RICHARD The plan for today is to discuss five questions that were put together initially by David Poat and refined and added to by George. They’ve been looked at in three or four working group meetings already to try and refine, add to, subtract from, to try and get five defining questions because on the 23rd of November we’ve got a big meeting with a panel of very significant people including an advisor to the Levelling Up committee. So once we’ve got our questions and during that meeting again refining, adding to, validating, those questions will be directly put through to the members of the Levelling Up committee that he works with, so we have got a direct access there that we need to make the most of and to make sure we go in there with exactly the things we need to know.

From experience of the last three working group meetings, most of the time was taken with question 1 and (primarily) question 2, so we’ll bear that in mind and we’ll whizz through the bottom three pretty quickly. The first one is how do you tell which buildings are in scope, under the BSA and the FSA, and who will be doing the reviews?

GEORGE Just to explain, there’s obviously a perception that all of this is about 18 metre plus buildings, whereas of course the Fire Safety Act, which a lot of legislation relates to, is for all buildings and therefore a lot of the provisions that are enshrined in the Building Safety Act aren’t just relevant to 18 metre plus buildings. And the second part of that is who will be doing the reviews. That is coming from the perspective that the HSE seems to be effectively outsourcing some of the work to building control firms who then have to become certified to undertake that work. So that was something that emerged in the summer, so therefore that has an impact and that feeds into the next question.

CLARE WILLIAM Just an observation, I can understand why, it’s because of the scarcity of resources within local government. Initially the intention was to refocus that responsibility, building control, to the local authorities, not to do away with the private sector ones but to lessen their power, and that’s definitely shifted.

GEOEGE Yeah, it has. It’s obviously a bit troubling, but it is what it is.

DEBBIE I think the key thing is how transparent that certification is. The quality of the certification and the transparency around that is key and will there be any digital records that anybody can query. I suspect not.

CLARE WILLIAMS Yeah, and that whole rationale for making that change of focus from private sector to public sector from the agency setup to the more formal local government setup, it was important when it was announced but is now less important. What are we going to achieve from it all is the wonder.

GEORGE Yeah, when you consider the importance, I saw a post yesterday that Matt Hodges-Long was involved with and he’s been doing some analysis of how much is going to be charged for getting the certificate of occupancy. I think he was suggesting that it looks like it will be £11,000 per block, so that becomes quite a big figure.

RICHARD His posts, he really does take something and put figures on it and he’s the only person I’ve seen do that to the extent that he does.

BRETT HIBBITT So what do we actually mean by which buildings are in scope under the BSA and FSA? They are two different things. BSA is quite simple, high-risk buildings which are over 6 storeys or over 18 metres and the Fire Safety Act is all buildings with two or more domestic dwellings, so that’s very distinctive. That’s the answer to that question in my view.

GEORGE Yeah, the point about it though is that a lot of people are conflating the two things and therefore, to some extent I’ve heard people say, well, we haven’t got any buildings over 18 metres so we don’t need to do anything. And actually a lot of the, like the beefed up version of Regulation 38, for example, where now landlords/the responsible person are now required to explicitly state that they’ve received all of the information that they need. That’s new and I think that’s under the Fire Safety Act rather than the Building Safety Act, but it’s all wrapped up in the same legislation, as it were. And it doesn’t really matter which legislation it’s in.

RICHARD It’s also worth mentioning with the secondary legislation that’s just come out it has actually redefined what 6 storeys is. if the basement ceiling protrudes much less that it needed to protrude before then suddenly the basement becomes a storey.

GEORGE I think the other point is that everybody is trying to do the minimum that they need to at the moment because of funds, but I think it’s widely understood that it’s going to drop to below 18 metres in dues course. Certainly that’s the way the legislation has been written.

CLARE WILLIAMS I agree, we are definitely trying to contain the spend, but we’re also definitely working hard in our meetings and groups internally to interpret the requirements correctly so that we register everything that we need to register. But it’s getting that definition correct of what do we need to register, and then you have to swallow the cost of it. The primary driver is to get it right and it would be helpful if we could have clear definitions before the requirement to register.

BRETT HIBBITT By registry I suppose you mea your high rise buildings. The way we do it is we’re measuring our buildings over 18 metres up to the top storey habitable floor, or more than six storeys we measure them according to the Approved Document B. What we do is have that kind of statement of intent looked over by the London Fire Brigade who gave us approval on that, so that very distinctly defines which buildings we need to put a safety case together for. You’re right though earlier as we were talking, there is some grey areas under the Building Safety Act, it defines what needs to have a safety case and so on, but also quite recently they updated part of the Building Safety Act Section 156 Fire Safety Responsibilities, that also talks about buildings under the scope of the Fire Safety Order and it’s mainly about information to residents. They updated that section in July I think, and they didn’t really tell anybody about it.

What we’re reading into that is the fact that duties of the responsible persons which contain two or more sets of domestic premises, so they’re referencing a statement which has really come out of the Fire Safety Act, so we’re getting crossovers now. And it’s almost saying that you’ve got to inform all your residents of any things like of any risks identified in the fire risk assessment, fire safety measures, the name and address of the responsible person, so it’s really detailing a lot of information that we need to provide to the residents now of all premises with two or more domestic premises. I think that’s quite onerous, we’re working out a way to do that now.

GEORGE Yeah, the other thing that we’ve interpreted, I think everybody is having to do this at the moment and therefore if we can share what we’re learning, our interpretation, I think we stand a chance. One of the interesting things for me is the whole process of the responsible person then passing on information to another responsible person and then at that point in time they have to verify that they’re providing all of the information. What springs to mind is as-built information because there’s not a great deal of high quality as-built information on existing buildings.

DEBBIE I think there’s a principle that we need to feed back at this event with the Levelling Up lot is with any regulation the first thing that people have to do is interpret it, and they could have made that a lot easier. Why they’re not applying some decent AI on this to aid the interpretation I don’t know, it’s entirely possible now, we can do it and it’s just not good enough. For me that should be in their duty of care, facilitating that interpretation.

RICHARD Yeah, that’s a very good point, because at the end of the day they must have some responsibility for making the thing intelligible. George, start question 2.

CLIFF KNEALE On question 1, it feels like we kind of know what falls within the scope, but it might be good to ask a question about what’s in the future scope for these buildings, what’s coming up, but also if they are on the drawing board, under construction, how will they be affected by this? If you’ve signed off on the design and then suddenly you have to add in another staircase.

GEORGE The second point was this thing about principal designer and principal contractor and a number of the people that I’ve spoken to have seen that as being principal designer under CDM, whereas what’s been made clear to me by various experts is there’s quite a difference between the BSA principal designer and CDM principal designer. So the principal designer for the Building Safety Act is something that is a clear duty and I’m seeing that a number of architects are now taking on that role, whereas they weren’t interested in doing it before because obviously it carries quite a lot of risk.

DEBBIE I have a question. Is it a natural migration for somebody who is competent as a CDM principal designer to move into being a BSA principal designer? That’s a competency evolution question. I’m not clear about that and some people are asking that and if you’ve got people who are running registers around this it seems to me that it’s sensible that they need to log if you’re a BSA principal designer or a CDM principal designer, or just a designer.

GEORGE My understanding is that a fundamental difference is under CDM the principal designer doesn’t need to be a designer because what they’re doing is managing the design process. Whereas under the BSA part of their duty is to ensure that building regs are being complied with and therefore they need a stronger understanding of the design, and ideally the design of that particular project. So that’s why an architect, for example, who is working on that particular project is in a good place to be the principal designer of that particular project, but the role is to ensure that not just they but all of the other designs are complying with building regs, so you need to have quite an in-depth knowledge of building regs.

DEBBIE Yeah, but the question in that as well, using the word compliant, is are they are also responsible for the human compliance of competent actors in that, and again I get asked that question and it’s not easy to trace back to the Act.

GEORGE Yes, I don’t know the answer to that.

DEBBIE We could raise that one as a question if we don’t have a full answer.

GEORGE Yes, certainly as far as the people that are on this call like Brett, Bex and Clare who are landlords, the duty of the landlord is to appoint a competent principal designer, so the point that you’ve just made, Debbie, is well made because how do you make the assessment as to whether somebody is competent.

DEBBIE But also if responsibility is allocated to do other work down the chain it’s ensuring that those actors are competent and meeting compliance requirements, it’s important for the regulations.

GEORGE Yeah, one of the architects that I’ve spoken to that is planning to provide that role, and they’re discussing it with their PI insurers at the moment, one of the areas that they’re concerned about is that although as an architect they’re comfortable that they’re competent to do that they’re also, as principal designer, overseeing M&E and structure. And they don’t have the knowledge and expertise for those two disciplines so what they’re doing is building into their process a series of questions and templates and things that they can use to analyse or question the other design disciplines.

DEBBIE OK, that’s one way of doing it, but it’s not a very intelligent way, but hey ho. But for me it’s this sort of fundamental bit of it’s the word compliance and to me compliance isn’t fully met unless the human aspect of the compliance element is addressed as well. Is it implicit in the Act or is it explicit in the Act?

GEORGE I don’t know. Does anybody else know?

DEBBIE It’s a key question we need to bring up because I am getting asked it.

GEORGE (starts presentation/shares screen). This is just something that we’ve been working through looking at what is the golden thread and what are the risks, implications and challenges that it brings in. How is the information that is required built into contractual requirement rather than not, because if it doesn’t go into the contract then it probably may not be issued. How do you then verify that the information that you’ve received is fit for purpose. How do you then coordinate and integrate that information so that it becomes meaningful and how generally do we make use of it going forward. So broadly why are we doing it? Well, in large terms what we’re doing is guaranteeing that the work that has been done is what we should have always been doing, so a lot of what is being required now is compliance with building regs, so people should have been doing  that anyway.

Also, a fairly obvious thing is to demonstrate that you’re selecting products which satisfy specifications, which again should be really obvious but often isn’t. And then recording what’s installed and that it was done properly, and then record when products and things have changed. One of the things we often hear is that that information, it will be in the O&M, or it will be in the BIM model, and also I’ve heard it said many times if Building Control have signed it off, then we must have had it. And the fact is that that’s not the case.

DEBBIE I’m sorry to interrupt, but it was missing one statement in that. You need to record that if the product change that the installer had the right competencies. If the product changes you have to do a competency check.

GEORGE OK, I was thinking that was covered by that it was done properly.

DEBBIE The trouble is people don’t think of that, they don’t think of products and competency. A product has a function, if we know what the product does we can interpret what the competence requirement is. Although it is inherently covered in what you’ve said, I still think the stage were at with people’s understanding here we need to make it more explicit.

GEORGE One of the key things I think the Act is bringing in is that you can no longer transfer risk. You can assign responsibilities, but the landlord, the client, is still responsible  and the clarification of responsible and accountable persons, it’s covered in different parts of the legislation. Also the fact that the new amendments that came in in August require that the responsible person must confirm that they’ve received the information and also that they are maintaining that information, and that’s backed up by very substantial penalties. This is the wording that’s in the amendment that came through on the 19th or 20th of August and I think that’s a big step forward that rather than…often in many cases I’ve come across there is no formal check of the information. And this is within Approved Document B, it wasn’t that clear as to what the information was that was being tracked so this is just an interpretation that I’ve done from the documentation that’s in Regulation 38.

These are the asset types and systems that are specifically named, but on Monday we had a meeting with the tier 1s and they identified that in Regulation 7 you’ve got products…these are the ones that are covered under Regulation 38, but the Building safety Act also includes references through to Regulation 7 and these are all of the asset types that are considered safety critical assets in that element of the legislation which is much wider set of information. It surprised us that things like sanitary ware, for example, would be things that we need to build into the asset information requirements. But the safety risk there, it’s not just fire, in this particular case legionella is the driver on that one. So whatever that information is it needs to be accurate, up-to-date, accessible and kept digitally. What does it mean to be digital? is that adequate for it to be just a PDF document, which in many cases it is, but you need to be able to audit it and validate it.

And if it’s just a PDF document, even if you’re using AI it’s actually quite difficult to validate that the information is there and is correct. so, one of the things we’re on a journey with is to see how we can automate some of this stuff because otherwise we’re just overwhelmed with too much data. So, this is a little example from a project that we’ve been working on. This is something from the O&M handover and on the face of it it satisfies the requirement because it’s showing where all of the fire stopping is, but in practice it’s not really fit for purpose because all of the labels are overlapping each other. In this particular PDF, somebody has zoomed out and then taken a screenshot, so it’s not really useable. Now, had the original PDF been provided rather than a snapshot of it, it probably would have been fine because it’s probably interactive, but nobody checked and that’s because there is too much information to check manually.

It also needs to be automatically updatable when something changes, so when people are doing fire door inspections, for example, it’s not good enough just to say that we’ve done the fire door inspections, ticking the box, because 80% of them could have failed, but in many cases catham? 31mins 48secs systems are only monitoring that has the fire door inspection been completed. the same with fire risk assessments…we’ve seen fire risk assessments where the actions haven’t been monitored and really the way I’m looking at things it’s like an accounting system that it needs to balance everyday: the risk, the asset and if things are outstanding they need to be reported. One way of doing that is to provide specific information requirements, not leaving it vague. Audit what’s received and reject it until it’s right and then ideally the data should be structured so that it can be queried and easily updated. And importantly that it needs to integrate with operational systems so that the safety management system, rather than the safety case report, which is just a snapshot in time, can be kept current so that any changes that are needed…

So these are some screenshots from the event that Bex and I attended about 2 or 3 weeks ago which was organised by the Association of Specialist Fire Protection. This particular slide, the building regulations compliance statement, these are the key documents. Also, this was new to me and that is that if information isn’t available basically the landlord has to show what you’ve done to find it. So it’s no longer good enough just to say our O&Ms are incomplete or whatever, you have to also illustrate what you’ve actually done to find things. And if you don’t have the information, let’s say for example that you don’t have compartmentation plans then that needs to be identified in the safety case report, so not knowing is a risk and therefore that needs to go in to the safety case report and broadly the onus is on the client to collate and submit the information.

So broadly that’s obviously what we’ve been doing over the last couple of years, trying to pull that together so that we’ve got that information coming from the rest of the team. Now, everybody on this particular call has been involved in those sessions so I don’t need to dwell on that, but this is the way we’re presenting this generally, and also providing some context for that knowledge. So the fire breaks out in the kitchen, what measures are in place that are going to protect the residents from harm, and reflecting the fact that different people need different information and different levels of information and all of them are equally important. One last thing on this, this is what we’ve been doing as Active Plan but I’m just using it as an example, it’s work that we’re doing to do validation of O&M  and handover information on a scheme and we’re identifying the information that’s needed for effective management and see whether information is missing or not.

So this is just a way of auditing the information to see what’s been provided, what is missing, and therefore to be able to chase it down. It’s having a sort of methodology to go through this. My daughter’s got learning difficulties and she was doing a jigsaw a few weeks ago and one of the things that occurred to me was that if she lost the box lid of the jigsaw she wouldn’t stand a chance of being able to complete the jigsaw. And to some extent I see this as being a little bit like the photograph or the image on the jigsaw puzzle because it tells you what you’re actually looking for.

BRETT HIBBITT George, you mentioned the fire door inspections and fire risk assessments which we’ve been looking at very intensely and most people will have KPIs to do that, but you’re absolutely right, how do you differentiate between the fire door inspection and the risk evolving from that. So we’re quite heavily KPI’d on doing the fire door inspections, that’s what I report on each month that we’re doing them, and initially we thought that if the doors fail are we going to report that we failed on our KPI? Well, we’ve not, we’ve actually achieved our KPI to inspect them and then the risk has been identified and the actions have been raised so that leads to a second KPI on what we do about our actions and those actions derive from fire risk assessments and fire door inspections and all sorts of other things. So it’s a two-stage thing really which relates in KPI so that we can actually prove that we’re doing our best to be compliant on those parts of the legislation. So that was a very interesting point you raised about it’s not necessarily just doing the inspections, that satisfies the legislation, but also you need to think about what you need to do to manage the risk after that.

GEORGE Yes, and the other thing with this is that we discovered that, for example, fire stopping. What you’re expected to do is…one of the challenges with fire stopping is that generally on an existing building it often kicks off with a fire risk assessment and the fire risk assessment identifies that some fire stopping is required or damaged or something like that. And then a company like Sharon’s will come along and actually do the work and they’ll maybe record it on Bolster or Plan Radar or one of these applications, but what they’re not doing (in some cases) is actually recording it against where the penetration seals were originally. So, in other words, that particular asset, we’ve come across situations where the report creates a brand new reference or ID against that particular penetration seal, so therefore you lose the history of that penetration seal over the last ten years say. And this comes back to fire doors, fire dampers, smoke dampers etc.

So any inspection that’s done needs to actually refer back to the individual asset, and a penetration seal is an asset, and unless you’ve got good records of what all those items are then I can’t see how you’re able to then to properly track them. And the way FM contractors often work is that they will produce one work ticket to go and do an inspection of fire doors on that floor, for example, and therefore if one of those fire doors fails then the inspection fails. So what the more advanced FM contractors are doing, they’re identifying them as individual assets and therefore if one of 100 doors or smoke dampers that are checked fails it means that 99 of them have succeeded. Sharon, would you say what I’ve said there is reasonable?

SHARON McCLURE Yeah, absolutely, as you were saying if you’ve got an existing firestop or existing service penetration as soon as you come along if it’s been done in ? 42mins 39secs…because it was in 1999 or if it was a different system because it’s a facilities management company that’s been swapped over, there’s no indication of what you’re picking up, what was there before and the only photographic image that you can supply to them is before you start working how you find that asset. So, I think that’s bang on.

GEORGE Thank you. And to a great extent, Brett, because you’re at the sharp end of this, therefore if you’re provided information at handover, or maybe that you’ve taken over a building from another housing association. The information about the individual assets is going to be increasingly important, not just that we’ve got some fire stopping on that floor.

BRETT HIBBITT Yeah, absolutely, most important. We’re taking over buildings in London at the moment and a few high-rise ones and the information is just, well, we’re having to start from scratch basically, it’s a big pain. There was a question I was interested in your slides there about the safety cases and the fact that if you haven’t got drawings you raise that as a risk on the safety case. What we’re doing because we’re taking over some high-rise buildings in London that haven’t got drawings, so we’re getting drawings done as part of the safety case. But are you saying people are not getting drawings done and raising that as a risk in the safety case? How are they mitigating that risk?

GEORGE I don’t think they are, I think we’re in new territory here as to what needs to go in the safety case because nobody actually knows yet. I don’t think any of the safety cases that have been put to DLUHC or the Regulator have actually been signed off. So what actually goes into a safety case, I think people are producing them but everybody is learning.

DEBBIE Could I just ask Sharon, if the fire stopping is not the right term what is the actual right one we should use? Because even if I look in a lot of the stuff that’s being updated for apprenticeship standards they’re still using the word fire stopping.

GEORGE It’s in particular, Paul McSoley from Mace, he’s very keen on calling it a penetration seal rather than fire stopping.

SHARON McCLURE I think that the task that we carry out, it’s just a title that I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of. We call our staff fire safety technicians because I wanted to try and elevate the trade, and the whole point of working with the SFP and Build UK etc was to try and separate ourselves from what I thought was quite a dismissive term, fire stopping just seems quite dismissive. You’ve got joiners and you’ve got cabinet makers and it would be nice to give it a new title, but I think I’m pushing against the waves so I’ll just have to admit defeat. But as long as everybody knows what it is then I think half the battle is just getting it done right, so maybe I’ve just got to park that annoyance.

BRETT HIBBITT I think it’s a bit academic, everybody knows what fire stopping is and we know that it’s a penetration seal. I don’t know, I think that’s a bit broad to be honest because it could be an acoustic seal, couldn’t it?

SHARON McCLURE The same materials, the difficulty is you get air, thermal, fire smoke, everything and it’s the same material, but it could be in a different, it’s a red line, a blue line, a green line or a black & white line. It would be nice if it could be given a more elevated status, it’s a life safety trade after all, but as I say I think I’m just barking up the wrong tree.

BRETT HIBBITT I agree with you, I think everybody knows what fire stopping is, but how to elevate that i’m not sure.

DEBBIE I won’t bore you with how it is possible with competent in the competency domain and using AI to do that, it is possible to overcome this. If we just keep it at the task level that’s OK, but it shouldn’t be at the role level and it shouldn’t be at the statement level because it should be more context aware so it’s more specific to what the actual situation is or the asset and other stuff involved. I think it’s all right as a task but I don’t think it should be anything else than that.

SHARON McCLURE I think it’s part of the review the FSSG etc, i’m hoping that if there was any changes going to be implemented it would come of the back of that and the competency pathway through the SFP, so fingers crossed.

CLARE WILLIAMS I’m kind of surprised, I mean I do completely understand what everyone’s saying, but to me the term fire stopping has always held this quite significantly high status, maybe it’s because of my side of the coin being more to do with investigating fires and working with my fire risk assessors who are both ex-fire brigade persons. But fire stopping to me has always been, I don’t see it as a technical thing, I see it as a real barrier, a life protection, to me it’s always held that kind of status as being a really important function, tremendously important and something that we need to get very correctly right.

RICHARD Question 3: what is the impact of new competency requirements and the need for standard work instructions?

DEBBIE I think if you take the Building Safety Act it says that it can impose new competency requirements, so in the Building safety act the word competency requirements is used but a lot of people don’t really talk about competency requirements. But what’s not clear in the Act is who makes what decision about competency, it’s not explicit in the Act. Another point is we had the interim industry competence committee, now we have the industry competence committee and we have absolutely zero awareness of what these guys are doing or have done, there’s no public information at all. I don’t know whether that came out of that recent event you referred to, George, whether they declared anymore about what they were doing. I don’t understand why it has to be so secret, we should know what they’re doing and be able to see what they’re doing, why is it managed like this? Does anyone have any views on that? Or is it just because, if I can be rude, it’s the same old group of people doing a lot of competence stuff that are making their own new fiefdom.

The second thing is there is a complete unwillingness it seems to me that they’ve got lots and lots of new competence standards, most of them in PDF or Excel format, a lot of overlap and duplication, no consideration of using technology and AI to help people interpret and make sense of this and make it actionable and therefore traceable. So there’s this complete blocker by any of these people who are controlling…

RICHARD Can we take those two points separately, Debbie, to discuss them. The first one, what you wrote was what the ICC is doing and what the IACC did there is no informational transparency which I think is the first point you were making. What does everybody else think about that? is this something that you’re finding? Lack of information, lack of transparency.

DEBBIE Competency is my domain so of course not necessarily everybody is, but I think the system isn't going to work unless it becomes a more transparent system so I don’t understand as a principle why they behave like they behave and I’ve challenged John Vance on this. It’s always, right, we’re going to form, soon you’ll know more, soon you’ll know more, but I’ve been hearing that for over 18 months.

BEX GIBSON In the regulations there’s a schedule of competencies that is required by law for each piece of work and it would be really helpful if we had a similar one for the work that we’re undertaking as part of the Building Safety Act, fire works and such like, which I don’t think is explicit in it at the moment. So that I mean that will go into the competency actual requirements so that we have something solid to appoint on.

DEBBIE Bex, could I follow up with you on that. There’s some stuff that’s coming out in the fire stuff from working group 2, it’s more at the installer level, that may be part of the puzzle but not necessarily all of it. But it’s an absolute nightmare because they’re extracting from other standards like IfATE standards and NOS standards, but they're doing it all on an Excel sheet so you’re never going to understand what’s traceable to what so there’s just going to be more confusion in the way they’re approaching doing it. But they don’t seem to want to take any advice from anybody that knows about managing competency data intelligently, I try but it’s like a brick wall.

GEORGE Debbie, on that point, I’m assuming that you’re talking with David Jones of the ICE on this.

DEBBIE Yes, I am, but I’m also independent as well of that.

GEORGE Also, Chris Waterman’s very interested in that whole competency area, he’s a former educator. I did promise I was going to introduce him to you.

DEBBIE Yeah, we’re just about to test out how to profile product data to inform competency requirements so we’re moving quite fast with some of our AI capability here.

RICHARD Your second point, Debbie, was those involved in setting competence standards and developing new ones are not providing the outputs in SMART format when it is possible now to do that.

DEBBIE Yeah, and I’d also say particularly when the agenda of other standard setters, ISO, SEN, BSI are all going that way. Now, there’s a different view of what they mean by SMART because we had just had BSI guys review what we do in the competence space in terms of making the standards intelligent and so I just don’t understand why there’s no consideration or leadership on it. Again, I think this is something that the Industry Competency Council should be taking an interest or a lead in.

SHARON McCLURE There is a passive fife protection NOS review underway just now so i’m sure they’d welcome more parties involved in that and obviously Kate Milford of Milford Manor are dealing with the competency pathway for the ASFP so I’m sure if anyone is interested let me know and I can pass on their details.

DEBBIE Yeah, I’d be interested in the NOS stuff, we’re in quite detailed negotiations with the NOS governance group at the moment to do some pilot stuff for them, so that would be helpful.

RICHARD Anybody else on competency?

GEORGE The other thing in there, I think I probably contributed that, the thing of standard work instructions which I think we do need to have more of. Obviously we want as many competent people as possible but we also need standardised instructions.

RICHARD Do you mean like the piece that Alan Oliver is putting together on fire door inspections? That kind of thing.

GEORGE Yes, exactly, and for people that don’t know what we’re doing with Alan Oliver, Alan Oliver has been dong work over the years with the NHS on fire doors and we’re publishing shortly a set of fire door inspection standards, as it were. having done that we’re now doing the same for a range of other fire critical assets, in particular smoke dampers and fire dampers and AOVs etc.

DEBBIE George, it would be great to test out taking that guidance in and seeing how it gets associated and linked to other competence standards. We could do that as a test, we can take in that guidance material.

GEORGE Let’s do that, thank you.

CLIFF KNEALE Can I just clarify question 3 is about the client appointing a competent principal designer? Or is it the contractor as well?

GEORGE It’s the whole thing. Question 3 is about anybody that’s undertaking work, how you’d then assess and ensure that they’re competent, so people that are installers.

CLIFF KNEALE So that would need to get cascaded across the whole supply chain. if you’ve installed what you think is a competent principal designer then really it goes down to the person carrying out the design on an everyday basis and issuing the drawing to site. So does that drawing then need to be singed off and checked and approved by the competent principal designer? Or does that responsibility get cascaded down to the person actually designing that plant room, for example?

GEORGE I guess that’s down to whatever the procedure is that the team has put in place to manage that particular project.

CLIFF KNEALE I’ve got a bit of experience from this from implementing BIM and people didn’t really know how to do it at first so we sent out capability and capacity questionnaires to establish what companies capabilities were. Not only that, but did they actually have the capacity in terms of the software. They might have a few people that could use Revit, but they don’t have enough licences to do the project, so it’s quite a broad question really, question 3, it’s quite a big animal to tackle.

GEORGE It is, I think putting capacity, that contribution is a good one.

RICHARD Yeah, that’s a good point, we had that come up a lot when we had discussions on the Fire Safety Act. It was all very well having everything loaded up to the cloud and all of the information there, but did the fire station crews actually have the capability of actually accessing it. In most cases the answer was no.

DEBBIE I think when you look at it, I call it the four Cs: capability, capacity, competence and confidence, and confidence is the trust bit in the information thread.

RICHARD Question 4: what is the impact of the two staircases being required for buildings over 18 metres? How are you landlords dealing with it?

CLARE WILLIAMS Not really sure, but I think the early days thinking is that are we going to try to avoid building buildings taller than 18 metres. We have tended towards that direction anyway.

RICHARD We’re hearing that a lot, in the development group meeting the other day, people are really trying to avoid doing that. But what about existing buildings over 18 metres? How are you managing two staircases in that scenario?

CLARE WILLIAMS We’ve got 54, so I don’t know if managing them is the right word.

BEX GIBSON Am I right that it’s not a requirement of buildings that are already in existence? It’s only new ones.

BRETT HIBBITT Yeah, it’s not retrospective. So existing buildings, if they’ve got one staircase, you might like to look at the assessment and see if there’s any further control measures you’d like to take, but they’re not expecting you to put another staircase in.

GEORGE At what work stage does it kick in? So if, for example, you’ve got a building that’s already going up.

BEX GIBSON It would be part of gateway 1 which has been in place for a year and a half now, so I think that has already been addressed because that’s been in the regulations for a while.

RICHARD Bex, how are you dealing with that in terms of future builds? Are you looking to avoid building buildings over 18 metres? Is that something that’s becoming standard?

BEX GIBSON The short answer is we’re probably going to think very carefully about building anything over 18 metes, however because it’s built into the building regulations to have two staircases it’s just something that will get designed in from gateway 1. I don’t think the impact will be huge, it’s just a different way of designing a building.

BRETT HIBBITT We’re not doing a lot of new developments at the moment, there is one we’re taking over next year in London, but that will have three staircases. It’s not something that we’re avoiding, it’s just ensuring that it’s built to the current building regulations. It’s just something that needs to be checked through at the correct gateways. Not a disruptor for us, but to be honest at the development stage for those sort of buildings we’re quite small fry, so it’s not really applicable.

CLIFF KNEELE I did think it was disruptive about a year ago because I did hear of a practice of architects that were in the middle of designing some buildings and when the Act came in they kind of stopped working on them until there was a bit more clarification.

BEX GIBSON Yes, I think this is very much a question for the construction group because it probably impacts them a lot with suppliers, architects and designers, but it has been in place for over a year now so I think the fallout from the initial decisions will fall away.

GEORGE That’s in there, Bex, because David Poat from Notting Hill Genesis, that was in his mind so that’s obviously something that was of concern to him.

BEX GIBSON It would be good to clarify the specifics of that question then, is it existing, is it new, and what’s lead to that question being a priority.

GEORGE Yeah, he’s leading the development group, so it would be new.

SHARON McCLURE George, can you clarify what happens if you carry out remedial works or modifications, maybe through Building Control, whether that flips it from an existing building. At what point does it become compliant or non-compliant if there’s modifications to the building as part of new development etc?

GEORGE What you’ve just asked, Sharon, is what I was thinking as well because one of the things…as you know, I’m not an expert in any of this stuff and the Regulation 38 bit has caused me to think about at what point is something treated as a new build or new project. My understanding is that, exactly as you’ve just said, where you’ve got a signification remediation that then needs to go back through Building Control and therefore then falls into the same requirement to provide the information for Regulation 38. That’s what I was thinking as well as to how substantial it needs to be before some of these other measures kick in, and I don’t know the answer to that.

BRETT HIBBITT I suppose it falls into whether it’s refurbishments or not and if it’s classed as a refurbishment then ti should comply to the current building regulations. So my though process would be, although this would probably be handled by a different team, that if it’s classed as a refurbishment when it goes through Building Control and all the relevant stuff with that. A building over 18 metres is going to be very difficult to install a second staircase, so you’d engage a fire engineer to justify that you’re doing a refurbishment that doesn’t require a second staircase and the extra control measures you’d need to put in place to mitigate that risk. That’s my thought process, engaging with a fire engineer at the early stages of the design, engaging with Building Control and getting it all signed off properly.

BEX GIBSON Just to follow on from that, that’s exactly how we see it. Also the secondary legislation brought in different types of category work, we’ve got category A, category B, scheme and exempt works. Category A works are subject to Building Control approval, as are some of category B, and at that point these things need to be considered because I think category A works is the big stuff and liaison then with Building Control, getting advice from a fire engineer, we’re looking at it to become due course to appoint one just on a need to use basis for our projects. So it’s worthwhile looking at that and that brings another question I have from looking at the secondary legislation, it is very unclear what a category B work is, because it says anything that’s not category A is category B (unless it’s scheme or exempt). That’s a big question I would like answered.

GEORGE I don’t now the answer to that, but I think it is something that we can raise.

CLIFF KNEALE Might there be an impact on insurance? So, if you’ve got two staircases it’s more likely that people will be able to escape from the building and avoid harm, whereas if you’ve only got one staircase there might be less chance, and that might impact on the insurance of the building.

RICHARD So newer builds will be easier to insure than older builds.

CLIFF KNEALE Possibly you might have cheaper insurance, ultimately that is passed on to the residents, that cost,

DEBBIE Does the Act distinguish in terms of these obligations the difference between retrofit and refurbishment, or see them all as one and the same thing?

BEX GIBSON That’s the clarity that I think needs to be determined between category A and B.

DEBBIE I thought that might be the case because it’s not clear to me sometimes.

RICHARD Question 5: how are you dealing with the lack of detailed guidance around provision and operation of fire and evacuation lifts?

GEORGE Replacing fire doors, just picking up on what Bex was saying earlier, the exemptions in the secondary legislation, one of the things I spotted was that the things that are exempt are quite limited. Replacing a door, for example, isn’t considered to be significant, but I’m therefore assuming that replacing all of the fire doors in a building, that would come under the requirements.

BEX GIBSON I can provide some clarity here because I’m leading a big fire door program at Live West and I requested that clarification from the installer. They came back and said they didn’t need Building Control sign offs for the works that they were undertaking. So I’m taking that with a pinch of salt, I’m going to do a bit of background reading just to make sure, but that’s their consideration on that specific question.

BRETT HIBBITT I tend to agree, but it would be interesting if there are any challenges to that. A fire door is a significant bit of fire safety in a building, you’re replacing like-for-like, you’re not doing any structural building, you’re not changing the fire strategy in anyway. So, why would you need Building Control, unless you are changing the design or the strategy in some way.

BEX GIBSON 100%, and I asked the same question about compartmentation as well because I’m doing the same for HRBs on that and it was a fairly similar response.

BRETT HIBBITT Yeah, basically you’re improving what’s there, you’re not changing what’s there, you’re bringing it up to a better standard that what was there before.

GEORGE I guess the question is whether it’s Building control. I did learn something from that event that Bex and I went to, I was talking to the guy who was presenting from LABC and he was explaining the fundamental difference in the role of Building control. Currently, or it has been the case, that you’ve been able to go to building control and ask whether your scheme is acceptable and whether it satisfies building regs. They are no longer doing that, you have to go along and state that it is compliant and give the argument as to why you believe it’s compliant and then they will decide whether that’s right or not. I don’t know if everyone is aware of that, but my understanding is that’s quite a change.

CLARE WILLIAMS That seems like a massive change to me.

GEORGE Building Control is no longer effectively a free consultant, they are very much turning it around. The other thing he was saying was that, I’ve had this fed back to me a couple of times that if it’s gone through Building Control then it must have provided the right information. he made the point that that’s completely flawed as an argument because it’s quite often the contractor that’s carrying out the work, building the building for the landlord, will say to the landlord don’t raise anything with Building Control. You need to say that you’re satisfied with it because otherwise you won’t get sign off. That may be few and far between, but he made that as a point to me as something that does happen and you can see that that can happen.

BEX GIBSON This sounds like a really big question that does need clarifying, can we add this to the list?

RICHARD Yeah, very much so. (Timestamp re new question 1hr 19mins 17secs).

CLARE WILLIAMS Again it has similarities with the Health & Safety at Work Act because it used to be a key difference with the Act, in terms of it being criminal law the burden of proof was reversed for the actor to, if called to court, to prove that they did comply with the law. And this is permeating into these other areas of building law that the client, ultimately whoever has responsibility for instigating the work is going to need to prove that they did comply with the law and the prosecution will just have to be standing there saying our job is just to say prove it.

RICHARD Yeah, complying is no longer enough, you’ve got to proactively prove that you’re complying. In many cases not even when it gets to a point of law, that’s actually the regulation that you have to prove it to start off with.

CLARE WILLIAMS Yeah, you must provide the evidence that you have complied and how you’ve complied.

GEORGE The point is this point about having the evidence as well that the work has been done properly is going to be critical to that.

DEBBIE It’s evidence done by competent actors, though. But a lot of people again just don’t feel confident that this is really what the game is about and that’s because it’s not as explicit as it could be in the Act and associated guidance, so I think there is some commentary on that.

RICHARD I think absolutely that the competence side of things has got to be definitely one of our questions and areas of interrogation. Just very quickly on number 5, how are you dealing with the lack of detailed guidance around provision and operation of fire and evacuation lifts? Is anybody dealing with that?

BRETT HIBBITT Not really, no. I’d like that question expanded in what situation, for new builds? We’ve not really experienced any issues with that at the moment, we’ve taken over some HRBs but we’re not really taking over new builds yet, we will be next year and we’ll look at whether it’s been built to the current regulations.

RICHARD To be honest, I think that’s possibly a question that might get sidelined, we’ve got two or three subjects which have come up in this meeting which are very significant that we need to be including in these questions. I don’t think we really want more than five, George, because we’ve got the time limit.

CLARE WILLIAMS I think the lifts question, it would be useful for us as a landlord because we have lifts that are coming to the end of their life. It would be good to be able to have a thorough understanding of how to upgrade to achieve the next standard up in consideration of the scheme submissions.

RICHARD So what are you doing now? You haven’t got this clear guidance, how are you addressing it?

CLARE WILLIAMS We’re relying on the advice of the lift manufacturers and contractors, we say to them what are our options, they come back and say this is the cost for an evacuation lift and feasibility studies and we decide from there. It does come back to competence because we don’t have anyone in-house that can thoroughly challenge what’s provided by those feasibility studies. We could test it with competitive pricing, competitive feasibility studies, but it’s difficult to know which one is the best one without doing hours and hours of research. I think it’s likely to perhaps become more of an issue when the government returns to the question of evacuation and the fire brigade needing to change the evacuation in a dynamic situation. So if there is an incident can they evacuate that whole block and how, the systems that we need to install to support that and whether the PEEPs (personal evacuation plans) and all of those that they sort of shelved after consultation. If that comes back into the discussion again then if we are as a landlord to support the evacuation of the entire building that was designed and maintained as a stay-put how are we going to get people out if they have vulnerabilities and can’t use a lift because it’s not of the appropriate standard.

GEORGE Clare, I was introduced to somebody a few weeks ago who seemed a very sensible person, he’s an independent lift consultant, so he’s not tied to any of the big manufacturers, so if you’d like I’ll introduce him to you.

CLARE WILLIAMS That would be helpful because we’re kind of a bit stuck thinking what do we go for. we want the best situation, the best solution for the residents, obviously cost is a massive influence, but how do we make those decisions in an informed way.

GEORGE I’ll make the introduction and I’d be interested to learn more as well because I think it’s an area that we’re quite light on.

RICHARD OK, we’ll be sending out invites for the 23rd of November meeting over the next few days, so I hope you’ll all be coming along. A great meeting, we’ve got some great new questions to have a good old knock around with and include in the meetings. I think we’re going to have quite a lot of questions, we’re going to have to sift through them. Maybe we’ll have to do five that we include in the meeting and then another sheet of supplementary questions to be added on the back.

GEORGE Yes, and I’m thinking that this Building Control question, what the role of Building Control just from what we’ve been discussing there, I’ll talk to a few of these Building Control specialists that I’ve been introduced to in the last couple of months and get their take on it and maybe we can do a special session for that, or maybe include it in one of the other sessions that we’re doing.

RICHARD There’s some big stuff coming out here and it all raises another question, another meeting.

DEBBIE I’ve just thought of one more thing. It seems to me there is also a concern around the competence piece that’s coming to me is that a lot of training providers don’t want to take on the liability that they are responsible for producing competent actors, so that’s another consideration. I don’t believe training, it rarely delivers competent actors, employers should be responsible for ensuring that they have an organisation ensuring they have competent actors, but that is a concern of some of the training providers that won’t be good in terms of the sort of upskilling needs that we have. And also a huge amount of money is being spent by government on bootcamps to do with net zero and building safety and I was asked by DFE to look at some of those and so many of them have absolutely no or low relevancy to any relevant competent standards, so there is a lot of money being wasted.

RICHARD In that kind of situation it so often falls to the lowest common denominator, because it’s safe. Safe, but not good enough. I think what we may have to do is segment the questions into specific areas, like there’ll be one for competence, and there will be one for one of those questions that we raise in the meeting and there will be a supplementary sheet with other competence questions. And then we’ll have like five sections, something like that.

DEBBIE I’ll be blunt, there’s not enough understanding of competence in the sector, it’s still at its most basic.

RICHARD We’ve said this for two years, Debbie, that we need to do more in Bim4housing and we still haven’t done it, have we?

DEBBIE No, people don’t understand that it’s a deep discipline and it’s more intelligent in some of its AI capabilities to deal with identifying requirements and all of the rest because we deal with human behaviour and language and semantics, so it’s got a lot of benefits to other challenges in the built environment because of some of its AI knowhow. I’ve decided that I think there’s bias, being a 62 year-old woman and in AI, people don’t take you seriously. I’m going to get a new avatar and see whether that cracks it, there’s some great new technology that you can do that.


CHAT & Question from Advisory Meeting


Human compliance in tasks & projects implemented according to regulated procedures, duty regimes & standardised competence requirements - if that makes sense?

records that specifier to installer is competent in relation to the actual product installed

Clare Williams

Balance - absolutely.  It's similar to the challenge of properly managing Occ H&S - a risk assessment is not an end in itself.  As we know, that Leg has been developing, refining since 1974

I would really appreciate a copy of slides too, please? Very useful reminders and information.


Sharon, if firestopping not the right term what is the right one?

Clare Williams

Same for us - having to rediscover our buildings to differing extents for each


4C's - capability, capacity, competence & confidence

training provides raising the potential of liability risk of producing competence actors

Sharon (from email)

Question was about when the existing buildings may trigger two staircases?  If there are redevelopment works ongoing and they apply for building warrant etc is there a risk and existing building becomes involved.

Cliff (from transcript)

  1. Yeah. I was just saying 'cause. I heard what we said before and it seems that we're quite clear on, you know what currently which buildings need to currently be registered?

Cliff Kneale 16 minutes 2 seconds

To fall under this act. But I'm just thinking

Debbie (from transcript)

The trouble is with this. If people don't think of that, they don't think of products and competency. A product has a function. You know, if we know what the product does, we can interpret what the competence requirement is. Yes. So I I think if we although it, it is inherently covered in what you've said, I still think at the stage we're at a people's understanding here. We need to make it more explicit.

Cliff (from transcript)

So that would need to get cascaded across the whole supply chain, wouldn't it? If you've been stored, sorry if you've pointed a competent what you think is a competent principle designer, then really it goes down to the person carrying out the design on an everyday basis. An issue in the drawing to site. So does that drawing then need to be signed off and checked and approved by the competent principle designer or does that responsibility get cascaded down to the person actually designing, you know, that plant room, for example?

But I've got, you know, a kind of a bit of experience from this, from implementing BIM and people didn't really know how to do it at first. So we sent out capability and capacity questionnaires to establish what the company's capabilities were. And not only that, but did they actually have the capacity? So you know, in terms of the software, you know, they might have a few people that could use Revit, but they don't have enough licences to do the project. So it's quite a broad question, really question three. It's quite a big animal to tackle, isn't it?

Sharon (from transcript)

Could you clarify what happens if you carry out the medial works or?

Sharon McClure 1 hour 7 minutes 52 seconds

Modifications, maybe through building control, whether that flips it from an existing building, you know, at what point does it become compliant or non compliant if there's.

Sharon McClure 1 hour 8 minutes 3 seconds

Modifications to the building as part of new development, etcetera, don't quite know how you want that, but.

Bex Gibson (from transcript)

Yeah, just a follow on from that. That's exactly how we see it. Also, the secondary legislation brought in different types of category work. So, we've got category A, category B scheme and exempt works category A works are subject to building control approval as are some of category B. And at that point you know I think these things need to be considered because.

I think has to create a works is the big stuff and liaison, then with builder control gang advice from a fire engineer.

It should probably just we're looking at it to become due course to a .1 just on a on a need to need to use basis for our projects. So it's worthwhile looking at that and that brings another question that I have from looking at the secondary legislation, it is very unclear what a category B work is because it says anything that's not category A is category B unless it's schema exempt. That's a big question. I would like answered.

Debbie (from transcript)

Has come up a number of times, so yeah, so that's another consideration that I don't believe training it rarely delivers competent actors. You know, employers should be responsible for ensuring they have, you know, an organisation ensuring they have competent actors. But that is a concern of some of the training providers, which won't be good in terms of the sort of upskilling needs we have. Yes. And also a huge amount of money is being spent by government on boot camps. Yes.

To do with, you know, net zero and building safety and either was asked by DfE to look at some of those and so many of them actually have absolutely no relevancy or low relevancy to any relevant competent standard. So there's a lot of money, a lot of money being wasted, yeah.