BIM4HOUSING DESIGN WORKING GROUP MEETING 12-09-2023

ANDREW DE SILVA ‘DAS’ I’m Das from David Miller Architects. There's some new new people on the call which is great. I’m only available for half an hour because of a commitment to another meeting. I’ve had a number of phone calls and meetings and CPDs with building safety specialists, and obviously the new regulations that have come through. I’ve tried to collate it all and I’ll share it in the three slides. I think they’re up to date in terms of info, but it would be good to get any feedback.

(shares screen). In terms of what does the Building Safety Act apply to, all buildings in relation to more the duty holders and the competence elements of it. So that’s to all buildings, but then with additional requirements to higher risk buildings, and that really is the going through the gateway process. That’s what I understand from the various discussions, the two main differences in terms of how does the Building Safety Act apply. I think that was your first question, George, on your slide.

GEORGE I’ll just clarify why I was asking that question. Talking with contractors in particular we’re finding that they’re thinking that all of the rules only apply to HRBs, whereas quite a lot of the rules now are actually under the Fire Safety Act, and that is more universal. The second thing is about interim measures, because if a project is already being built and there is a definition of where you’ve got to get to for it to be in process, then it doesn’t need to go through the regulator. But there is still a requirement under the (probably) building control to do the verification of the information. But again, this seems to be very unclear. When I’ve been asking the questions of the people in our community who are experts there’s a divergence of view, which is not really very helpful.

ANDREW DE SILVA ‘DAS’ I agree. The simplest way it was explained to me was…because the Building Safety Act doesn’t talk about technical requirements, like materials, specifications etc. It talks about the threshold for higher risk buildings and that activates the gateways, but for every other building the kind of competency and the due ticket holders apples without having to go through the gateways either and the Fire Safety Act and everything, those things are secondary as well. It all comes under that same umbrella. As an architectural practice we’re treating all projects as if they’re high risk buildings and then discussing the merits of going down that route with the clients and trying to inform them as best as possible. A little bit like when the new CDM regulations came, because of the scale of the projects which are not huge, but they may be 50-60 homes, for example, or up to about 100.

We’re taking the view we probably need to get advice from a Building Safety Act specialist for this initial phase for us to also understand the regulations better before we then take on some of those roles ourselves. So we’re using that as a transitional period, a bit like the CDM changes that happened in 2015, because we’ve not gone through it before either. In terms of the building safety regulator I think that’s been defined as sitting under the HSE with HEP? 5mins 06secs support. I think the main thing here from us as advisors to clients and to those who interact with clients is that for high-risk buildings the client can’t choose the building control body, so it can’t be like an approved inspector, unless it has to go through the building safety regulator. I think September or October is the deadline for registering, if you’re a building inspector or controller you have to register to be on that list. So that’s one of the main big differences, because a lot of contractor clients might want to appoint their own approved inspector, but unless they’re registered or they’re part of the building safety regulator they can’t be used. That’s quite a big change.

The high risk building definition in England, the 18 metres measured from the lowest ground level, for a sloping site, for example, to the top finished floor level of the top storey, or has to seven storeys. It’s interesting because I always used to go ground, 1st, 2nd, 3rd floor, but that’s obviously wrong because the ground is 1st storey in this definition. It’s a bit like America, we’ve got to count 1st, 2nd, 3rd floor, rather than ground, 1st, 2nd, 3rd floor.

NEIL YEOMANS Have you spotted that there are now two different definitions for storey? The definition in the get latest guidance for storey, it’s not just that you count the ground floor, it’s that any part of that floor where the ceiling finished above the ground is now considered a storey. So that is different to what’s in Approved Document B, so that’s causing some confusion. The implication of that is for some buildings, so for us there is at least one additional building that we’re going to have to register due to the change in this definition. The building that we’re now going to have to register, there’s an underground car park and the designers have left a lip of about a foot high. And because the ceiling of the car park is here and the ground floor is here, even though it’s just a foot above that level that is counted as a storey and therefore it changes a six storey building into a seven storey building.

ANDREW DE SILVA ‘DAS’ That is interesting because the diagram typically shows you’ve got the ground floor and then you count double, worst case you’ve got a sloping site. The datum/zero starts from wherever the steps are to that. What you’re coming across is slightly different . The main thing to note here is that Approved Doc B does have completely different height limits for certain things to kick in. Again, I think that’s where I’ve always been confused because what’s noted on the Approved Document for 18 metres, 11 metres, is very different to the definition to the high-risk buildings. The advice I’ve been taught is don’t think of the Building Safety Act as a technical kind of guidance threshold, it’s just a definition for when there is a high-risk building. You really need as architects and designers and everyone else to be looking at Approved Document Part B which, for example, requires sprinklers above 11.

NEIL YEOMANS Yeah, but that’s the problem. We’re going to be in a world where we’re commissioning the cardinal sin of data management, we have got two different definitions for the same word. So where architects will be talking Approved Document B storey, as a landlord we’re going to be thinking about what am I going to have to register, and more importantly for the sake of this storm drain I’ve now got to charge the customers a load of extra…it’s an entirely different management regime because of that feature. You guys might not be aware of all of that if you’re working off the Approved Document B definition.

ANDREW DE SILVA ‘DAS’ That’s quite useful. I don’t know whether there is some sort of diagram or technical phrase from a document…it’s mute for you to say, OK, we didn’t realise about that. if that could be shared that would be good.

NEIL YEOMANS George, if I send you an email with a photograph and also to the excerpts out of the two documents please feel free to share it around. It’s the exact example of the building that I’m talking about. Other organisations, there is one in London that has had to add over 30 additional buildings due to this change in definition. So just to give you a view of what we’ve done since last we spoke, I’m very fortunate to have been given the chair of the National Housing Federation Building Safety Group. We met up with the departments last week and discussed it with them and explained that this is not just the worst thing you can possibly do in terms of data management, it’s also now going to leave organisations that firstly will not have some of the key building information for these buildings, because we haven’t had time to collect any of it because this new guidance only dropped at the back end of June and we only realised the discrepancy in early July. So we’re now scrabbling around trying to throw up drones and find square meterage of flat roofs etc for the key building information.

But secondly, and this is something that Victoria from the Nat Fed pointed out that didn’t occur to me, was there will be landlords out there that would have looked at their stock and gone HRBs, I don’t have any, I don’t have to worry about preparing for this building safety malarkey, not until the scope changes or whatever. They’re potentially going to be dragged into this regime now and they won’;t be looking at this stuff, because they won’t be on the automated building safety alerts because it doesn’t apply to them.

GEORGE So, is this something that we need to…could that have been designed out?

NEIL YEOMANS The different departments say no, it couldn’t. They were hamstrung by the definition of building.

GEORGE What I meant was, in the example that you’ve just given there, it’s the car park, it’s actually to an extent the way the car park was designed. So had the team known that they could have designed it to be lower. Is that right?

NEIL YEOMANS They could of, but this building was built pre-Grenfell. But yes, it could have been designed out, but that’s why I raised the point…they’re going to be complying with Approved Document B thinking the definition of storey in Approved Document B is the most relevant, and actually it’s not.

ANDREW DE SILVA ‘DAS’ They’ve almost made it, again, more complicated because everyone just wants a simple diagram which the diagram with the sloping floor made sense to everyone, but if this is now come in it’s so nuanced that…presumably when they mean ceiling they mean soffit, because a car park typically won’t have a ceiling, so what they probably mean is the underside of the slab of the ground floor.

Just moving on, from an architects point of view the Architects Registration Board has the power to strike off us architects if we’re not showing suitable competency and on that note the duty holders and competency. And that’s individuals as well as organisations, so again an element of training or CPD to undertake these specific roles is required. So that’s an internal organisation review that needs to happen, modelled around the CDM duty holders or principal designer, but more from a regs compliance. The thing you were talking about, George, the Defective Premises Act, 30 years for dwellings constructed before June 2022, 15 years…The reality is I don’t think anyone really has got insurance of anything to do with facades or cladding. We have to have insurance, but the insurance doesn’t typically cover anything to do with cladding. So it’s a bit of a weird scenario where a developer might come after the design team or the contractor, but there’s no insurance to cover it and so it’s a bit of a weird situation. I don’t really know the answer to that but that’s the reality at the moment.

GEORGE The other thing on that is that people immediately look at cladding as being an issue, but my understanding is that it’s any serious defect. So it could be internal compartmentation and it could also be a smoke control system not performing, or something like that.

ANDREW DE SILVA ‘DAS’ Yes, I think insurance is a big problem, not that people don’t have insurance, but what actually does the insurance cover. So where does it leave organisations or practices if someone does come and claim from them. Then obviously there is the creation of national regulative construction products, I guess that’s again for all designers to be mindful of and check with the products or the materials that they are specifying to make sure that it is been approved. That’s a very good way to make sure that the products we’re proposing are suitable. And then the new homes ombudsman created to enable owners to raise complaints to.

Moving on, we’ve got two slides left. There’s a couple of things, construction of new high risk buildings or alterations to existing high, things that might not have necessarily have been built new, but would become. So if you alter something that’s already been built which falls into the definition then obviously that kick starts the gateways. or if you’re adding storeys to a building that currently is below that threshold, then again that kicks in the requirements. So that’s something to be mindful of, clients, in the past, would add a storey later on to gain more units or homes, but that would obviously be then subject to…

GEORGE Das, if you add a storey does that mean the whole of the building then would need to be reconsidered, or is it only the…?

ANDREW DE SILVA ‘DAS’ I’d imagine it’s the whole of the building which would then need to go through, ti wouldn’t make sense otherwise.

GEORGE And also if , for example, they’re doing something like sustainability or changing all the windows, would that also require building regs approval?

ANDREW DE SILVA ‘DAS’ Yeah, because actually I did ask this question. We’ve got a live project where the buildings at the moment are below the threshold, they’re not looking to add but they are refurbishing the internals. I asked the specialist, he said from a commencement point of view for materials, change and refurbishments they were talking about removal of at least 25% of the facade of buildings. What I don’t know is does that include windows, so re-cladding. This definition is more to do with you need to have done all of this before next year in order to not to have to comply, but by the same definition works to the facade would then kick it in if the building is currently above that threshold, the high risk building definition. So, I need to find out, because windows are a very good point because lot of people do change windows to make it environmentally better. Will people stop doing that to stop this triggering?

Obviously the criminal offence thing to kind of commence without stage 2 approval, or to occupy…without gateway 3 approval. The fees, I don’t think I’ve seen anything regarding fees. There was someone earlier, tables that were shared. I did try and look for it, but there wasn’t any definition as such, I guess we’ll come back to that one. Then the three gateways, so one before planning permission and at the moment there’s a 21 day period for the HSE to provide feedback, so that needs to be factored into programs. Gateway 2 can take apparently around 12 weeks. They talk about commencing of whole or parts of the buildings, I think that might become a bit vague, but we’re pushing for, ideally contractors and design teams would have completed the design for the whole building before starting. But again, this is quite a long period that needs to be factored in to programs by the client and the rest of the team.

These are the periods that I understand in terms of changes to what’s already been approved. So again, one way to look at it is that there will be less changes proposed, unless really required, because maybe a product has gone out of availability. That’s seen as a positive in our view: You design it once and you specify it once and you build it. That would make life much easier from an architectural point of view at stage 5, but maybe the weeks might kind of detract from value engineering as we o through, typically on a DM build that we work on. At gateway 3 again there’s maybe a 12 week process to get the completion certificate and you then need to use that completion certificate to register the building with the building safety regulator which could take another 3 week period. So that’s quite a long period of time before almost post-PC, current PC, before occupation, so that’s going to be 15 weeks. So again, that needs to be understood by all parties.

The golden thread, I think that’s sort of the definition of it throughout the lifecycle, digital, secure, transferable, accessible. As-built information from an architectural or a design point is really quite a big change because they do define it as as-built, rather than final record. How do we get to that, we need much more transparency or less changes that what is currently happening or projects in D&B where we may not get told of all the changes that have been undertaken. To be honest, any project program that currently shows an overlap between the design and construction because of gateway 2, although there is this parts part that they’ve introduced, has a potential flaw. Interestingly, we’ve just done a tender and the client was showing an overlap, but it was for a large residential scheme. So again, maybe clients are not really up to date yet, which is quite worrying.

And the final slide, in terms of non-high risk buildings, the duty holders and competency requirements are still there. I don’t think they’ve necessarily defined when that kicks in, but when I asked they thought it might be the same, which is as long as the project hasn’t commenced, or must have commenced on site by 2024, then they would avoid the requirements to make sure that the right duty holders and the competency requirements are in place. And then I was asking about what does a commencement mean. I think for new builds, in building regs it talks about going up to the damper of course, so ground floor slab, which is quite different to just putting foundations. And if it’s multiple buildings on the same site, they all have to get to that same level for it to have to commence. So that again is quite a big change because a lot of people used to put a hoarding up or a bit of foundation here or there. That change needs to be factored into construction programs etc. Again, as I asked for the refurbished project we’re working on, this was the definition that he felt commencement meant, that you’d had to have done all of that by that by that date. So this is more for an internal strip out and change of use from office to residential project.

I also asked about demolition and enabling works because a lot of clients are still waning to do demolition and enabling before stage 5 fully starts. And that, as far as I understand, is outside the gateway, but you still need to apply for the demolition notice. In theory the enabling works can take place without having gateway 2 approval. We’re as a practice following this for all projects in all sectors in our specifications where we can, unless…we know that you can go slightly below that in some instances, but to make our lives easier and to future-proof the clients we’re using that as our materials spec. And I think you also asked about staircases, George. As far aa I understand it there is no threshold, apart from in the London plan which requires 2 staircases above 30 metres residential. But I think the building control bodies are trying to get all of these things to align because, as Neil pointed out, there is discrepancy between what sometimes the Building Safety Act says and sometimes London Plan says and building regulation Part B and others say. The other thing i’m aware of is sprinklers and wayfinding, for residential buildings above 11 to have sprinklers and other use classes over 30.

I will share these, but ti would be good if anyone has opinions or information which contradicts these, because this is how I understand it looking at the latest information that I’ve had from various sources. And if they’re still not correct then we need to get them right.

GEORGE I think this has been very helpful, thank you.

JIM CREAK Obviously I’m looking at this firer statement, do you actually mean the safety case, or is this a fire strategy? I’m tying you down to a bit of a definition there. In gateway 1 fire statement, you’ve said, is that the new safety case requirement?

ANDREW DE SILVA ‘DAS’ No, I believe that’s actually a template that exists, but just looking at the design in terms of layout, adjacencies to other buildings, escape routes, materials, access for fire fighters. It’s actually just proving that you’ve thought about all of that at planning stage, which makes absolute sense, but it requires fire consultants to be appointed as well, tracking of vehicles to be done, maybe looking at road layouts.

JIM CREAK Yeah, that’s been termed the fire safety case as opposed to a fire statement. When you’ve put down there sprinklers and wayfinding, one of the other things there would be the Premises Information Box which would hold the sorts of things that would be in the fire statement.

MIKE SMITH That’s quite a nice summary from Das. We are all fighting with this secondary legislation over a lot of these things. The reason I’m a bit late is I’ve been on calls with the HSE and clients on the definition of gateway 2 buildings and so forth. So the summary that Das gave is pretty good, it’s a pretty clear understanding and aligns very much with what our understanding is. I think what you all have to be aware of there is huge rabbit holes in some of this legislation that you could go down. So some of the definitions and the crossover between the Safety Act and the Building Act can very quickly diverse between one and the other and so you can spend a lot of time with very listigious? 31mins 05 secs words looking at a very clear paragraph. And I still think the HSE recommendation this morning is that the new gateway 2 go live date will be the 2nd October for stage 2 applications.

I think Das mentioned fees there, as we understand it the fees will be a very notional fee to put the application in. It will be a couple of hundred £ to submit. And then the registered building inspector, which will be your replacement building control inspector, will then put forward a cost for the project based on its complexity and the team that they need to do the assessment.

GEORGE Yes, and if they then need to do investigations then that’s just an hourly rate, the conversation last year was it was £170 an hour that they were charging. But of course that’s open ended, so it’s probably better for clients and main contractors to invest in their designers in making sure that all of that information is as clean as possible so that those types of investigations aren’t necessary.

MIKE SMITH Exactly, I think the emphasis on stage 2 gateway submission is solid and robust and having all the right information so that the BSR assessment is them just checking all the information, asking if you’ve got any questions, and then they will go through. I think what will cause you a challenge is if you submit a basic stage 2 application you run the risk that your costs will ramp up because the assessor will take longer to do it and it will be charged back to the accountable person.

MO FISHER Just to add to that is that change control is also going to be chargeable and that’s full cost recovery and we don’t know what that looks like. So if you’ve got a product noted on 200 drawings and you change are building safety regulator/building control then going to put a cost forward to say we’re then having to go through and check a percentage of those drawings, all of them, that hasn’t been clarified at any point so we don’t know what those costs are going to look like. So again it’s just reinforcing the point made by Mike to get your gateway 2 information, once you’re there you need to be comfortable that whatever is specified is going to be used through the project. Albeit you could have supply issues etc that mean that you need to make that change, but I have heard through an HSE Q&A that they would look at situations in a reasonable manner. So if you can’t get a product that is specified there and you’re replacing it for something that is equal or better, then they will look at that favourably because they realise it’s a supply issue. But again, we’re yet to see how that actually works.

GEORGE We had a Bim4housing contractural group meeting yesterday where we had some of the big contractors. One of the things that Mace raised was the importance of change control, they said that change control is going to be the thing that’s going to bite a lot of people. So I think we need to simplify that.

MIKE SMITH Your stage control process will form part of your stage 2 gateway submission, so you have to submit within your gateway 2 application how you manage your change control. And what they’ll then look to do is evidence of the changes that have happened. If you did make a change because of a subcontractor supply issue what they’d then want to see is have you done your assessment of why you’re change was required, have you got the right sign off from the right person based on what you’re changing. So when you then go through the change control they’ll say, great, you’ve done everything, thanks. So it will be quicker based on if you have the right things.

MO FISHER There’s going to be an HSE portal for that, or there was one proposed. I sat in on BSR research and that’s where I know that there was a cost because I went through all of the process and then right at they end they went credit card details please. And I was like surely you should be doing that up front, rather than at the end, it felt a little bit naughty. So, we’ll see how that comes, because again I think they should be giving you a quotation rather than an invoice. Because if you did want to change for a good reason, but it’s going to cost you £50,000, but you don’t need to make that change, you’re doing it for a moral obligation, maybe sustainability - you don’t need to do it. the product is compliant in every way you look at it, it will put people of form doing those decisions.

ALIN MARGARIT I’d like to ask if anyone has an opinion from a British designer perspective of working abroad and considering that the health and safety issues are supposed to be followed as we have them in UK, regardless of where you work, I'm wondering how is this new legislation impacting the work we do overseas. For example, in my mind first comes the International Building Conduct Code that’s it’s kind of an umbrella which would cover most situations and then as you go into local contexts you have local codes and so on. As a designer or an architect or the duty you have to look at health and safety issues, you would still refer to the UK legislation mostly, regardless of where this is.

ANA MATIC I can try and answer this, not that I know the answer. I think what’s going to happen is that this will be more of an overall cultural change. We work abroad as well, so I think what’s going to happen is that our own internal processes will change to adapt and once they’re changed we’ll be looking to implement them wherever we’re working, regardless of whether that’s a UK project that’s subject to the gateways, or it’s an international project where actually the gateways don’t exist, but similar principles should apply. At least from an architects point of view, the cultural and the procurement changes will start becoming fixed into our normal work and therefore we’ll be expecting ourselves and our consultants to work in a certain way. But I don’t know if there is any immediate changes that will affect international projects.

MIKE SMITH I think when you read the direct Act, the Act applies to buildings in England only. The theory is that following the guidance in line with the Act for buildings outside of the UK will be a very good process, but I think you wouldn’t be able to go through the gateway processes because they would assess it as a building outside of their control.

GEORGE Can I just clarify, Mike, we talk about the Act as the Building Safety Act, but I think it gets mixed up with the Fire Safety Act. Because the Fire Safety Act has got a wider…is fire safety also related to Scotland, Wales and Ireland?

MIKE SMITH This is where the challenge lies as well. What you see is even when you’re looking at the Building Safety Act and the Building Act there is still definition crossovers that mean that mean that number one, it will be included. So there’s care homes and hospitals, we’ve been having a real struggle to understand that because on the one Act they are included and in one Act they’re excluded. So you can find that there’s very fine lines between definitions in those different documents and the secondary legislation that then clarifies it can send you down these rabbit holes that can be quite difficult.

GEORGE I was talking a few months ago with one of the partners at Devonshires. Obviously people at the moment are trying to limit their liabilities and responsibilities, in a practical way, but he said that the clarification from the regulator to some extent isn’t so relevant in that you have to ensure that you’re complying with building regs. So therefore however it comes out, if you’ve not complied with building regs then you are liable. For me, that’s a bit of an interesting one because from everything that I’ve been told building regs themselves are contradictory, and some of the standards are contradictory as well, so it’s actually quite difficult to know.

One of the things I wanted to pose today is the role of the principal designer. I’m raising that because it seems to me that if it is the case that a measure of whether a project has or hasn’t complied somebody has to review that. My understanding is the client has got a responsibility to appoint a principal designer and a principal contractor, and that principal designer has got a responsibility, and therefore I presume a liability, to actually verify that the project has complied with building regs. That seems to me to be quite an onerous responsibility. I’ve discussed it with a couple of architects that are following that route of becoming principal designers and they’re at the moment in conversations with their insurers to try and scope how they’re dealing with that. As one of them said we’re probably comfortable in doing the architectural bits, but structure and M&E are obviously specialist areas, but the principal designer is expected to be able to verify all of those areas. I don’t know if that’s something that Mike or Ana are planning to go with.

MIKE SMITH As I see it from the new secondary legislation as well, I'm led to believe that the client now has a responsibility to sign off the completed works. There's been a new shift that what they're looking now to do is, I think if you go back to the whole premise of the accountable person, what they're trying to do is they're trying to give a building a point of contact for everything to funnel through. So from the BSR route there's your building, this is the person looking after it, they’re making all the right decisions and they are then disseminating the information to designers, contractors, whoever else it is. Because therefore they are receiving information from architects and designers it’s their responsibility to be able to say we have a compliant building. We’ve also seen quite recently with some building reg applications ahead of gateway 2 approval that we’re seeing building control bodies also taking that sort of stance.

They’re sort of saying we’re not going to tell you you’re compliant, we’re going to ask you questions and you’ve got to prove to us that you’re compliant. So they are sort of changing that stance and anywhere where we are seeing ambiguity in We've also seen quite recently with some recent building Reg applications ahead of Gateway to approval that we're seeing building control bodies also taking that sort of stance. There's sort of saying we're not going to tell you you're compliant. We're gonna ask you questions and you've got to prove to us that you're so they're sort of changing that stance. And anyway, where we're seeing ambiguity in determination or understanding of the requirements they are typically seeking us to get a fire engineer to vouch for fire safety related sign-off…fire engineer to sign off, this is a derogation from the regulations. That then goes back to building control and building controls don't really say thank you, they sort of say we've received this. So they’re being a little bit more slippery fish really giving us advice and really putting the emphasis back on us to design to requirement.

JIM CREAK I agree with that. That's exactly the advice I am actually giving to seek assurance from others. I liken this situation, Mike, like the statutory bar used to be, in other words, because the fire safety sort of hands over on occupancy but also impinges on design and real understanding this fire statement and the fire safety strategy. I'm telling clients now that they must seek those assurances from the specialists involved, I like the idea you proposed which is an overall designer that will have the answers to this, but from my perspective I don’t see a problem with the two pieces of legislation, I see that they compliment one another. And it does put an onus, and I’ve always said this since we started this process, George, that it starts right at the beginning with design.

We’ve talked about the old situation of a purpose group of a building, is it going to mixed residential, is it going to have retail, commercial, all of those things now have to be considered right up front in stage 1. And of course those declarations have to be made to building regulations and building regulations, quite rightly, they don’t say it’s OK, they say we’ve got your justification, we’ve got your calculations. You sign it off, you’ve got the liability, and then you hand that over to the client. And that’s what I’m saying, I’m not worried about the detail of the definitions about this other foot or whatever, I’m actually telling clients to treat it all exactly the same because when you get into the fire safety order, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a hotel, care home, it’s got to be suitable and sufficient for the purpose group of which you’ve designed it. And that means that the client, the landlord, has to seek assurance from the professions, and that goes right back. The golden thread can’t just stay at completion, it’s too late.

MICHELE HANIOTIS Just back to the PD, maybe I’m over simplistic but it seems to me to be the principal contractors role because they coordinate the building regs application and I know that implies a procurement route, it’s an interesting problem there. We’ve talked to various solicitors and on the one hand you might be able to do a pre-commencement agreement with a contractor who will take on the PD role to get the building regs done, or you do it under one contract. They seem to think it’s possible, although there’s quite an extended period of time, not just to do the building regs application but also to wait for approval, so that has contractural implications. So there are details there that need to be resolved, but I can’t see why in the design & build world the principal contractor can’t be the principal designer (building regulations) coordinating the building regs application and verifying it and so on as they would normally do.

MIKE SMITH It’s a tricky one, I think there is still a general feel that design & build contracts will be less off, I still feel there’s this designing it fully.

MICHELE HANIOTIS I'm jumping in here and saying that if we only did it properly with the contractor involved at the earliest stage in design, we might actually get the benefit because at the moment (I’m not the only one who might think this), this fragmented business. We have a pre-contract designers who are called concept designers who don't know their arse from their tit, and I'm very angry with the architectural profession, as an architect, that they don't know. They call people who know how to build buildings technical architects, I thought architects knew how to build buildings. That's my rant for the morning. And then when you go through that process where the contractor prices the scheme on the basis of poorly developed design from planning drawings and some generic ERs and then they end up having to make it work, who pays for that? And the delayed periods of getting new planning applications in and so on. If we had the contractors benefit from the start to make sure the scheme was buildable and that there was some technical input, unless the architect can be technical, I think I’m very happy for that. It’s just going to be a protracted design development period and who is paying for that. I think that is going to be an issue.

ANA MATIC We are definitely going to be providing the principal designer role. We think we’re competent, we have projects on both sides, we have a delivery unit that deals with later stage design, in effect technical architects, as you say, but we also have projects that are just normal all the way through projects. So we’re experiencing both. We have a principal designer lead role, so we’ll be offering a kind of consultancy for principal designer role as well. Quite how it’s going to work with proving that we’re competent to speak on behalf of the overall coordinated design, I don’t know. I don’t think anyone knows because I think the regulations and the guidance has been written without actual understanding of coordination. Duties have been pushed into certain roles and bags or buckets, whatever you were to call them, and the building process has been simplified into here you are, you make a design and then you just go to the contractor then you just go to construction.

We all know it’s not like that, things change in the industry, procurement changes, suppliers go bankrupt. With the best will architects, even if they know what they’re doing exactly, might specify something today and in three months time that thing might change. So I think it’s not always incompetence, life is just messy and much more messy than the regulations would like to think about it. I think architects are very competent to be principal designers, I just also want to caveat that with the fact that we are not able to control the coordination, the coordination will depend on procurement. That’s a very important thing to remember. The lead designer always gets blamed for everything that goes wrong in the coordination, but just being the lead designer doesn’t mean you have the stick to beat everyone in the team to do the right thing. People will be doing the right thing, including the designers and subcontractors, only if they’ve been paid properly, they’ve been briefed properly, they have good employers requirements, they understood the project, all of those things. So I think really the time will tell and probably a new type of design & build will develop. That’s as much of an understanding at the moment.

MICHELE HANIOTIS Why do we think a good design & build contractor can’t do this? Because they have technical design coordinators to do exactly the job of coordinating the design team. I’ve worked with some terrific people over the years, the rest of them might be awful, but the people doing the job, generally from an architectural background, but they have a project management role about coordinating. Sometimes it might be the architect, but quite often not, because as you say Ana it’s a different skill set almost, to pull together the whole thing. Now obviously now we’re using BIM, there is that advantage in that somebodies got to coordinate a federated model, so there’s already a sort of coordination role in that as well. As long as you’ve got a decent contractor I don’t see why you can’t rely on their design coordinator to technical manager to pull together the building regs, because they already do.

ANA MATIC Oh no, contractors are perfectly placed to do the role,. It’s just that if the design & build is changing in itself, we might see contractors not being very keen to take this role. We’d love them to do it, but they might not be so keen. We'll see.

MIKE SMITH I think Ana’s right, the regulator has this idealistic view that everything is fully designed, you submit your gateway 2, nothing changes and the builders go away and build it. And we know that although that is potentially feasible, it has its own challenges within and there is always that on construction stage issue that will sit there. I think this is why we need a little bit more knowledge about that change control between the gateway 2 and 3 and what constitutes those changes. We’re all fully aware that the idealist world of trying to fully design a building before we’ve appointed all of the various supply chains is nearly impossible because we would then have to sub-appoint all these outer designers which would mean our fees would go up which would mean that clients fees expectations before starting would ramp up and here’s a danger then that you would slow down development.

JIM CREAK In the design & build stage the problem in my experience over 30 years is when it comes to specialist contractors. When it deals with fire alarms that you can’t actually draw up a confirmation because so much is variable in the fit-up depending on the occupancy profile. This again is crossover between the statutory bar where you just had a building and it had four walls and you’d get a key from a landlord’s representative and you’d say there it is, go ahead, it’s been built to spec buildings regulations, just go and occupy it. But it’s not as simple as that anymore because needs of the different occupants, I call it occupant profile and occupancy profile, things change with the specialist contractor systems within there. And that’s something that designers have got to get their head around.

GEORGE I want to pick up on tow things. One is that Michele was saying there, she mentioned BIM. One of the frustrations that I have at the moment is that people are seeing BIM as being the solution, and certainly it can be, as long as you’re asking for the right information. I’m concerned that people aren’t interested in actually the detail and it’s the detail that gives you the information that Michele was just referring to. So unless we actually are defining what the detail is then that’s critical. One of the things that I found encouraging in the secondary legislation when ti came out a few weeks ago, and I think Mike referred to this, the client now has a much clearer responsibility for signing off what they’re being provided. So, Regulation 38, which is the definition of the information that needs to be handed over from a fire perspective. In my experience of looking at O&Ms and handover information Regulation 38 is never satisfied, certainly in the ones I’ve seen and also anecdotally from talking to people in this group. And yet that’s a fundamental thing that could be very clear and could be explicit. So therefore I think that is something that we should zero in on.

And the new regulation requires clients to actually explicitly say that they’ve received the information that’s needed, which I think is a really strong thing because it means, for example, Michele’s colleagues, who may or may not be engaged in the process because typically asset teams are expected to get crap information and therefore they don’t get engaged, which is a self fulfilling prophecy, that’s something that we need to address. One final thing on that is the specification. So if we’ve got within change control, if we need a robust change control mechanism i’m assuming therefore that you need to have a performance specification for that product that’s easily accessed so that when an AOV is swapped out for a different AOV, or doors are swapped out for different doors, how easy is it for the specification to carry against that.

I’ve been doing work to try and understand that. I’ve spoken with NBS because NBS’ Chorus is probably the most widely used specification tool, and said could we extract from NBS Chorus a specification for a door or a wall. And the answer really is no. Typically the NBS specification is maybe a 1500 or 2000 page PDF document, that’s the output that then is held.

ANA MATIC You can export from NBS, you just end up with a dead copy. You can export that specific clause, part of the clause to a PDF or Word document or whatever. It’s just your ending up with a dead copy, not a live copy if that makes sense. So you have to remember then to update it if you’re ever going to use it in isolated…it becomes static data.

MO FISHER I’ve also spoken to NBS because I’ve found that there is room for human era with input from suppliers. What I’ve found out from NBS is it’s not mandatory for suppliers to declare fire performance etc and then NBS verify it, which i found was astonishing. So the forms that they give suppliers have room for them to fill in that information, but it’s not mandatory and it’s not mandatory for them to declare what certificate. So I’m actually in discussions trying to push that, the more people here that would agree that they think it’s mandatory for suppliers to declare what their performance is, not just from fire, membranes for water proofing etc and back that up the better. Because I do find it very discouraging that later on down the line when us as a designer will dig into a product you go hold on a minute, that’s not fit for use in this application and that’s not right. If a supplier is putting forward a product that they should be responsible.

Just coming back to the PR role, the problem I see also for architects as PDs competency levels within skill sets, which we’ve mentioned, but for example smoke control, CFD analysis, how can an architect look at that, review it and say I’m competent enough to sign that off. So there’s got to be a level of competency statements form consultants, subcontractors, that people must buy into and agree yes they are and that’s got to pave the way for that sign off. The other one was the role of the contractor as PD. I think some contractors will want to take that on because they won’t want to lose that control during the construction phase of what they have through D&B. You can imagine an architect acting as a PD and they say we want to change our product and the PD has the overriding hand to say we disagree, you can’t, I don’t think it’s going to work well in relationship there, but could we see a PD role with the architect delivering the building regs application and then the principal contractor also then becoming the principal designer through the construction phase.

I don’t think anywhere that you’re not allowed to change the PD role, you are, but you have to justify it. And the BSR is all about procedure, so the BSR is more procedural than the building control actually sort of agreeing the detail. And I think that for me is where I’m just doing a clear split line, procedure is BSR and building regs is building regs, but it still remains to be seen whether they will actually approve. They must approve something at some point, they can’t just say we’ve reviewed everything and we agree with the principal designer , otherwise what’s the point of having them there.

MIKE SMITH Isn’t that the function though of these two PD roles. My understanding is that there is now tow PD roles, there’s what we would call the original PD and there is the new PD that now deals with the building regs. And the idea is that they can be separate or the y can be combined. So one person could do both if they have the competency, but you could separate them out which would then enable you in theory to retain the PD building regs appointment, transfer PD over to the principal contractor so you could still do that D&B route, but any variations in change to the regulations would come under the review of the PD building regs.

MO FISHER Yeah, and for that I think that split for the PD building regs could happen after building control application. So architect up to application and then contractor after, and that fits a sort of hybrid D&B scenario in that world, but you may also get contractors that just don’t want to do the PD role, they just want to put the onerous onto someone else and don’t want to have to plan, manage, monitor, because it’s in the law that that’s what the PD has to do and you could see a push on that coming from contractors.

MICHELE HANIOTIS Back to the queries about change control and building regs applications and how complete it could be before you get the supply chain input. Is anybody on the calls to the HSE having their regular updates on building regs and the BSR requirements? That question has come up and it might not be a perfect answer but I think what’ they’re saying is we’re not going to be stupid about this, you have to justify why you can’t give us all the details. Smoke alarms are one of the examples where a specialist input is required as long as you can justify it because it’s part of a supply chain, and they expect they have to have that dialogue. Maybe I’m being naive, but I think they’re not stupid, they want to see the proof, they understand the way we build. But it means you can’t start with a bit of a piling? 1hr 08mins 30secs and hope for the best all through the contract, it won’t be that either, as we know they sort of procure during the job.

They have to have designed it to demonstrate, as much as possible, the functional requirements of the building regs. So there a little bit getting a bit wooly because the secondary legislation is out. I think we’re just going to have to start doing it and see what happens. The information management side, we’re pushing ahead at Network to engage asset management to write out EIRs properly. Now that they are registering schemes they’re starting to wake up to what we’re asking for, so we’re making good progress with key building information. We’ll wait to see what happens when they start having to do the building safety cases, but we’re starting to make sense of that. And as you say, George, the Regulation 38 information has been a bit patchy over the years, but now everybody is getting much smarter about it. And so hopefully we’ll get our information management, either analogue or BIM, in shape. That’s the plan anyway.

GEORGE I’m coming across quite a lot of people saying, well, we don’t need to do any of this because it’s gone through building control so therefore if building control have signed it off, then what do we need to do. I’m saying to them you can’t pass liability onto building control because they don’t carry liability, so therefore if information is missing then it’s your responsibility to ensure that it isn’t. I just wondered whether anybody else has a view on that.

MIKE SMITH Yes, what you’re talking about there is applications ahead of gateway 2 that have already been approved.

GEORGE I think probably projects that are being completed within the next year, say.

MIKE SMITH It’s quite tricky, I think is the answer. There’s a couple of things there, as I see it ahead of gateway 2 approval if you’ve already got an initial notice or building control approval notice you can carry on without going through gateway 2 approval as long as you achieve the transitional requirements and start on site ahead of April 2024 with various criteria around that. Now, it’s a bit grey around that. it’s not everything applies, there are different requirements under it, but that’s my understanding.

GEORGE But the specific question I’m trying to simplify things on is have we got the documents that should have been provided for Regulation 38? And for me, either you’ve provided them or you haven’t. So if you haven't provided them, if the contractor hasn't provided them, if the supply chain hasn't provided to them to the client, in my view they have to. Whereas what I’m being told is that if building control has signed it off then nobody needs to do anything because if building control have missed out that there’s no door schedules, for example, then there’s nothing that anybody can do. That seems to me to be nonsense because building control, they can’t check everything, they’re not responsible, are they?

JIM CREAK I’ve been going on by Regulation 38 for the last 15 years and unfortunately the paragraph is not that clever, it’s actually very very weak. And you can ask loads of people what they actually think should be in the details handed over to either an occupant or a tenant or an owner of a building, both on the fire safety side enforcement and in approved inspectors, they are not sure that fire stopping and fire door register and all of that is meant by that. It still keeps going back to an old mechanical M&E of how the building works. But you’re perfectly correct, I’ve been on this whole thing for 15 years and it’s enforcers that are the problem because they don’t actually know what should be in it.

GEORGE So if the clients now have to sign off that they’ve received it then I think theres’s an opportunity, as Michele was saying, if the information requirements can be tightened up so the client is explicitly saying that I do want a door schedule, I do want to know where the fire stopping is, therefore that’s something that the supply chain can then deliver against.

JIM CREAK I think with HRBs it’s a definite, George, but with other buildings it’s still going to be difficult.

RICHARD We’ve got 10 minutes left and I’m hearing a lot of we need this, we’ve got to do this, we must have this. George said we need to address this, and I’m assuming you’re talking about Bim4housing, this group. So how do we do this? have you got any ideas. We’re saying what we need, what can we do about it? we can’t just leave it to these requirements and what we need to happen out in the aether somewhere. What can we as Bim4housing as this group do about it?

GEORGE I think we should be providing landlords, clients, with a distilled version of what we’ve been talking about here which is saying what information is needed. Because at the end of the day a lot what we’re talking about is contractural and responsible and all the rest, but at the end of the day what we’re doing is talking about information and therefore I think that if we can look at it through the prism of what information is needed and how is that information being provided and who is providing it. It’s that sort of RACI thing, that’s possibly a way of doing it. I think this is all coming together now with the point about change control. My team Active Plan, they’re getting bored with me talking about Regulation 38, but it seems to me to be a very simple part of a bigger picture. But if the project isn’t able to satisfy what’s in Regulation 38 I think that should be a massive red flag for any project.

MIKE SMITH For me it comes back to good quality EIRs and good setting baseline right at the start and I think one of the things I was just going to raise there is obviously we had a huge amount of good UK BIM framework documentation and guides around all the standards. Unfortunately, there has been a little bit drop and obviously there's been rebranding and renaming of that, which has slightly distilled that and lost a bit of direction. So the ISO 19650 series is still the mandatory requirements and sets of offered the bits and pieces to it. But I still feel we see a lot of uneducated clients about what those standards mean, which cause a lot of the questions when you go through. So Regulation 38 requirements can be clearly stated within your EIRs as a deliverable document, so that can set a framework for a client to say this is what we need. And then from a client team or delivery team, we can price to deliver those documents in a way we go. So it's actually quite simple, but it's still quite difficult to get good quality EIRs at the start of the job and that almost starts the problem as we go through the process.

GEORGE The challenge with that is that all of the standards, the 19650, the Firey standard is a bit more explicit, but most of them are at high level. They’re mostly saying that you need this process, you need to ensure that you’ve got these documents. Whereas as Jim was saying earlier the trouble is the definition of what Regulation 38 should include needs to be more explicit. So that’s something, Richard, that we could do.

RICHARD I’ll tell you why I’m asking this question. We’ve got a big online meeting in the middle of November, primarily for HAs and LAs but obviously everyone is welcome. The guy who’s going to be our special guest at that is one of the principal advisors to the Levelling Up committee. So we’ve actually got the ear of someone who’s got the of the Levelling Up committee, which is no small thing. I want to make sure that we maximise that to the full. Whatever comes out of this meeting, there’s obviously a lot of meat that’s going to come out of this meeting, we need to be able to distill that and expand on that over the next couple of months so we’ve got something very strong to put forward. Not just for that meeting, but also we’ve got 300 HAs and LAs who are members of Bim4housing now, and that’s expanding all the time. So we really have got the ear of that side of the industry so it makes sense to exploit that and use that and let’s tell these guys what you want.

GEORGE That would work for me. I think one the challenges we’ve got is that everybody is completely overwhelmed with information at the moment. I heard the time last week cognitive miser. What that relates to is people largely being overwhelmed with information and not being able to absorb anymore, so therefore they become miserly, it’s a current thing of just skimming through things rather than actually reading them. I think that’s endemic and to a great extent that’s why we’re going to need to use more technology to be able to sort this, but you’ve got to have the data available in a structured way to be able to do that. The other thing I’d suggest is what Das went through this morning I thought was very good and what might be useful is if we share that with everybody and if people could make their own comments on it, doing a brain-dump against it, and then sharing it back with us. So what we can then have is the collective view of the people on this call so that we can have that as a common set of interpretations because I think it isn’t clear. I was talking to Johnny Furlong last week and, I said I don’t think it’s clear to people as to what’s in scope and what isn’t. Johnny thought it was clear, but I think there are so many variables.

RICHARD Yeah, that’s the most fundamental of the lot, is this building in scope or not. If we’re not even sure on that, where do we go from there?

ANA MATIC I think it would be great to come up with a summary of the highlights of this meeting because I think some really useful stuff came out. And then if George or somebody from this group can be at the meeting with the housing associations that would be amazing because I think we need to be feedbacking the stuff that absolutely needs to start being addressed now so that things can actually move on. My highlights from today: Definitely change control procedure needs to be clear, probably at the point of gateway 2 onwards, but generally needs to be clear just across the whole of the development of the project. So that implies a competent project manager or design manager on board and if the project doesn’t have a competent project manager or design manager then who takes this on, who looks after this? Who proposes a good change control procedure and who then manages the process?

These are all very normal procurement questions, what I’m saying is even high risk buildings sometimes come with not a very knowledgeable client and not a very good project manager. And then you’re in a situation where you’re actually starting from scratch and saying well, you need to have an EIR because that will tell you how you’re going to exchange information. So all the things we assume will be in place might not be in place so those are the situations we need to think about.

RICHARD This meeting is recorded and we publish the highpoints of this meeting, so believe me nothing you’ve said is lost. And also anything you put in the notes, please use the notes because we include those in that document.

MO FISHER My biggest ask would be the Building Safety Act to be in a single document rather than spread around 20 or 30 pages of different legislation.

MIKE SMITH I think I understand why that is a problem. The problem is when they try and get the primary legislation through you get royal assent. Because that takes so long to go through the time frame what they do is they give themselves an opportunity to amend and address the secondary legislation because it’s quicker. Like you, I get so frustrated, you get the primary legislation then you get the secondary legislation then you get the advisory notes, and what you do is you go down massive rabbit holes.

RICHARD If you had all of that as primary legislation it would never get through a session. They have to not exactly cut it short, but cut it short as much as they can and then fill in the gaps with secondary legislation, otherwise it would never get through the House because secondary legislation doesn’t have such a long passage, you don’t have the committee stages to some extent.

JIM CREAK I’ll leave you with one last thought. If you’d like to go and look and Linkedin and have a look at an entry that Colin Todd did over the weekend about the HSE’s advert for a fire engineer at the princely salary of £55,000 per year. And then you saw that they couldn’t even get the right qualifications for a fire engineer, it might bring some of the stuff that we’ve talked about today into context. But I do think we’ve had a very constructive meeting, so thank you everybody.

MICHELE HANIOTIS Just to say at the HSE conversations this last month they’ve admitted that they’ve got drafting errors in the legislation and they’ll be submitting revised…so if you pick up any anomalies, they’ve already done it. Because they rushed through it, maybe it just took too long to get through the House.

RICHARD Let me just recap in terms of moves forward. George, we’re going to circulate a document that presumably includes the high points from this meeting for everyone to comment on, add to and brain-dump into.

GEORGE Yeah, I think the very first thing is that today we need to share with everybody Das’ document and ask people to comment on that as quickly as possible so that we can then perhaps incorporate that with the high notes and all the rest of it.

ANA MATIC Can we have a cheat sheet for all of this? Because just commenting on George’s comment about information miserly, we are overwhelmed with so much at the moment and I wonder whether we could start working on nice a A3 sheet with don’t forget these things, talk to your client about these things.

RICHARD Ana, feel free to take that on as a task.

GEORGE It’s a really good point. One of the things that we’ve done within Active Plan, we’re trying to put things onto an A3 sheet so that the building safety information that you need…so you can see whether you’ve got all the information or you haven’t, so rather than it being a bigger report. I think that approach is a good one.

CHAT

Michele Haniotis : The new title is Principal Designer (Building Regulations)
I think the PD role is best placed with Principal Contractor under D and B