Welsh Government appoints Mark Tambini FCABE to head up building policy

After nearly two decades in the building control industry, Mark Tambini FCABE was recently appointed Head of Building Regulations Policy for the Welsh Government. Just weeks into the role, he tells Building Engineer what his priorities are, and how he plans to push the boundaries. 

Mark TambiniA degree in Civil and Structural Engineering led Mark to a career as a design consultant, before moving into building control in 2010. After more than a decade in the private sector, he’s now heading up building policy for the Welsh Government – a very different direction. So, was it always in the plan? "I like to play to my strengths," explains Mark. "My approach has always been to keep your eyes open for what opportunities present themselves – you can either stay in familiar territory, or really put yourself out there and make the most of any new challenges that come your way."

Moving into the building control profession 15 years ago was an opportunity to expand his knowledge. "Working as a structural engineering consultant was fascinating,” he says. “I had a sound understanding of one part of the regulations, but I was keen to broaden my knowledge and gain a fuller understanding of areas such as fire safety, energy efficiency and accessibility, all key components of the built environment."

Mark took the opportunity to become a building control surveyor to gain a more holistic understanding of construction. "What I didn’t have experience in, I went out to get."

The bigger picture

All this experience has led him to his role today. So, what’s the new job like so far? 
"I’ve been fortunate to join a fantastic, experienced and knowledgeable team," says Mark. "The insight I’ve gained so far is that working in this type of role, you can get stuck into the detail of what you’re doing – and the amount of people involved in making policy changes is fascinating. We are dealing with primary legislation, and there are technical, legal, practical and wider political considerations to take account of so it really is a multi-faceted approach to change.

"When in an operations-type role and working at the coalface, you might not appreciate the level of work that’s going into all this in the background… to see it first-hand gives real insight into the policy making process, and it's something I have always wanted to do."

Mark has two main priorities this year: getting the professional registers up and running, which is "coming together really well", and focusing on the ongoing reviews of technical documents. "The team are already headlong into both of these work streams, with the RBI and RBCA registers due to open on 31 January, and our ADL 2025 review underway," he says. 

"My job is to look at how we can further improve what we are doing here at Welsh Government. I want to push the boundaries of what we can ask for as our minimum build standard. The key message our industry has adopted is one of mindset and wholesale change, looking at ways we can do things better. Of course, building regulations are a minimum standard, but anything we can do to raise the standard of living will be given full consideration.

"We are all facing the threats presented by the climate crisis. There’s a huge desire to want to improve climate regulation – after all, it’s something we and future generations are all facing," he says. "We’ll invest our time into looking at what improvements we can make whilst considering the real-world implications of industry implementation. We’re keen to consult with people to find out what can be improved."

Building better

"We’re at a huge point of change," Mark continues. "The industry is already undergoing a massive transition with the registration process for both individuals and organisations. The next challenge is to keep building better. Change is good and much needed, and it might take a little while to settle down, but it's a journey everyone has to get on board with."

As a collective, the building regulations profession needs to focus on the bigger picture, says Mark, which is to positively support each other in achieving the desired outcomes of the industry overhaul. "Gone are the days of concerns about who sits where. The focus must be about up-skilling, knowledge share, technical excellence, best practice, and accountability. As a profession there is a limited pool of people in a niche sector, let's focus on how great a career this is and bring in the younger talents to a lifelong career in building control.

"Increased accountability will certainly change and focus mindsets. But I believe we will be in a healthier place down the line."

And how does Mark believe developing technologies are helping the industry? "Technology absolutely needs to be embraced," he says. "I’ve always felt the way the industry uses tech has been a bit date and clunky. There are so many ways it can play a part in what we do – the use of apps and AI can streamline processes on an operational level by helping the way plans are assessed or how site inspections are carried out, improving information sharing and record-keeping."

It’s going to need investment from key stakeholders, industry as a whole and organisations, he adds, "but ultimately that can and will improve the end product. I see it as an exciting opportunity for the industry, which can and is being embraced".

Informing and influencing

Fantastic architecture and buildings around the world have influenced the way people live their lives for years, and that’s so important to remember, says Mark. "Look at the way our communities are built. We can all contribute to a better way and standard of living, and that is exactly what the Building Regulations were introduced to do. But they only set out a minimum standard."

What really excites Mark is what can be done beyond that, to greater improve the built environment and create positively pleasant, healthy places that people can thrive in. "We’re in and around those environments all the time," he adds. "So, let’s influence it positively."

He would love to see the introduction of policies that support active travel, he tells us. "There is an initiative in Bologna which rewards users of sustainable forms of transport with free beer, ice cream or film tickets.

"Imagine taking whole life cycle carbon into consideration and add in a measure of building use over time with positive returns to those making the right steps. It's not just the environment that benefits, but the positivity from a daily serotonin hit is a vital ingredient and antidote to bring balance to the tech world we are so immersed in."

It’s clear that Mark has joined the Welsh Government at a crucial time. "Sure, there’s lots of work to do," he says, "but it’s an exciting time to come in as well, with Phases 2 and 3 of our BSA policy changes about to commence.

"I like to challenge myself, and I feel I am in a privileged position to be helping develop key legislation. Working with a team of internal experts, counterparts from all other UK government administrations, and industry specialist working groups excites me. 

"We all have a part to play – so let’s get out there and help shape the industry and the world we live in to one we're proud to be a part of."

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