BIM4HOUSING ADVISORY WORKING GROUP MEETING-20230215
GEORGE I've looked at the last meeting and this was the one that I think Debbie, you led mostly on with competence, and I’ve looked at the notes. I don’t know if you use this resource, but this is where Richard gets one of his colleagues to take down what’s been covered in the meeting. What I think was very useful is to look at things from this competency perspective and see how different disciplines were addressing it. So reading through this, there was an interesting take from you, Jim, but also Nick contributed as did Sharon from the fire penetration people. What Sharon is arguing for, I think, is that the passive fire protection ought to be regulated. I guess in some ways it’s being done as well, the regulator will be overseeing that, won’t they? I don't know what that would mean for it to be more formally regulated. Paula was making the point here that we've been discussing for the last sort of year or so, about the move to get the design work prescriptively sorted out before construction starts.
Isan from Notting Hill Genesis, a landlord, made a comment. Also, Mike, the point you were making, do we need an additional level of competency? Or should we be working on the basis that you’re going through the CPD so therefore do we need another layer of competency? So, before we move on to some of the things today, are there any actions that we perhaps should be considering here that we ought to be looking at?
DEBBIE George, I've got a couple of suggestions. One, unless anybody else has seen it, I haven’t seen any update from the interim Industry Competence Committee on what they're doing and moving to the new regime. So, I think having line of sight of that would be useful. And obviously there's lots of competency working groups that have done various reports and some of them, the sort of fire stuff, to a certain extent it crosses over many of them. So we should perhaps do a little review of what might be relevant there. And then I'm now involved in, some people may have heard this, there’s another group that's been set up called the Joint Competence Initiative and it's to do with the building envelope facade sector, which obviously has big issues. And I'm wondering whether we should, they’re only in the early days of setting up their scope and activities. And again, it's sort of fairly infuriating because there's very inexact intents and language being used, but whether that's a group we need to influence or have an eye on. I'm not an expert in whatever the building envelope sector is. I mean, I have a reasonable understanding, but it's not my domain. So those are some suggestions. I mean for me, I think there is a move towards more formal schemes or regimes for both organisational competence and individual competence. So, I don't think CPD is going to be enough going forward.
JIM CREAK I would like to suggest that more emphasis is put on the auditing of ISO 9001. As you quite rightly point out, Debbie, because everything crosses over from maybe one discipline to the next, I notice that British standards are starting a competency standard for fire risk assessment at long last. So, from that point of view each one of the disciplines may have a particular competency criteria, but I still think that ISO 9000 encompassing a quality assurance scheme throughout the organisation, would at least if it was audited or vigorously, it would detect the competency here at all levels within the organisation.
DEBBIE I agree entirely, but obviously there's the 99001, which is the built environment version of that. There's a new version and a lot of people don't seem to be aware of it. Also, I'll put in the chat, there was a very good interview done by a senior guy from Waites with Dame Judith Hackitt, and she very much strengthened the message about quality and safety and them being two sides of the coin. And that's what this is all about. So, I think you're spot on there, Jim.
JIM CREAK But the other thing that you have to remember about me is I come from the specialist contractor side where the actual application and the manufacturer is sort of more important than the actual construction elements, as far as my disciplines are concerned. So yeah, both are very important.
MIKE SMITH I think the message about competencies is definitely growing. I think we're seeing more and more of it coming out into many different aspects. I guess the questions that still lies, what evidence we need to provide to demonstrate our competencies and which is the best route to take? I think it probably echoes what’s in the last conversation and what we're seeing is that the RIBA has its CPD requirements and such alike, which actually gives us the evidence to provide our competencies, but whether that's sufficient is probably a question that I would open up.
PAUL WHITE Yeah, we're looking into this. We're trying to get to the bottom of exactly what's required, but it does seem that a CFCS card for going and working on a site will be a requirement and then you need a level 2 NVQ which will include your specialist subject plus health and safety site conditions etc. They consist of 6 or 7 modules that you have to get to. But whether that's an actual requirement or not, we don't seem to know yet, and we're trying to get to the bottom of what it is.
DEBBIE Paul, that seems to resonant with what competence working group 2 have done in terms of installers. But also, all current CFCS cards are no longer valid by September of this year. Everyone is going to have to renew their card and that card, you won’t just automatically get it, all the grandfather rights go. So, there is going to be a big sort of upskilling bit here as well. But I think at the moment, what I've seen from looking across lots of the working groups of reports, their recommendations is it's slightly different, the sort of model everyone's taking. That's one model that you've suggested but some of the others are different in terms of the engineering group and its contextualised standards and stuff like that. So perhaps trying to just understand what's going on in each group might be useful for us. I mean, that's something that wouldn't take me long to do. George.
PAUL WHITE Debbie, if you can find out what the actual truth is, that would be really good. Because we’re trying to find out in various different groups. But for a CFCS card, particularly, it does seem to be level 1 or level 2 NVQ. And there are very few assessors, and this is the point. It's the difference between having a certificated qualification from somebody who dishes these things out, so a college or professional institute. And somebody was talking about CPD, and you will be then required to do CPD, but just doing an industry course potentially isn’t going to be enough. And that's the bit we need to get to the bottom of really quite quickly, because as Debbie said, Grandfather rights just disappear. The other thing somebody mentioned, BS9001, which has always concentrated on training and training matrices. It's not actually concentrated on competency, and I think that's something that probably needs to change.
The example I always give is I could train a room half full of monkeys and half full of contractors, and the contractors could go to site tomorrow and do something and show their competency. But the monkeys couldn’t, and this is the difference between training and competency and people have got to understand that training is not competency. Competency is something that is assessed by somebody else, and I think that's very clear.
DEBBIE Training is an input, it’s not necessarily an output. But the other thing, and in case people aren't aware that in the built environment sector anything that's to do with a level 2 or 3 is based on occupational standards. 50-60% of those standards are being upgraded, and that process will finish early 2024 and all of these occupational standards are changing dramatically to cover digital, to cover stuff to do with the building safety environment, to deal with sustainability and net zero. So, there's going to be an enormous change in itself. So, it's not just people having to refresh their cards through doing a qualification or up thing. But at the moment, what I can't get a picture is if you change an occupational standard by, say, 50%, will people be able to just do a short module to upscale in that? There doesn't seem to be any sort of view on that. But I am talking to IfATE who set all these standards up, because there's enough for people to cope with at the moment without a lot of this to cope with as well.
PAUL WHITE That seems to be the issue, Debbie, that the NVQ’s do seem to be modular and you would cover lots of modules against certain NOS’s. And then perhaps your industry specific one would just be one module and then you might need to do another module. And my example is duct work fitters would be one module but then fire damper fitting would be another one. But you’re not going to go and do the five common modules again. Or if you have, that would be absolutely barking mad. Nobody seems to be giving us any clear direction on this and if you have got a main line, Debbie, I can get that into lots of other trade associations because it’s getting very important at the moment.
GEORGE Obviously what we want to do is that our focus should be on the information management side of things because that's really what BIM4housing, in essence, that's our perspective, our contribution. I don't know whether people would agree with that, but I think that should be our approach and because there's a big ocean to boil here, isn't there? Therefore, I think we should be looking at what information do we need to provide the means for people to be made more competent and also for us to be able to verify their competence. I think that should be the perspective through which we work. Does anybody have a view on that?
DEBBIE I’ve just got one view. Inherent in that statement, George, it’s kind of cross discipline, cross roles. That’s why we go across these things and obviously there’s many other people offering certification and competence stuff around BIM stuff and information management. So there is quite a lot going on in that area.
GEORGE I think the problem is, to some extent, what is it that people are certifying. That’s possibly the element we need to contribute to. If it's the case that there are things that should be being assessed at the moment that possibly aren't being, I mean certainly the work that we're doing, the more projects that we're getting involved in, the lack of expertise and competence and also, possibly, attention to detail of the people that are producing BIM models is quite shocking. And the impact of that down the line is significant. And I don't think there's adequate realisation, in some cases, of that impact. So that's certainly one of the things…at the end of the day what we're delivering is a digital asset well as a physical asset. And the digital asset is part of what the regulator is going to be considering. So we need in my view, I mean this is something that Nick and I have been talking about for years. There's far too much of even what's being considered at the moment under the Building Safety Act that isn't properly machine readable. Although it seems that we’ve lost the battle, to some extent, to get that specified as being a clear requirement, I think as an industry it's the only way we're actually going to be able to deliver it.
JIM CREAK I think we’re in agreement in terms of if we're gonna be looking at the problem, this is an advisory format and the thing is about how we, as advisors, are competent to advise and what due diligence should be paid right at the start of the construction. We identified early on in the discussions in the round table discussions that effectively most of defect was caused by specification. And I think we're now looking with 9901 is the poor bloke with a screwdriver. Well, if he's got a bad specification to deal with, regardless of how many CPD's attended or what courses he's been on, he's not the person that's going to change the specification that started incorrectly at stage one. So the due diligence, from advisory point of view, is what we would recommend to clients that they should go through before selecting subcontractors, or even key contractors, in my opinion.
NICHOLAS NISBET The bulk of the current BIM training, apart from application specific stuff, is around ISO 19650, and the bulk of that is about process. We produced Part 4 recently to try and rebalance things a bit and get people to think about data in the short term, medium term and long term information sustainability, general criteria of coherence in models, which is probably one of the things that George is hinting at. But I think we do need a data qualification. George and I remember when they were called systems analysts, but some kind of qualification about people who are able to abstract and make manageable the actual information requirements connected with regulatory inspections and to do with asset management too.
I think one of the things that's happening is Building Smart is going to be promoting a technical standard called IDS. It can be created from an interface and it’s a set of rules for the model that you want. And so, for the first time, there will be something systematic about saying these are my information requirements, now we can test the deliverable. And I think, assuming we produce these ideas of an appropriate level, that will change things because suddenly there will be an external mechanism. IDS’s can be shared and generated by a client and delivered to a designer, or a community could agree what an IDS should be for fire safety doors. Perhaps the direction will be rather than going for competency and data to actually say there will be contractually testable outcomes from the delivery of BIM information.
GEORGE And progressive validation as well, so that it it doesn't get left until the end.
NICHOLAS NISBET Emma Hooper has sort of been publishing that they’ve got 9000 data quality rules now, all in Libre? 23mins 13secs. And I have to say that is the least interoperable tool in terms of the rule sets. So, it makes me weep that they have a set of information standards, but they can’t really be shared. They can generate the results and they can summarise then one way or another. I think one of the next wave has got to be that there is independent machine-readable information requirements, and if it’s adopted it could be a game changer.
DEBBIE I think there's also a sort of basic thing. If you look at most of the standards underpin, especially a lot of the sort of level 2-3, even up to 4 level qualifications at the moment, the concept of models is rarely there, if you know what I mean. There’s a sort of whole need still for some basic education around people. We live in a world of models now and those models are going to be checked being in contractual requirements and all the rest. There is a higher order here which is obviously what Building Smart is trying to move to do as well. But equally if you got people going into NVQs and apprenticeships at the moment and then they don't get any insight into what a model is it's a pretty poor show.
NICHOLAS NISBET I don't think it's a secret that I'm trying very hard to get BSI to adopt the Building Smart certification as the element of their training. Others are trying to persuade the BRE to include it, in order to get some balance back into these BIM fundamentals and 19650 courses.
DEBBIE It’s the same with the competent standards that BSI are doing. I'm fighting to say they should not be charged for. It’s not gonna help the industry if they put a cost barrier in.
NICHOLAS NISBET I know about the cost models of BSI. Either industry sponsors these documents enough to compensate the BSI for making them free or government sponsors them enough to make them free, or they are chargeable. It's one thing for industry to contribute to altering these standards, but there’s another level of commitment which we got in PAS 1192 part 6 where the industry funded it.
DEBBIE And the other piece of the work that is relevant around the sort of competency piece that most people aren't aware of. We have a government unit now called the Unit of Future Skills and they have done a lot of fore-sighting work. So basically what they've done is look at what are the sort of technological and other changes that are coming from digitalisation, electrification, net zero. What does that mean in terms of the sort of capabilities organisations need and then the competences. For example, it may be more skewed towards manufacturing than the built environment, but they've already got decent competency profiles of a golden thread engineer, a digital twin data manager and all the rest. So, there's a lot of other stuff out there that is really useful to use. But the problem is at the moment is most people don't know it exists.
NICHOLAS NISBET That would be a hot potato, a digital twin qualification. Who's produced that?
DEBBIE It's not necessarily a qualification. These are looking at future organisational capabilities and the sort of tasks and new competencies that are related to them. They are terms relating those to what might be qualifications is not the role of the foresight, but their job is to do the horizon scanning and stuff. But there's some good stuff that's been done that will be available soon to look at and to contextualise. It will need, if it come from other sectors, some kind of contextualisation. There was meant to be government funding going towards doing that in the built environment, but it’s been delayed. It’s certainly some good work to consider because obviously a lot of these concepts are the same in other sectors.
GEORGE One of the things that we've been working in some of the other working groups we've been active on and, in fact, Paul White, I think, has also been helping Paul McSolley on this. (shares screen) This is something that Paul McSolley and colleagues have been working on as part of the passive fire side of things to try and put down some rules. So here, for example, this is to explain the different types of fire dampers and smoke control dampers. The difference types will need to be selected according to the type of wall they’re going into. So, one of the things that they've done is they've started to produce a decision tree. That's what I call it anyway. So, this is identifying what the risks are. Paul, would you be in a position to explain this a little bit better than me?
PAUL WHITE Yes, I can give you a bit of background to it. I have been doing a lot of work with Paul and I'm obviously doing, I'm trying to pull the whole industry together. So, there’s a lot of work going on, I think I mentioned this to you the other day, George, in lots of different places and we've gotta make sure it's all equal, but that's a different issue. The whole point about this is that you can’t wait until the guy turns up to site to fit the fire damper if you've gone through various bits and pieces, you've discovered that there's an escape route risk or a sleeping risk, and therefore you need a different and specific type of damper to fulfil that, and so you go through that. But the key point is then you need to know what the compartmentation is in the building. And of course, somebody turning up to fit something hasn't got a clue about any of that. But they're starting to need to because at some point they might just need to say stop or rethink this or we can't fit it as you've told us to fit it because we can't follow the instructions properly. So, then we look at the wall, we look at the size of the building, we look at the compartmentation. And then once somebody's decided on the wall, then you have to select the damper that's the correct one for being installed in that wall. And I think we're probably all aware that a lot of specs say everything has to come from the same supplier and you can't do that anymore because if somebody selected a certain wall type, one manufacturer may not have a tested solution to that.
Basically, that’s what this thing takes you through and it gives you some options that you have. The one you’re actually looking at is actually smoke control dampers. Those ones you can mount in a duct or in a wall, depending on the application, so in a basement you've installed them in a duct and in an above ground smoke control system you’d install them in the wall or the shaft. So, there's a huge amount of decisions that need to be made right at the start. We’re working on a NOS (National Occupational Standard) or the design for and select fire dampers at the moment, and it was interesting to hear Debbie saying that there's a lot of other things being considered because the one that we're looking at seems to be very narrow and the people who are developing it just do not understand the problem, let alone the product. But they want it to reflect what they do at the moment, not what they should be doing. We’re working on NOS at the moment through Summit Skills attached through BESA. The struggle to get the right people involved in any peer review is so difficult, because there seems to be quite a lot of people tied up with doing what they want to do rather than opening it up to people who actually know what they should be doing.
DEBBIE It would be interesting to see whether occupational standards under IfATE are doing something similar, I can check that. That’s under Summit Skills rather than CITB?
PAUL WHITE Yeah, and this seems to be the other problem. There doesn’t seem to be a map of who’s responsible for which bit. Because as FETA? 33mins 58secs we spoke to CITB and they said, oh, we don’t deal with that bit. Yes, but you’ve approved this training scheme. And trying to work out who's responsible for each area is very difficult because it seems to be just very diverse and if somebody hasn't done any work on it, the first answer is ,oh, that’s somebody else, because they're very busy and there's too few people as usual.
DEBBIE It’s fairly chaotic at the moment. Nobody has a vision of who’s doing what and where the overlap is. It’s a mess, but I’ll try and see with IfATE because I've got good relationships there, whether they’re doing anything in our sort of domain that we should be aware of or need to influence as an action. So, I put that as an action.
PAUL WHITE George, does that give you a sort of idea…everybody thinks that that it’s a utility component that you just buy off the shelf and when you actually look at what you should be doing, everybody's going we've not done that ever…and it’s always being pushed. This is the other issue with contractual stuff, it gets pushed down. So, nobody's actually doing the design because they let it as a design and build to a contractor, and a contractor doesn't have any design capabilities, but they've signed a design and build contract based on what then becomes a nebulous design because the people who've done the design and specification have no responsibility for it.
GEORGE I think that’s really the message that we’re arriving at. Paul McSolley from Mace, he's picked up on what has come out of the golden thread work that we did and that's this point about descriptive specifications and prescriptive specifications. And the products need to be identified and selected before construction starts, which obviously is a big change and the significance of that is quite profound. And therefore, from an information management point of view, we need to find a way that the people that are making those prescriptive selections are given the information that they need in a form that they can easily consume. And in my view that needs to be digital because there's just an overwhelming amount of documentation that people would otherwise have to read and interpret.
NICHOLAS NISBET Is this another symptom of the old problem when consulting MEP engineers used to say we don't do coordination? It sounds like they don't do specification either. Which does pose the third question, which I won't say out loud.
PAUL WHITE Yes, it absolutely does, Nicholas, I'm beginning to wonder. I think certainly on the HRBs going forward with gateway 1 and gateway 2 that in theory you can't get past gateway 2 now without coordinating some of this stuff because you can't just leave it for somebody to solve the problem later because you've caused the problem in the first place.
NICHOLAS NISBET The other angle, obviously this flow diagram is overwhelming, but you could at least argue that the information, the decision points here is a schedule of information that should be available to the subcontractor because apparently they can’t select a product without it. And so, you can turn it round and say the consulting engineers and presumably the architect as well, for the compartmentation of the fire engineer, have got to provide this information because without it subcontractors can't do what they're being asked to do.
GEORGE I’ve come to that conclusion as well. Essentially, I think this would be some sort of decision tree, wouldn't it?
PAUL WHITE You can work your way through it and come out with the answer, the problem is it's not as simple as you would like it to be. Because you’ve got to choose a wall and you’ve got to look at the space risk. There’s a lot to it, but everything’s tied together and somebody who's actually designing for and selecting fire dampers needs a whole load of information that usually resides in different places. So, some of it will be with the architects, some of it will be with the consultants, some of it will be with the equipment supplier, some of it might be with a specialist contractor. It’s really complicated.
DEBBIE It’s also a language thing here. If you look in some of the standards, they always refer to things like fire dampers as sort of ancillary items, which is very dangerous wording. Because if you’re dealing with some kind of multi-skilled operative or supervisor who's meant to be overseeing the fire stopping. Look what happened, George, on the PBS project, one of the problems they had was the fire stopping. If you train them and say, well, this is all ancillary items you don't take the things so seriously, it's not so important. So, there's very dangerous language being used here in some of the standards.
NICHOLAS NISBET I may be mistaken. Isn't fire stopping a different subject from fire dampers?
PAUL WHITE Thank you, Nick. Yes, fire stopping is for pipes and cables and penetration sealing for ducts and dampers is specific to the ducts and dampers from the specific manufacturer. And you can't just put fire stopping that would be used for cables and pipes straight round a duct because, and the difference is that a pipe and a cable have no fire performance for themselves. They're just a dumb part that needs protection. Whereas the fire damper and the fire resisting duct have their own standards for fire testing and their own performance requirements and therefore they have to be tested as a system. But it's so refreshing to hear somebody else actually realised that point.
GEORGE Is that why Paul McSolley got me to change fire stopping to being penetration seals? PAUL WHITE Yes. GEORGE So penetration seals is the overarching term that would include fire stopping. Is that what we're saying? PAUL WHITE Yes, pretty much, but also penetration seals, for instance, if you have a socket let into a wall, that’s called a partial penetration, and that will have a special seal around it because it doesn't go right through the wall. And you have linear gap seals that run along the top of walls to allow for floors flexing. So, there's a whole range of different things and all of them have different tests and requirements. But you're right that penetration seals is the safest term to use, yes.
GEORGE There’s two dimensions to that. There's the penetration seal, but there's also the function of that particular damper. So in this case, the smoke control damper that's part of the smoke control system.
PAUL WHITE The fire damper is for use in ventilation systems and it must shut to stop fire getting through duct work or round the outside of ductwork where it goes through a wall. And some of them have what's called an S or reduced leakage classification which means that they actually stop some of the smoke getting out as well, and that's why they've been called fire and smoke dampers and I don't use that term anymore. Whereas a smoke control damper may be open or closed and you don't know until there's a fire, which one of them's gonna be open or closed. And you have to drive them to that position to let smoke and heat out of the building.
JIM CREAK This reminds me of my favourite subject, which is definitions and definitions are very key to information sharing because there are many, even in my skill set in terms of everybody calls things signs, where signs are split into about 8 different categories. And so, definitions are very much important, especially in the first stages of putting these things out for procurement.
DEBBIE I totally agree. But also feeding them into those who are developing standards to do with competence. So, if we've got a definition that's very helpful.
JIM CREAK Well, that's one good thing about British standards. British standards are very, very tight on definitions within disciplines and they do check and recheck to make sure that under the protocol for writing standards there is no confusion.
PAUL WHITE In this area there's no confusion in the standards, Jim, but there's a huge amount of confusion in the approved documents, and actually in the standard 9991, which are which have been wrong because they've had the wrong people giving them the definitions.
JIM CREAK And in building regulations they're calling Fire and Rescue deployment signs as wayfinding. Well, wayfinding is within the international understanding for evacuation. Wayfinding is also about invacuating in certain buildings, that’s my area of expertise, but it certainly isn't Fire and Rescue deployment signs and how to find a flat in a fire. So, it may be a common discussion item as a word, but clearly in fire safety it has a very specific definition.
GEORGE (referring to shared screen). This is something that the two Paul’s are developing as part of the ASFP.
PAUL WHITE ASFP are involved on the fringes and we're working on something with them called the Grey Book and working with some people called NADOC? 47mins and we're looking at a training aid for fire damper install and design and selection. And DW145 which is a BESA publication, is being worked on at the same time and the whole point is we've got to get all these things to say the same thing and it’s really quite difficult because people aren't looking at it from the pure ‘this is what we need’, they're looking at it from the commercial point of view of this is what we've done forever, why have we got to change perspective.
NICHOLAS NISBET Well, we don’t go with that, but can I offer you again the idea that you should, as part of this kind of diagram, list the information requirements underneath each column, the input information, and maybe even the output information because if we want to check whether sufficient information is being provided to choose an appropriate fire damper, then that should be testable.
PAUL WHITE All of that sort of information is there because this is a decision tree. So, you can't get to that, and Paul's done another bunch of work which I've now put some words to for another group called PFKG which has been set up by the Tier 1 contractors. So a lot of this is then being moved into this sphere. And again, you need to know what the buildings for, what space risks you've got, you need to know what type of product it's going to be. And this isn't just for fire dampers, it’s generally for everything. And then we show an example of a fire damper because then that would affect the type of ventilation calculations that you would do in terms of the duct work because you'd get different pressure drops. Then having got that far you've gotta determine which type of wall it is so you can see how to mount it, and then the final bits the mounting instructions. And so, you kind of need all of that information to get first to the specification. These ones actually show who doesn’t have the knowledge. So the building services consultant doesn’t understand the products at the moment, doesn't understand the building safety risk because that’s come from the architect or the fire engineer. And then the specialist trade just says I've got this wall here and this damper, I've got to install it. And the product supplier just knows what his product does, and he's done some tests to go in the certain walls. He doesn't know anything about the project at all, someone has just rung him up and ordered a damper. The damper is purchased by usually the damp work contractor, or potentially the mechanical contractor might purchase it and then free issue it.
GEORGE The point is that they’re ordering the damper without the context of knowing what it’s going into or how it’s going to be required to perform.
PAUL WHITE If you’ve picked the wrong damper and you’ve picked what’s termed a curtain fire damper, it’s fully open, there’s no blades in the way. And therefore, it's the cheapest possible option and it has very little pressure drop, so you would size your fans without a lot of extra pressure drop. But if somebody says, oh, you've picked the wrong one and this protects an escape route and you've got to put one in like the picture that you see there with the blades that are angles, then you've not only changed the pressure drop capabilities of the system, which is now higher, so you perhaps need a bigger fan. You tend to design duct work to balance the system as well, so you might need bigger duct work and then because of this, you've also got to run cables for electricity and power, because these will need to be motorised and you'll have to cable to the fire alarm system. So, the cost could be five times as much if somebody missed this, and you've almost got to start again on the design and this is why it's fundamental that people know where things go and how they should be selected.
DEBBIE If you don’t know that any of this in the context of the performance, you’ll never get the competence requirements right, it’s absolutely impossible. So you can’t have competent actors, that’s the conclusion. So how do we get to competence if this isn't sorted? It's not possible. PAUL WHITE yes, and that’s what I’m trying to work on at the moment is how do we make the designers and the selectors competent to do this? DEBBIE But in the designer’s competence, there is a designers competence working group, is that in it? PAUL WHITE I think it's highly unlikely, because this has always been a somebody else's problem field to be solved on site by the contractor.
GEORGE And that’s the fundamental problem. For example, Mike or his team might have designed what the fire compartments should perform as far as the dry lining is concerned and they will probably hopefully have provided builders work holes for the ductwork to go through of a certain size based on the design that was given to them. The number of people involved in this is quite significant. You’ve got the M&E consultant, you've got the architect, you've got the trade contractor. The decision, for example, of swapping out one type of damper for another, could that be part of fire engineering?
PAUL WHITE It would have to go right back up, potentially, to the architect and the fire engineer for the compartmentation. The key point is space. If the shafts are too small, you can't get to the back of the damper to finish off filling it properly. So, people are always looking at lettable space so they don't want to put in things like shafts. The other thing is they’ll put a duct through a wall, whatever construction it is, and they expect it to be the same size as the duct size, and of course it isn’t, the hole is always much bigger than that. And it just goes on and on and on as to how complicated this really becomes.
GEORGE I guess the point is for our information side of things, looking at the decision tree, if we can identify what the information sets are…presumably here we need to know what the base wall thickness is. So these information requirements for each of those different elements, and the interrelationship between them as well.
PAUL WHITE One of the other points to make about that is when you do a fire test you tend to test it in what's called a standard supporting construction, which is, generally speaking, detailed within the test standard. And it tells you once you've tested in that particular type, then you might be allowed to use it in other areas that are thicker and denser. But there's such a proliferation of particularly flexible board type walls that people may well have tested in a wall with two boards on either side, and then they come across the fact that it's three boards and one board fitted into the construction slightly differently. And that's a nonstandard supporting construction, so in theory, you have to test every single one of those types of walls. And one of my other colleagues said he went to one site and they got 41 different types of wall in the building. And you just think, what are people doing? Why? Because you can imagine that the guy who's building it goes around the corner and keeps putting up the same wall that he was putting up in the other wall, and he won't know that he's supposed to do it differently.
MIKE SMITH I’ll give a view to this, an architectural perspective. I mean, typically we're never looking to try and produce multiple wall types where we don't want to. When we can, we try to assimilise?? 58mins 25secs the wall types and keep them, but obviously there are driving factors to how we get to wall type selections. There's loads of good stuff in those workflows, Paul, that you're doing, but obviously that's only one aspect of a bigger part of a bigger building. So, when we're trying to specify partition systems, that alone is a complicated process to get to before we even get close to damper selections and such a like.
PAUL WHITE Mike, that’s a really good point, but the point is that everything you put through these walls, so every pipe, every cable, every door has to go through the same decision tree. It's not just fire dampers, it’s all of those items.
NICHOLAS NISBET I think there's a difference between saying the information requirement, the information that the architect has got to provide and there are several other actors in the sequence there. What your diagram is currently doing, if the answer to the wall type is this or this or this, then you do this and so on. Therefore, I’m trying to emphasise there is an exercise to say what are the information requirements, and there’s a second thing to say how many different answers can we have to that in a particular project and what are the consequences going forward. All I'm trying to do is suggest that in order to make the diagram accessible to people who aren't fire damper engineer, subject matter experts, I’m just trying to encourage you to label it up to say this column is called wall type or this decision is based on space usage or etc so that people who aren’t already familiar with the process don’t get lost in the diagram.
PAUL WHITE Yes, I think a lot of that is there. (shares screen). I’ll show this one which is interesting, particularly with regard to shaft sizes. A shaft could just be builders work or it could have a duct inside it, it doesn’t matter. The point is if you’ve got this type of wall here and you have to fit the damper like this, you need access to both sides of it. If there's a duct in there as well, and then this has got to be connected to the duct, you've got to get in there to do that. So just making things like shafts smaller is is very difficult. You also have to allow for breakaway joints and things like that and this is a 3-dimensional problem. This one shows it quite well. You've got to have space available both for the installation, but then the other point is, I don't know whether anybody realises, but nearly everything now is needs to be checked every year. Now doors are easy. Everybody can get to the doors, but they’ve gotta get to these dampers, they’ve gotta get in there. They've got to look at them, they’ve got to clean them and they’ve got to clean the ductwork every year. They've got the clean the shaft every year.
And all these requirements need to be built into the design, because if they're not, then we're putting lives at risk because things are not clean and things aren't maintained. So that just gives you an idea of these things are important. And again, this one up here shows you all the things that I've got to go through this wall. So, you've got the dampers, you've got the pipes and cables, symmetrical are probably OK, asymmetrical ones is probably not any test data. We've got doors, we've got the same with the floors as well. Passive fire protection and how you deal with it, and as soon as you stick something through a hole, it's really easy to say in ADB it needs to be protected by this. But you've got to realise that it's got to be both installed and maintained and be accessible.
GEORGE So in terms of what Nick was saying there, being able to take the decision tree, is that something you could identify what the information requirements are at each of those stages?
PAUL WHITE Yes, I’m sure we can, and the problem is a lot of people will say I don't need that information because up to now they haven't. But actually, they do and they need to consider it. I think we've got fairly good lists of the information, elsewhere in that spreadsheet there's a really scary tick box exercise that Paul's put in there and it takes 2 minutes to load the Excel file. You do need to be able to consider these things. You do need to understand that the holes need to be bigger than the ducts, you do need to know that you can't just stick a duct right up against a roof. You’ve got to give yourself space.
JERRY COLLINS I was just thinking about this decision tree and how you would deal with the 42 different types of wall, for an architecture or whatever, and how this would work. The definitions of the things like, for instance, dampers, I think that's pretty fundamental. If you get these definitions correct in the British standards in detail, it should make things a lot easier for people to interpret. I'm more from a construction side of things so I'd be more hands on trying to install things and getting jobs done on the site as a construction manager. But talking about the competency, the industry's been de-skilled for so many years now and it’s become components, we’ve got a lot of components and they put them together. Technology has complicated things quite a bit with different technologies and different standards that it’s going to be very hard to get someone who can embrace all the different things and take all of these different factors on.
DEBBIE I agree, if we don’t use technology. But we can make all of these standards, we can ensure that if they're updating an occupational standard or a NOS or whatever, that it is traceable to the British standard that says a damper is X. This can be wired well to minimise it. But also, it's about everybody in the industry, as Dame Judith Hackitt said, you’ve got to be aware of your activities on the activities of others within the context of a system. So there's an enormous sort of systems thinking to be done, and that's more about the sort of behavioural stuff and leadership in organisations. There’s only so much you can do bottom up in terms of improving the training and competence of installers. And then you get this ghastly word, multi-skilled, that everyone wants, and that means many things to different people. So that adds another layer of confusion into the system. So, it is complicated, I totally agree, Jerry. But I think there's ways of wiring this to try and be a bit more exact to help people, but there's just a lack of interest in the sector around sort of machine readability and stuff to do with competence. I don't know why, people just don't think about digitalisation in this context.
MIKE SMITH Do you think that's a fault of the designers and the delivery consultants or the demand in requirements ??? 1hr 08mins 49secs? DEBBIE I think it's probably a mixture of both, but how do we influence them? Because there's a lot that gets associated with their risks.
JIM CREAK Can I just add, historically, one of the things I have noticed in the last 30 years is the reluctance for specialist contractors to share knowledge because it only helps competitors, and the big difficulty around, again in the last 30 years, is a reticence to want to pay for design as a separate thing as most of the specifications that have come across my desk from architects in my own discipline, which is emergency lighting and escape route signing, is that the brief and the specification is totally wrong on the drawing. And I've said this before, from my perspective, and bearing in mind that we were the manufacturer, we didn’t actually supply anything. And there was a reticence for the actual specialist contractor to go back and tell the Tier 1 contractor or the architect that there was a specification incorrect because it would actually help the competitors to tender for the same project.
The other thing was that it was also a licence to do an amendment at a later stage because you quote for the incorrect specification and then you make additions and amendments. I have actually had discussions with procurement saying just quote for what's on the drawing and then we'll deal with the technicalities at a later stage. So I think there’s also a culture here around making sure that design work should be done really early in the stage of design and construction. I know I've said it before, but I think it's key to getting things right in the first place.
MIKE SMITH I don't think we would ever dispute that it's key, but I think what we typically find is that the client expectations and requirements don't necessarily always want all that information very early on or they have the willingness or appetite to pay for that scope of service. So sometimes it is, again, that iterative process of growing the understanding of a building in which the data is required, but that data isn't requested until later on in the process, which is a failure of the process.
GEORGE We're now in a regulated industry where we've got to evidence everything, that’s principally where I think we’re at. And as I think some of you know, we work in a contractually regulated industry. This is me with my Active Plan hat on in PFI hospitals. And in the world of PFI hospitals, unless you can evidence that you've actually done the work, it's considered not to have been done. And if it's not done, then the space that that particular activity should have been supporting is then classed as unavailable and therefore you get penalties. And those penalties can go back to the last time you could evidence that the work had been done properly. And that can go back years, so they end up with millions of pounds worth of penalties. So, one of the ways in which they're dealing with it is by having explicit work instructions that people have got to follow. So, although somebody's got to be a qualified and competent person, they're actually given an explicit set of instructions.
So if I just show you. This is from SFG 20, a BESA publication. So, these are the tasks that somebody that's doing maintenance and inspection on doors has got to do. This is a monthly inspection. Now whether that’s the right thing to do for all types of doors, whether it’s in residential or in healthcare or schools, that’s, if you like, a standard, from which people can then be checked and assessed, and I'm thinking potentially that’s where we ought to be going. So, we've got a new work stream that actually starts tomorrow looking at fire door inspections and we’re basing it on stuff that’s come out of healthcare, out of the NHS. And we've got a team of about 40 volunteers who have five door experts in BIM4housing actually coming together to work on this.
DEBBIE George, if I have all of those tasks, I can put them into engines and it will relate what competences are relevant from all of these standards, so we can drive it other ways as well. But I'm afraid I've got to drop off in a minute, otherwise I'm not gonna make a train. Thank you very much, everyone.
GEORGE This is what we're working on tomorrow and maybe for another session as well looking at inspecting new fire doors, inspecting existing ones, and then looking at the ongoing inspections. So, type 1 surveys are only done once, as are type 2s. So, they're really there to understand what that fire door is, what it's performing, what it should be, how it should be, and then you've got the ongoing weekly, monthly, 6 monthly, annual inspections. And then that feeds into a robust fire door management plan. So that's what we've got going on tomorrow that I think is going to generate some good stuff, and what we're hoping to do is have a similar publication to this one that's got some nice examples in it but related to residential. A lot of activity is going on at the moment around producing plans for secure information boxes, which is great because obviously that's a baseline of information that has got to be captured.
But it's only a starting point and we then need to have competent people look at what those assets are, and those fire plans are and identify information about each asset, each smoke vent, each smoke damper, each fire door, to understand what that should be from a performance perspective. And again, this is for both new and existing buildings, the biggest challenge is for existing buildings. So, part of the exercise we are starting tomorrow is to be able to go into an existing building, and how do you identify what the specification of that product is if you don't have the O&M information. So that's one of the things that the experts are going to be working on.
NICHOLAS NISBET Yeah, that was one of my challenge questions, George, is why have you got three separate inspection regimes for new, for existing, and then repeated, surely there is one inspection regime which you apply? GEORGE Well, the experts tell us, Nick, that the challenge is that, first of all, you have to inspect a new fire door when it's installed to make sure it’s been installed properly. So that’s one series of tasks. NICHOLAS NISBET My challenge question is what’s different from thereafter? GEORGE No, no, from thereafter. Step 1 is only ever done once on a door. Step 2 is only ever done once on a door because obviously if you’ve done step 1 you don’t need to do step 2 because you know what it is. But step 2 is for existing buildings where the original…
PAUL WHITE On the existing doors you don’t necessarily have all the design information, but on the new doors you absolutely should. And if you don't have it, then you're entitled to ask for it, and you should be able to get it. The problem with all the legacy stuff, and it's the same with the dampers as well, is you actually have no idea as to what the design is. And one of the things that’s becoming even more difficult at the moment is working out what the original fire strategy is. And this goes on even within a contract itself, because people have said, right, well, we'll do this to offset this, so we don't have to do this. And then you find out that you've gone through the fire strategy four times. And you've said, well, we don't have to do this because we're not doing this anymore. But you're doing this because you had to do it in the first place, and you end up with the actual fire strategy not being right because you've used everything to offset everything else. And then in a building that’s moved on and people have moved things and changed things and said, oh, I don't have to do this because of this, the fire strategy gets completely lost. And it's really quite scary because we're seeing this happening now.
NICHOLAS NISBET I think documenting reasons why is one of the big challenges for the industry, and protecting the reason why.
GEORGE So then once we’ve got that, another part of the new Fire Safety Act is to be able to alert them if any of those assets fail, and that’s part of the challenge. But obviously the residential providers and the responsible persons and authorised persons are going to want to also be aware of a particular assets lack of performance. I think under the new Fire Safety Act they've got 24 hours or maybe 48 hours to alert the local Fire Rescue authorities, if one of those key assets like the smoke vent isn't working. And then obviously what we've then got to do is make sure all of those relate back to the information that's needed for the safety case, which is more holistic than the Fire Safety Act.
JIM CREAK Fire doors and emergency lighting are not on that list though, George, are they? For the fire brigade. GEORGE No, they’re not. We’re not only looking at the things that are on the list for the fire brigade, we’re looking at all the key asset types. We’ve got fire doors tomorrow, we’ve then got a session next Tuesday looking at smoke vents, we then want to look at penetration seals. And I had a really good conversation, Jim, with one of your disciples, Andy Cunningham, he speaks very highly of you. But he's doing some amazing stuff on signage. Jerry, would something like this interest you? You're building safety, aren't you?
JERRY COLLINS I was interested in what you were saying there about the fire doors and considering fire doors, basically if they’re original, the old fire doors with rising butt hinges, and somebody inspects them. Basically, provided they’re in reasonable condition and the rising butt hinge closes the door against the force of the latch, as far as I’m aware, they’re still compliant.
GEORGE Yeah, I think one of the things for landlords is they're getting so much conflicting advice and what we’re trying to do here is to distill that down. So, for example, I was talking to a fire door manufacturer, he said that any fire door that's before 2015 isn't compliant. That's it, black and white. The reason it’s not compliant is it has to have been tested from both sides and before 2015 they weren’t doing that. So, the fire protection, if they’re tested in line with the fire starting in the flat and coming out, but obviously if the fire is already in the corridors, then it comes back in. I said to him from the advice that I’m being given it’s also a matter of what the size of the risk is. So, it needs to be risk-based. There’s a range of different considerations and you can’t just write off a thousand or five thousand fire doors simply because they don't have the right documentation, for example. The fire engineers or the people who are experts will do that, will make that assessment based on a risk-based approach. That’s what I’ve been told.
BEX GIBSON On what Livewest are doing in our high-risk building, our stance is we would like every single door in that building to be a certified fire door, so the flat entrance and the communal doors. Therefore, we have asked our survey to go out if there's evidence that they're certified, we ease or adjust or we leave them or whatever needs to happen happens. But if they're not, we need that certification as part of the golden thread. So that's the stance we're taking, only in the high-risk, but that gives us the comfort then and the data that those can meet the building safety regulators requirements.
GEORGE But the certification, Bex, would that mean that if you didn't have the certificate for that door, that may have only been put in three or four years ago, does that mean that you would replace it with a door that was certified?
BEX GIBSON Correct. If we can't find the proof that that door is a certified door, you know, if a certified door is installed in the last three years, we should a) either have the documentation somewhere or it would have the plug or the stamp or some evidence that that door is certified. If we don't have that, there's no proof that the door is certified. We just don't have that proof, therefore we don't have that assurance to provide to any regulator. If that's our blanket rule for the HRBs, then that's our blanket rule for the HRB’s.
JIM CREAK Can I just be very clear, is that for the full set or just the door?
BEX GIBSON The certification is noted on the door, but it applies to the full set because we're getting the architraves and the surrounds done as part of works that we’ve currently got underway anyway. I’m not a fire door professional, but that's the brief I've been given so….
JIM CREAK I’m not either. I was just clearing it in my own mind because on the last session here, we were made very clear that the door could be perfect, but if the set is not correct, then the fire just goes round it.
BEX GIBSON Precisely. So, our fire survey will look at one of, they’ve got a checklist. And so, the first one is obviously, is the door certified? yes/no. And then they'll look at the set and whether they have to ease and adjust or make any…just to make it so it is compliant. So, it is the whole, I think, in answer to your question, yes.
PAUL WHITE If you’ve got very, very old doors, somebody mentioned rising butt hinges, the point is that when they were installed according to the regulation at the time, they were probably adequate. Now I don’t know how you determine…i have a situation where I went and checked on a building with a smoke control system and then I finally asked when it was built and then I discovered that the legislation that was actually in place was, I think, a 1978 standard. And therefore, as far as I could see, it had been installed as it should have been. You wouldn't install it that way now, but at the time, it would have been compliant. The issue was I couldn't check it because the smoke exit routes were through all the flats. And you try getting into an expensive flat to go and fiddle around, it doesn't happen. So these are things that are different.
JIM CREAK I did have the very same discussion with an enforcing officer and he made it very clear to me now that what you're saying is perfectly correct when the statutory bar was in place. With current legislation, there's no statutory bar now, and what is law is what the law is now.
BEX GIBSON That's what we're doing. So, we're doing a line in the sand, we know from this point in time all of our doors are certified and compliant. We are happy then that what we have got on site is gonna satisfy the building safety regulator. We couldn't guarantee that if it was done by 1978 regulations. So we had to have that line in the sand and going forward there'll be inspected as per the regime and the recommended fire door inspection. But based on our line in the sand that they’re all certified as of current.
JERRY COLLINS If you’ve actually inspected a door and it’s exactly as it was when it was built in 1971 and it closes against the force of the latch. It may not meet current standards, but I didn't think the building regs was retrospective in terms of fire doors and the like.
BEX GIBSON It's the point of evidence. We need to provide evidence to the building safety regulator that our building is safe, and what we've defined as evidence that our building is safe is is it safe now? Not was it safe 20 years ago. And some people are taking a different stance, they’ll go and get the doors checked and inspected, and it might be the case that they don’t have the requirement for certified doors, just nominal doors, or notional doors. And I know that we're doing that across other schemes that aren't so high-risk and that's the stand we're taking on those. But for our higher risk buildings where we have to provide that evidence, then we are providing that evidence.
GEORGE Sure. I think I think the point is as you say, Bex, it's down to individual landlords as to what the rules are that they're following. And certainly, one of the challenges, I think, I've spoken to councils…I spoke to one Council and they're replacing 3,500 fire doors and when they’ve done spot checks on them they found that only 20% of them are actually passing, the brand-new ones that they installed, are passing because of quality of workmanship, I guess. So that's extraordinary. But the point is that I think, as you say, it's down to how you demonstrate to the building safety regulator that it’s safe. And it may be that, as Jerry was saying, maybe something that’s been installed and is considered to be safe, and a competent fire risk assessor has said that it will perform then that’s the decision that can be taken. I I think there can be a situation where if the people that are doing inspections are also manufacturers there’s a bit of a vested interest there.
BEX GIBSON You're absolutely right, hit the nail on the head. However, we’ve got to accept and appreciate the professionals’ advice. Again, that’s an approach we’re taking internally, and we have our own processes.
JERRY COLLINS We’ve actually recruited some people to carry out inspections of doors and we are having them all trained up to inspect doors, and they’re going to be certified. BEX GIBSON Yeah, we’ve got a very newly developed, and they're getting certified as well, internal fire door team, who will look after it going forward. But because of the regime I don’t think we’ve got the resource at current to hit the ground running, so that’s why we’re addressing the high-risk buildings as we are. GEORGE Both Jerry and Bex, you might want to look at what’s coming out of the type 3 work that we’re doing at the moment, which is that ongoing one. So, I’ll keep you in the loop on that.
JIM CRAEK Just to finish on that, we are talking specifically there, Bex, about above 11 meters, you are doing something that's proportional and appropriate for let's say ordinary buildings like offices and other parts of the civic environment. BEX GIBSON Correct. We have a whole fire door team who are assessing, doing a risk-based approach on all of our assets. So, I don't have the site of that I'm afraid so I can't give you any detail but. JIM CREAK I meant with it anything that you have historically, you don't need to go and change a four inch thick oak doors because there's no certificate in places of historical interest and places like that.
BEX GIBSON I don’t know if we have that sort of building, but I know for our higher risk portfolio, it doesn't really fall into that category. And those are the ones that we require certified. The rest, I think we're going on a nominal notional, where we’re inspecting and we're tracking and we've got an app that we do that with. And so, we can make sure we track and every door is compliant, but certified is only the higher-risk buildings which doesn't fall…JIM CREAK Yeah, because that's why I was being very specific about the legislation not being retrospective. So, in above 11 metres, you can't rely on old legislation, but for other buildings, I agree it's purely a risk assessment basis about whether that door will meet its notional requirements.
BEX GIBSON The app we’re using is Propeller. I haven't had any experience with it. Again, this lies with our fire door specialist team, but that is the one that they're using and its sort of a QR code based tagging system. So, when you're on site you can QR code it, see what the characteristics of that door is, and update as necessary. GEORGE And that that's something that Livewest is managing rather than a third party uh fire door Inspector? BEX GIBSON Again, not knowing the ins and outs of the fire door team, the way I see that it's progressing is they are training up internally and we will have Livewest employees certified to carry out those inspections and use the software Propeller to manage that information.
GEORGE That’s good. I’m asking the question because what we’re finding is that different manufacturers, for example, are providing the information about the door that they've installed in an app. That’s what they call their golden thread. So, they’ve got maybe an RFID tag, or something like that, in the door and that's referenced back to an app which they think is a good idea which it obviously is. But if you've got doors from three or four different suppliers you could end up with three or four different apps.
BEX GIBSON Precisely. And that's why we are putting all of our information into one basket, as it were, and using that as our compliance.
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fire safety england regulations-2022 fire door guidance/fire safety england regulations 2022 fire door guidance
MTC Product Certification Analysis
Unit of Future Skills & Skills Foresighting....will keep the group posted on this