BIM4Housing Construction Working Group Meeting 20-09-2023
GEORGE One of the things that I'm particularly interested in at the moment is what's happening with principal designers and principal contractors, that role, because it’s becoming pretty clear that that’s going to be a critical role and critical area of responsibility. There’s a plethora of different standards and requirements that people are now trying to interpret and the responsibilities on those seems to be now very clearly with the landlord or with the responsible or accountable person, depending on whether you’re talking about the Fire Safety Act or the Building Safety Act. And then it’s up to that responsible person to appoint somebody to ensure that building regs are followed. So this is over and above any of the secondary legislation, but there’s degrees of clarification taking on.
It’s interesting that Regulation 38, which is obviously focused at fire, is becoming something that’s very clear, auditable and checkable, so that it’s likely to become the area that people are going to get caught up on. We started looking at this 4 or 5 months ago as to the subset of the handover information that is included in Regulation 38, and from the reviews that we’ve had as Active Plan of peoples O&M documentation we found that that invariably hasn’t been adequately provided and given it’s such a critical area that surprised us a bit. O&Ms are not particularly well defined or checked anyway, but you’d think that Regulation 38 items would have been more heavily controlled. Therefore we’ve been looking at ways that we could make that easier for clients and main contractors to be able to ensure that that information is being delivered so that that element of building regs is complied with.
And fortuitously the secondary legislation that was announced in August specifically makes reference to, in fact there is a new clause in Regulation 38, that requires responsible people, the landlord effectively, to explicitly state that they’ve received the information that they should have received and they’re satisfied with it. That intrigued me because even my own people have said if it’s gone through building control then building control should have checked it and therefore we don’t need to do anything. I’ve spoken to building control and they’ve explained that what often happens is that they will go and ask the client whether they’ve received the information and if the client says yes they sign it off. if the client says no then they don’t sign off the project so therefore there’s a in incentive for the client to say yes. I’ve been on projects where main contractors have completed as fas as they can the O&Ms, but nobody has gone through and vigorously checked them. And the objective really is to get them signed off, rather than rigorously check them.
On a project that we’re looking at the moment for a housing association I was questioning the consultant that’s been supporting the main contractor why there’s no information on the communal doors that have been installed. She said we’re only commissioned to gather the information, our commission didn’t include us checking it or reading it. And I’m thinking what sort of world are we in at the moment. I went to an event last week at the Association of Specialist Fire Protection and it was extraordinary, excellent, by the way. it does look as though building control are moving into a different league of scrutiny, but the responsibility now is very clearly with people to carry this out.
CHRIS WATERMAN Because I’m relatively new to this field, if you could send me the link to Regulation 38. What I’m trying to do, I used to run a company called Diagram, because my lifetimes ambition, never to be realised, is to get a diagram on an Act of Parliament. One of the things I’m working on is to on the left hand side of kids puzzle books you get 6 different coloured fishing rods and on the other side you get 6 different coloured fish and you have to join the right fishing rod to the right coloured fish. On the left of my diagram are the 9 levels of qualification starting with what a design architect might need down to what a craftsman might need laying bricks. And that person joining up, Richard Rogers with a PHD and a brickie with what he needs, but the trouble is to navigate the role to what is needed, in the middle of that is a shark tank with the odd piranha in.
In terms of what you’ve just said, George, what I think we need is a flow chart to do with Regulation 8, going through the RP building control to set out this is Regulation 8, what it says, who needs to do what in order to meet that Regulation. Now I imagine there are 5 or 6 steps and I could happily produce that, as long as somebody told me what the steps were, and if we were to put it up as a graphic on BIM or on Linkedin that would raise the profile of what is not happening in terms of building control and the landlord. Would that be helpful?
PAUL McSOLEY I’m guessing that somebody has already drawn this out. I say this because there was so many diagrams that came out at one point.
CHRIS WATERMAN If this is at the top of George’s mind and this is one specific that is missing then, I don’t want a suite of flow charts as long as a piece of string. Let’s just say Regulation 8, what needs to be done. Pure and simple.
ANDREW HOLLEY There is a compliance PAS suite for principal designers and that PAS lays out what the process should be to assure that the right people do the right job and the last ones for managing the building and it starts with principal contractors. So that has a core of what’s supposed to be expected. But you’re right George, I’ve been in the same boat and I’ve gone around in a little circle of what good looks like. We’re not doing new builds, but we’re doing repairs and re-cladding a building, for instance, and the contractor effectively said to us what do you want it to look like? How do you want your files to be laid out? I said it depends what you’ve got in your files. And it went what do you want, what have you got, and we didn’t really come up with an obvious answer.
But for me, the end result would typically want to look like how our compliance team look at things.What do I service? What do I need to repair? When do I need to repair it? How long does it last? What’s the maintenance regime? So there’s usually two sets of information: 1) what do I have to do regularly to this piece of kit and 2) what do I need to do longterm wise to maintain it and replace it eventually. And they’re the two bits of kit. What I tend not to need, but I have loads of information on, is how to wipe down a handrail and how to clean paint and what colour it is. I don’t need to know that bit, I need to know there’s a fire door there and it’s certified, this is the basics of the door and this is the fire strategy in a diagram, a plan saying this is a two hour wall with these doors in it in these places, and separately what we have to do with those doors. It may be, for instance, the door closer is a good one, but it needs specific servicing regularly.
If that information doesn’t come across, and the trick is what’ you’ve said that the person receiving it, which can be a development person, and the development person in our line of work often is working mainly on the finance, they’re not always very technical, they want to know can we finance it, where’s the legal status. So they receive all of this information and go yeah, this looks lovely, and they hand it over to the compliance team who go hang on, there’s no information on X,Y and Z in this pack. Or it looks like a good bit of information but when I dig into it it’s a load of generic rubbish and it’s not specific about this building. How many times have I received a catalogue that says this company makes these things, and I go great, I know they make sockets, but which sockets have we got to have…
PAUL WHITE As a relatively educated development person, in terms of what you’re looking for having had some asset-side experience, you’re right in that they quite often focus on funding timescale deadlines, not necessarily what you need. They’re often relying on the contractor and they wouldn’t have that experience to know what you exactly want. And the employers agent, it’s not in their scope of services to necessarily go through, and that takes time. people are time-poor and they don’t know what they’re looking for.
This is pre BIM world but it may still be relevant, I’ve been sitting off and handing over buildings trying to go through O&M manuals with large well known developers and trying to educate them and say, no, put the postal addresses on everything please because that’s not going to mean anything to Adam, Block C1 or D12 or whatever. Or at least index it because quite often the subbies don’t necessarily know what the postal address is before they send that information through.
That’s eternally the case so I’ve tried to do that and I’ve been reassured that everything is in there and then, this is at Enfield, when I’ve been asked because they need for adaptations to change the front doors, can you find such and such, I’ve though right, that gives me a chance, rather than giving it to an asset team I’ll go and find that document and see whether it’s there. And I’ve been reassured that everything is there and it isn’t there, and then that happens…and you want drawings index rather than some sort of file name with lots of figures, ti doesn’t say what’s in the drawing, so you get a whole folder of drawings, but you have to spend hours to find out what you want, and it should have a more detailed index.
GEORGE We’ve just been doing an audit on two blocks and we’ve spent quite a lot of time digging through the O&Ms that the contractor provided, we’ve questioned why where there was no information on the installed communal doors. So now they’ve sent me a link and said that’s not the link that you should be using, we’ve got stuff on our share point file, so they sent me a link to that. I said before we spend time going through this one can you tell us what the difference is between the first set of information you gave us and this one? And they can’t tell me.
PAUL WHITE Going back to your original point, George, it’s just simple communication where you’ve handed over something, in my new job which ~I’m enjoying very much at Gravesham, where I’ve interviewed people on both sides, I want to cut this out, I’m going to come in and sort information exchange issues that maybe have occurred in the past. So I’ve interviewed the team that deal with fire safety and the development project manager that’s handing over the information and he said to me I quite often find I’m being chased for stuff that I know I’ve provided months and months ago. Yeah, but if you provided it, did you get a message back saying that we’ve received it and yes it complies exactly with what we want.
So I’ve said to both sides it’s a two way thing, you need to make sure that it’s acknowledged, both sides. It’s because people are a bit time-poor, but it’s focusing their mind…it’s starting to bear fruit and there is a much better dialogue going on now. A simple thing to sort out, but you’re right Andrew, I share your frustration sometimes, and I can’t believe that it’s still going on. We’ve had all of these discussions on these groups, but it still happens.
CHRIS WATERMAN Yesterday, which was my last day in Parliament, I borrowed Chris Bryant’s book called ‘Code of Conduct’. They used the dewey system and this book is 364.13230941BRY, that’s how they find it in the library. The reason I’m using that is there a way of identifying a screw or a piece of glass, they’ve all got bar codes using that system, and is there a template? The other thing I’m going to work on is safety case reports which the HSE/BRS will not produce a template for. My view is they’re sucking in all sorts of safety case reports and they will come up with a template eventually based on the hard-work that everybody bar them are doing. When I take my car for an MOT it has the same MOT as a VW up. There are different bits, perhaps, but in so many of these things a common standard, a public language could be established. And I know every building is different and that every developer is different, I’m still waiting for one that doesn’t take a shortcut, but can BIM begin to establish a public language, a common language, to describe some of these things? Regulation 38 might be a place to start.
GEORGE We’ve been doing a lot of work on that for several years and it isn’t easy, but you’re absolutely right that we should be putting some sort of structure. I can show you quickly what we’ve been doing on Regulation 38 as an example of that. Paul Oakley, one of my colleagues, who used to be the director of BIM at BRE has been working on this, Barclay Group has been the main driver and Bouygues as well. (shares screen). This is what we’ve been doing on Regulation 38. Paul’s been through the Regulation 38 document and what we’ve done here is pulled out the principal notes because this is what’s in Regulation 38, so you can see here the escape routes need to be defined, the fire protection measures. But then we start to come down into more detail here, so the information about fire door sets, closing devices, smoke detector heads etc. and we’ve then got a list of asset types, so these are things that need to be put in. What Paul’s been doing here, he’s an information management person, he’s saying can that be actual data or is it in the form of documents and what type of documents. At the moment we’re trying to turn this into a template that can then be audited against.
CHRIS WATERMAN If you could, from column F sideways, you could put along the top who’s responsible and the colour code whose responsible for which bit and who needs to know which bit.
GEORGE That’s where I hand over to Paul McSoley because that’s broadly what we’ve been trying to do within the roundtable workshops. We’ve been looking at things from a point of view of it’s the context in which a particular item is going to be. What I was trying to do though is on Regulation 38 it seems now under the new legislation that there is a real driver for clients to become drawn into taking proper responsibility for that, which I think is very positive because it will encourage people to…
PAUL McSOLEY It’s all good stuff this. I’ll have a look again because he’s taken all the stuff out of Part B and he’s taken the stuff out of the new legislation including the Building `Safety Act around Regulation 38 which is what historically is done there. One of the big things in this information when it gets handed over, and this probably goes to your point Chris, is that I’m sure there’s a few flow diagrams around this because one of the hardest things is when you give information over the hardest thing is about how you got to how the system was safe in the first place. So the thread of it is so big, it’s like looking for something which is a bit more general, otherwise as you say you can get lost in this subject because it’s so much intertwining of different regulations now. I want to go back to the agenda that was put together originally…because we’ve asked the same questions to all the different groups. One of the questions we’ve asked the design group as well, we got a good response back from Das, which buildings are in scope under the Building Safety Act and which buildings are in scope under the Fire Safety Act, and who will be doing the reviews. That was one of the questions you’ve asked everyone, what is their viewpoint, where do they think it sits. And probably to some degree does everyone understand the difference between the Fire Safety Act and the Building Safety Act, which I’m sure most of us on the call probably will.
GEORGE I think that’s not so clear because the Building Safety Act incorporates things that are in the Fire Safety Act, but the responsibilities under the Fire Safety Act and for a much wider range of properties than is covered under the current in scope properties. In my experience I don’t think many people are that clear about it because when I’ve asked our community whether a project is or isn’t in scope or not as far as the fire safety regulations is concerned, the default position that most people take is is it over 18 metres.
PAUL McSOLEY The way I see it, the Fire Safety Act is really simple, it all goes back to regulatory reform, if someone is doing the risk assessment on the building it falls under the Fire Safety Act which is if you’ve got more than two or more domestic properties you’ve got to have a responsible person that takes into account all the fire safety measures of the building. I’m sure that’s how the Fire Safety Act kind of sits to me. You’ve then got the Building Safety Act which goes for all buildings and you’ve got different stuff for high-rise buildings.
CHRIS WATERMAN The Fire Safety Act is four sides of A4, that changes is it the RRO. That refers to that pure and simple, it’s neither pure nor simple but the Fire Safety Act is just a bit of stuff that gets the order sorted, which is obviously the secondary legislation. The Building Safety Act is a whole new can of worms, but again people need to know the difference between the two, the difference between the four sides of A4 and what that does and the 250 pages of the Building Safety Act and what that does. Again, a simple relationship just explaining the Fire Safety Act, the Building Safety Act, this is the relationship of one to the other.
MIKE SMITH The definitions under the Building Safety Act, the Building Act, the regulations and then the secondary legislations is a minefield, I think is the honest answer. Paul’s summary is pretty close, but what causes the biggest dynamic is then the reference to the second high-risk buildings supplementary provisions and then the secondary exclusions, and that’s where it can get very difficult because the exclusions differ under the safety act and under the building act. And that’s where you can end up with a few ambiguities, so the headline 18 metres, 7 storeys, 2 residential buildings is pretty much a safe position, what you then get is differentials between the Acts. So, it is still quite tricky.
PAUL McSOLEY It’s a real big point because I work for a big construction company…we’ve probably got a bit of overthinking going on because we try and drill into everything and I’m saying the whole point this is coming out is because we weren’t selecting things appropriately in the first place and bolting then together to make sure you have a system in the building that was safe. when you start going through the rest of it you start getting into different risk categories of hospitals, schools and others, and some don’t fall under high-risk buildings, but they fall under other requirements that brings them into a different process to sign-off which is equally as difficult.
MIKE SMITH I totally agree and actually we’re taking more of a stance which is HRBs are relatively clear, 18 metres, 7 storeys, 2 units, but actually I think we’re starting to see a role on which we’re almost treating the same approach to all buildings in terms of how we manage information, how we reach sensible and pragmatic fire safety decisions and we’re applying that to all buildings rather than just HRBs.
PAUL McSOLEY That’s got to be the way of doing as if you do the same thing on every building because if the HSE gets called in they’ll want to see how you’ve got there and they’re gonna want to see exactly the same process on everything that you’re doing anyway.
MIKE SMITH Yeah, and the Safety Act and the Building Act both have caveat clauses in them which basically give the ability for secondary legislation to adjust and criteria to be amended. So that’s only a sort of journey that we’re likely to see in which the height of buildings will be reduced, the scope of other buildings will come in, so I feel that’s a direction of travel.
RICHARD In the design meeting Neil brought up the different definitions of what a storey is. I think he said it’s in the secondary legislation that was quite a game changer, it had to do with the roof or the ceiling or stuff.
GEORGE Yeah, he gave us an example where a basement, a car park, because it extruded just above ground there was a grating, a window, then that became a storey so therefore it became a 7 storey block rather than a 6 storey block, which brought it into the provision.
PAUL McSOLEY It’s funny because for years you’ve seen different clients or builders trying to play with definitions to get things under heights. It’s not surprising that that game needs to be up as well and it’s got to be clear.
GEORGE Andrew from BAM, are you going to be providing principal designer role? That’s something we were talking about in the design group meeting last week as to whether contractors are actually going to take on the principal designer as well as the principal contractor role.
ANDREW PRYKE We are already, George, because we have our own internal design engineering team anyway which I led up, and I was listed on the construction board. Even if we don’t use external consultants we end up being principal designer, every consultant we use says that they don’t want to be principal designer, even though ti was designed to be that, so we were acting as both. Listening to the conversation I think the key issue here, and Chris Waterman has highlighted it, is that we need clarity. The Building Safety Act is a minefield and what our legal team is, everything has been decided in the Courts at the moment, nobody knows where this is going. The expert team we have here is already debating definitions of what’s what, the more help that can be given of the the clarity, and Chris’ idea is a good one, is needed. I don’t think anyone is intentionally trying to undermine law or the Acts, it’s just that they’re not aware, or they may be confused by it. Therefore I think the more clarity we can give and help is the better.
GEORGE Last week I met Chandru who’s the director at DLUHC and he wasn’t aware of the work that we’d done two years ago with the Golden Thread Initiative and he was very interested and he’s asked me to send it through to him because although DLUHC was given it, most of the stuff that went into DLUHC nothing has happened with. I’m going to make him aware of the work that we’ve all been doing. The things that you, Andrew, did some work on a couple of years ago with those 12 asset type reports, we refreshed all of those this summer so they’re now more up to date, but we’ve learned a lot along the way as well so we’ve improved those. Those are all available on the Bim4housing website as well now.
ANDREW PRYKE There’s a good opportunity for a comms initiative here just to communicate what’s being done because I think the industry would grab it, there’s a void and a great concern. One of the high risks that I’ve put for BAM is the Building Safety Act, that’s something that we should all be aware of and I think they more help and guidance, rather than wait for the Courts to decide, and the Courts seem to be deciding on behalf of the developers and not the contractors or either way, and even certification on materials is being dismissed by the Courts. It’s a concern of where do we go, what do we do, we almost think to give up because you’re not going to have a business because you’re going to be in Court and out of everything. I go back to Chris’ original thought, any clear clarity on who does what, when, how, where, the better and to communicate what this group’s done would be great.
PAUL McSOLEY You’re right, Andrew, the Courts are basically siding with the developer, especially over cladding. One you look at all those cladding ones that have gone on they’ve got something very similar in common that actually the client gave a brief of a set of requirements and then took a step back. I don’t think there’s been any cases yet where the clients been engrained in it because in statutory requirements in those contracts you’re responsible…drawn it with your own hands anyway, and that’s what is becoming prevalent in those cases. The interesting thing with this will be if you get a case that’s gone through where the client developer has been very fingers into what was required and forced it into the contract I think you might get a different verdict, but I don’t think you’ve got that level of case law yet to rely on.
We have the same conversations with you Andrew, the bottom line at the moment, and this goes back to Chris’ point, is that if you can - and there is a conflict here buy the way because the minute you try and go into the contract and tell the client what’s wrong with their building they don’t want to hear it, that’s the hardest thing to manage anyway. If you can do from cradle to grave how you’ve got to each product and put it together as a system this is where the golden thread kicks in, because there’s a golden thread for how you get to product selection. My view is very simple, when I’m in conflict with people I’ll say there’s nothing wrong with the products, we’re not putting them where it’s appropriate to use them in the correct system. Facade was different because there was a bit of a porky that went on with the facade systems with whoever it was that did the testing on it through Kingspan. Most other projects don’t seem to have any of those problems, they’re actually tested for a specific function, we’re not very good at putting them together.
So you’ve got a thread of how you get to that, then the other thread actually is the traceability of the product, so it’s basically factory control procedure, batch numbering, serial numbering. I think, George, probably BIM does that already, the bit is already there, the bit that’s not there is how you get to the safe product. So I think for you as well, Andrew, the problem is that we all need a mechanism to guarantee when we get a spec through we can interrogate them and say is it actually the right thing for the building.
ANDREW PRYKE Yeah, I think that’s where the void is and I don’t think anyone can answer that because, take British Gypsum, used to have sort of details from the White Book that you could go ahead and use. Now they’ve backtracked and therefore there is a void just on that and there’s all sorts of issues that are being questioned on buildings already and then we talk about certified details and the only way to get a certified detail is to fire test it and is every contractor going to start fire testing?
PAUL McSOLEY It’s already there. The furnaces are fully booked up. I’ll send some stuff down at the end of this…essentially there is only going to be, and it’s in the Act anyway, construction product regulations and ISO, then you’ve got Regulation 7 which gives you a few more options on it. So those routes are already there and that’s not going to change, the problem is identifying what route suits your building. If you ask an architect to understand the wall, the type of thickness of it, the kit you’re using, the risk of the space, it’s too much. A lot of the work that George has done he’s sent to DLUHC covers a vast majority of it, but even those guys probably can’t understand what it actually means in practice.
ANDREW PRYKE To add to that, what we’re getting, which is bizarre so it’s falling back on my department, is most consultant’s architects are putting everything contractural design portion and they’re saying we don’t know enough about facades, envelopes, water proofing, anything else that go beyond this. So everything is going to CDP and they’re saying what’s the point of taking on board an external designer if everything is CDP.
PAUL McSOLEY Which actually is a fait accompli to the PD role that George is referring to.
CHRIS WATERMAN While you’ve been talking, Andrew, this is the golden thread (holds up intertwined threads on screen). I’ve been looking at a taxonomy which was designed from animals and it starts off at the very top with the domain and at the very bottom the species. Now we need a taxonomy of buildings because at the top every building is a building and then you can break it down, you can slice it a variety of ways, but you end up with is it a high-rise building. I think that the law, as it will apply to high-rise buildings, is the gold standard for every building because if you haven’t got a personal emergency evacuation plan in a five storey building there’s no defence in law to say it’s not a high-rise building. So I think some clarity, a decent glossary, there is a bit of a glossary in the Building Safety Act, but it’s just not tying it up in endless slabs of text.
I was reading something the other day that the HSE put out where there’s all sorts of flaky works that they’re using, what on earth does ‘appropriate’ mean? The road to hell is paved with words like that. Just skipping to one side, Angela Rayner is now the Shadow Levelling Up Minister, which is very good news because she is a bit direct and she doesn’t have a degree, so they’re two huge things in here favour. Yesterday I was talking to Mike Amesbury who is the Shadow Housing Minister. I know both of them very well, so one of my unique selling points is I’ve got a Parliamentary pass so I can begin to feed stuff into the oppositon and also in the Lords, which I’ve been doing on sprinklers in schools lately in-rack? 46mins 5secs, I’m the latest racketeer in Parliament. I think, Andrew, it’s clarity, clarity and clarity. And you mustn’t mistake clarity for simplicity, we don’t want it made simpler, we just want it made clearer. And that’s why I’m a diagram obsessive.
MIKE SMITH I think there was a discussion around BIM and standards and naming conventions that started at some points. I think the standards are actually there, the naming conventions, the requirements of BIM, Uniclass standards, they all exist. I know that there are some challenges with it, but I think what we regularly see is that rather than maybe helping move those standards move forward they stagnated a little bit and what happens is you end up with a bit of differences of views and differences of opinion to it. Which is potentially what we’ve got here with the new Safety Act, that there is some ambiguity and some unclarity points.
CHRIS WATERMAN …There is nothing called the Safety Act. I know I’m being picky but because I’m new to this, I know the Fire Safety Act, I know the Building Safety Act, which one have you been referring to?
MIKE SMITH I refer to two. The Building Safety Act and the Building Act are the two that I typically see as the baseline structure. I was interested to pick up on Andrew's point as well with regards to CDP elements again. We do a large amount of re-cladding projects as a result of what’s happened and what we’re seeing is a big shift the other way in that we’re finding we’re being pushed to fully design and fully name and identify all products within the external facades and very much limit the number of CDPs which has its own challenges both ways. So it’s interesting to hear what Andrew was saying.
PAUL McSOLEY On your point, Mike, through discovery, this is where George’s forums came into very good use for everyone, when you take Unliclass and all the asset information we looked at things like fire dampers and fire resistant ducts and we found, and I agree with your point as well, I’m only interested in three things: the Building Act, the building regulations (not so much the Approved document). The BSA has had some effect on some of that stuff for me, but the fundamental thing is (and I’m going to answer this in two ways) is Regulation 7 says whatever you do must be appropriate for the circumstances for which it was designed. What that means is that if you put a fire damper in a building the appropriate of the circumstances is the circumstances of the risk of that damper is exposed to from either side of the wall and that risk can be changed by the purpose group of the building.
Hospitals, schools, commercial office, and that’s the intention of it. To judge appropriate you’ve got to have a good judgment on what risk is it exposed to and from what period of time, that’s all it’s asking you to do. Then it says something which is really good, just install it in a workmanlike manner don’t put it in like a bag of crap, which is one of the battles we all fight with on sites. Getting back to the BIM thing, we discovered that when you look at a product like fire resistant ducts there’s probably about 60 things you have to record in the asset information for one, how you got to the product, how it’s classified. That classification isn’t just REI, that’s all futile, it’s E I S, it’s the pressure, it’s the type of system, it’s multi single, it’s the rods, the expansion, all these other things come into it. And that’s all dependent on the risk of what the system is doing and that’s where the BIM side falls down.
So when I said about you can track the assets, you can, that’s in there in Uniclass, but what you can’t track in Uniclass at the moment is the specific fire safety functions of the product because it is deficient, and that’s the bit where the templaters don’t exist.
GEORGE I think the only other thing I’d say about Unliclass s that it can be that it’s not adequately explicit. Uniclass has got 7 or 8 tables. You’ve got a table for the product, a table for the system that the product might be in, you’ve also got a table fore entities, new tables come out now for materials which were in the original Uniclass. So in other words what you’ve often got, a particular damper might carry several different Uniclass references, so therefore the point about where that damper is being used may change its classification.
MIKE SMITH What’s the issue with that though?
PAUL McSOLEY What it is…when you look at classification of devices you’ve got to put it into boxes and say if you talk about a fire door, a fire door is a bit transient because you can move through it. So the function of a fire door is a function of its requirement for probably dock M and its function of requirement for security and visual so you can see through it or you don’t need to see through it. Then you’ve got the Part B element, and all of those functions are applicable to that Part B element. So the fire door is a summation of the risk to the left and the risk to the right of it and the ability of the person to use the door and actually its ability to work in pressure regimes for smoke control if it’s applicable and the security functions assigned to it. If you don’t know all of them you can’t pick the right door.
MIKE SMITH But can’t you then, Uniclass gives you the option to say I just want to specify a door and then include the requirements in there rather than saying I want a timber door or whatever it is to define the Uniclass. So the whole idea of the Uniclass structure there is, let’s do it as a brick because brick is a nice easy one. I can say I want a generic brick, I don’t really know what I want yet but I want to create the performance criteria, or I can say I want a clay brick, so you’ve got the option there to select the basis on which route you want to go.
PAUL McSOLEY I’ll give you another example, a door, that’s a transient product. if you take say a smoke control duct and it’s doing a smoke control function for a one hour compartment but it’s travelling through 90, 120 metre 130 metre compartments, you’ve got to protect the whole system to meet the requirement of the original, you could say the highest risk extract point on that system, and you might have other points that are lower and maybe higher, so you might have one that;’s un-sprinklered and it’s 120 minutes, that can make the whole system 120 minutes that can make the whole system 120 minutes throughout and it classes it as a multi-system.
If it was an hour and it was sprinklered it wouldn’t be, this has an effect on the fan resistance or the fan type anyway, but you might have a system where it only needs to be an hour throughout to protect the fire break in and out of that duct, because it’s a smoke control duct, it’s not like a door left or right, it’s into and out of the duct and you have the penetration at the wall. You can find yourself having different insulation requirements throughout the building for that system and different wall types and that’s the bit where Uniclass can’t pick it up because you’ve got to know the pressure of the system…there’s all these other things that come into it.
GEORGE The other thing, Mike, just to build on what Paul’s saying, it’s the context in which that particular classified item. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with Uniclass, it’s just that for a purpose it may not be adequately as specific, so the context in which that fire damper, for example. One of the challenges that we’ve got in maintenance is that there’s a difference between a smoke damper and a fire damper. SFG20, for example, the maintenance is for a smoke and fire damper, and they’re different, so it’s that level of granularity that is important.
MIKE SMITH But doesn’t that exist within the Uniclass system and that’s why..,
GEORGE I don’t think it does.
PAUL McSOLEY No ti doesn’t. When you test products in a furnace, whether it’s a damper, a duct a flue, because flues have temperature class, do you want a T200, 400, 600, it all depends on the soot grade of the flue and that effects the seal of the wall. So you’ve got to record it and Uniclass doesn’t cover that because the whole problem with it at the moment, everyone refers to fire stopping like it’s a thing - there is no such thing as fire stopping. It doesn’t exist, it’s actually penetration seals specific to a product. And what I’ve shoved in the chat for you, and this is still a work in progress but it gives you an idea of some of the fire resistance standards that are out there and the different performances that they record and nothing is the same. That’s the bit where Uniclass doesn’t pick it up because you need someone to have the effort to agree all the language or the ontology of it all to get it into templates where it can go to industry as a set of standards to record stuff.
We’re not there yet, because if you want to change a product from A to B later on you look at change under the Building Safety Act, the high-risk buildings on notifiable change, if you change the classification higher it’s not really a big issue, but if you go lower then it’s a problem, so you’ve actually got to know what it was you were going from and to in the first place. And the classification isn’t just REI, it cycles, and when you talk about the rack thing recently, dampers, if they’re motorised (even if they’re not motorised) go through a cycle test for durability so you know how long they will last in practice. So all the stuff you hear about products that the standards aren’t there for reliability, the standards are there and it gets recorded, it gets classified, we just don’t ask for it. It was an eye opener to everyone when we first went through it a couple of years ago.
GEORGE Another simple example, Mike, is a pump. A circulating pump, depending on what system it goes into, it’s a different thing from a maintenance point of view. The product is still the same, but the context in which it being used is different. And that’s not a problem with Uniclass, that’s why we’ve got several different classification systems because you need that for different purposes.
MIKE SMITH Let’s just think of a different question then. If we don’t use Uniclass…
GEORGE I definitely think we should use Uniclass, it’s just that you might need to hold against…you need to have several different classification systems against an asset so that you can then interpret it for that purpose.
MIKE SMITH The way in which I look at it is when we start specifying elements within a building what we’ll do is either have a specific product that we are looking to do e.g. we’re specifying a clay brick therefore we find a Uniclass element and away we go, that gives us our baseline. Or we’ll say we’re specifying a brick but we don’t yet know what it is, so if we’re doing a generic specification then we’d use a different code, so if it’s generic it’s one code, if it’s specific it’s another code, and then se’d adjust it as we go through that process.
PAUL McSOLEY Mike, I agree with you, I think the problem with a brick is that it’s a static item. A bricks a brick, it could be a load bearing brick or a non-load bearing brick, but essentially it’s just REI. When you start coming to some of these other products and start looking at the actual fire critical nature of the classification the numbers are huge. And the thing is you can’t go it’s just a fire damper because what George is pertaining to is that if you’ve got a phased evacuation building then you might have to have fire dampers which have a smoke leakage on which means they’re motorised. And if you’ve based the system on just a fire damper and it was a fully open curtain damper you might find your ventilation system is 50% undersized, and we’ve seen that happen, because it has to be specific from day one to fulfil the function of the specific point that it’s at. To give you an example, a fire damper and a wall is classed as vertical, but a pipe in the same orientation is classed as horizontal because one travels through compartments and one is a wall device.
And it’s the way the standards have been set up and this is how complex it is, you can probably go and do a degree just on penetration seals for pipes and drains and then you go and look at things like fire dampers and you need to do another one. It’s unbelievable how complex these things are and that’s part of the issue, as an industry we’ve treated it all like fire stopping and actually it’s not. The fire stopping is just a seal that goes around the penetration of a functional piece of equipment, and a brick is a brick. A dampers got a function, a flue’s got a function, there’s slightly different dynamics that play, and that’s the hard bit because we all generalise it to one point. I’m not saying anyone is doing anything wrong, I think it’s a cultural change in getting our heads around some of this kit performs as a function. Even doors, you might have different leafs and that has effect on how thee things are classified as well. Same as lift doors. It’s a minefield.
CHRIS WATERMAN If it’s a minefield then initially we need the fanny belts that stop you getting blown up, first point. Secondly, if you’ve got a generic brick and the type of a brick and they need some different code, again there must be a way of describing what sort of bricks so that you’re putting the different codes next to ‘brick’: brick A, generic brick, brick B. So all I’m trying to think of is how you get more clarity.
GEORGE Yeah, and that’s exactly what Uniclass is designed to do. It’s just that there’s another classification system which quantity surveyors used for managing work, so the task of working to fit the brick or to fit the door, that comes into a different classification system, but it’s still referenced to a door. Therefore they have a classification system for a door which actually is designed around being able to allocate what work item is needed against it. Somebody else will have a different classification system for doing maintenance against it, so there’s a range of different things, all of which refer back to the thing which is the door.
CHRIS WATERMAN OK, but if you look at a door, and I’m doing another project in another field on artificial intelligence, there must be a way of correlating these different classification systems.
GEORGE Artificial intelligence can’t tell you what those relationships are, you need the knowledge of people like Paul and Mike and Andrew to be able to determine that. But you’re quite right, once that decision has been taken by a subject matter expert we should be capturing that relationship, the context, and then feeding it into AI tools. At the moment we’re just overwhelmed with too much information, everybody is talking about competence and expertise and we’re running out of time.
CHRIS WATERMAN Yeah, and just to be slightly controversial I’ve been reading Bim4housing’s expert recommendation on mitigating risk in fire doors. It’s a very good, very comprehensive document, the thing that made me shudder was the use of bullet points and not numbers. Because if you will want to discuss this with anybody if you’re looking at, for example, what risks does a fire door set mitigate, you can’t say look at point 3, you’ve got to say if you count down the bullet points it’s the fifth one from the bottom.
GEORGE OK, Richard, you need to think about that.
RICHARD Yeah, I actually agree with Chris, but it was decided to do it that way because as soon as you put numbers it implies preference. I don’t agree with that, this wasn’t my decision, but I actually agree with Chris. I’m very happy to change that.
CHRIS WATERMAN So put letters. But if you’re looking at the 20 things that a door set risk is susceptible to, I can’t discuss that with anybody easily without they either read the whole risks or count down the bullet points.
RICHARD Chris, I’m very happy you raised that and now I can change it.
GEORGE Paul, is Laing O’Rourke doing anything in this field on the principal designer role?
PAUL WANG I don’t know if there is a general policy on it, but we are the principal designer on the project I’m working on at the moment so the answer is yes. I’d expect that it’s probably the case on several projects.
GEORGE Sorry, can I just differentiate, because this is also confusing. There’s a principal designer under CDM and there is a different principal designer under the Building Safety Act. I don’t know what the differences are.
PAUL WANG Are they related or is this completely separate?
ANDREW HOLLEY I think they’re similar, but they’ve clearly got different tules under the Act. Chris, maybe, because I’ve come across this on several occasions with different types of legislation. To have a word with those in power when they write an Act, when they come up with a definition, before they publish it can they check whether that definition already exists? They did it under the electrical when they made Part P, they invented a responsible person and a definition under electrical safety under the British standard for electrical safety already had a responsible person, and then they invented a new definition called responsible. It’s like we’ve already got one and now you’ve created this and it means something completely different. And it’s similar here, they’ve said we’ll call it the principal contractor, but under this Act it means something different than in this Act.
CHRIS WATERMAN In the bad old days, my background is education, I would get a Bill and I’m do and talk with the civl servants and say what do you mean, what do you mean, and these sorts of issues would come up. Post 2010 Gove stopped the civil servants talking to anybody, he moved all the civil servants out so that there was no institutional memory and that’s what’s happened in education. In building I think the same night have happened, procurement can mean all sorts of things and CDM, I used to put those letters after my name in the way that Carl Stokes did. People would say what’s that then? I said Cadbury’s Dairy Milk.
So the problem with the current administration, and this is I suppose a party political point, that all of the people writing the legislation are parliamentary counsel, they know what they’re talking about because it has to be the letter of the law. The explanatory notes are written by Oxbridge Humanities graduates who are paid by the syllable. So instead of saying a basic plan they’ll say a rudimentary conceptualisation because they get ten times as much money.
So to answer your point, that is why when I used to get in on the ground floor with the education Acts I’d say I don’t want to set any hares running, but do you really mean that because that means that somewhere else. That no longer happens and this is the absolute bugger, because there is no institutional memory there is nobody in the DFE or DLUHC that remember that was there when. One classic example, 15 years ago I was a personal member of the ministerial group looking at diplomas. Michael Gove got rid of diplomas, 15 years later they’re coming up with T levels which are the dead-ringer for diplomas, with the same problems, but none of the civil servants are around. Nobody was there 15 years ago to say, hang on, let’s get the diploma file out and look where things went wrong.
So I know that’s a long winded answer to your question, but again every time a glossary comes out, somebody should say does that mean what this means, because it’s glossary (Building Safety Act 2022) not the other one. And the trouble is the current administration have destroyed that informal relationship. BIK would have been sitting alongside the Building Safety Bill writers to say can you clarify this, can you clarify this, and that would have got rid of the whole lot of red herrings.
PAUL WANG Just to clarify, I think what I meant was we are the CDM principal designer, but on the other principal designer for the Building Safety Act I’m not sure what the policy is it. There have been a few conversations, but I haven’t been involved in that, I’m very much project-based and operational so 9t’s happening at another level to me.
ANDREW HOLLEY One of the other issues, I think Paul Mcsoley mentioned it, was that when you try and go to a specialist and say we want to put you name down as the designer for this product, or you’re the installer of that product, and people back away and go I’m not going to be that person. Are you finding as we are that some of that is restricted because of their insurance cover? We would expect them to take on responsibility, you installed it, you picked it, you’re fitting it, you must be the assigned person. And they’ll go I’d love to, but my insurance won’t let me.
PAUL McSOLEY If you look at it this way, we sign contracts where we do design & build, it might be major project form, it could be standard JCT design & build, all heavily amended and basically if someone has drawn a pineapple on the construction site we’ve got to go and make that pineapple work whatever you want. You may have only priced the pineapple, but you might need something completely different, we’re still responsible for the adequacy and statutory requirements. What you see come back in Mallarely? 1hr 17mins 11secs is that they’ve not understood that and they’ve gone away and followed whatever the client wanted blindly. Everyone tries to be too helpful rather than saying actually this doesn’t work.
If you go to a specialist supplier and you go we’re going to bring you on board now to put a smoke control system in the staircase, we’re giving you a shaft that’s this big and a staircase and you’ve got to make it work, there’s a good chance that what might happen is they’ll go actually we can’t make that work. We’ll go away and do the design for you, what comes out at the end of it you might need a push system as well as a pull. There’s going to be a problem with the human chain that’s going to come out via insurance when people are suddenly getting sued for things being wrong and they’re going to go we ain’t touching it if you’re designing it. You either get us in at the start, and I think all housing developers…should have pod manufacturers if you’re doing pods, smoke control in early and sprinklers in early as a bare minimum. That’s your three, because it effects everything.
And the problem with the word fire stopping, you can’t get a specialist in like the ones out there that apparently bring it all together because you’re not just talking pipes and cables, you’re also talking ventilation and other things that are completely outside of their knowledge field, they’ve all got specific classifications which are different. So the question comes down to at the moment the industry conundrum is who has got the skill set to bring it together? Because clearly architects don’t have the skill set for all of these complicated classifications. Fire engineers are taught on hose lengths and general principles of the regulation, but they’re not product specific specialists, the manufacturers are no good on space risk.
So the industry needs a mechanism to make that easier, the BIM thing will come later when we’ve actually all got some agreement on how you call. I’ve put a copy of what me and George have done previously in the chat and it’s all the different things that are involved with one location depending on what you want to buy for the space risk, and that’s what you’ve got to try and record and it doesn’t exist. Until we get to a point where we can actually get that ratified, simple digital in such a way where everyone can process it, it’s going to be really hard. I think the insurance market at the moment doesn’t know how to price this risk, and when insurers can’t price something they restrict or over price the cover that they’re going to give you. I don’t think there is a simple answer, but if you put it in the context of those parameters you go, jeez, that’s what’s coming.
ANDREW HOLLEY Yeah, a lot of people are saying don’t blame me when it all goes wrong. At the moment there are so many complications and that’s why they can’t…
PAUL McSOLEY I think they’re nervous to say the space risk there is X, I think that’s part of the issue as well.
ANDREW HOLLEY But the answer in practical terms is that we’ve been told with this legislation from now on sit down together, come up with the proper design that everyone is happy with before you go to building control because that way you’re not doing what we used to do, ho, here’s a building, I’ll get `Fred to design that bit later and the they turn up and go no way is that going to fit in there, it’s the wrong type, the wrong size in the wrong dimensions, but we’ll have to make a compromise now. But yes, it all comes down to blame at the end of the day and that’s the thing about insurance and Court. But yeah, the answer is sit down and say if I do this how does it affect you here, then they go oh, is that all I need to do is make it like 3cm bigger. And as you say they take the EIRs from the client which is basically look, I want about this sort of thing and they take it as, oh, you’ve asked for exactly this, and it’s like no, I’m trying to be generic and you’re taking it too specific.
CHRIS WATERMAN A couple of things, if I were to go into Screwfix and buy a screw it will have a barcode and nearly everything that goes into a building has a barcode, so is that one way of making sure that the screws I buy to put back in the beading around the vision panel on a fire door is the right sort of screw? And I hope you’re not building HS2 on your own, Paul, and I’m sorry that you don’t know who you are really, or what you are (teasing), but if you look at this, this is the Act, that’s the explanatory notes, they’re the examples (this is my plain guide). What we need under here are the sort of questions that you’re asking about what a principle designer is, we need a fourth colour to raise all of these sorts of questions. I would put this online, but it cost me about £15,000 to develop and I don’t trust the construction industry not to take it for nought.
PAUL McSOLEY I think in this industry at the moment no one knows who they are. For those who went through regulatory reform this is doing things in reverse except building control still don’t have any responsibility to say what you’re doing is safe, it still lies with you, but it’s doing it in reverse. I remember when that all happened with the green goddesses on the streets of London. When you look at it we’re not being asked to do anything different, it’s now about getting it in such a way, like you said about the barcode, that method already exists. It’s already there in BIM, you can track barcodes, the issue that exists is that we don’t have a robust method to enable everyone that is petrified at the moment to put the tail on the donkey in the right place.
Even in businesses I work for and go if you follow these 12 points and you get to what’s appropriate for the circumstance and you’ve made sure it’s in the correct system when you do the QA you can make it work. The thing is we want to push this down the supply chain because actually we want t be a management company. My opinion is PC are the only people who can deal with it, especially on design & build because we’re responsible for managing the actors involved. People don’t want to hear that though, that’s the kind of cultural thing that still exists. Impact to 2 staircases is a classic example, are they 2 firefighting stairs in…construction, or is it a firefighting stair with an evacuation lift, and there’s a slightly different spec for it because it’s non-definable. And that’s what’s causing people bother.
CHRIS WATERMAN Two staircases is a political soundbite gone mad.
PAUL McSOLEY My biggest thing is…for total compartmentation failure, two staircases won’t help you, because you won’t get to either.
CHRIS WATERMAN I asked at a conference last week, is stay-put a dead duck? I got a long answer which wasn’t an answer and I said, Ok, let me ask a simpler question, what do I tell my handicapped 79 year old’s sister-in-law living in a high-rise to do if there is a fire? Hey-ho.
PAUL McSOLEY This all comes down to evacuation plans for people as well, that’s the biggest issue. I see stuff that comes up from other things…people are complaining about old buildings and no provision for certain things, well actually that’s what was there at the time. You own the building, you’re supposed to put a management strategy in for your own risk assessment and they go what’s it got to do with us? Well, your’e the owner! Everybody wants to pass their responsibility away.
I think we got through most of it, Jiss. It would be worth getting Das’ notes from the design group circulated and I might send a few bits out as well. One of the big things, I’m very clear on what Regulation 7 means because I’ve had to deal with it for 18 years, I understand what the Act is saying is no different to Regulation 7. it doesn’t have to be CPR compliant products, the test is whether it’s appropriate for where you’re putting it because not all construction regulation products will work for specific risk categories. You wouldn’t stick stuff that’s fire damper tested in a laboratory when you’ve got pathogen risk because you’ll probably kill everyone outside, you’d put something in which deals with the pathogen risk first and then you’d deal with the fire separately. Mike, that thing I sent through probably is quite encompassing and it kinda takes your breath away when you look at it and you go what is all of this stuff and that's kind of the animal as a whole.
MIKE SMITH As you said we're all grappling with these things from different sides and different views and that actually understanding the different challenges really helps to give a great understanding.
CHRIS WATERMAN And again, if I can pick you up on use of language, Paul, you used the word simple. Never used the word simple use the word clear.
PAUL McSOLEY No, you’re right, it should be clear.
Just wanted to add that Andrew Holley also mentioned the critical information his compliance team need in terms of responsibilities for cyclical management & maintenance, servicing, warranties etc - which reminded me about the use of a PPM (Planned Preventative Maintenance schedule - which is where in condensed form you can list all the building's compliance and servicing requirements, warranties, commissioning & compliance certs as a quick reference document. Which is something George has championed in the past.
Mike Smith just for giggles. Fire Damper