BIM4Housing Advisory Working Group Meeting 20221109

BIM4Housing Advisory Working Group Meeting 09-11-2022

RICHARD Debbie, one of our leaders, is an expert on compliance, so we thought this week we’d do a compliance piece.

DEBBIE I’m actually concentrating more on the competency management aspect, just seeing how aware people are and whether they’ve looked at the competence product competence framework and things like that. i thought I’d set it in some context first. We recently finished an Innovate project on product based building systems. If people are interested in the challenge of competence frameworks, particularly post-Grenfell and what that means in terms of products and product-based building systems and approaches then please stay.

JIM CREAK Are we talking about a specific piece of legislation here, the new legislation, or the overall…DEBBIE the legislation comes into it but I’m talking more about the challenge of the result of legislation is we have what I call a proliferation of competence frameworks and how does anyone make sense of all of this, they’re all slightly different. I’m using this project to set the scene particularly to get to the product competence frameworks which for a group like this is something you should be looking at.

DEBBIE shares her screen displaying the ‘Innovative Product Based Building Systems Project’ document. As I said this was an Innovate funded project led by a Tier 1 organisation (I was one of the partners). You’ll see another logo in this presentation Interlate, they’re a technology partner of mine. One of the challenges of doing anything like modern methods of construction, product-based building systems, is it naturally changes the competency demand profile but we’re not very good in the industry at making that explicit or modelling that. And it’s not really part of the digitalisation agenda or meeting the kind of requirements that have come out in the construction playbook of the need to harmonise, digitalise and rationalise demand - that should include rationalising competency demand but that’s not naturally in the conversation explicitly.

This is what I’m going to cover, just set the scene for the impact of DfMA product-based building systems and competency demand, what is competence, competence challenges and questions we asked in this project, and then get into the detail of competency standards (there’s a number out there). I take you through a bit the product competence standard and the challenge of the need to make competence standards machine-readable and interoperable. We’ve done this, it’s not something that’s impossible, we can make competence frameworks machine-readable and interoperable now, there just isn’t appetite in the sector to do it.

So in terms of DfMA, it just came out of a piece of research that was published in 2021. Really if we’re looking at product-based building systems, this kind of approach, we’re trying to get the impact of productisation platforms, a competent workforce, supply chain management and to get the performance, to make sure that we link what the outcomes and ??? 5mins 07secs to the evidence we are having performed. From a competence POV that naturally changes the competence demand requirements as it changes who does what when, why, to what standards, how it’s done, when and where it’s done, what duties and competences are needed to do the work, who does it (man or machine), who allocates and signs it off and complies with it. This is also part of the Golden Thread of decisions and information. Part of the challenge we set ourselves in the project was to try and understand how can we model and understand the impact of product-based building systems on competence demand.

What is Competence? Has everyone here heard of the BSI Flex 8760? That’s a code of practice. Basically what it means in the industry now is we have a common understanding of competence which is meant to cover these dimensions of skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours. Actually if you’re in the world of machines and making sense of this experiences are a slightly different level of extraction to skills, knowledge and behaviours. It’s still a simple way of looking at it because if you look at the diagram on the right hand side competency management has actually many viewpoints, many motivations and many different other dimensions.

For example, conduct is a critical one (obviously post-Grenfell) and should be part of any assurance piece. And conduct can be in some of the behaviour statements to do with competence frameworks but it can manifest itself in other dimensions of competence as well so we’ve chosen a very simple model but actually from a competency management POV it’s more complex and obviously one of the challenges Dame Judith Hackitt said is everyone’s got to understand how their activities interact and impact on the activities of others right the way from concept to the operations of any asset or project. That at the moment is not generally visible across projects at all in terms of managing competency requirements and ensuring you are selecting and allocating competent actors to do that.

So, getting to a slightly more granular definition, this is competency which is the capability to conduct activities with the right skills, knowledge and behaviours which are dependent on context and they can be on given objects such as products, assets or services and there’s different instruments involved including tools, softwares, equipment according to different requirements etc. So when you get to the coal face and the granular level it’s about actually specifying those competency profiles and requirements that are there so you can see products are a key contextualising factor in terms of changing competency demand as we move to these more modern methods of construction.

This is just another little way of understanding it, we tend to be an industry that likes to be very siloed in terms of disciplines and who actually controls the fiefdom of what territory and who’s going to control and is certified to be competent. But actually competencies are a semantic network, they overlap sectors, activities, occupations, roles, and as we have increased digitalisation, electrification and net zero etc there’s going to be more and more commonalities. So we need ways to understand that, it’s absolutely ridiculous that we still continue to work in those kind of silos and this is just a way of showing you how these things actually link and how you need to wire them when you’re actually in the world of trying to manage competency in these kind of projects.

I’m sure a lot of you have listened to the wonderful Professor Jose Torero and I don’t know if anybody’s sadly listening to the Grenfell summing up sessions. What we’ve had is DfMA and product-based approaches have actually made products more complex. We know a facade can have many different functions, we’ve added much more complexity and ambiguity into the system and a lot of the time although there’s great desire to see the competency demand should go down, actually a lot of the time sometimes competency requirements are higher because of the complexity and we need to ensure that competency is aligned with the complexity and you know what that is. But at the moment no way in the industry are we actually able to do that. Unless organisations have decent organisational competency management systems, unless they are thinking about competency demand right from the conception of a project, this won’t be managed and there will be continued risks in this area.

These are the sum of the questions we set ourselves in the project. Do we actually have the wrong definitions for this type of approach in terms of product-based building systems? Does it create more complexity, more ambiguity? Does it set greater expectations on the workforce and the definitions of competences? And the way we develop competency of the workforce to install things on-site that have come from off-site etc. And, more importantly, how can we optimise the scarce use of resources and competencies and ensure that we redistribute and repurpose and all the rest to do that and how do we evidence all types of performance including human performance? So, that was the nitty gritty of basically what the call to action was on this project. I’m not going to go into much more detail than that, there is a report on this if you want to read it. But within a group like this I think it’s good to be open. This was quite challenging for all the other players in the project, there were about 12 partners, for them to get their head round to try and understand competency from this kind of perspective. It’s not normally in their kind of DNA.

Debbie shares on screen the ‘TCQ_PT Model’ diagram. This is the most complicated diagram. We were trying to model the challenge here and really this diagram is quite simple in a sense, it says if we understand product-based building systems, that products are a key contextualising factor on demand, how do you link the products including the types to the instance of specifics to those tasks and the duties and responsibilities around those tasks, to other performance and competence requirements and qualification and certification requirements. So, for example, we can be very clear, if you are wanting somebody to assemble a particular product on-site we can generate that competency profile and say, right, these are the tasks related to the assembly of this product in this context to these standards - that’s simply what we’re trying to do. Some of the little bubbles we obviously now have things that are overseeing this in terms of industry competency committees from April next year the building safety regulator can go in and ask your organisation can you prove you’re employing competent actors. If you haven’t got this kind of modelling and wiring and thinking it’s very unlikely that you’re going to be able to evidence that properly and have the systems and platforms around to do this.

RICHARD I know we are seeing in other areas of this that it’s not good enough to just be compliant, you’ve got to prove that you’re compliant. How do you do that with competency?

DEBBIE Can i come back to that because that’s a different piece of the puzzle. At this stage I’m looking at making the demands right: can you profile what the demand is, then the question is have you got competent actors and then the question is can you evidence this as part of your conformance process.

JIM i don’t know of an actual offence regarding the competency of an individual. I honestly understand by virtue of contract there are competency issues, but that didn’t take part in Grenfell at all on an individual. So if an organisation would be prosecuted for lack of competency then the evidence that shows that you’ve got a management system is not going to be sufficient if it’s an individual that has effectively made a mistake. So, I don’t understand how ti would actually work in practice.

DEBBIE Let’s take a particular sector, social housing maintenance sector, which I do a lot of work in which is now going to have social housing regulator and even tougher requirements on competency. For the competency of the individual, the individual (if you look at all the competence frameworks) the individual is not allowed to go and do something unless they feel they are competent to do that piece of work. That is now in all of the competence standards, right from Flex through to the others/ So individuals now have to have and manage their own self-preservation and not do work that they are told to do by somebody like a supervisor that they know they’re not competent to do. And you’ve got to manage and track that.

JIM Coming back to the offence, you said you needed to provide evidence, well I’m sure in that particular incidence because he went along and did it…DEBBIE Would the individual be prosecuted vs the organisation? JIM he should be but it doesn’t actually work like that does it? It didn’t work like that in Grenfell. DEBBIE No, it’s not necessarily going to work like that, I think the proof will be in the pudding. It’s early days to see where both the BSR and the social housing regulator in the context I gave, just see what kind of evidence they look for. In sectors like Oil and Gas they do look for the evidence so it may be likely or this may well help you with your insurance,

it could be in different ways but at the end of the day if you understand how to profile your competency demand you know how to manage the competency of your workforce and you can show those things are linked and you’ve got the evidence of it you’ve got a robust system. That’s where I’m taking this, I’m not really getting into the legalities of this. But this much more is also about how can we better rationalise competency demand because we have a problem in the sector at the moment, we don’t have enough people with the right competencies.

JIM I don’t see that, actually, in practice. DEBBIE I see that with a lot of the customers that I deal with. Most of the reports out there say there is this issue. I don’t necessarily agree with all of those reports, I think it depends on what disciplines, what sectors, what type of projects etc. it’s more complex than just saying there are skill shortages everywhere that the sector loves to do. JIM Again, I’m not arguing against the point at all. I believe that a system…but I also believe that ISO BS9990 in terms of the quality management system is also as good as a demonstrator for competency and self-improvement on an individual basis. I’m not arguing about the principle, it’s about the legislation because without enforcement, hard hats - you go into Europe and there’s bit a hard hat on-site. DEBBIE I know.

JIM I’m definitely a person who comes from if it’s not broken don’t mend it. I do actually see a lot of systems to do with competency, very good systems, specifically in specialist contractors areas, would suggest that at the moment we’ve had one incident which is Grenfell, we had a lot of other incidents including Shirley Towers including Lakanal, but the competency side of it was not even a discussion there. So that’s why I’m a little bit concerned about developing very costly systems when we already have systems.

DEBBIE At the moment in a project like this one we were involved in if I asked the lead contractor can you tell me what task somebody’s actually got to do to install that particular product on that site on that day, give me your task statements, they generally can’t. They’re all over the place, they are in Powerpoint slides, in Excel sheets, in visualisation tools, they are not necessarily proper statements, full statements. The product data is getting there but the tasking data is all over the place. Then you get people going in trying to assemble things who either are not quite the correct competent actor or don’t fully understand the tasking they’ve been set. So we’re just trying to help people model and understand this and get a lot of different benefits from it. It also aids things like the Golden Thread and evidence if you need it.

JIM I understand that, but it also needs to be read. So if it’s not available on the shop floor easily accessible, if it stays on the server or in the cloud, in my opinion it’s not that good. DEBBIE I totally agree with you, it needs to be a handbook on your mobile or device or your VR camera etc. But I wasn’t really trying to get into the detail of that today, I was trying to get more to the competency framework mess and challenge.

DEBBIE In terms of competency management you’ve got all of these different types of data sets and things that have a relation to each other, but generally there’s kind of eight perspectives you can look at and products are one of those perspectives, just as responsibilities or occupations are or training and qualifications are for another. You just need a way of making sense of that and we take a particular task-based activity semantic approach to interpret all of this so you can make sense of all of these different data sources and viewpoints. That’s the kind of approach we took in the project, again I’m not going to jump into too much detail.

At the moment we have a lot of different standards that have come out of all the working groups, some of them out for consultation, some of them not done, particularly like working group 2, it’s very unclear when we’re going to see any competence frameworks coming out of that. Then you’ve got all of the other competence frameworks continually coming out, whether that be digital. Offsite MMC, Building Envelope sector are doing stuff now, Netzero/Green Skills. Then you’ve got all of the existing things like National Occupational standards, apprenticeship standards, organisations with their own corporate competence frameworks, so we’re in this era of multiplicity of competence frameworks. I don’t know how many people here are looking at these at the moment. The challenge is with a lot of these things is that they’re all slightly different in structure, definitions, formats.

Debbie shares on screen ‘Built Environment - Proposed Construction Product Competence Standard’ White Paper. This is the product competence standard that is out for consultation at the moment. There’s a good quote from Paul Morrell, he’s set the scene saying products concern everybody in the built environment and to some level people have to have understanding of some level of competence around products. It’s a fairly robust standard, they focus much more on functions rather than roles, it’s got five different levels. The idea is that if you’re an organisation or you might be an industry body you take the core criteria…I’m just going to drill down to some of the actual standard here…and you then generate your own competency profiles from this.

There’s five levels there that they’ve kind of put in terms of levels of competences. It changes from responsibility to accountability which is what you would expect as you go up the levels. And here are the actual statements. But what you’ll see here are ones like hierarchy of competence, some of these are new-type competence statements. In many existing frameworks there is a lot of references to competence and your requirements to develop competence and be competence aware.

RICHARD We cover some of that with our RACI approach to the assets. This competency thing, when we had our roundtables for fire safety it came up time and time again, we actually had a section on competency and how you judge it and what the actual criteria is. It was very difficult because how do you make that judgment when the qualifications that somebody might possess are not that great anyway because they’re not monitored properly.

DEBBIE Yeah. Well what we haven’t had from the industry from some sectors they’ve kind of published a report, if you’ve looked at the installers group (working group 2) they’ve looked across all the different installers and said who does CPD, who typically has qualifications, who has cards, who has these kind of assessments etc. So they’ve kind of benchmarked where the industry is and now they’re trying to set what’s the minimum level. But as you can see here this is the top level in terms of accountability, you can see the statements get quite granular but also have many concepts in them like value assessments.

So, these are still quite high level things which people are going to have to interpret and this product standard is out for consultation and then you’ve got others, site supervisors, there’s the designers one, this is all meant to be also traceable to Flex but you can’t see that explicitly yet because it’s all done in terms of human interpretation, there’s nobody tracking and giving you that, you can’t go and query how does this actually map to anything because everybody’s working in their own silos.

One of my calls for this as a group is if this is something, this standard is worth us looking at and commenting on, particularly as you said, Richard, from when we were doing the fire door work. How useable is this because at the end of the day if it isn’t actionable it’s not useful.

RICHARD I think definitely and it’s this group that would be doing it. Would it be something you ned to set up a work-stream to do?

DEBBIE In doing it you might say well let’s also look at some of the overlap with others like the designers’ one, I don’t know, it’s not for me and this group to suggest that yet, it’s what people think is most useful and relevant to them. Because if you do that then you can see some of the commonality and overlap, some of the standards they are reasonably good the definitions, some of them quite frankly mean nothing. i looked at one on fire doors the other day and basically the requirement was individuals must understand all the regulations to do with fire doors - well how do you measure that?! This is why you have to go from standards to competency profiles because a competency profile really set the context and set what is suitable evidence of competence. If you look in other sectors you’ll see most of the time they also give what are appropriate sources of evidence for these competence statements but none of that kind of work has gone on.

RICHARD Sharon McClure has made an interesting comment via the chat: We do need support to develop fire protection into a regulated trade. The NVQ is deemed to be insufficient even from within the passive fire industry. Again, despite encouraging adding technical elements, the current status is that the passive protection measures are being added to joinery or plumber packages, for example. There’s no proof of competence but the package is awarded regardless. Despite their efforts to educate people and there’s been a huge shift in the understanding of the risks of employing people who are not competent to carry out these tasks, but in my opinion unless the insurance and construction industry works together is there any reason why anyone would go to the bother of selecting a competent individual, even if their parties certification schemes are being undermined. What can be the driving force for change?

JIM i don’t actually see any evidence of this, in fact when I was talking to a group of building managers when this was first mooted around they were desperately concerned around their competency to do the job, as outlined by Dame Judith Hackitt. From my perspective the will to do training and to seek assurances from subcontractors, post-Grenfell has been quite substantial. The provenance of products, I see a complete sea-change in attitude in procurement for instance. So this is where I have difficulty in anecdotal ‘well, he doesn’t know what he’s doing’ type scenarios because I actually see a major improvement in people that are involved. I’ve advised on competency for 30 years, I see major improvements in 3rd party accreditations and training in fire alarms, emergency lighting, fire suppression systems in my own sphere. So whilst there may be real problems in actual nuts and bolts construction I don’t actually see much non-conformance. Fire stopping for instance, I see fantastic improvements in fire stopping.

SHARON Jim, I don’t know if you are dealing primarily with the Tier 1 contractors, there has been a huge shift in questions being asked, but the problem is when it goes out to tender there seems to be a real split with what their able to do, what they’re talking about doing and what they are actually doing. if you’ve got a plumber’s package they’ll commit to fire stopping to be carried out by a 3rd party certified contractor but when we turn up on-site the plumber has been given the package that includes the callers or the dry liners have been asked to do XYZ. I think the problem is the top level strategy…it actually does come down to the nuts and bolts and I think there’s a hug regional variation.

JIM I can agree with some of the statements there in the procurement process and even in this forum. I’ve said about the nomination of specialist contractors should be right up front and not part of the procurement basis. Having said that, procurement specifically within social housing, procurement through framework agreements puts a lot of power in a very few Tier 1 contractors who then subcontract and subcontract. But this has got nothing to do with the competency criteria because there’s only the tier 1 contractor that can then measure that competence. At the moment form what your saying you are experiencing the fact that they’re actually bypassing that. it’s not the system, the system is there, but it’s not actually being…

DEBBIE No, I’m sorry, I would disagree. There’s a great desire in product-based building systems, MMC, to use this wonderful term multi-skilled, let’s use these multi-skilled operatives, or even worse they use de-skilled operatives who they want to do a variety of trades without managing any of that really explicitly. There are actually 12 types of multi-skilling, it’s not as simple as everybody thinks, it’s much more multi-dimensional. Sometimes actually the profile is very different, those multi-skilled people need to be better team players, they need better behaviours, digital skills, better problem solving skills. There’s no management of making that explicit or traceable in these management systems at the moment. They don’t produce a competency profile for a multi-skilled operative that says taking on that plumbing job that Sharon is doing. Therefore if it’s not made explicit then it allows these things to happen and you’re not measuring the right thing or collecting the right evidence or data either.

PAULA As a Tier 1 contractor that’s not my view of it at all. My view is that we leave it too late in the process, we don’t a) figure out what passive fire protection is needed let alone what structure it’s going into early enough and we don’t hold the consultants to account and we just rely collectively as an industry on subys 39mins 10 secs subcontractors??? coming in just to fill in the gaps. What there has to be is a complete mindset shift where we’re doing the hard work the hard miles early on, but we know pretty much in stage 3, spatial coordination, we know where pipes and ducts are going through certain walls, floors, ceilings. We should be able to have a typical set of details we can call on for standard walls/buildups, the difficulty comes when we get into the bespoke elements, but at the minute it's not thought about until the end of stage 4. It’s too late, we need to be looking at it in stage 2, stage 3 coming up with a compliant solution or a series of solutions and then taking responsibility for the Golden Thread to see them through designed approved installation as approved. JIM Totally agree.

SHARON that’s music to my ears. The only other thing I would add is that the 3rd party certified schemes, I am a 3rd party certified contractor and I am going in to a job to rip out another 3rd party certified contractors work because it’s not compliant. So, the scheme on which people are trying to drive towards hoping that it will tick all the boxes and hope that’s the cure all and I’ve ticked the competency box is actually not fit for purpose either.

JIM The reason for that, Sharon, is some of the 3rd party accreditations are to the organisation and not to the actual engineer. 9 times out of 10 when I see non-conformance it’s because of the engineer’s lack of competence, not the organisation’s.

SHARON I think the concern is if we’re trying to bottleneck people down the competency route then the only direction people have currently is to try to go down a 3rd party certified contractors route. My concern would be X? like a pig-in-a-poke 41 mins 29 secs - there might be schemes out there but they have to be fit for purpose, there’s no point signalling people to go down that procurement route when, as Jim says, if it’s only someone in the office that’s got ISO9001 but they can drag 15 people out, say it’s a 10:1 ratio, you’ve got 1 competent person and 10 incompetent. Then you’ve got that repeating problem so if we’re tightening up the industry I put my hand up, I’m an ASFP, I’m chipping away at the back because I’m not happy with the way we are but I can’t stand here and just say yes, guys, go and procure from a 3rd party certified contractor because you will get something that is compliant and fit for purpose when I don’t think our industry is actually fit for purpose. There’s going to be more concerns and more problems , so we’ve got a pincer movement, work form the top and the bottom to try and isolate all those issues.

IHSAN Correct, the organisation might be competent but what we find on-site often is that information on how something needs to be installed isn’t passed down to that individual and often it’s such a fast-paced moving industry where people are leaving and coming in, we’re not looking at who is doing the fire stopping (for example) and given that sufficient training from that high level up from the organisation that’s got the contractor or the package from that Tier 1 contractor. The other element is some of the Housing Associations I’ve worked at on the development side of it they used to employ a 3rd party passive fire protection inspector, so even if it was a 3rd party accredited contractor on-site dong the work we would send our own individual inspector out and inspect the work at certain stages and do random checks. if there was any faults we’d chat with them and try to get them rectified.

But even with the 3rd party accredited contractors on-site a lot of our independent passive fire protection inspectors used to find faults within their work as well. So on paper it’s great to say that they’re competent to do it but when you practically go on-site and see what they’re doing it is often the case that you’ve got a dry liner that’s got the package for whatever is going through that wall and the plumber doing it for the pipes and an electrician not doing it right. We tried to negate that by having an independent inspection of that, bit it comes at a cost. For me the question is as Jim mentioned in terms of the quality management of people checking and making sure the work is being done is correct but for the Housing Association where I am currently they haven’t got that in place in terms of a 3rd party inspection happening. We’ve got our clerk of works checking this and they can’t check every nut and bolt, even a site manager can’t check every nut and bolt.

DEBBIE shares on screen ‘Product Competence Standard’ document. It’s up to people whether they want to consider this product competence framework, I didn’t check when the consultation deadline is, these are just some of the things I’m highlighting. it is seen there’s a call for a action and whether there’s a need to create individual competency profiles for specific types of actors, say your in product specification or product assembly. Maybe it needs to be more collectively done. They give some sort of user cases as an example of these competency profiles to take account of that but it’s also worth noting that it doesn’t necessarily cover all of the competence criteria, particularly some of the behaviour ones that are in Flex. At the moment we can’t see the traceability of it or overlap to other frameworks or to Flex.

The challenge of all of these competence frameworks and standards is many of them reference other standards or regulations or other competence frameworks. They often draw on different bodies of knowledge and then they’ve got to be contextualised to qualifications or certification or role profile requirements and then you’ve got to deal with the evolution of all of them, they’re changing very fast at the moment. if we live in the world of all of these things being machine-readable they’re not very helpful to us, so we have an interoperability challenge around these frameworks because at the moment we’re not making them machine-readable and we can make them machine-readable.

I’ve got a set of questions here. Can we push as a group that there is a need to be a call for interoperability for a rationalisation of these? There needs to even be a standard for what a competence profile is so people are working to the same things so we can do that, there isn’t that at the moment. How do we align some of this stuff that’s going on with the product data sets? And how does that align to the product competence framework? it’s not clear. If people want to see and know how to make these things interoperable I can show them but that doesn’t have to be done today. In this Innovate project we did that and we’ve done it in many other projects, we can make them all machine-readable and comparable. As much as this is trying to get in peoples’ mind set and conversation, also there are some solutions to consider.

NICK NISBET As an outsider to this it certainly looks to me like it needs rationalisation. We saw the product competency framework and I think one could have taken the word product out and put any of the other sectors or aspects in and it would still have been a valid document. This urge to specialise out and make into separate things is an incredible waste of time and effort. What we’re talking about here in those 5 levels are the levels that we would all recognise from the competencies of a labourer and operative through to the competencies of a consulting engineer or specifier. What we need to do is have a single framework that recognises that there are aspects of this that require professional input. Each of those generates method statements which is a phrase that we have siloed into trades working on-site, but the same language should be applicable to professionals. What is your method statement for designing a building? What is your method statement for designing a fire management system? It’s an equally valid question, so what we need, rather than this proliferation I would expect to see some common understandings a common framework that says…

I like 5 step scales because they have the sufficient flexibility to accommodate most realities, but if every topic (and of course you can invent a topic, we’ve heard about MMC, products, particular skills) there’s no end to the number of topics that we could set up a competency framework for and they would overlap and cross-cut to the nth degree. The fact is there’s only one competency framework that’s needed which then applies to any task you happen to think about. If I want to go shopping there is a competency framework implied in that when I was a child I was probably competent to go and get something from a shelf but I wasn’t competent to draw up the shopping list.

The danger of this proliferation is worse than the problem in a way because we’re going to have competing schemes. An individual on-site is going to end up having to have a catalogue of competency certificates when actually, if he’s a site foreman, he might just be competent full stop.

DEBBIE Nick, I’ve got clients coming to me and saying ‘can you just create us that single framework from all of this’ which I can do because I’ve got clever engines that can do it. But doing it manually, they still shouldn’t have to - why should every actor in the supply chain or different sectors all be doing this? or they’re just looking at it and going ‘I don’t know where to start’.

JIM i’d like to add one bit on that. On the occupational health and safety committee at British Standards we looked at psychosocial risks and when we got to the competency for people that were theoretically needed at HR to actually talk to employees about problems that they may have either in work outside of work or as a function of a mental disability you needed 5 different occupational professional qualifications to actually just ascertain what the single problem was with the employee and it just got so complicated, instead of identifying somebody in the workforce that needs help what we actually did was just effectively discount it because it would be so expensive for any employer to have all of those professional people available. if we make the framework agreement for competency so expansive a) we won’t get the staff and b) we won’t get the job done. The thing is it does have to be broken down to something extremely simple.

NICK I hear that going in the opposite direction of what I was saying. if everything has to be broken down to individual tasks then the method statement, which is probably the instruction to go and do something on-site, is going to be two thirds you must…and it’s not going to help the guy charged with doing it to get…i just don’t see how proliferating the competency frameworks is going to serve a multi-disciplinary, multi-skilled, multi-flexible industry.

JIM Well I didn’t mean to disagree because in actual fact I think, to use your analogy, it’s important that the training of how to do the shopping list and how to do the shop can be determined because you can still give competency to do the shopping given a list but you don’t necessarily have to have the competency to draw up the actual list of what you require.

DEBBIE True, yes, that’s one step in the process. At the moment there is also a lack of transparency. There’s been all of these working groups going on, there’s all of this work that the interim industry competency committee is doing, but there’s no transparency of what they’re doing or when we’re going to see something or whether they’re going to help with this need for rationalisation and proliferation. It should be something that the industry competency is leading because you can see now just how much overlap now a lot of these frameworks come out from consultation and why is there the need for more than one of them. It comes back to is this something we want to comment on and feedback as a group, do we feel it’s not in our territory to be worried about this, the group should decide because if we don’t influence it I can’t see that this sort of continuous process of more and more frameworks and standards isn’t going to continue.

JIM I agree with Nick, it needs to be extremely simple, possibly one of the drawings within Debbie’s good presentation maybe is sufficient. DEBBIE Perhaps a practical next step is if we evidence how much overlap and proliferation is that worth doing? Rather than going and saying we believe there is just go back and say actually we’ve done some analysis, we can clearly see there’s overlap. or we look at it in a broader context, if we don’t get this right it’ going to affect the certification and accreditation, the bigger system - we can look at it at the system level or look at it at the proliferation of competence framework level. We need to affect the system as well, going back to Sharon’s point, these certification schemes of organisations really that have limited validity.

JIM i think we do agree with one thing and that is it’s right at design stage that competence needs to be discussed and a real policy statement about how that will be policed through the stages including specialist contractors and everything. And the benchmarks should be set at design stages so that everybody knows what they are.

MIKE SMITH I’m an architect, director for an architectural practice, Multi-D. About the competencies at the design stages. There’s a couple of things I want to talk about, firstly procurement, I think procurement has got a lot to answer for about how we get later down the chains the competencies of team members is then relative to the scope of work they are trying to do. Secondly, just to see whether additional layers of competency are the right thing to do. So, if I’m an RIBA registered architect and I’m doing all of my qualifications to prove all my continuing CPD and everything else, does another layer of competency checking add any value.

DEBBIE I think my answer depends on the CPD, CPD needs to be about allowing people to upskill and discover new areas they want to go into, it’s got to be something that’s progressive, but a lot of the time CPD processes don’t actually fundamentally ask a question saying are you finding your duties and responsibilities changing and if they are where is the evidence you’re competent to take on those new duties.

MIKE So the RIBA’s competency checks now are much more clearer over the last few years. It’s very structured, you have a number of hours you have to maintain and various sections that you have to cover. Obviously then within our industry you will find that you diversify into housing and carious sectors and typically then you preview competency by the experience you get so it does do a lot of the work that’s needed to demonstrate the competency.

DEBBIE Yeah, it varies per institution, discipline and sector in all of that, but also I think competency evolves, you acquire, you apply, it appreciates and depreciates, so if you do it better from CPD managing it from a competency profile perspective you take into account those kind of other aspects of it and you look at it across all the dimensions of competence. A lot of CPD can be very knowledge based and less behaviour based and skills based so it needs to evolve to be more multi-dimensional. Maybe in the CPD certain people if they’re taking on certain things need to be prompted, these are things behaviourally you need to think about. I think it needs to be a bit more flexible and evolutionary in it’s approach.

Organisations also, it’s their responsibility to also ensure that you are acting within your competences when you are doing your own work and that there are checks and balances in that. Competency and compliance systems and other quality systems are important and unfortunately a lot of the time these different systems are very siloed and they don’t talk to each other, but that may change over time. If you look at competency in the gas industry and competency management all organisations have very granular competency and compliance management - is that where we’re doing to go as a sector? I don’t know, but it didn’t stop Piper Alpha so hey ho.

JERRY COLLINS My experience with competency, I’ll give you a couple of examples. One was just post-Grenfell I looked at a single storey block of flats with some issues with cladding. We started to open up some service ducts and found quite a lot of fire stopping missing so that led me to open up all the service ducts photographing every element of fire stopping that was needed within the communal areas, arranged to get competent contractors in to actually do the fire stopping. Asked them have they completed the works,’yes, we have’, went back and checked every single space again and found that 50% of the fire stopping hadn’t been completed. Went back, had a go at them, brought them to site, went back again and then a 3rd time to find a couple of spots they’d missed where a few pipes had gone through walls. For me the whole issue with competence is at the sharp end. the guys doing the designs generally are really good and know what they’re doing, it’s at the sharp end. When you get a guy on site who’s possibly competent, he’s been trained and knows what he’s doing, he’s not aware that if he doesn’t do it properly sometimes of the implications, so the other thing is getting him to take ownership fo these things.

This goes back a long way. If you look at the way the construction industry has changed over the years by de-skilling people, there’s no proper apprentices (I know there’s a big effort to try and do this). You’ve got certain trades and multi-traders, to me I don’t understand this phrase because you can get a plumber who can do a bit of tiling, he can maybe fix a kitchen cupboard but he can’t swing a door. So then you have to get someone else, he can swing a door but he can’t fix a sash window because he’s never had that competency so with multi-traders I don’t know how you’re ever going to get competency because they’d have to have so many tickets, a bit like the CSCS scheme which started off originally with the NVQs which was excellent and I managed a load of apprentices and they were quite successful and got through.

RICHARD yeah, this is what Nick was saying, it has to be simplified rather than made more granular. Debbie, you were saying there were basically maybe 2 options for moving forward. 1) looking at where we’ve got overlap 2) looking at a more general level of things.

DEBBIE I think just more at the system things, influencing how accreditation, certification and the competence frameworks and stuff like this fit together and what needs to be managed or changed or considered. Those two things and also the third thing was whether we specifically want to make a comment on the product competency framework as it’s out for consultation, or it could be the designer’s one. Picking up on what Jerry said in terms of the multi-skilled bit, I entirely agree with you, this word is completely misused and misunderstood. In the social housing sector what we try to do is be very clear about what those common tasks are and what the competences are, get that as aligned and simplified as possible and then be very clear about what operatives are able and approved at their competence to do some of those multi-skilled tasks and to have some compliance checks every time they’re preparing to do the work and afterwards. That seems to be working and quite liked on the project I’m doing at the moment with Six Social Housing. So that’s one way we’ve dealt with the multi-skilled way but it’s not the only way. it is a danger this multi-skilled approach, if it’s not well thought out it leads to chaos.

The group agrees that it’s got to be worth having a good look at one of Debbie’s options in terms of competency and competency management.

RICHARD So there’s 3 possible options that Debbie has identified: 1) looking more at the systems side of things 2) overlap 3) to specifically comment on the competence products.

DEBBIE I’m a specialist in my domain and I was an engineer a long time ago. I’m very interested in people in the industry whether they think this product competence framework has any use or validity at all.

RICHARD Shall we start with that one on the basis that there is something there for us actually to look at, we’ve got a framework for our discussions already there.

PAULA I think there is a step before we start looking at the competency. I would see competency from a completely different POV than Sharon or Mike and the people I need to have faith in and demonstrable comfort that they can do the job I’m appointing them to do will be different to the others on this call. I think we need to look at each stage, whether we split that into RIBA stage for the sake of clarity and we do a RACI - responsible, accountable, those who contribute input into the process, through each of our spheres of influence and then from that we can then develop a competency matrix that sits behind those deliverables. I think we have to do that first step. I agree with what Debbie is proposing in terms of the competency piece but I think there’s a first step before that where we need to plot that out.

JIM I agree. DEBBIE That sounds sensible. PAULA I’m not quite sure how we do it, maybe we go away in our own spheres of influence and we try and plot out at each stage who we’d expect to feed into the process, who’d be responsible and accountable, because Mike or anybody else on this call might have a different view from me. as I alluded to in the chat a lot of stuff we historically would have done under the banner of lead designer gets chucked into the contractors design portion bit and that’s too late down the line to make sure we’re properly set up to go into the build.

JIM i think that answers most of the non-conformance I see. if it was done at an earlier stage, most of the non-conformance is because someone has had to fudge something to get round a particular problem and I heard that yesterday in the Manufacturing with both fire door and securities being added to fire doors that nullify the…I also heard it in the smoke control arena in terms of finishing problems after the smoke control had been fitted, lack of date details being given because it was too late. So I totally agree with you.

RICHARD Why don’t we have maybe 2 or 3 volunteers to get their heads together and come up with some sort of schemata on that.

DEBBIE That sounds sensible and I may touch base individually with Paula and I’m also interested in Sharon’s particular scenario. Working out this kind of competency RACI type matrix because I do think a lot of this stuff should be more risk-based and driven around competency, it makes more sense, the way risk management is done in some sectors needs turning on it’s head, it’s so old fashioned. With that we can then say well where are these frameworks publishing at the moment playing into this or not, or whether there’s overlap. I haven’t seen anybody else doing that.

RICHARD We can review before the next meeting and then circulate the findings prior to the next meeting. JIM A quick question to Paula about framework agreements because I’m asked sometimes by sponsors of framework agreements for groups of purchasers to write specifications on my own which is escape route signing and obviously now to do with social housing, to do with fire and rescue deployment. Obviously there’s a whole bunch of consultation with stakeholders that are required prior to making arrangements for that building. So in terms of looking at the numbers of bullet points that needs to be considered it’s very similar to this competency criteria because procurement just want to know a list of what’s required. But all of this within the framework you need to choose a supplier that’s prepared to go through the process of consultation, right down to fire safety strategy.

I’m concerned that quite a lot of that framework gets completely and utterly disjointed because in my experience it doesn’t happen because it’s a question of logistics in terms of going back to the people that designed the building, what their thoughts were regarding evacuation strategy, consultation with fire and rescue, those types of things I’m writing in framework agreements that are just literally chucked out. So I know it’s to do with competency loosely but it is a problem, for me it’s a non-conformance because the next thing I hear they are buying the products from a catalogue or off the internet.

DEBBIE I had a worrying conversation with somebody at BSI who leads the competence standard work. They couldn’t understand what products had to do with competence. If products have a function, if they do something and have something to do with something else there is a competence relationship, but they didn’t understand what products had to do with it. If we have all the data on a product, we know what a product does, we can interpret what competences are associated with that product. It wasn’t even in their mindset, there’s so much siloed thinking going on here. Part of this is also getting people to understand the relationship of these things such as why we spent time modelling this in this Innovate project.

JIM i totally agree with you. I can just give you one instance, having written an application standard the most important thing about any safety sign is the size because the viewing distance is critical. It’s in the standard the way that you would effectively procure the right size for the right position. That detail is not necessarily on the drawing, it’s down to the subcontractor that should have the competence to look at the drawings and work that out.

DEBBIE I think we’ve got a way forward. If anybody is interested in the machine-readable stuff around competency contact me separately. The machines expose all the chaos and that’s what i told Graham Watts when he set up all the working groups. I said if you don’t do this with a common methodology and a way of trying to systemise and rationalise it then as soon as you produce all these frameworks the machines will expose the chaos. Didn’t want to know, didn’t want to have the conversation. Bloody shocking in my view. It’s extraordinary they didn’t want to do that, they missed the opportunity, and I think now everyone is paying the price of it and it’s just not right.

JIM have you thought, Debbie, of producing a PAS with British Standards?

DEBBIE Yes, I am in some discussions on that, but as a micro SME I’m not sure how much I can take on. I rally think a PAS for the competency profile thing would be a good idea because in the building safety manager PAS they have a slightly view of a competence profile, different from the product one. There are other things to consider as PAS’s, where would you want to focus most on a PAS?

JIM No, I thought the document is absolutely fantastic for a thought process which is what I get from PAS on the risk assessments. I’m saying that in terms of looking at a system that effectively is a tick-box, I don’t mean to be derogatory in any way, but where we have a situation where somebody is going to be expected to answer yes or no, they’ve got this and it happens to be on a computer system somebody’s going to get given the job that has probably got very little competence to know what the difference is between any BAIF system for instance, they’ll see a logo and they’ll tick the box. That’s what I’m frightened of. But having said that if you read about it, like we’ve had the discussion today, without your paperwork we couldn’t have a discussion to identify a way forward. I think that’s what’s good about a PAS, it allows you to have all of those eventualities and possibly pick maybe 50% of it into your system.

And that’s what I think I would propose. I’m an absolute devotee in terms of Edwards Deming in terms of his management systems and the way that he looks at comments, not complaints, comment and non-conformance and he creates a system to make sure that that doesn’t happen again.



Sharon McClure

We do need support to develop fire protection into a regulated trade. The NVQ is deemed to be insufficient, even from within the passive fire industry - again despite encouraging adding technical elements. The current status is that the passive protection measures are being added to joinery or plumber packages for example, and there is no proof of competence, but the package is being awarded regardless. Despite our efforts to educate people, and there has been a huge shift in the understanding of the risks of employing people not competent to carry out these tasks, but in my opinion, unless the insurance and construction industry works together is there any reason why anyone will go to the bother of selecting a competent individual - even the third party certification schemes are being undermined - what can be the driving force for change ?

Why should you have to double check a trade, when you would not QA the electrician?

its a cost that should not need to be incurred IMO

Paula Chandler (RDD)

Out of interest, do we share an understanding about who is responsible for designing/specifying the PFP in the first place? We have to agree on this fundamental principle as the prerequisite for verifying what has been installed on site is compliant and in accordance with the approved detail.

The whole landscape is changing in terms of Consultant scope - you only have to mention safety critical elements of the design and we are regularly hearing that Consultants no longer have PI covering anything to do with fire. IMO the role of the Architect as Lead Designer needs a reset to restore the nobility of the role - not everything can be pushed down the line to CDP. We need to work together to pull the threads together and create a RACI matrix for whom is responsible and accountable for each element at each stage (from a building safety perspective) - a Competency Matrix can then sit behind this.