UK's new building safety regime and concerns over the use of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).

But beyond these vital subjects, the journal has also looked further afield professionally and geographically at all aspects of members' practice.

Contemporary methods secure future for heritage

In our coverage of the important work being done by surveyors around the world, a February article looked at how the Centre Block of Canada's parliament in Ottawa is undergoing major restoration and upgrade. Lead programme manager Paul Garnier explained how the rehabilitation project is designed to preserve the past while forging a future that is sustainable and accessible.

He noted that the complexity of the project demanded innovation, not only in the overall design but during construction. To ensure the integrity of the historic structure during works, for instance, vibration monitors, seismographs, inclinometers and extensometers were all used to ensure activity stays within given tolerances.

'The outdated facilities had reached the stage where they were not able to regulate humidity, heating or cooling in the building'

Experts develop spray foam guidance

Spray foam roof insulation

© Sam Piplica

The journal also continues to keep readers up to date about other RICS publications. Early in March, the organisation issued an extensively researched guide for consumers on the use of spray foam to insulate homes, covered in an article by RICS senior specialist, buildings professional practice and development, Sam Piplica.

Noting that while the publication is not a technical guide for surveyors, it does strongly advise technical due diligence is carried out ahead of any alteration to a property. Consumers should consider using an expert such as an RICS member independent of the installer and manufacturer for this process.

The guide also makes specific reference to listed buildings and other protected structures because of the serious consequences of unapproved alterations.

'Spray foam roof insulation must not be installed in such buildings or structures without prior consent'

Fire evacuation shortcomings called out

Fire safety remains a perennial concern, and another piece published in March – by Arup associate director in fire safety David Stow – drew attention to the need for an equitable evacuation plan for high-rise residential buildings.

He said that, despite the legislative response to the Grenfell Tower fire, there is still no comprehensive approach to emergency evacuation of vulnerable people from high-rise residential buildings in England.

He added that the tragedy clearly showed we need to change the way such buildings are designed and operated so all occupants can evacuate safely should they need to.

'There is an urgent need for the government to develop a single set of authoritative guidance'

Safety regime in focus while RAAC concerns recur

Concrete wall


In July, with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Building Safety Regulator (BSR) assuming authority for building control on higher-risk premises in England, we published an article by HSE's Colin Blatchford-Brown and Jenny Hagan.

They said the Building Safety Act 2022 should be seen as requiring dutyholders to fulfil their existing roles and responsibilities correctly. Although procedures may be changing, the functional requirements of the Building Regulations will remain the same.

The difference is that the HSE, in its function as BSR, will not only have the ability but a duty to question the safety of a building throughout the process, from design to occupation.

Safety concerns of another kind were raised later this summer, when the deterioration of RAAC hit the headlines.

In September, during the week RICS ran a RAAC webinar for members, we published a detailed article by TFT's Jay Ridings that discussed how to identify the material and what to do about it.

He explained that surveyors should be aware of the issues it poses and be alert to its possible presence in buildings constructed between 1950 and the late 1990s.

'The most notable concern with RAAC planks is their potential for sudden shear failure'


Of course, these articles represent only some of the topics covered by the journal. In part two of this round-up, we will look at sustainability, women and building surveying, artificial intelligence, dilapidations and the next generation of surveyors.


Barney Hatt is building surveying and building control editor of Built Environment Journal
Contact Barney: Email


Adam Bell is building conservation editor of Built Environment Journal
Contact: Adam: Email

Built Environment Awards

The RICS UK Awards are free to enter and recognise outstanding achievement, teamwork, and companies across the built environment.

As part of our ongoing commitment to raise the profile of industry professionals and teams, the Awards aim to demonstrate the positive impact that the built environment has on individuals and communities, while also promoting the role that the profession has in making projects a reality.

Why participate?

  • Garner widespread industry acknowledgment and elevate your personal profile.
  • Become a role model for the profession.
  • Enhance your career prospects.
  • Influence the future of the profession through content creation and conference engagement.
RICS UK Awards 2024

Related Articles


go to article What we learned in developing an HRB safety case process


go to article How to achieve Legal/regulatory compliance competency


go to article Fresh case stresses care needed with letters of intent