Friday, February 22, 2019


David Frise, CEO of BESA

As an organisation, BESA believes in the importance of looking to the future; of always moving forward. However, there is also huge value in pausing to reflect on our past – it is because of our incredible HVCA heritage that we are able to serve our members and the sector so effectively.

From labour disputes to ground-breaking legislation; from wage agreements to professional qualifications – what we now know is BESA has been punching above its weight since it was founded 115 years ago.

That heritage continues to inform our work today with current challenges like late payment and retentions addressed through the Aldous Bill and employers wrestling with a new funding model for apprenticeships.

Technical standards and the need for the right skills to deliver them have been at the heart of the Association’s work since the very beginning and are, arguably, now more important than ever. In the wake of the Hackitt Review following the Grenfell tragedy, the focus is firmly on technical competence and legislative compliance – and serious changes to how this is assessed and enforced will emerge this year.

BESA is fortunate to have more than a century of experience in helping members – and the industry at large – step up to meet such changes and provide evidence of competence and compliance. We are able to keep doing these things thanks to our wealth of experience and deeply rooted understanding of the issues that still dominate the lives of building engineering firms.

We may have a new name, but the legacy of the Heating and Ventilating Contractors’ Association (HVCA) is still helping us today.

Our reputation is built on that heritage and is why businesses become members and people in the industry still look to it, not only to provide a wide range of services, but also to provide commercial and technical leadership.

That is why we are celebrating our heritage this year with our #BackToTheBESAFuture campaign. This will feature a series of initiatives aimed at reminding the sector of our roots while continually pushing forward to prepare our industry for the future – and we are inviting our members (some of whom go right back to the very beginning) to share their stories and histories with us.

Our HVCA founders faced a range of problems like unfair tendering practices, trade discounts, payment problems and difficulties over British patents. Many of these issues remain all too familiar to modern contractors and no other organisation can boast such a depth of experience in dealing with them.

It is also not enough to simply expose the problems; you must also be able to develop and articulate the solutions and you have to secure seats at the top tables of Government and elsewhere, representing not only the membership, but the whole sector. If there is a problem, it is so much better if the industry solves it for themselves – and this is what BESA continues to do for the sector today, thanks to our experience, reputation and heritage.

That is what the 14 founder members started to do; it is what the HVCA did so effectively from the 1960s onwards; and what BESA continues to do today.  Things have evolved, of course, as the demands on contractors have grown, but the Association’s determination has always been “to make a difference”. The Association can rightly claim to have changed history and the shape of the construction industry as a whole.

So, the work that was started 115 years ago goes on. Companies throughout the sector have benefited from our legacy, but only because succeeding generations of staff and members have stuck to the original mission.

However, we are highly conscious that these are very different times and the pace of life is so much more hectic. Business people have much less time to devote to activities beyond their day-to-day work, which makes the support we offer that bit more valuable; it also means that any demands we make on a member’s time must deliver a tangible and immediate benefit.

Yet we all still value the special ‘community’ of companies and individuals created as a result of our heritage and that is unique to the challenges we face as a sector. The knowledge and experience we have developed over 115 years are not things that can be found by typing a request into Google. This goes much further than just ‘information’. 

Our building engineering services ‘family’ is able to come together to develop solutions and to support each other during difficult and challenging times – and to move the industry forward just as our founders set out to do – thanks to our unique perspective on what matters to building engineering people.

That community will be increasingly important as we face up to the challenges thrown at us by Brexit, Hackitt and the rest throughout 2019 and beyond.

For more information about the BESA Heritage Campaign please visit:

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