BIM4Housing: HAVE YOU SUBMITTED AN APPLICATION FOR BUILDING CONTROL APPROVAL 23-02-2024

BIM4Housing: HAVE YOU SUBMITTED AN APPLICATION FOR BUILDING CONTROL APPROVAL 23-02-2024

GEORGE If I just put the context of what we’re trying to do here. We’ve got a lot of people that are actually going through the process, or are about to go through the process, or in the case of Ben Blackwood…Basically what we’re doing in BIM4Housing is looking at how information can make a lot of these processes better. The focus even of today is to look at what information we have to provide to satisfy the gateways and part of the process we set up when we took over about 3 years ago is to establish a number of different working groups that are interested in particular areas. For example, people that not just are developers, but are looking at the development process, what technologies are used and how information is created, and exactly the same for the different stakeholder groups.

So the principal idea is how can we make the flow of information easiest so that people, for example, in construction can do a better job because they maybe get a better brief from the development team and the people who are operating the buildings get better information about what’s been built because there is a clearer route through from construction. These groups meet every 2 months and therefore we have 12 working group meetings a year. What then happens is that we then have workstreams to deal with particular topics that are common to all of them. For example, we have a data management workstream, we’ve used that to produce standardised data templates and standardised requirements. We've done the same with process, the design group lead that, we’ve done a huge amount in fire safety, sustainability, and also digital records.

Moving on from that, we’ve also lead the Golden Thread Initiative which L&Q set up where there is a number of different working groups. We were responsible for asset and survey information and we ran over a hundred Teams workshops and in-person workshops at Digital Construction Week. Out of that, we were answering the question what information do we need and in many cases it was said that it depends. So the way in which we’re looking at that is providing a context, this was something that Mace contributed, so looking at a scenario where a fire breaks out in a kitchen, and we’re trying to use the knowledge of what the various different measures, compartmentation, and all of the elements that go up to make compartmentation. What information do we need to record against that so that, for example in this context, the Building Control team that are then looking at what is being provided, is it sufficient.

And then if compartmentation fails, you’ve obviously got smoke control and detection that need to work. So the message here is no matter how good the fire doors are installed, unless the rest of the compartment is similarly done well then that’s an issue. So we’ve created lots of guidance from those subject matter experts, but the focus that we had was what risks do the assets mitigate, what do people do to the assets to stop them from working, and critically what information is needed, what tasks are needed, what level of competency is needed and how should products be changed. This information is all available for free on the BIM4Housing website and this is just quickly the level of detail we’ve done for each of those asset types: what does it comprise of, what risk is it mitigating, what do people do to those things to stop them from working and then what information is needed for the different stages. And then what do we need in terms of maintenance and inspection.

(shares screen). If you go onto the BIM4Housing website you can download these things from there and that’s what I’ve just been talking through. These are the documents that we’ve already got, data sets that we think would be useful. We’ve also run workshops to look at some of the key aspects of how do we make sure that the right product is selected, how do we make sure that the asset information is created. So there is a rich range of things to go through this. I’d like to handover to Das because there’s a couple of pieces of work that we’ve been doing that I think will answer some of the questions that people were asking in the original meeting.

ANDREW DE SILVA ‘DAS’ I’m from David Miller Architects, I’m trying to understand (like everyone) the implications regarding building control, competency etc. Let me share two things: one is a crib sheet and one is a Miro board that Jarek Wityk has been producing. It’s fair to say that we’re looking to, in terms of the Miro board I’m sure some of you have come across this platform, it’s a nice interactive tool. Jarek has tried to create a workflow diagram which is more visual which essentially allows anyone to start at the top, it asks or prompts certain questions and depending on the answer you then either continue through the workflow and the junctions and nodes and then you get to hopefully a particular answer or a link to help you answer your questions. This is a work in progress and we’re looking to release this as a one pager, Jarek is really good at creating these little flow diagrams. the aim is, for example, we’ve got in here guidance and the link to the government or HSE website.

For example, guidance about how you define and measure the height of the building. These are some diagrams from others, but there are obviously guidance from the government which also give different scenarios, whether you have a podium with two towers on either side of it. We'll be looking to ensure that those links are put in there to help people to navigate, even that simple thing about where to I measure the building height from and what happens when you’ve got different actual physical separations between different owners. The idea is, let’s say you go through gateway 1, we’ve tried to put in links which are available, for example the government has a planning application questions tool that allows you to almost have pre-apps? 10mins 55secs about it. We’ve tried to understand what the cost might be. Then you go further into gateway 2, what are the submission requirements, maybe, that we’re aware of. Clearly we are all kind of learning, but that’s the aim of this diagram and the idea is to produce an A3/A4 PDF which is as clear as we can make it in a workflow diagram.

Alongside that, I’ve been trying to create a crib sheet, I’ve been using it internally to update the team at David Miller Architects, and within the BIM4Housing community. Here’s a lot of various bits of information that I’ve extracted and I think the reality is that, I’ve got a couple of sheets where I’ve looked at what constitutes a high-risk building, when does it get triggered. Coming to the April deadline in terms of commencement and then a little bit about the diagrams that I mentioned, and finally about the process itself. We’re trying to get our head around things like the principal designer, the competency requirements, Regulation 38 which is a great check list to help both the PD under the building safety and maybe the appointed person etc. I wasn’t going to go through in detail, the aim when we had the meeting last week was to collate that. I think in reality it will probably be Jarek’s workflow and I’ll feed into it something that we can issue as a file not to the wider team.

The reality will be version one because it will evolve, but it’s better to get something out there to help people and answer some of those simple questions which we think are simple, but obviously have nuances and also hopefully guide them into the right documentation published by the government or the HSE. They’re the best people to point at in terms of making sure we’re not necessarily relying on third parties which may be an interpretation again as well. We’re also working with people like local authorities from a building control application point of view to try and understand and engage with the Regulator about one example I can give you. A local authority has lots of blocks, some of the people who are living in those blocks are tenants and some are leaseholders. If that block falls within the high-risk building category, how does the local authority go about improving their envelope, for example, as part of the net zero or decarbonisation requirements. Do they have to do an application for every single time a home becomes free because a tenant has vacated?

And then what happens to the ones which are leaseholder owned, because it’s their choice, the local authority doesn’t have power over them as such, especially if it’s in a conservation or listed building or block because typically you’re going to have to do things from inside in terms of insulation, ventilation improvements etc. That is the scenario that is common to housing associations, local authorities, so we’ve drafter a one-pager to be able to share with the Regulator to say can we have a discussion, which they seem to be open to in terms of talking about scenarios. Not about the answer or how we submit something, but about the scenarios that we are faced with to deal with both decarbonisation requirements and meeting the regulations that will come in. We’ll keep you up-to-date in terms of the feedback from those discussions.

RICHARD Also we are going to be setting up a workstream around Jarek and Das’ work. If anybody is interested in joining that put your name in the chat and we’ll get in contact with you shortly.

GEORGE One of the key things about these meetings is the knowledge that we’re all looking for and the direction that we’re all looking for is actually in the community that we’ve got because most of the questions can be answered by somebody in this community. So what we’re trying to do is provide an environment where people can share their knowledge and we try and capture it and structure it. We’re all volunteers, but we’re doing this on the basis of having the collective knowledge and wisdom of the industry, but trying to organise it. If all of you are asking questions of maybe building control people like Andrew they’d be overwhelmed, whereas if we can discuss things, organise the questions in a sensible way then it means we can do this in a more achievable manner.

ANDREW THOMAS I totally agree, it’s the element of information circulation that we have missing at the moment. That’s the whole strategy of gateways is to start the process early and keep that flow going through the project and we struggle with keeping that information, getting it, and all of what you said is exactly what we need. I put my hand up during Das’ introduction, even the basics measuring a building is quite a challenge because the government advice on the government pages is incorrect in a certain couple of cases. And there has been some case law in first tier tribunal cases already that has identified how to measure the building, for instance, buildings over 11 metres are measured in the Building Safety Act guidance whereas buildings over 18 metres are in a separate piece of law. Some of these are absolutely critical, black and white, yes no, you are a high-risk building and no you’re not a high-risk building.

So I think it’s extremely important to get some of these initial decisions and values clarified upfront and then the process of transferring information is critical for not only us to approve the projects and for yourselves to manage and deliver a safe building, so I totally agree with all of what you’ve said so far.

RICHARD Now’s a good time to introduce the panel of four distinguished industry figures: Andrew Thomas, Tom Spencer, ben Blackwood and our own George Stevenson. Would you each explain your background and your take on the gateway submissions situation.

ANDREW THOMAS I’m a building inspector, I’ve been a building inspector in both local authority and approved inspectors or the Building Control Approvers as it will now we called. I’m a registered building inspector, Class 3H, which deals with high-risk buildings. The new system is finding it’s feet with the Building Regulator being the only point of call for higher-risk buildings, so you won’t deal with local authority whatsoever on those bases. I'll be appointed into a multidisciplinary team to apply building regulations on behalf of the Regulator, that’s the way the system will work. It’s not ideal at the moment because gateway 1 is entirely planning and then gateway 2 and 3 is building regulations, so there is a gap there, a difference in knowledge bases.

I’m being realistic and say that the plan is simply consult with the Building Regulator, they don’t verify any of the information, they just collate it and pass it straight on to the BSR. Whereas in gateways 2 and 3 there is more of an involvement with a Building Control registered building inspector. It’s a new process, it will start on April the 6ht, but the registration of high-risk buildings happened back in October last year, so there is something like 15,000 buildings that are no that register and they will all be dealt with by the BSR.

BEN BLACKWOOD We’ve done two gateway 2 applications now, the two buildings were effectively blocks E and J, they’re very similar to each other. In the traditional process they would have been one application, but under the new gateway 2 process they had to be two, so there is a lot of commonality in the documents. Knowing that we would be one of the first we’ve been working quite closely with the BSR over the last year on the portal and the beta testing, that’s been going quite well. Also we’ve been doing the beta testing for about 18 months on the safety case system, we’ve got some good feedback on that and working through, we’ve got about 110 safety cases to do over the next five years, but ultimately we’re trying to get them done in the next 18 months.

So there is quite a body of work and a lot of administration to go through there. I’ve also been working quite a bit with the cross-institution working group lead by the IMACEE?? 23mins 05 secs which is providing some really useful guidance on that. i’d recommend anyone who’s looking for a bit of intuitive information about topics such as the golden thread and the ?? 23mins 26secs modelling to have a look at that guidance, it’s really useful.

TOM SPENCER I’m head of Building Safety at Stockport Homes. I suppose I’m coming at this from a slightly different angle. We’re a social housing landlord, we’ve got 24 high-rise, it was 22 but then reviewing some of the guidance on definition of height we’ve pulled in a further two blocks within our stock to classify them as high-rise buildings. Predominantly what we’ve been working on is implementing the building safety regime to all of those existing buildings and we’ve not really had to encounter the gateway regime that much, so it’s kind of a new area. However, we started a project in one of our ares where we’ve got  a cluster of four blocks considered high-rise and then there’s two other low-rise blocks and part of that work was to improve the heating systems. This work started on-site late September last year and part of that we approached local Building Control to make an application for works that’s being carried out. However, the response was that the work needed to go through the new regime through Building Control, an approved inspector, however they had no idea how that took place or how that happened.

So it left us in a situation where we’re back to the drawing board trying to find out. We tried to find information on a government website which is a challenge in itself, getting concise information that’s relevant is extremely difficult, so to an extent some of it is guess work. We got to a link where it takes through a staged process to register an application with the Regulator, but like these things always do it prompts for questions about where do responsibilities lie, is it like a traditional building control? Is the expectation with the contractor? Does it sit with the client? It just opened up a can of worms. I suppose that’s where we are at the moment is trying to manage those worms and figure out what the answers are to the questions that we’ve got.

RICHARD Yes, it’s a common thread, the total lack of direction. Which as George said this is why we’re holding these meetings to try and get something from the industry itself as to what’s the best way of progressing forward.

GEORGE Stevenson I’m chair of BIM4housing and also lead the Golden Thread Initiative asset and survey information group. That’s my pro bono activity, my business is Active Plan, we’re an asset information software company and one of the key things that I’m interested in is working with other software companies to standardise the way asset information or information generally is being organised. Part of the reason for doing that is to try and simplify and make it consistent across different parts of the process because the challenge that we’ve got is there’s an overwhelming amount of information that we’re having to manage. If, for example, you present something to a principal designer or to a building control expert to say look at this to see whether my proposition is safe, it’s just too much if we don’t have that structured and organised.

So, that’s what we’re doing with other software companies to try and standardise the way that information is structured. And Das mentioned earlier the work that we’ve been doing on Regulation 38, for example, in principle you might think that Regulation 38 is fairly clear in terms of what information is being gathered, but we’ve not come across any client organisation who really has got good quality information handed over from construction teams. And part of the reason for that is it isn’t adequately and specifically specified. The industry we think is willing to provide the information, we’ve just got to glue it together and have better organised information.

RICHARD This is why we don’t define BIM as Building Information Modelling, we define BIM in BIM4Housing as Building Information Management because that’s what it really comes down to. We’ve got a number of questions and issues raised by people before the meeting, but there’s some interesting stats that Pete Paton from L&Q has sent through that I wanted to throw out there first. (shares screen). 170 Category A and Category B applications. A lot of people have been confused about what Category A and Category B are, from the meeting that Pete had on this Category A are big refurbishments, as in structural, domestic refurbishments would be more Category B. Five substantial new builds, transitional products with work already underway. These include where ABC have been working on the plans whist they were rejected i.e. the traditional approach, rather than building inspectors won’t be registered…walked away from the project.

No applications for building control approvals for multimillion pound projects, new build, HRBs, and two enforcement notices have already been issued due to applicants starting work before they had building control approval. His conclusion is the BSR is trying to be pragmatic but also robust. Anybody got any comments on that?

ANDREW THOMAS There’s a lot to unpack there. First off there’s one article which I helped draft with Gary strong  on the RACES magazine on building heights, that might be a good reference for people to view. The second question is there’s not many building inspectors being registered within the BSR scheme which has to be operational by April the 6th. That’s true and of the 3,500 building control officers out there, for various reasons only a certain number have been registered in time for the commencement date. More will come through the process, but as of April the 6th there will be a shortage because people haven’t got their full, you have to do exams, you have to have your CPD verified. To be honest, this is the first of the competency rationales that’s going to be carried through with the whole building process, so the next people are going to get this is the designers and they’ll go through the whole construction team or project team ensuring that competency levels are proven, justified and verified.

So this process has been a real bumpy ride for Building Control and you’re right, there is only I think 158 of the higher category, Category C, building control registered at the moment, there is another exam going through this month which should get us in time for April. The process is that the application…

RICHARD How many are actually needed?

ANDREW THOMAS 3,000. Yes, that’s a massive problem. Will the government delay the process? Because we’ve got a deadline set in law. I don’t know if that’s possible legally, in this current political environment I don’t think government is going to be conducive to stepping back and not applying this regime. The way the process works is in London the Surveyor’s Association will appoint a Class 3 registered building inspector, in the rest of England the LABC will find the registered building inspector for the Building Regulator to use. Then there will be a team set up by the BSR which is a fire officer, it could be a structural engineer, it could be a fire engineer. It will be a Building Control registered building inspector and they’ll run that application and that’s happening at the moment. The registration process is obviously not in place yet, but they’re finding qualified and appropriate staff to support their applications in the system today. They’ve done it the wrong way round.

RICHARD So what will happen come April the 1st when you need 3,000 people and you’ve got a couple of hundred? How does that even work?

ANDREW THOMAS In reality it doesn’t work because the penalties for us, me as a building inspector, is two years imprisonment and unlimited fine for impersonating a registered building inspector. So there is no flexibility with this transition deadline and we’re barracking both the BSR, government and anybody else who will listen that something needs to happen to make this transition better. I don’t know how they’re going to do that, but something will have to happen because the reality is we’ll have to stop inspecting which means stopping house building being signed off and that becomes a massive governmental issue. It is an issue and we’ve only got 5 weeks left. I’m one of the 150-odd Class 3 inspectors, there’s 30 London boroughs, there is no way…I’m stuck in my local authority area, I can be transferred out into another council but that means there’s no resources in my council area then. It’s an impasse at the moment and something needs to happen.

The system is in place, the BSR has taken on every single building control project. There’s a few exceptions if approved inspectors can make substantial starts there’s a couple of transitional periods allowing an approved inspector to carry on with projects if they’re close to finishing. There’s no point in transferring a building in that complexity to another body and starting again with the process, so those have been allowed to transition, but it’s a pretty strict regime that the BSR has set up. They’re finding their feet, they’ve not done this before, so they’re asking for advice and they’re being quite pedantic and strongly system-based to try and tick all of those boxes. And you’re right, you can’t register unless you’ve got a principal designer, principal contractor, and it’s this blame culture motivation is that we need to identify all the parties involved first and then understand how they’re responsible for their individual roles.

Even if you alter your home at the moment, if you just put in a small extension, we need to know the principal contractor and the principal designer. So the building regulation process has changed quite radically and even though that seems a minor piece of work, we do need to know who’s responsible for different processes.

RICHARD What about one of our members Patrick Wilson who wrote into us during this process of setting up this meeting. He was saying that all this stuff now applies to small house builders, the small businesses, which it never has before. These guys literally don’t know where to start.

ANDREW THOMAS Exactly, even though we’ve got to make a statement of how high the building is, I could have a small internal alteration of a flat on a high-risk building and I’d have to refuse that and transfer that to the BSR. So they’ll be dealing with window replacements, boiler replacements, electrical certificates, every single project on a high-risk building has to go to the BSR. I notice comments about major and minor refurbishment works, this is one of the strategies the BSR has used to try and tease out what information packages are required for understanding that process. And those definitions are….

RICHARD We’ve got another question that came in, we can’t do anything without what the government is doing or what the rules are. What we can do is to try and understand them and work among ourselves. So let’s try and get through to some of the questions that people have written in.

TOM SPENCER I just wanted to clear up what Andrew was saying about the applications on non high-rise buildings. Are you saying that every application now…it’s got to go through the building control process, but who determines the height of the building, whether it qualifies to go through the Regulator? Would that be an inspector like yourself?

ANDREW THOMAS Its part of our application form, you can’t submit an application form to Building Control now without a statement of building height. And we give a reference to where the legal definition is, be cautious of the government website because in their recent first year tribunal case law the government advice was wrong and one party said that it wasn’t the HRB and the court found that it was. It’s a very strict definition and it’s an expensive definition because the consequences of being above that, for instance, you include a basement if any part of the ceiling is not below ground level. Now that’s a weird definition point, but if you’ve got a ramped basement part of that ceiling is not below ground level, so even a ramped stairwell down to a basement level would mean part of that ceiling is not below ground level therefore the basement is counted as one of the storeys. So that brings in all 6-storey buildings with a basement.

TOM SPENCER That’s sort of the problem that we had with the two buildings that I mentioned earlier, but they’ve got some floor levels, but they’ve got double access so you can access from what we call ground floor which is where the flat levels begin, but then you’ve got two sub-floor levels which we call minus 1 and minus 2 so you can access from both sides. The thing we’ve looked at is where the fire service would access as well, they’d come in from that minus 2 entrance.

ANDREW THOMAS Yeah, I think that’s the critical point, there are about six different methods of measuring a building. Apologies for that, but that’s the reality of it. In different sources of law there’s two versions in the building regulations approved documents, there’s one in Regulation 7 of the building regs, there’s one in the Building Safety Act, there’s one in supporting documentation to the Building Safety Act, there’s one for planning, and they’ve all got slightly different definition terms. I think the article that I helped Gary write in the RACS magazine says you have to know why you’re measuring, that’s you first statement is why am I doing this? Is it to find out if it’s an HRB? Is it to find out if it’s a building over 11 metres? Is it for building regulations for fire safety, whether you need a fire fighting stairs?

So the terms of why you’re measuring is a critical statement and that’s the very first statement almost because that sets the regime and the processes for the rest of the approaches. That’s quite critical, on your mapping system that would be a critical issue point.

RICHARD So it’s not just the measurement, it’s a context?

ANDREW THOMAS It’s entirely the context because I’m actually a first tier tribunal judge and we’re finding that it’s just construction nature that somebody will find a definition that fits what they want to measure. I’m making no apologies for that because we’ve all got multiple sources of guidance, everybody including Building Control, and we will look for the most appropriate way to apply that standard. So, if you use Part B approved document there is one method, in BS9999 or 999-1 there’s another approach, so you have a choice, but in some cases the law says you have no choice so you must be strict on how you approach that definition.

CORY GREGG Hi Andrew, just to go back on a point you made about low-rise buildings. I work for a housing association where we do quite a lot of refurbishment works, roof and window replacements on standard domestic buildings up to 3-storeys. My interpretation is that we need to appoint a principal designer and principal contractor under the Building Safety Act as well as under CDM regs, is that correct?

ANDREW THOMAS That’s correct, what happened was the Building Safety Act changed the building regulations. So now Section 11 of the building regulations says before we accept an application we must have identified a PD and PC contractor and designer and the client must be identified and we have to record those three parties as a basic requirement of every single application under Building Control, no matter how small. Even window replacement, for instance, which seems a bit ridiculous, but it’s the reality of the system has changed. The Building Safety Act is the root of the change, but it actually changed the building regulations.

CORY GREGG So now even if we use someone on a competent persons scheme like FENSA for windows we’ve still got to send that in as a building regulation application now.

ANDREW THOMAS The processes have changed slightly as well, but yes, and if it’s on a high-risk building then they should deal with the Regulator direct. There is a 3-tier process here where buildings under 11 metres are a certain process, buildings 11-18 metres are a certain process, and then buildings over 18 metres are a certain process. So that’s quite a finite banding of different projects.

RICHARD While we’re on definitions, a lot of people before and along with the questions that people have submitted, Category B, what does Category B actually mean?

ANDREW THOMAS That’s on higher-risk buildings only that the BSR’s method of understanding the level of information needed to process an application. So, they’re trying to distinguish minor works to major works in the context of do we need everything on a building for somebody who’s altering the internal layout of a single flat. No we don’t, but that system should come into place because every high-risk building has got to have a building assessment certificate and that needs a site safety case and it needs all the verification of the whole building to happen as a background thing. But during a project it would be unreasonable for a £10,000 job to ask for £100,000 worth of information and historical referencing and design codes and all of that background information. So it’s trying to tease out the difference between small projects and larger projects. A larger project can perhaps carry the whole building assessment, whereas a small project won’t. So it’s that definition the BSR have used.

RICHARD So Ben, with your experience of actually having gone through that process, did you have a lot of confusion?

BEN BLACKWOOD Yes, obviously you’ll recall that during one of the early webinars Colin Blatchford-Brown said early engagement, early engagement and looking down the track of having multiple applications coming up we were trying to contact various people in the BSR and kept getting sent to the generic contacts detail. Traditionally, for the last 22 years we’ve had the same contact at LABC and we’ve dealt with that person, he’s renowned for being very robust and that’s a good position because you know that once he’s accepted it your pretty much comfortable. He’s good in that anybody that goes to him and says what do you think of this, he’ll say piss off, you’re supposed to know. Come and tell me that you think it’s OK and I’ll tell you if I disagree, over the years I like that approach. But with the BSR there was just nothing, a brick wall.

RICHARD So in terms of communication, things haven’t been good for you with it.

BEN BLACKWOOD No, and we’ve been told that there isn’t an early engagement route, so that’s now gone. We weren’t looking to…the BSR would say yes, we did say at the early days there would be early engagement but actually there isn’t. So you basically have to do your application blind, it’s like doing your tax return. There is a lot of guidance telling you what to do and you can follow it, but there are some discrepancies in the guidance and that’s what we were looking to tease out. The prescribed documents, I think there’s reasonable guidance around that and you have to engage with it and you have to do it. The guidance that’s on the .gov website is good, but that will then leads you on to the relevant British standards and the PAS, BSI Flex and so on. For me, the thing was about the level of design that’s expected because there was lots of different messages coming through. You look at the design deliverable and what you have to do, in the guidance it just says you need to submit certain drawings at a certain scale and that’s it, but when you look at the definition of change control one of the examples is that a change to a wall tile will be a major change. So that implies that you should have decided what your wall tiles were within your initial submission, that’s kind of what that implies. So we were looking for a bit of definition around that because normally you wouldn’t specify your brick tiles at building control application time, but that kind of implies that you do.

The approach that we took rightly or wrongly is with a traditional building control application you would normally get a conditional approval and a typical application on average you’d get 100 conditions and it would normally take about 2 years to work through those and satisfy them all. Once you’ve appointed your sprinkler contractor you get a better detail about, whilst you already had the specification you’ll get a better detail of exactly what pipe their using and what pumps their using etc. And you’d provide all of that information and you’d get that condition closed down. That gets run on a tracker, pretty much everyone has a similar sort of tracker for operating building control conditions. So we’ve taken a load of those that we’ve built over the years that were the finished version with all of the information in it and said actually that’s your building regulations compliance document.

So what we’re doing is taking it from the end of the job to the start of the job and just populating it, but if you look at those jobs that we’ve done over those last 20-odd years there is a bit of consistency there. So we’ve just taken that to the start and populated that there. We could be totally wrong, but that’s the approach that’s been taken. In terms of the way that you manage a project, it’s quite a step change because traditionally you would do some basic design and then you’d appoint the contracts and then you’d get trade contractors to provide you with the sprinkler designs and the wall buildups etc. So what we’ve had to do is engage those specialists way earlier in the process and feed in such that that information gets crystallised within the architects and the MEP engineers and the fire engineers deliverables and that they’ve all fed into that building regulations compliance document.

So it requires a lot more work up front. We’ve found that professional teams are not used to working in that way so there is a lot of your having to do this forced communication, everyone is kind of in the same boat so keeping that  open and collaborative approach is good.

ANDREW THOMAS I think Ben is spot on because it’s a culture change, that’s the driver behind all of this is to move the whole process at an earlier stage because in one way by the time building regs got an application through there was a lot of things already fixed and decided and very difficult to change. So some of my clients when I was working with approved inspectors, I would go in on planning stage and do an initial assessment with them at that stage, but the BSR wants that clearly designed up front and that’s not the normal design process. It’s a change for the client who appoint consultants earlier in the process, it’s transforming the way that design early stages happen, the RIB stages are happening in a different way and it is a culture change and that’s quite a difficult thing to do to any industry.

CHRIS MORGAN (THE BOARD ROOM) I’m just wondering as an example, I’m helping a client on an HRB that has commercial spaces on the ground floor. Under the high-risk building's descriptions and supplementary provisions regulations 23, they stated that because it doesn’t have a connection to the building other than it’s in the HRB. I find it very strange that actually any works that were going to fit-out that commercial space and from what I’ve seen and spoke to other building regulation companies that actually that as it the works don’t count towards any actions under the HRB because it doesn’t isolate the building. So actually, fundamentally it’s below the HRB, what happens if they break compartmentalisation lines by drilling in holes etc? It’s a unique and strange grey area because actually should they be doing mandatory occurrence reporting because they’re working on a fit-out within…for this scenario it’s just brick walls, so they’re putting in compartments, boilers, all the rest of it.

But actually should that work be deemed to be sent to the Regulator? And because it’s under…the contractors get out of jail free and say actually it’s not part of the building, it’s triggered as in isolation. I just feel as though it’s quite wrong because at the end of the day they have an impact on that building, they’re in that building.

GEORGE I was inspired by what Ben was explaining earlier because I think it feeds in to the work that the Tier 1 contractors have been discussing and that is that the design work, in particular contractor design portion, which broadly means that the design carries on into construction in typical states. Most of the large Tier 1s are now saying that that should be done during work stage 4, or maybe even earlier because if you don’t do that then it opens up challenges in terms of compartmentation, for example. And I think what you’re saying, Ben, is that you’ve got effectively some approved designs that you know work that you’re then able to articulate in that way and presumably therefore it makes it a lot easier for somebody in Building Control to then verify that it’s working. Am I right?

BEN BLACKWOOD If only we had some consistent designs that we could apply. I think that’s where we will ultimately go, but realistically what we’ve had to do in the short…we are doing that at some discrete level in terms of brick supports and balcony detailing and that kind of thing. More broadly, we would have done a building control application traditionally at stage 3 and then you’d work through stage 4 and 5, and you wouldn’t really get your design stage approval until the end of stage 5, realistically. Whereas now what we’re doing is taking the design to a stage 4 + and within that stage 4 + before we do the application that includes trade contractor design for the key safety elements: sprinklers, brick support, power, dry lining, facade. So we’ve engaged specialists on a pre-construction services agreement to provide that support and feed it into the design team which gives you the information you need for your gateway 2 application.

But it also solves a problem which has been a bit of a bugbear of mine for years where you have an architect’s or a consultant’s design and you have trade contractor’s design and then you have the end. Your architect’s design was never actually reflective of what you had because if you didn’t know who the trade contractor was, if you say you come into a building 12 years after it was built, how are you going to know? Usually it’s quite easy to find out who the principal designer was, and you might think it’s reasonable to look at their drawings, but if you look at their drawings their possibly not reflective of what was actually built and that was a real problem. SO it does force the consultant team to update their drawings in accordance with trade contractor’s design which we all know is right.

ANA MATIC Oh Ben, you are so optimistic! It’s really not like that and it’s not going to be like that for a long time and we’re all going to have to deal with it. There is a small issue of procurement that gets in the way and procurement is money and money ultimately drives everything. The whole idea of bringing everything forward into an earlier RIBA stage, a lovely idea but frankly at the moment no one wants to pay for it. We’re architects, we work on mostly new build so it’s new designs, we’re doing delivery as well as our own designs so we get to see both sides. Bringing the supply chain forward, yes, there is a lot of pre-construction stuff going on. PCSAs, wheeling and dealing, trying to get contractors to design things earlier so we can put them in, not that easy. Subcontractors will obviously not work for free, also they might but they might disappear because the price is too high (this has happened to us on a couple of projects).

I’m not offering solutions, all I’m saying is everyone is talking about this lovely world where everyone will move forward and we will have a fully, fully agreed complete design before we go to gateway 2, it’s really not happening. So design will probably stay where it is, a little bit more mechanically sorted out which is the biggest point in all of this. Hard things, architecture structure, those things come together quite early and they do get designed and agreed because they are the ones that go to planning, they’re the ones that need to be costed early to go in the ground. There are physical reasons for those things to be agreed early. M&E doesn’t get agreed until way later for two reasons: a) because no one wants to pay the M&E subcontractor to do design and b) because the MEP designers don’t want to do the subcontractor design, so very, very factual reasons. MEP will change everything once it comes into the building, especially things like fire breaks and anything that is coming through hard things, vertically as well as horizontally.

Those things at the moment haven’t really moved forward, in our experience. They’re inching a little bit forward into 4A, as we are now splitting the stage 4, but not very much. Again, the money is the thing that drives everything, so don’t worry about BIM, don’t worry about management, don’t worry about anything, we all have the best intentions. But the process is ultimately driven by procurement and unless procurement dramatically changes unless we go back to procuring things right at the end when the design is fully complete and everyone else is on board, I don’t think we’re going to have a big change. We’re going to be submitting gateway 2 with the best knowledge of what we’re doing and then we’re going to have to resubmit when we have any changes, that’s our current experience.

GEORGE Ana, you and I have had this conversation in the past and I’m very sympathetic with your pragmatic way of looking at it. The only other thing I’d say is that the risk to Tier 1 contractors of problems with compartmentation in particular, from the feedback we’ve been having. Obviously you’re quite right that leaving the M&E design too late, therefore you’ve got compartmentation already being built and installed before the M&E solutions are picked. We know that some of the big Tier 1 contractors are actually refusing, they’re walking away from work because they consider that the risk to them of ending up building something that then becomes unsafe, or that can’t be demonstrated to be sage, is just too big. I know in particular that Balfour Beatty, I think also Waites, have actually turned away work because the risk is too high.

ANDREW THOMAS I think both Ana and Ben are right. As Ben is doing at the moment, we have to educate the BSR to evolve into the next, the building industry has to move forward, we have to get through this impasse and this process change. It won’t look like the golden thread that I think everybody dreams of, the perfect design at planning stage, I’ve never seen one and I doubt anyone will ever have a completed design with every detail at gateway 1. So we need to educate both the design teams and the BSR how the process can work well, and unfortunately Ben is going through some of the early stages of dealing with projects and that’s going to change the process slightly. It has to work, we all have to keep on building and delivering new homes. We can’t just stop and say if it’s not the BSR’s way you're not going ahead. There are hard stops at gateways, but we need to have a process that functions in the building industry otherwise…government sill make that happen, I’m sure. That’s where we’ve got to be looking a bit more positively at how we get through this.

LUCY CRAIG I just wanted to support what Ana was saying. I work for Mace and the GNTs and Arcadas and all of those organisations are big players advising clients early doors of what the procurement mechanism. And they’re not modernising their approach to try and facilitate the MEP design, for example, that would provide that fixity that we’re referring to. And until culturally that changes our hands are tied and I think the designers hands are tied as well because GNT, they’ll set a cost plan and they’ll set the design fees very early on in that budget. And those designers have to work to the parameters of what they can deliver on the day's design fees. They can't do more because they won't be given any more, a business is business, isn't it? So if you take, for example, we know the RIBA stages of work operates differently to the BG6, so everyone is starting to use 4 1,2 and 3 or A, B and C which ever you want to define it, but ultimately the clients are still going out there and buying the stage 4 from the architects and the engineers and a 4 1 lite from the MEP consultants.

So there is a complete disconnect there. For example, if Mace are tendering something, we can be tendering it early, but we’ve still got misalignment of appointments because the client doesn’t want to spend anymore money because it’s within their budget. And actually we know there’s not that maturity in the supply chain to complete the design. So how can we have stage 4 design that proclaims to be coordinated when the MEP design isn’t even mature enough? And we all know that, and everyone is working in these handcuff kind of constraints and it all goes back to the feasibility of building something and the likes of GNT and Arcadas 1hr 10mins 47 secs they won’t change culturally until their hands are forced. So they don't see within the Safe Building Safety Act where they have any culpability and their advice which is forcing this cultural behaviour. It’s not a lack of want for the designers or even the main contractor to bring the designer.

I’m currently working on trying to negotiate with a client to bring in specialist MEP design at stage 3 and they’re just having none of it because they don’t want to spend the money. I don’t know how much…I think we all know what we need to do, but how do you break down those barriers with the cost consultants who are the key advisers to the clients? And then the clients themselves.

BEN BLACKWOOD I totally agree. And coming back to Ana’s comments, I totally agree that the technical teams and to be honest the specialist trade contractors as well are keen and willing to take a bit of pain in order to learn and get better at this. And it feels like you're doing this assault course together, but the procurement process is pouring treacle on everyone while trying to do it. And there is a lack of accountability in the procurement profession to help us. I don’t take for granted at all that we’re in a very fortunate position where leadership has said I don’t care about the procurement, we’re doing it. And we’ve got the wherewith all to do that because as a business we have to be planning 10-15 years ahead and that’s the way we can see it going. Without getting the fixity of design early enough we’re going to drown in change control.

RICHARD I just want to get back to building control a bit. Edward Coster, you put a comment in the comments, would you like to expand on that?

EDWARD COSTER Chris Morgan (The Board Room) made a comment about the independent sections of a building which are actually part of the physical structure which houses an HRB would essentially be under different building control regime. Now that's the understanding I've got, I might be mistaken, but it'd be interesting just to either close it down because we’re mistaken or if there is this difference then how is that approached? Because it certainly creates problems for a safety case regime for the building in occupation because we have potentially have a part of the building that's not as well controlled as we like.

ANDREW THOMAS I think I can answer that one. There is an option for the BSR to take on non-HRB work, so any schemes that are complex enough, a massive housing site that’s got a small retail shop within that complex, it would be crazy to have two building control bodies on the same site. So they do have the powers to add non-HRB work into their regime and to include other parts of the project. There are quite detailed descriptions on what’s separate, is it an entirely separate building on the same plot or is it conjoined? Is it accessed in different ways? Is it accessed from a single stairs and there’s options to move in one building or the other? So there is that extra option of the BSR being able to take on non-HRB work. It will depend on the project and they will make a structured assessment of that to say it will be appropriate for us to deal with the whole project here rather than having two building control bodies on the same site.

EDWARD COSTER That’s fine during the initial build, but in the future when we have the Tescos down stairs and there is a major fit-out because they change to something else, who triggers that to say this will be a BSR control build or not? Is it the client or the Regulator?

ANDREW THOMAS The client should know that they’ve got an HRB, but the building control body as well, the local authority if that’s the first point of call will have a list of all of their HRBs in their area and they’d then refer that to the BSR if they think that’s the correct route. Nearly everything in this whole process is the clients responsibility to know to appoint the principal accountable person to appoint a design team that’s competent. So it’s the client on everything, but obviously they will be delegating this to design teams and project managers and all sorts of different people, but it’s still back to the client on legalities.

CHRIS MORGAN (THE BOARD ROOM) To represent the client then, most principal accountable people don’t understand quite a lot of the legislation around this. They appoint management agents to undertake the works and they don’t particularly understand the rules and regulations. So going back to that point of that singular fit out of a shop or anything like that, would to be safe than sorry is it purely then a confirmatory letter to your local planning authority and let them decide?

ANDREW THOMAS That would be one route I would suggest. As you say the BSR isn’t easy to contact and get immediate answers, you have to log-in on a website so it’s not really conducive to that. So, probably the LA will be the best point of call first and they can identify which buildings they’ve got in their area which are HRBs. For me in our area, any buildings on that site I would refer to the BSR first and then if he says I’m not dealing with this, you can deal with it, then the council would deal with it.

ROB HANDLEY I’m gonna team up with Andrew because I’m from H&O, we’re an approved inspector. It was regarding the comments about Tescos and so forth on the ground floor. My understanding is very similar to Andrew, I didn’t know the bit about the BSR could accept and carry out the building control function, but our understanding is that it’s not an in-scope building or in-scope works, so therefore you can go to an approved inspector as is at the moment, or the local authority…building control. My grey area is if you’re doing fire safety works or works to the elements of means of escape, lobbies etc that go into the building, if you’re affecting those then they become in-scope. If you’re not affecting the fire safety, if everything is just linked up to sprinklers coming through and so forth, you can go to your regular building control body, local authority or approver.

ANDREW THOMAS This needs to be tested, no doubt there will be some cases on this, but the issue is the building is registered, so therefore the BSR has entirely full responsibility for the building. So if there is any effect on the fire safety measures in the HRB part certainly that would be in-scope work and it effects the golden thread of information so it should do, and that’s a very clear one. The completely independent ground floor shop or car park whatever is probably more of a grey area, but the building is registered, that’s the problem. For that address the local authority have no jurisdiction, we can’t take any enforcement action, we can’t carry out due process, so that’s when the BSR would be the first point of call. That will be tested no doubt, somebody will push that definition to the limit and we shall find out further when that happens.

ROB HANDLEY We’ve got one client who has been told the building isn’t in-scope and it can come through us, but we disagree, we think the building is in-scope, so it’s messy in that way as well. That’s my understanding and the little bit about getting the information from the BSR may prove tricky, resources and so forth…for the gentlemen asking the question to get that confirmed, it would be great to have the BSR give the nod each time so that you’ve got that on record, but our understanding is that might not be happening at the moment.

RICHARD Is there anyone on the call who’s actually had experience of putting in these applications that they’d like to share with us? OK, I’m going to hand over to the panel. You’ve got one minute each to sum up where we got to today.

ANDREW THOMAS You made a point in the early part of the presentation, Regulation 38 is a schedule of information that will be required traditionally at the end of the project, but people are starting to process that information upfront in even gateway 1, parts of it, B5 Fire Brigade access. That’s a starting point, if people can look at those pieces of information and see whether they’re available and put that in a package upfront, that will tick a lot of boxes in the BSR’s requirements.

TOM SPENCER Where do we start. Certainly there have been things that have been clarified, but for me I’m going away with as many questions as I came with, to be honest. There’s a myriad of problems, I suspect this might happen i future sessions on this might be beneficial, Andrew clearly has a wealth of knowledge.

RICHARD WE have to split it down into small chunks, we can’t do it all in one meeting, but this has raised the small chunks.

BEN BLACKWOOD I was talking to a senior figure in the industry recently and they said gateway 2 is basically going to be a bit like CDM. We made a minor change and appoint a different consultant and then carried on doing what we were doing before and it was all fine, and that couldn’t be more wrong. Having gone through the gateway 2 process it’s massively inefficient because we’re all just trying to find our way and BSR included. We’ve basically created a two year gap in our construction work, so our construction team have got nothing to do for two years which is a huge problem and I’m sure that will be felt throughout the industry. But we’ve grabbed it with both hands and doing the best that we possibly can, we acknowledge that we’r going to have to do things differently. Just trying to do things the same and expect a different result is categorically insane, so we’ve grabbed it with both hands, but we do feel that there’s that huge inefficiency that we have to learn from.

The BSR are allergic to templates and they don’t want to mandate things, but I think it would be good for us to discuss if we all start doing the same thing it’s going to be more efficient for us and more efficient for the BSR and by default they will adopt them.

RICHARD Just on what you’re saying, absolutely true and this is part of what we’re doing, it’s about standardisation right the way through the process.

GEORGE I absolutely agree with what Ben’s saying there and that would feed in perfectly to the work that we want to do in terms of making sure that the information is standardised, I’m very keen to do that. The other thing is what we’re finding here is that we’ve got a community that have been asking questions and getting answers from each other. We’ve never managed to do this successfully in BIM4Housing for whatever reason, but in another group we have done it and that’s using WhatsApp. So I’m just wondering whether, just for this particular purpose if people are interested we could set up a WhatsApp group so that people can ask questions and then maybe other people can answer them.

Maybe not WhatsApp, but that might be a mechanism to do it. If you think that would be useful, just put your name in the chat to say that you’d like to join a WhatsApp group to discuss these sorts of ideas. The point about WhatsApp is it’s immediate, so that isn’t replacing what we’re doing on future sessions like this which are invaluable, but it might be that the question that somebody asks somebody else has got the answer to.

RICHARD As I said to Ben, this meeting has raised a lot more issues, we’ve answered some issues and raised a lot more, I think that’s going to be the case for some time. So we will be holding a number of bitesized chunks meetings on these issues over the next few months so keep a look at in your email box or LinkedIn messages because we’ll be back to you. Thank you very much to the panel and thank you to all of you for attending and see you net time.

CHAT

[09:50] Andrew Thomas

Hi, I could assist with this Das

[09:53] Ellamae Fullalove

Yes please for the workstream. Ellamae Fullalove. Building Safety Manager.

[09:55] Edward Coster

on the subject of measuring building height from earlier this month Why is defining height and storeys now so difficult? | Journals | RICS

[09:57] Ranie Goolcharan

Thanks Andrew, can you comment on the lack of registered building inspectors in LA? the LABC publication has been circulated recently to state that building inspectors cannot effectively carry out work with BSR and in general functions as a result?

[09:59] John Waines

We would like to be involved in work stream for Submitting BSR Application as we just recently applied for some Major Refurbishment Works and some Minor Works both are currently with BSR for approval. Our application was not accepted 1st time round as it need more details on Emergency & Fire File, Competence confirmation, Construction control plan, Change control plan, Mandatory Occurrence Reporting Plan, Building Regulations compliance statement. the level of detail is immense please don't underestimate it

[10:03] Adam Hopkins

John, is that both Cat A & B work?  Who authored those documents out of interest (particularly construction control plan etc)

[10:04] John Waines

Yes Cat B was the minor work lest see what we get back

[10:05] Steve North

We would also like to be involved in the stream around BSR application submission. At present we have two major projects designed & virtually ready to go but do not have any BSR contacts to approach to establish what additional information will be requested/required.

[10:14] Andrew de Silva ‘Das’

Steve North - this link may help. You may already have looked at this Managing building control approval applications for higher-risk buildings - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

[10:10] John Waines

We don’t mind sharing where we went wrong on the 1st application the headings above were we need to do some additional works / provide evidence some are quite simple Declaration of Competence just need an additional doc signed by the Co at a Leadership level we had done the necessary checks on competency.

[10:14] Matthew Palmer

that would be really usefull

[10:10] Dominic Thomas

The BSR have always said Building Control are to take a "risk based approach" to determining need for numbers of inspections / monitoring etc... is that their "get out" clause at the moment because there are insufficient inspectors?

[10:11] Chris Milling

FYI RICS calls for urgent review into building-control capacity | Construction News

[10:12] Rob Handley

Andrew - do you know how many MDT’s or BSR inspectors specifically are in place for April 6th?

[10:20] Shahi Alom

If you replace FED to tenanted properties in HRB will you need to make application to BSR?

[10:20] Adam Hopkins

FENSA stopped doing >18m

"“category B work” means work which does not fall within category A."

R.12(6)

[10:25] Chris Milling

Perhaps there needs to be a list of processes available that includes which building height measurement type is needed and where that measurement definition is.

[10:26] Adam Hopkins

I think the catch all;

"(b)such other plans as necessary to show that the work would comply with all applicable requirements of the building regulations;"  Covers this is a delightfully vague way

[10:40] Edward Coster

could the discussion move back to the issue is of the Building Control regime for independent parts of a building which also houses an HRB, as this has implications for the safety case regime when the building is in occupation

[10:40] Lucy Craig

Referring to what Ana is saying. The cost consultants have little obligation in this process.

[10:43] Rob Handley

The BSR aren’t after full design at GW 1 or 2..  that is an incorrect position.

[10:48] Ellamae Fullalove

On the Commercial G floor comment- When it gets to safety case development (after Gateway 3), it should form part of our hazard identification workshops. As part of measuring the risk of vertical spread we would need to evidence our preventative measures, which might be going to the occupier of the G floor for a copy of their safety management system, FRA, responsibilities when it comes to structure and compartmentation etc and agreed communication  between us.  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/building-safety-guides-for-accountable-persons/assessing-safety-risks-in-high-rise-residential-buildings-a-detailed-guide#risk-assessment-methods

[11:00] Rob Handley

To the panel.  We have a building regulation group. (FSBRG) made up of building regs people and other industry bodies!