Design pre DCW - BIM4HOUSING AT DIGITAL CONSTRUCTION WEEK
ANDREW DE SILVA ‘DAS’ …on the 18th May, reading from his email and trying to get feedback from the various working groups with really the question of how ready are they for the new regulatory regime and what information support could come from our groups to make it easier for everyone. And I think he's already spoken to the development team, the operations and the manufacturing. I'm sure some of you have already been involved in some of those meetings already, but obviously different people have different clarity, so manufacturers might have some clarity, but they're like, well, we're kind of not sure yet still what we need to be surviving or we're already providing it, whereas developers are maybe getting information about some of the decisions making that they're taking, trying to keep that golden thread going, making sure they’ve got things like fire safety cases or fire strategies updated. Mainly because the bottom line is I don't think we're gonna get a list of things that we have to tick off to say, yes, we've got all of those, so we are compliant as such. That comes back to the original idea of the question will simply be, is your building safe and that's the kind of responsible people etcetera, they've got to say it.
I think from a design point of view, George has spoken to people like Scott Sanderson and their practice, what they're keen to make sure is that they're not thinking of individual elements and tracking those, like a fire door, but making sure that they’re somehow thinking, and I don't really know what they're doing as such, but somehow thinking about the fact that the assembly of the wall, the door, the ironmongery, the fire dampers are all kind of being tracked and monitored because obviously the weakest link is the thing where things go wrong. So how do they do that, whether it's using the models, so using some of the built-in data to somehow say if you're checking the file structure for the doors make sure that the fire dampers are somehow linked to that. So obviously there are databases and digital ways of linking things, but also I guess from a general reviewing drawings, commenting on information we get from manufacturers, that's one way that I know that we can do that, and we're trying to create checklists for that.
So I think going back to George's question it’s like, and these are questions I have as well because there's so many presentations I've been to, I'm sort of slightly also confused myself in terms of, OK, what do we have to do from a Fire Safety Act point of view. And this is where it'll be useful to kind of see any case studies of live projects we’re now involved in, and then from a Building Safety Act has anyone had to submit anything for Gateway 1, and then the deadlines or when the gateway 2 and 2 kicks in. Just kind of getting clarity amongst ourselves because like I said I went to another presentation with Bureau Veritas, for example, and they were talking about the building safety regulations, but also the whole building control profession having to register themselves with the regulator. There was a couple of different acronyms that he used, but he was essentially saying things like they've got to get… and the commencement definition is now changing as well, apparently, so that's much more onerous. So you can't just build, pour a bit of concrete, for example, for commencement, it has to be, I think, the DPC of the building, for example, and if you're doing a multiple phase delivery of multiple blocks, it has to be the DPC to all of those blocks, for example, rather than just one.
I've been in those presentation and I'll try and share them again, they normally issue the slides, but I think the aim of this meeting is just to kind of go do we know when the milestone cut off deadlines are, have we had any experience of what information we've been asked by whoever. And then from a design point of view, what do we think we need to do going forward to kind of satisfy these requirements. I could start off with one example where we're doing with Westminster City Council. It's an estate in Pimlico and we're simply well, I say simply, we’ve been working on it for about five years trying to agree with the residents. It’s an estate called Lillington Longmore, which is a grade conservation area, grade listed buildings, quite a large estate just by Pimlico tube station and we're trying to improve security by just adding security gates, railings, fences to stop a lot of the antisocial behaviour. And part of the listing is because it is so kind of porous in terms of we can get into the estate, lots of different ways, so we can't gate it. So the actual design that we're doing is simply to introduce gates, which are following on from previous phases and to replicate that we've had sort of feedback from sort of Historic England etcetera.
But even when we did submit the planning application, the planners has asked for a fire statement to align with the regulations that are changing and the fire consultant was, and I think there is a standard sort of matrix that had to be filled in. So simple questions like what number of storeys, what materials, are there vulnerable people living in those blocks. So, they were’n too onerous in terms of the questions, but there was a standard structure that had to be submitted for this fire statement that we had to submit as part of the planning application. So that is a combination of the Fire Safety Act kicking in, but also Gateway 1 kicking in on a project that we're doing at the moment. But really beyond that a lot of the schemes that we’re working on haven’t been hitting the 18 metre finish floor level of the habitable floor, so we’ve been applying it on other schemes, but from a best practice with the client and kind of advising them accordingly. But we’re not working on a scheme that’s high enough to kick in the Building Safety Act as yet. Would anyone like to give examples of exacting submissions they’ve had to do? Or have been requested, bringing some clarity one way or another, or not.
PAULA CHANDLER So we haven't done anything formally so far, Das, but what we've done is we've adopted complying with the principles of what we think gate 2 will require, and we've done that to some success. What we're struggling with is getting from our lead designer information on, for example, passive fire protection earlier on than they want to give it to us. And some don't even want to give us that information because they say they don’t want to take design responsibility for it. So it’s thrown up more questions than answers, but it does allow us to start trying to navigate having early conversations with our consultant teams to say you work with us, you sign up to this code of conduct, we’ll be doing Gateway 2 ready principles. What we’re seeing at the moment is we're trying to do a clear definition between what is a stage 4 consultant based design and put CDP on the back burner because what we think as a first logical step is because we're not gonna be allowed to start on site until we've got a stage 4 design signed off, we're gonna call that the stage 4 consultant design, with enough detail on the fire safety critical elements to be able to get sign off from somebody. And then we'll embellish further with the CDP with any significant changes having then to be reintroduced back into that pack. So, that’s where we’re taking it at the minute, it’s a first step along the way that doesn’t go into the complexities of the CDP integration. I’m not sure if that’s other peoples’ experience as well.
DAS On those schemes, for example, has Gateway 1 come into them in terms of the submission of the planning, either by yourselves or by the previous consultant team, client team. Do you know if they had to, or whether it was pre Gateway 1 coming onboard? In terms of like a fire statement. At the moment as far as I understand it
a fire statement is all we need to submit at Gateway 1, but I guess the complexity and the robustness of that is that if that fire statement isn’t robust enough and it goes and gets approval, the problem is you’re then having to change a lot. You’ve got a bit more time, I guess, between Gateway 1 and 2, but very little manoeuvrability following Gateway 2 to change stuff, especially if the London Fire Brigade have been involved, and we know how stretched they are, and all the other teams. I don’t know on those projects where Gateway 1 was applicable.
PAULA CHANDLER We’re in a bit of a limbo, we’re starting to see it come through now. We’re also starting to see jobs that are landing with us, we’re having to go back and retrospectively look at (particularly the high-risk buildings) reintroducing an additional staircase so that we can retrospectively comply with what we know is going to come down the line for the Building Safety Act. One of our jobs at Canada Water, we invited Dame Judith Hackitt to come along and talk us through, with our ? 10mins 46secs directors, our design teams, where she saw the biggest risks, and to demonstrate how seriously we’re taking it. And I think the one thing we’ll all agree is that no one really knows what is going to be expected, so we’ve just got to be brave enough to start off down a path, assemble a pack, use that as a basis and then have someone tell us if they think there is any gaps, and that’s where we’re at at the moment. So, we’re not relying on a Gateway 1, we’re not seeing so much of it, it’s starting to trickle through now, what we’re trying to do is focus on our route to compliance of Gateway 2.
DAS And I guess in terms of the lead designer and their sort of hesitancy in that passive fire, is that something that you’re supplementing with more input from some of the specialists? That CDP element, are you bringing that a little bit forward but it’s unbadged under the leas designer? Or, is it simply that that specialist hasn’t come in and hence why they’re a bit hesitant?
PAULA CHANDLER Yeah, it’s a bit of both. We’re revisiting our appointments and our scopes to be explicit about what we need now, and we’re asking our consultants to come back and not just say in general terms, oh, we’ll operate under our scopes. No, you’ve got to operate under our scopes and that includes these safety-critical elements, and by exception you’ll have to tell us if you’re not going to deliver that and that will be reflected in your fee, because we’ll have to then go across and bring in those safety specialists earlier. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, as long as we’re all going into it with our eyes open that someone is going to take responsibility for those safety-critical elements.
DAS Yeah, and I guess getting those specialists appointed earlier, and I think with the presentation we’ve had previously even passive is specific, the wall build-ups and so on, just a fire damper as opposed to the active smoke extract and CFD modelling and things like that. I feel that if you’re doing early stage planning, for example, you’re right, and I think the Gateway 1 is in Act already, so there is no getting away from that. Gateway 2, as far as I’m aware the 1st October 2023 is the date when projects have to be…to avoid it you’d have to have the project registered with building control and stuff before October 2023, and I think there were something like 6 months before commencement has to happen i.e. April 24, to meet the new more stringent commencement requirements. Is that everyone’s correct assumption or knowledge of the dates?
ANA MATIC I actually don’t know the dates, I’m sorry. Really interesting, Paula, what you’ve been saying about getting information into place. We have such a different set of challenges on projects, but to just give you an example of a couple that are approaching Gateway 2, already fairly on the way developed projects, we’re the design lead on both of them. One of them is basically going through a major redesign to hit some of the things. And the other one has been doing a careful tracking of the design so that it can be submittable for Gateway 2, but what’s happening is that one of the suppliers who’s been a crucial part of the process is now not a supplier anymore, so now we will probably have to redesign things again, and this is a supplier that was actually doing builders work holes. What I’m trying to say is that the early involvement of sub-contractors is great, albeit not easy to maintain or to ensure, therefore we know don’t know quite how the process will progress, we’ll probably have to redesign again once we know who the new supplier is.
PAULA CHANDLER Yeah, I feel your pain, Ana, we go through similar heartache. There is, this isn’t a plug, but the way, but as you’re aware that George is involved as well in a new group, the Passive Fire Knowledge Group, of which I’m a member. It’s got a number of main contractors to act as a sharer of knowledge, case studies and best practices and what happens when things go wrong, and who to contact to sort out various issues. So, that group might start filling in some of those gaps, specifically about these safety-critical elements, particularly if one of your subbies or your specialists drops off the radar. I can circulate a link to that, it’s worth just having that in your back pocket if you need some help with things like that.
ANA MATIC Just to reiterate what you were saying, we might have to to go for something like as designed or, as you said, consultant designed, stage 4 submission. Assuming all the good things are put in place with a view to then resubmit a portion of stuff once it’s actually fixed in procurement, and I wonder whether there is a little bit of a pattern developing there. It’s too early to say, but we’ll see. Almost like a 2 stage submission will have to exist, so that there is a sort of as design submission to the best of the knowledge of everyone who is on board. We’re talking very detailed design, we’ve actually designed all of the works holes, we scheduled them, we tracked them in the model, we connected them to the products, we’ve worked with the supplier, the supplier has specified a product. It’s a proper detailed workflow, and now it might need to be redone. It involves quite a lot of consultants as well, MEP and the main contractor and everyone. So I wonder whether even for very advanced projects, advanced in detail, there might need to be almost like a split submission because you do a submission to the best of your knowledge and the design and then you do the submission once everyone is absolutely onboard.
DAS That case study is probably the most complete I’ve heard in terms of looking at trying to get to stage 2. A couple of questions, Ana. Was the client on he second project, then one that you’ve been tracking and trying to follow what we think is required, is that a contractor client at the moment?
ANA MATIC It is, it’s basically a contractor-developer client, if that makes sense. It’s not a contractor like a contractor that employs everyone else including the contractors, but it’s a developer-contractor. They’re really only employing a few main contractors and everyone else is a subbie, basically. It’s a tall multi-volume residential.
DAS Have they, in order to get the input from the products and manufacturers, is that then coming in with an appointment as such, or still on good will, as such?
ANA MATIC That’s probably one of the key questions. In this case it was basically like a pre-contract agreement with the supplier under which they were working and I don’t know what the reason is for them not to be onboard, it could be that they are simply oversubscribed, it might not even be money. They’re just suddenly not onboard anymore, we don’t know, we don’t have enough detail about that. But they were under a pre-construction services agreement.
DAS yeah, that makes sense, I think that’s a point that Mark’s made previously which is that getting input is one thing, then to actually get design input with some sort of responsibility, unsurprisingly that needs someone to be appointed because the idea of bringing a whole stage forward requires everyone to be onboard earlier to kind of give that continuity, no ones going to spend all that time just for fun.
JAREK WITYK When Paula and Ana mentioned this consultant design stage for submission, I totally understand where you’re coming from because you do need to double up your design and have it approved. But this sounds so bad from my perspective because that’s exactly where we are at every single project now and this is what we discussed for the last few months and it sounds like we got nowhere for many reasons, and I totally also understand them, but we haven’t got a solution. And I’m thinking if we do need to go that way and submit design for the stage 4 we then need extra time for design because if we’re talking about RIBA stage 4 in stage 5 there is no design activity except variations (or shouldn’t be), everyone seems to be ignoring it. My question is based upon what you’re doing and your experience do you actually have some…you know, we’re talking about gateways, but I’m talking about my meaning of the gateways, a gateway is checks of to make it 100% clear to the client and everyone involved in the project what’s actually outstanding.
Because now the project I’m just about to finish, we were at Parliament refurbishing one of the buildings and everything what could go wrong went wrong, so even during the tender the client had a consultant who represented them, that company sends tenders out and forgot to include BIM specific requirements. A contractor has been awarded, specialists there were some incumbents and subcontractors had been awarded and suddenly everyone realised, oh, this is a BIM project. If you’d read the documents anyone who has understanding, they’d know straight away that there were BIM requirements for some got no reason 24mins 29secs has not been included in the tender pack. So the client suffered extra massive cost, everything was on the back foot and clearly no checks had been done and it could be avoided and as in specialist health safety systems missed protection i.e. sprinkler, it was a CDP element, has been missed, although not missed because it was mentioned everywhere that it will be part of CDP element, but even space for it has not been allocated and that was critical and threw everything out.
And I come across this situation every single time on every project, that the consultant design is design, and then the actual design starts, but we’re doing it during the construction period which is absolutely wrong. We discussed it to death but we haven’t got a solution, but I guess that’s why we’re here to find a solution.
DAS Jarek, just to be clear on my end and to the team, your company, you actually install the various systems, you’re a specialist subcontractor I guess.
JAREK WITYK We’re a Tier 2 contractor, sometimes acting as a consultant, sometimes as a designer and also as installers. And we employ specialist subcontractors.
DAS I’ve recently come on a project that we’re working on, that combination of design and install within the same organisation. To me as a designer let alone any of the building element safety act stuff, it’s really valuable because one thing is to just kind of make sure that the drawings or the models fit, but one thing is to actually have the experience from your internal teams like install and maintenance of those things and getting that feedback into your design loop. I guess Paula, for example, Jarek’s organisation, Ana, are they the people that you are thinking about employing, to answer Jarek’s question about in the stage 4 to help the lead designer finish their design and therefore that would require some sort of formal appointment with someone like Jarek’s organisation. And to go OK, look, we’ve designed it based on these products, these systems and here, therefore, is our gateway 2 design. Is that what’s happening, Ana and Paula, what you’re aiming to do in the projects gong forward?
ANA MATIC The simple answer is yes, the longer answer is if it was only, for example, money that was the issue then to sort of say it absolutely has to be done this way therefore it has to be included in the price. But it could be so many different reasons why the relationship that might be working during stage 4 doesn’t work out for the construction. This is what I think is not quite appreciated over here where we’re setting up the standards, we imagine the procurement and the transition from the construction to be this smooth process that just happens and the world is not like that. The subcontractor or the whole team might be oversubscribed, the supply chain might have issues, goal posts might have moved. The real world is messy and the standards don’t understand messy, this is what I’m trying to say. In the next couple of years we’ll probably see a lot of…I totally understand what Jarek is saying that we’ve been talking about this precisely to prevent this 2-stage process but the split process arrives because the real world of building things is messy and it’s very hard to make it not messy, it involves many people and many sides. think the best we can say is what’s going to happen is that the systems themselves will become more alike therefore it will be easier to specify with one supplier in one system and then replace with another supplier in another system, but it’s not going to be an immediate thing. Some things will standardise themselves because of this, just like everything in the world.
PAULA CHANDLER Just to top and tail with what Ana is saying, Das. Jarek, I completely agree with you in every sense of what you’ve just said. The struggles that we’ve had are to get particularly our MEPH cousins interested any earlier than stage 4, and we need them to come to the table and we’re really struggling, even though we’ve got our own building services in-house team, to get those specialist subbies to come in and have the conversations with us earlier. And that plays to the point that Ana is making there, what we have to do as an industry is become more robust in terms of change management. Change should be better controlled than it is at the minute, but we all know there is opportunity in change, certain people are in the business to capitalise on change, but from a design point of view, we just want it pinned down. We want the design intent to be safeguarded, we want it to be pinned down by the end of stage 3 spatially coordinated and then we’ll just smash out the details in stage 4, but as Ana said that doesn’t happen.
What we’re trying to do as an organisation at the moment is we’re trialing something where we’re going out on stage 3 information for procurement and in doing so almost forcing the hand of the subbies to come to the table earlier and have a conversation where they don’t feel like they’re not going to get anything for that. I’ll let you know how that goes because we’re just in the middle of it now, but MEP, for example, which takes up a lot of the CDP, is always playing catchup. We need to have a frozen set of plans before anyone will come to the table, it doesn’t always work like that, so how can we open up that more collaborative role and cut each other a bit of slack and get those detailed conversations opening earlier.
DAS The issue, if I’m being really cynical, is that if you do appoint some specialist at PCSA with a paid appointment and the workload gets bigger and they find easier jobs they can just go, actually sorry, I’ve got to go. And that seems to be a potential reason, Ana, on your project, they might have found an easier route to make some money and who wouldn’t take that route as opposed to…they’ve already been paid for the work they’ve done up to stage 4 so they’re not obliged to do anything going forward.
ANA MATIC Absolutely, and also if they’ve suddenly got 3 other very big jobs they might not have time for us.
DAS So that’s a real live project and with the best will in the world, Paula, you being a large contractor and developer, even with your buying power, clout, solidity, you’re finding it difficult. If that’s the case for yourselves, how are we going to deal with smaller contractors who might be building schemes which do fall into the higher risk if you look at the definitions, who are not gonna have anywhere near that kind of supply chain system set up. Jarek, coming back to your point, just getting to make sure that the appointments and the scopes are aligned, it’s very easy to have a hole in some way in the DRMs. So I think one fo the things we shared out to the team, I’ve seen new DRMS come through with the Uniclass classification, the identifier rather than the recall, that can only help to be al little bit structured, at least when you see a DRM it’s always got that Uniclass and that’s structured and standardised, even though it doesn’t go into super detail.
The other question I wanted to ask is about the current issue of the misaligned workstages and different organisations, you’ve got the RIBA, Cibse and others. The problems is people who are either procuring services to understand that stage 4 is sort of a mythical 4A or 4B or 4C or 4D of M&E, what does it actually align to because on certain projects the procurement is done and they say, yeah, we’ve appointed a sub consultant and the sub goes well, yeah, but you’ve only appointed us 4A and that doesn’t include any of these things. I’m sure lots of people have done lots of diagrams to try and realign. I don’t know if anyone’s got a really good example where it would be useful to share with the design team to say looking at the different workstages within different accreditations or bodies, that might be a good thing to share with others including ourselves so that we know…if you’re asking, Paula, for us to comment on what do we think our scope is and do we think ti covers everything, yes, we think it does, but we’re not sure that your M&E or your structures based on there has got everything covered either.
PAULA CHANDLER I tried to do something as a starter for ten to explain to my team the crossover, it’s very rudimentary, I’m happy to share it on screen.
DAS I’m sure George and yourself might have come across similar sort of diagrams by others, so if that is something that could be shared that would be good. More from a point of view of just understanding across the design teams where is everyone else because I don’t think that’s necessarily common knowledge as such yet.
PAULA CHANDLER (shares screen). This is kind of a summary of how the BSRIA stages align with the RIBA stages and then we’ve got a bit of guidance about what you would expect and the crossovers which is a separate document that I’d have to dig out. You’d be surprised how many people don’t understand that this is where we’re at, there’s these 3 stages within that BSRIA element that aligns with RIBA 4 and when you start reeling out phrases like 4A and 4B it confuses the life out of people because it should only ever be used in terms of building services, and even now that’s the old one, but these ones don’t trip off the tongue. Bit we should be using the correct language so we’re all aligned. And Jarek is right, people still think that you top and tail the design in stage 5, well no! That’s why there’s so much confusion in the industry, everything is concluded by the end of 4, but 4 could overlap with 5 and that’s where the confusion is. So we’re trying to go back to basics and explain to people the process, but I think there needs to be more work done on it.
RICHARD Are we able to have a copy of this, Paula?
PAULA CHANDLER Yeah, I’ll chuck that over, I can’t give you Dame Hackitt’s contact details, but I can probably point you in the direction fo someone who can. I’m happy to drop the link to Passive Fire Knowledge Group, I’ll drop this slide in and anything else that I can find that might be worth feeding into the discussion.
DAS The only other question is structures is probably less…they have slightly different definitions. In terms of a coordination point of view I think they’re broadly speaking aligned to the architectural output to enable coordination. The builders work is probably the package that is most related to things to do with passive or active fire. What I don’t now is if there’s any differences between the structural engineers roles and stages, but I’d be interested to know whether structures at stage 4 should be allowing for all builders work openings, for example. That would be the minimum you’d expect because that has to be aligned to the M&E and fire and all the other things.
JAREK WITYK I want to challenge you a bit, again, based on the most recent projects I’m about to finish. Ana mentioned something that in order to achieve your approval or your design at stage 4 you're doing this consultant design and developed this to such a detail, including builders works and opening. The name of this group is BIM4housing and BIM should be to do the minimum required at any given stage. Is sounds to me, Ana, this is not a criticism, because this is what happened to me on this project where everything was designed to such a detail, it was a great design, but it didn’t work, it wasn’t coordinated. It had to be changed a lot and the client pays for it, we shouldn’t be in this position on a project, we should be using our knowledge, we should have a checklist through the gateways to check what the requirements are, are we delivering and fulfilling the requirements. Don’t do any anymore than that because especially when you know that this will then be developed further.
What’s the point of doing openings for services in the walls if the services are not coordinated? It's a waste of time and it’s happening on every single project. Also we have architectural design developed to a different RIBA stage than MEP designs, they’re always lacking. Someone mentioned clarity in the employer requirements or exchange information requirements where we’re having documents with RIBA stage 4A, there’s no such stage, we know it’s referring to BSRIA, but it says RIBA and there is so much ambiguity because of it. I think we should be able to develop some kind of…there needs to be some kind of flag which sticks out to everyone who is looking at the documents, this is the assumptions, that is developed using those assumptions and that is still to be developed.
It needs to be simple so a 5 year old can understand because people don’t read information, they don’t read long texts, they only read a couple of sentences (including our clients). And then things go wrong because if even you’re trying to, you know something needs to be developed at a really detailed technical. No one will read this at stage 2 or 3 because it’s too detailed, no one is interested, so somehow we need to capture the fact that something is not developed and it’s a risk, we need to flag it up. All those design risk assessments we’re using on the various projects, they’re too generic, they’re too complex, simplify everything. That’s what I feel.
DAS The CDM guide visually capturing risks, people are embedding risks into their models, which is probably, Jarek, the best way to make sure people don’t miss it and the flags that you refer to because if you share a model, M&E structures, architectural landscape whatever and it's got these visual, we’re just using the risk cubes and I think a lot of people are doing them as well now. That’s in my mind probably the best way to make sure that as the primary bit of data that we're issuing i.e. the three-dimensional model has those so it's much harder to miss and I think that aligned with the CDM kind of guidance as well in terms of making things more visual. So I would definitely agree that that's the best way to do it.
PAULA CHANSLER I agree, Jarek. We've gotta go back to basics and do the basics well, we seem to get all caught up in the conundrum of the of the enormity of what we're trying to achieve rather than just following a logical set of steps in the process. And we know it's a spiral, it’s a coil isn't it? So it's an iterative process, but we don't work closely enough, particularly with the building services teams. We don't work closely enough from an earlier point of view and I think thats where we'll drive real and lasting change because in my mind, and it's no criticism to consultants or of any kind, but what we're finding is at stage 3, what's been packaged as a stage 3 is never a stage 3, it's never fully coordinated. That's what we're finding now. So, when you start the stage 4 you're doing is still trying to fill in the gaps of the stage 3 and complete your spatial coordinated design before you even start detailing. So you're already on the back foot and this pushes the involvement of the specialist subbies down the line because they think well, to hell with it. I'm not getting involved until they've actually made the fundamental decisions about how the building's gonna work.
I don't know if that's your feeling as well, Ana. and Jarek, because you're on the tail end, essentially, if we haven't made the right decisions early on you're having to shoehorn systems into something that doesn't work, and then we all suffer as a result. So I think genuine earlier collaboration with subbies that are set up for BIM because that that's another thing we're finding, not all of our subbies can make the investment that we need them to in BIM to be able to feed that back into the base model. And so there's all kinds of things that get lost in translation there. But it sounds like, Jarek, that your company is well embedded in in BIM deliverables, but not everyone is. And how can we work together to upskill that so that there's a consistency.
JAREK WITYK Yeah, I think everything you said, I agree with 100%. I don't know what, maybe I'm probably someone mentioned this before, if at every design stage, let’s say RIBA design stages. If the client had someone who is not contractually related to the previous consultant to check whether to validate whether the design has been developed in line with the requirements and fulfils those requirements, but it needs to be someone who's detached from the consultant who can't approve his own work because that's conflict of interest. And then it becomes a bit more transparent, ah, this is done, this is not done, but because we are all working together, we want to have a good relationship and that's all what it’s about. We want to work with people, not fight with people. We tend not to shout too loud if something is not quite right, and that's another problem, and we are social animals and that's unavoidable. So somehow we need to manage this part as well in the right way so those actually checks are being done and they're not done. And it only comes out at stage 5, but then it’s too late.
ANA MATIC Das, can I just ask, you were asking for a diagram, were you looking for a kind of scope diagram for consultants, or what kind of diagram?
DAS It was similar to what Paula has done there with the BSRIA, obviously there’s a couple of other major consultants in terms of structures, civils and landscape as well because I know they are all slightly working with slightly different things. Back to your point, Paula, the RIBA workstages, when you expand the new ones that are coming if you read all the parts of the columns from sustainability to coordination to planning to whatever it’s not like we’re having to do anything different, but actually just doing even what’s on that. So when it talks about spatially coordinating and having understanding required rules of thumb, I guess because certain things have become so specialist, the architects themselves have given up quite a lot of knowledge, let’s say because it is so specialist. And therefore we’re not necessarily aware of some of the kind of rules of thumb about M&E requirement or structural requirements or fire safety requirements, so we then tend to always rely on more and more, but that information is there because the systems can be more specialised. But I think there is still a baseline level of you’d expect the M&E with some knowledge of sprinklers to say based on our system and our knowledge of sprinklers we need a bigger ceiling void, for example. But no one…either because they don’t want to or because they’re not specialists enough or, like architects have given up quite a lot, are not able to make that stage 3 spatial coordination call which actually will be still correct. Because a lot of the time, we’ve had so many emails on every project, M&E please confirm…ceiling void required. Got it, provided it, oh, it goes up later on. Ana, the overlay was more about there will be another version that someone’s done which is RIBA, BSRIA, other major consultants, just to share the knowledge with our design community. And then the other diagram which I find really useful is the gateway timeline. There was obviously the diagram that was released in the government website which showed the periods, it was like T + 12 and T + 24 months, but I think now some of those have become defined dates. Richard, George might know someone or there might be one that’s basically got now, 2023, these are the dates for any project that starts and then there will be sector of relevant buildings and non-relevant buildings - a simple timeline. The government did one and they gave defined periods following the Act coming into power, but I think some of those have now actually got specific dates. When I heard the presentation by Andy Low from Bureau Veritas building control there is another layer which is to do with building control inspectors and their organisation now needs to be registered and then the individuals also need to be registered because you can’t use approved inspectors going forward it has to go through the register. So, there are kind of three layers: the building control assessors’ layer, relevant and non-relevant buildings and then the fire safety act elements.
RICHARD I’ll speak to George and see if we can put all those together into one diagram.
DAS I’ll share the one that’s on the government website, which people would have seen. I think now either things have slipped or things have actually now been cemented onto this timeline.
PAULA CHANDLER Das, going back to what you were saying previously. I think there’s a big piece in that about who takes responsibility for what and we talk a lot about restoring nobility to kind of the professions, the consultants and taking accountability as a contractor. Sometimes the design manager, we can water down that role and lead people down a certain path and that's maybe stopped some practices from actually being dogged about what they're delivering. So I think there's a real piece about the role of the lead designer in all of this because essentially they are the conductor of the orchestra, aren't they? They are coordinating, the team outputs should be coordinated by the lead designer and the timeline should be established by the lead designer with input from everybody in that team. And what we're finding is a whole load of stuff being chucked over the fence, those hot potatoes being chucked over the fence by the lead designer. If it's anything that isn't bricks and sticks and are we turning people into being really risk-averse rather than doing what they are meant to do as the lead designer. We see that anything that has a bit of difficulty and complexity about it is a specialist subbie package, over the fence it goes and it can get forgotten, the sprinklers, there’s just not that specialist level of knowledge. In terms of leading that coordination piece as a lead designer I’m not sure that’s firing properly at the moment.
DAS What’s your experience on this project which on all grounds sounds like you’ve tried to set it up with all the knowledge that we know, I guess Scott Brownrigg are the lead consultant. I assume where there are elements that are unknown it’s either been flagged to the client to say these things we can coordinate with the team. The classic kind of statement is we can only coordinate with the information that we have from the specialists who are onboard and I guess then the lead designer’s role is to flag anything that is missing from that knowledge pool back to the client, the developer, whoever. I’ve learnt over projects do’s and don’ts about lead designers have to be firmer in terms of saying your program, it just doesn’t work. It’s easy to get bulldozed but at the same time it’s giving us the opportunity, not to extend it by crazy amounts, but just to be realistic in that critical part because we do have to be realistic in that critical part to make sure all the ducks are aligned properly.
Theoretically, design managers have no design responsibility at all, they’re also helping to kind of bridge appointments between consultants and subcontractors and site teams and can help orchestrate things which our outside of the lead consultant’s remit, predominantly to do with the site team, the procurement team etc. Lead designers, we have probably lost some knowledge but because things have got more complicated, which is fair enough. It’s not that it can’t be resolved and I guess, Ana, on your project, have you’ve found that your roles has had to expand or have you had to get more spec people in that you wouldn’t normally on a previous project?
ANA MATIC Not necessarily. Obviously the BIM side of things have expanded and our own…at the limited knowledge of systems because systems are quite complex nowadays in buildings, so we, as architects can’t pretend that we can assume an MEP design that hasn’t been completed. In a very simplistic way there is a design and there is a kind of detailed design, think of RIBA stages in very broad terms and then there is a subbie input. Whether that subcontractor input happens in stage 4 or 5, it really doesn’t matter where it is, but what you have to remember is after the subcontractor input there needs to be another round of coordination because the coordination that happened before the subcontractor input is broad term coordination. And this 2nd or 3rd round of coordination is usually invisible in both RIBA or BSRIA or actually our client’s minds. We say to them if you’re bringing subcontractors late onboard we need at least two other rounds of coordination before things are real.
And they look at us and go but we’re in stage 5, we’re not paying you for coordination and we’re like, yeah, you’re not paying us for coordination, who is going to do it? Well, it doesn’t need to happen because it happened in stage 4, and round and round we go in the same circle. It’s a very simple diagram, it’s basically coordination, subbie input, coordination, that’s absolutely what needs to happen, and after that 2nd round of coordination we will be able to give somebody a certain design that can be built. At the moment the problem is time and money, no one really see the need for that 2nd round of coordination. So what we’re really doing, we’re doing it on the sly, we’re sort of getting paid to monitor stuff on site, but actually we’re sort of doing the coordination in the background so that things actually still work out so you don’t have to cut holes on site or demolish entire bits of ceiling and stuff like that. And this happens in different sectors, not just residential, and some sectors it happens even more, if you’re doing transport or advanced tech or anything like that where MEP is massive, the need for this is even bigger, so I’m coming with the knowledge of other sectors as well. So what I’m trying to say is it’s not necessarily that people are not doing their job, it’s the fact that the industry hasn’t quite caught up with the fact that there is a whole hidden stage that needs to happen once the subcontractor input has been done.
PAULA CHANDLER Yeah, I totally agree with that, Ana, and that is still a stage 4 activity, it overlaps with stage 5. In the RIBA plan of works it even says it, in most projects stages 4 and 5 will overlap, so I think it could just be a bit of an awareness piece, actually.
ANA MATIC Maybe, but it’s to do with fees. We still do our fees at stage 4 and stage 5 and then if you say to the client sorry, our stage 4 fee is overlapping by 6 months into your stage 5 they’ll be like, but why!? Why are we still paying you if you’ve already done your design? The overlap between the knowledge piece and the procurement itself, which is the money, it still hasn’t happened and maybe the gateway will push this.
DAS I thought that was a really nice way to put it about that subcontractor and then coordination v2, v3. I think at the moment on all projects that 2nd round of coordination is done via shop drawing comments. We have this debate with our clients at the moment about, oh well, you could update your design to meet the shop drawing, yeah, but that just means like updating 200 drawings just to match the shop drawings which is what we’re ultimately building off. There’s then a whole discussion about final record, so it’s sort of doing things for the sake of it twice where if you get more input earlier on from the specialist then your designs for construction are more refined and therefore the shop drawings aren’t a coordination role, they’re simply should be a, yeah, size opening is fine, we assume everything else is fine because we’ve already spoken about it. Not having to check every phrase and word in the tiny text because one of them might say U values are this, no, that’s not the right U value, or the colour is slightly wrong, or whatever.
At the moment most coordination with subcontractors is done by shop drawings, and then you get the argument or comment that that wasn’t in your tender drawings, we didn’t have that input at that stage so we had to draw something that’s spatially accurate in intent, but obviously at a specialist level we can’t put that element there because it contravenes some other regulation that is very specific and niche. We end up reviewing 100’s of drawings through the drawing process, but actually if you pull things forward, not that all of that will have been done because they wouldn’t have necessarily produced shop drawings. Maybe the subcontractors need to be appointed to do their stage 4 drawing set as well maybe because all the time at the time at the moment we just get very focused lift drawings.
They’re standard lift drawings for any lift in the world, but it’s not specific, but maybe if they are appointed to do a round 1 and a PCSA that we then coordinate with then after that’s been involved and put it into the coordination at stage 4 then they may do another round of drawings which are ticking off the tiny specifics or things that they need to press a button to manufacture off-site somewhere. At the moment all of that is done via that streamlined stage 5 fee which is quite low or via the shop drawing, and then the argument at the end about you’ve got to incorporate it within final record. Yeah, but we can’t, that’s another X amount of money.
ANA MATIC And the typical one, a lot of stuff is being done in 2D, which is great, but then who is then updating the model to reflect as built or as constructed? So, all those questions are still quite big questions. Maybe some of what gateway 2 is going to push will bring the answers to this and we will see earlier involvement of everyone. or maybe there will be a little bit of a different fee structure in stage 5 acknowledging that this needs to happen. We’ll see.
DAS Gateway 2 is obviously demanding we do more earlier, so rather than push more fee into 5, bring more fee…not just fee, but more appointed input or design liability input from those specialists that the design team cannot be expected to know. Jarek, it would be quite interesting to know from you if you’ve done a scheme where, I was just thinking aloud about that 2-stage subcontractor input 3-4 and then followed by another round of shop drawings ticking things off the tiny bits. Is that something like you’ve been involved in?
JAREK WITYK We’re doing it on every single project, that’s exactly what’s happening. What I think the construction industry should be doing is, if you compare this to the manufacturing of a car, would you ever press the button to produce and start production line on a car which has not bee fully designed? You’d never do that. That’s what we’re doing in the construction industry on every single project. We need to somehow turn it around and I don’t have an answer, I’m sorry. Ana mentioned fees and so on and I agree, this is probably the main reasons we are where we are, type of contracts and procurement methods and so on. Someone mentioned we need to raise awareness, for me, I’m thinking about it for a long time, what would be the first thing if I had to send one message across to the client and the whole project team, my message would be to educate everyone that at RIBA stage 5 there is no design activity other than managing changes. We should be shouting this to everyone so it’s embedded in everyone’s head, I think that would help.
DAS Yeah, that’s nice and clear and simple. Richard. I know you’ve been involved in other schemes where any of the questions we’ve raised to the procurement team from client side, either developers…Paula, you’re between the two, sometimes you’re the developer-client. I don’t know Richard if there might be anything that’s come into some of the stuff that we’re talking about.
RICHARD Well. you mention procurement, I was going to ask does that new review on product testing effect you guys? The Morrell review.
DAS Not heard of it, Richard.
RICHARD It came out last week, it’s an independent review that’s commissioned by the government, the Levelling Up department, on testing. From what I’ve heard about it, it’s gonna turn things on their heads, just for a change. How much does that effect you in specifying, or as long as it’s approved it doesn’t matter? The Morrell review is an independent review of the construction product testing regime.
DAS Ah, the testing regime. I know there was a new role created to review product, full stop, to make sure that they’re fit for…if you’re on that list then that’s all great to be used. This testing methodology is very much down into the manufacturers kind of level…
RICHARD Yeah, it probably didn’t effect you, this happens before you, doesn’t it.
DAS I think it will affect, for example, we use NBS Chorus for specification writing, we’d expect the products that might be on there would have gone through the various checks and balances.
JAREK WITYK To change the subject, I thought we meant to talk a little bit about Digital Construction Week and what we’re trying to achieve there.
DAS The main just that I got from George was just on the different themes, do we know where we are, what we need to produce and how we’re going to do it. The request for the timeline was do we know where we are in the timeline of the Fire Safety Act, the Building Safety Act and the changes to building control, commencement of projects and those definitions. They’re the three main overlays that I can think of in terms of do we know where we are. Do we know what we need to submit, the general answer is probably no, because there isn’t a checklist that the building safety regulator has issued or will issue. I don’t know, Paula, when you had Dame Hackitt if that was reinforced, or not. And in terms of what do we need the things that we talked about here are not necessarily new things, but actually it’s great to get, for example, Paula and Ana, your real life experience feedback because it just shows you that bringing a stage forward, yeah, that’s exactly what you’re doing Ana, that’s brilliant.
That’s brought up a whole load of other real life problems which had never occurred to me, the specialist going off the job because they didn’t want to do it or whatever, or something going bust. And if you go to that level of detail is the building safety regulator going to be happy and say, yes, you’ve designed it to that level, we understand there are some issues that you might need changing, in principle we’re happy for you to go through gateway 2. I don’t know whether that’s what the answer is, I don’t think we know whether that will be compliant or not, so as Paula said we’ve just got to try and set the rules ourselves. A bit like CDM, these are the decisions and the discussions that we’ve had to make that decision, therefore there is an audit of that and a golden thread of that and here it is, please review and provide because there is no checklist that’s been issued. That’s the kind of thing that, Jarek, you were asking for about yes, we’ve submitted this, this and this, so we’re good to go.
I guess theoretically with the building control inspectors you normally get, for example, a plans review. One of the things they’re talking about is you can’t do a notifiable start on site anymore with a high-risk building once we’ve gone through the gateway cutoffs. It’s basically a bit like in Europe, you have to submit all of the technical drawings, they all get reviewed, then you get the permit to start construction. I think Dave said that’s what used to happen when he was working in France, there is much more heavy full plans and details submitted in Europe, before you get the sign to start on site, and that’s essentially what we’re being asked to do.
PAULA CHANDLER It’s going back to one of your previous points, Das, that we shouldn’t be frightened of this, it’s nothing new. It’s just forcing us to do what we should have been doing all of these years. Your right, if we were to follow the drop-downs against each of the RIBA stages and just do what is required of us rather than trying to cut corners as an industry we will by proxy be compliant against gateway 2. The issue is we haven’t been doing it to the letter of the law and that’s why there has been problems.
RICHARD So you’re saying, Paula, that you do actually know what you need to do, the issue has been that you haven’t been doing it.
PAULA Well, as an industry we haven’t been doing it. We don’t know what we don’t know, let’s start with that, things will happen and there are gaps that we can’t foresee. What is coming to light from various case studies is we haven’t as an industry been building things to the standards and when they start pulling off bits of cladding they realise that people haven’t been doing that. So, first of all we need to understand what the standards are; secondly we need to design to them and get someone to sign them off because we can’t be trusted as an industry; and thirdly we need to evidence that what we install and what we build is in accordance with the approved detail. Isn’t that just the basics oc what we should be doing anyway?
RICHARD The key thing is, though do you know, do you have a view of what you need to do? We know that the government is not going to tell us anything, so you’ve got to work it out for yourselves. So, have you worked it out? Do you know what you need to do? That’s the crux of it.
PAULA CHANDLER I think the short answer to that is no. The long answer is the great work us as BIM4housing have been doing is starting to establish that you can’t deal with things in isolation, you have to look at them in their absolute context - how far do we need to go into that? Essentially a stage 4 design should be able to build, operate, maintain, it says there in black and white on the RIBA. So whatever level of detail we need to go into will conclude a compliant solution. So, there’s not a checklist, that’s what we’re starting to do with George and our BIM4housing team. And against the safety-critical elements I think there has been good progress made so far.
RICHARD Yeah, very much so. Can I just put a plug in there, the 11 guidance documents we did, we did the roundtables a couple of years ago, we’ve had a lot of further work gone into that and we’re looking at reissuing those as a second edition. We’re gonna be holding roundtables in June for each of those safety-critical elements. We’ll contact you, please be on the lookout for that because it would be great to have you involved again.
PAULA CHANDLER Brilliant, well up for it, Richard.
DAS I think the evidence element is where obviously a lot of digital tools are…the better information management definition of BIM comes into it. The evidence thing and maintaining the golden thread using digital tools is where there is a step-change I guess because previously there has been holes in the evidencing or whatever so it’s not clear what’s happened and why the decisions have been made or things done. So in terms of do we know what we need to do I think it’s maintaining the evidence trail is a minimum, that’s the golden thread I guess. In a simplistic way everything else that’s in the RIBA or best practice should mean that we get to a building which is safe. I think maybe one of the things that happened is D&B has got a lot of good things about it but it’s also eroded what should be done at different stages and a lot of people are not willing to invest time and money, for whatever reason, at the earlier stages to complete the design in more detail or to the required detail because it’s risk averse…
RICHARD So, let me ask you. You guys here, because of this legislation, what are you doing now that you weren’t doing before?
PAULA CHANDLER We’re questioning novations. That’s one of our biggest bugbears at the minute, that we inherit a design team that haven’t signed up to the same scope, the same quality, the same safety standards that we would wish for our projects. And so what we’re finding, previously we would just accept novations and then try and fill in the gaps at cost to ourselves. Now we’re having open conversations with our customers and saying we want to bring our consultant partners, we’ve already agreed T&Cs, we’ve already agreed the level of diligence and quality and the scope, we don’t have those arguments, they know that we want a certain level of BIM implementation. Let us come and deliver this for you at stage 4, then you just hand over the incumbents because there is some political thing about, you know the politics of it. Let us come and deliver this at stage 4, and that is the biggest change that we’re making at the minute, taking control of the process and making sure it’s done properly. We’re in it for the long haul, it’s a long game not a quick fix, but…
RICHARD I remember, going way back to those roundtables, that one of the things that came up a lot was where does the designers responsibility finish. And that’s quite interesting you saying that you're taking that responsibility, you’re choosing to do that and saying we’re gong to run this properly.
PAULA CHANDLER To caveat, the contractor would never take the design responsibility, but we’re taking the responsibly for creating a competent team that will deliver in accordance with the compliance gateways. We’re taking a proactive step to do that because at the minute it’s a bit scattered and hit and miss.
RICHARD Somebody’s got to take it by the throat, that’s what it comes down to. Somebody in those early stages, whatever role it might be, has just got to say, right, do it, it’s got to be done. Not passing the buck.
PAULA CHANDLER And accepting that you’re not going to be able to tick every box the first 1 or 2 or 3 rounds, but with each go at it you’ll get better.
DAS Thinking aloud again, Richard, to answer your question. Not in a negative way, but to demand from the team and the client the developer, whoever, that certain things need to be in place to enable us to do that job properly and having to sometimes be a little bit more, well, we cant continue to try and fill in the gaps and make assumptions. I don’t thin it really helps anyone not to be a bit firmer sometimes, with an alternative proposal in front of what’s necessary in the current standards. In a number of projects the M&Es hasn’t been appointed, maybe should have been appointed and we would have carried on, but for the same reason Ana was talking about we’d end up basically doing another round of comments or there’d be niggle during construction.
RICHARD So one of your changes is that you want better information from the client.
DAS From the team, and that goes all the way back to procurement. What Ana’s project and the team seem to have done, exactly what I think needs to happen, but having done they still have fallen over. What Paula is trying to set up in the structure that Waites operates is the right format, but there are new problems we’re going to find, but that’s a different problem or a better problem, I don’t know. But we can only try and do better because the joy goes out of projects when you’re basically just bickering and nitpicking at the construction stage and it’s just not good for anyone.
PAULA CHANDLER Richard makes a good point there, that we’ve got to educate our customers to make the right decisions upfront and to be flexible and pragmatic in their approach to who is going to take the design forward at what stage, what rules and parameters are they going to set at the frontend so people don’t…it’s not a race to the bottom. Just buy the cheapest and whoever can do it the quickest. No, you buy who’s gonna deliver a proper compliant safe solution that’s gonna give the quality that you want and no one will have a nervous breakdown trying to deliver it. That isn’t where we’re at at the minute, it is a bit or a race to the bottom, we need to switch that mindset, that culture.
RICHARD So much we’ve done over the last couple of years, what keeps coming through is…which is why we do keep pushing. We say to each group what do you need from the people further down. And I think we’re getting there, but we’re not there yet.