[Please note that at the end of this documents you can find an ADDENDUM titled “Pre-Meeting Inputs”]

PAULA CHANDLER says how it's important to get the CDP people involved earlier during stage 4.

PAUL WHITE says that often smoke control is ignored and should be put straight after fire safety (because it’s part of it).

DAS observes that from Paul’s email that Gateways 1 & 2 are good constraints in a way, though there’s a lot of hurdles with procurement fitting into those two gateways. From a design point of view there has been some improvement regarding fire strategies and colour coding, especially when talking about complicated buildings combining different uses e.g. supermarket/residential. He also notes that the conflict he often comes across between design and the specialists that come later in the process of building and might request changes to the design that are not approved and yet they are necessary. This might be a particular problem if it involves structural elements of the building.

He also thinks the issue of statutory signage is important (see JIM CREAK’s email).

MATT TAYLOR talks about mistakes being made re shaft walls and fire safety.

DAS thinks it’s important to address what has been mentioned already in the email: how can best laid plans be undermined by those living in the flats or those coming and doing subsequent repair or installation works? E.g. Das’ personal experience of technicians drilling for internet installment purposes. DAS says he doesn’t know how to answer the questions sent to him by Jiss via email (possibly regarding the 2 scenarios of smoke risk which are painting a fire door and installing a carpet???).

MATT TAYLOR shows everyone a fire compliance data sticker with information that can be picked up by a QR code – it links back to BIM information on the project. He notes the importance of the detailing of getting the interface details correct regarding Systems.

PAULA CHANDLER talks about how they are trying, with their design team, to bring in drawings with a lot of detail so that the builders and constructors don’t just rely on their experience to know how to put it together. for details that are safety critical it’s necessary to go into a deep level of granularity.

MATT TAYLOR says that, considering English is not the first language of many of the fixing workforce, they may struggle with reading the technical details. PAULA says that’s why visual representations (like Ikea do) are useful. PAUL thinks it would be a good idea to work together as an industry to build a catalogue of these standard details that we know work that would deal with certain situations.

ALAISTAIR BROCKETT says that designs that look good on paper sometimes have a problem that installations cannot actually be made e.g. there is no space to get in equipment to install something. Often, he observes on site, things are just not built properly. He says the problem with Paula’s idea about creating a standards book is that manufacturers details move on. MATT TAYLOR says that, if not enough space has been left per manufacturer’s instructions to build/install something, it can lead to delays to the construction of the building, often for weeks at a time.

DAS says that the virtual design is not enough as a model because, in general, there is often a lack of installation sequencing requirements or maintenance/inspection requirements when a replacement needs to be made afterwards.

MATT TAYLOR referring, once again, to studs, states that there are rules and guidance that have to exist in principle before the studwork can be formed around that and it's important to raise awareness about this early on in the process.

PAUL WHITE: ‘as architects (it’s important to) understand that everything is actually a lot bigger than you want it to be. You can’t just say let’s squeeze everything into this hole and get a bit more lettable space, because actually, when it comes to it, if you’ve hidden it, people can’t go and look at it every year. That’s the other issue. You can’t put all the pipes under the ductwork because you ve got to get an access door to get in to clean the duct to look at the damper and its space that is the issue.’

DAS points out that architects (and designers) infrequently visit sites due to the digital nature of their work and this needs to be addressed. M&E designers also lack the ‘real life’ experience. On site inspectors need to be rigorous, flagging up problems. This is even more important as its necessary to document data for the building safety case. MO FISHER thinks site mock-ups work really well because it’s not about how it looks (which marketing dept would do) it’s also about if it’s meeting the requirements. They use those images for lessons learned.

MATT TAYLOR agrees with an important point raised earlier about the need for early engagement with a specialist contractor – it would help to identify concerns early on. He refers to his email (see addendum) ‘regarding challenges that would need to be acknowledged in specialist contractors’ abilities to fulfill that early engagement requirement. They’re often not appointed at that stage and therefore any information they are providing they are providing at risk. As an industry we should look into who should fulfill these requirements.’

PAULA CHANDLER thinks the issue is that the procurement route needs to be looked at from the front end from when the client brings on the main contractor, to get advice from them at stage 2 or early in stage 3. ‘It’s a false economy because if we can demonstrate cause and effect, the issues that occur and the costs that are assigned to those issues because we haven’t been able to coordinate earlier, we can somehow capture that....then that’s a compelling argument back to the client to say, yes, you’ll have to spend up front just like we have to do with BIM. you have to expend and put all that effort in up front, but you should reap the rewards further down the line.’

DAS thinks that the Gateways are potentially are great way to change the system although it may be painful for some people. Regarding dealing with maintenance, he thinks QR codes are a good idea (and bar codes have been around for a long time) but many people may not want stickers on their walls. MATT TAYLOR says the visibility of codes is an issue. PAULA CHANDLER has a radical idea of using AI with a digital home user guide via a tablet.

DAS proposes that maybe fire drills have to be introduced into residential blocks (especially important after the Grenfell tragedy). Fire drills are already required in public buildings (offices, schools etc). PAUL WHITE says tenants will often prop fire doors open. DAS says that some hospitals have a tag or magnet on a door and if it was left open an alarm would be raised (via wi-fi), someone would get alerted. Also, you can have volunteers to walk around every few months and monitor things.

STEWART BAILEY talks about using the BIM model for tagging and making (a lightweight BIM model available to residents and develop a community engagement app – they are all on Whatsapp. The resident’s association could have a rep to go round and check. There’s also gamification, to motivate people to want to report e.g. bikes in smoke shafts ‘who wants to win the free pizza this week’.

ADDENDUM: Pre-meeting Inputs


Apologies all as I have only had a chance to skim read through but I can see the themes developing for me.

For me, the challenge ahead can be simplified for thinking by considering that there are a significant number of aspects that we are ‘doing’ but we need to get better at it.

….Then there are items which are either unknown going forward or need a total re-thing in terms of overall strategy / approach.

One of these is the theme of specialist CDP s/c’s particularly MEP as so many of the safety systems and the prescriptive specification of them is too late.

If we accept that for Gateway 2 sign-off (and start on site) we need to prove compliance (with no ambiguous assumptions) then we need to be resolving this far earlier.

This then links heavily with the overall procurement strategy particularly when considering a two stage tender.

Worst case if we don’t do this we could be in a position that we need to substantially conclude RIBA Stage 4, make a submission to the BSR and then await sign-off (how long, 4 weeks, 8 weeks, 16 weeks) before we can mobilise and commence construction (RIBA 5) – Very different to what typically happens for most/many.

Alongside this what do we think about alignment of BG6 and RIBA. For me they seem out of kilter. BG6 4a, 4b (forgive me can never remember new money naming) seem more appropriate to be aligned with Spatial coordination RIBA 3?????

Alastair Brockett

To address /comment on Joe’s issues:

I can appreciate the ‘divvying’ up pf firestopping leaving it to particular sections of work. However, the significant issue with this is lack of coordination between work sections and trades. This results in a mix of manufacturers materials and thus non-compliant systems. It has firestopping components partially installed (eg fire collars left hanging on pipes) awaiting the completion of the main firestopping seal ‘once all the services are in’. It leads to the previously stated mix and also questions over who is responsible if something goes wrong .It leads to accusations of wrong product/ you fixed it etc etc.

Firestopping should be a separate works package. We don’t have a steel structure where one contactor does the columns and then someone else does the beams. Or put up the framing and someone else fits the plasterboard.

Modelling of firestop is available. For example, there is Hilti BIM firestop that provides and inserts the necessary data. I have seen a BIM model for a 79 storey tower what can be drilled down to the firestopping for the individual electrical outlets.

Surely BIM is collaboration where the services are known about and as such the optimized opening.firestop can be spec’d and frozen? It is the undefined and wide latitude given to service installation that leads to difficulties in providing suitable fire prevention solutions.


  • Firedoors being installed in wall openings that are not defined with defined tolerances resulting in wide gaps (circa 50 mm) that need to be filled (PS these are doors that will potentially work loose because of the excessive stand off and thus bending loads being applied to the fixings)
  • Firestopping of huge corridor wide openings for which there is little or no data (fire tests are conducted by manufacturers of applications that are carried out in accordance with standards/codes of practice/industry guides as this is what is expected in the industry ie correct working).

As a supplier we are inundated with requests for Engineered/Expert Judgements to deal with ‘tolerances of fit’ of the previous operations leading to the final stage of firestopping. There is no direct, specific test data. Manufacturers try their best to make the test scope of their products as wide as possible but there are limits.

Graphical communication- as long as there is coordination with and provision of detailed specification naming products (things might be similar but they are definitely not the same nor are generic solutions providing a defined solution with required performance)

Matt Taylor

A couple of thoughts on the recent emails from Joe, Das and Jim,

I completely agree with the point made on colour coordination of fire strategy plans. In my opinion, these should always form part of the fixer’s pack (all too often it appears that they are not) and should be consistent in their appearance to reduce the potential for error. One other aspect of the plans, which often leads to confusion, is the accuracy of the plan at wall interfaces. I have included an example from one of our previous projects below (I have better examples, but came across this one first).

In this case the wall marked in blue has 120 minutes fire performance requirement and the wall marked in red, a 60 minute requirement. The 120 minute wall should be continuing, uninterrupted, to maintain the fire compartment, with the 60 minute wall abutting, to form a T-junction detail. This is unclear from the fire strategy plans, and it appears that the 60 minute wall continues to form the corner of the wider footprint partition. This is often made more complicated, where the specification states different fire performances for the same wall type and therefore the wider footprint partition may be covered by the same K10 clause, causing the fixer to assume that a standard corner detail arrangement is to be formed. This is a major contributor to built defects and, more often than not, goes completely unrecognised, as quality measures often only pick up if the interface has been formed in relation to the manufacturer’s or project (often non-specific for an individual interface) details.

As I mention, this is not the best example and is perhaps a more obvious instance to resolve, however I have noted many other occurrences of this issue, where the intent becomes very unclear, often leading to RFIs, which can go unanswered for several weeks, leading to delays at a critical point in the build. We can always argue that this should be being picked up in the contractor design portion, however I have yet to come across a job with sufficient programme timescale or budget allowance to allow the specialist contractor to detail every interface through their design, prior to installation commencing.

In relation to the points made regarding early engagement with the specialist contractor; this will absolutely benefit the process and assist in identification of issues (obviously dependent on the organisation being engaged). There are however some challenges involved, that need to be acknowledged. As early engagement would usually occur prior to trade contractor appointment, it is understandable that many contractors may harbour a certain degree of reluctancy to resource any such early engagement. The risk to the contractor is that they will provide considerable input at their own cost, in the process identifying some of their quality assurance, VE or efficiency measures that would, as standard, cause them to stand apart from their competition, only for the project to go out to competitive tender, with their chances of winning the project on price/individual offerings then significantly reduced.

When I have known any contractor led early engagement to occur, it has usually been the result of a request by the MC and on the basis of enhancing their chances of securing the contract, on the basis of pro-active involvement and displaying an attitude that would display the contractor in a favourable light. One potential consideration is the specific inclusion and associated budgeting of this specialist design consideration/interrogation earlier on in the process. Unfortunately, to date, I have rarely observed this to be considered to any notable extent.

Paul White

Also looking at what is being said the smoke control design must be part of the fire strategy. It affects travel distances and is used to justify them. However, space is needed and must be integrated early and from a design perspective, shafts need to be in the correct places.

So yes, please specialist subcontractors up the chain to 2 and 3 as 4 is often too late and also not complete in some of the fire strategies that I get to see.

Jim Creak

I apologise for my absence for later but do concur with both of you regarding specialist contractors being involved earlier in design process.

Joe , you have already identified the problems that I experience with Statutory Signs and Signage Systems which are determined by the process of taking the fire safety strategy, and then the formal fire risk assessment to determine the requirements. When the decision is taken to use appropriate signs, a competent contractor can then use appropriate guidance to implement. In purpose built flats there are even more requirements outlined in building regulations that at the moment are not fully appreciated in the supply chain. The Health and Safety Sign Association are today discussing appropriate professional development training for providing this service.

Joe Stott

Workflow: (pretty much aligned with Das’s notes)

  • Fire Strategy Information/Report/Drawings for us is a means by which we communicate the Requirements for the design and fire strategy solutions. I highlight this because I think it’s important to distinguish between an elements requirements which comes at a point where very often no specific products have been specified or locked in. Going forward as more product selection is undertaken it is then our job to check the product’s potential performance and standards meet the requirements. We very often get asked to provide information against “Fire Rating” as an example against COBie.Type data however I believe this is not the complete picture as a wall type may well be able to achieve a specific fire rating due to its makeup however specific instances of the wall type may or may not actually have to achieve this depending on their location in the design / fire strategy.
  • 3Rd party fire strategy/report advice is to date always provided via a PDF document with elements highlighted (in the PDF). Not a very helpful BIM workflow.
  • Whilst the majority of fire strategy information is communicated in plan form we try wherever possible to embed the fire data into the model elements so it can be communicated in other view types/schedules.


  • Fire stopping is key area of concern to us as architects as this is generally lumped into one line item within AIDPs. Our approach would typically be to push back to break this down into different types of stopping – some of which we believe we are capable of detailing and specifying (External wall/floor cavity barriers) however internal service penetrations are such a complex area dependant on a high level of information about the type/size/spec of the penetrating service we don’t believe we are best placed to take responsibility for these. Not to mention the fact that they are very rarely fully modelled or frozen in the design which leads to huge amounts of reworking and increases the risk of mistakes being made.
  • We have seen an increase in specialist subcontractor design specifically for things like CLT panels whereby these make up part of what was traditionally seen as a single item. (External / Internal Walls). This then created complexity into who is responsible for “the wall”.. From an operational point of view an external wall is simply that, one element however from a design and procurement perspective its often much more complicated.
  • There appears to be a lack of industry standards for the graphical communication of fire information. Things like standard colours denoting ratings etc. We are currently having a push to try and align our internal standards across all offices/projects however I have to say it is somewhat of an uphill struggle as each architect has their own preferences on this. Having a national standard to fall back on takes away the subjectiveness of things like this and can only aid the industry.
  • Escape signage – This is commonly seen on early architectural fire strategy information however I do question if we are really suitably qualified to do this to an appropriate standard? This item is typically shifted towards the MEP / Specialist input at later project stages however I do feel it would be much better to have much more resolution on this earlier in the project stages so as to be able to leverage it within evacuation simulations etc at a point where changes and improvements could be made with minimal impact / rework costs and delays.

See you all later today, sorry if the above is somewhat of a brain dump – I just thought it better to get it down in writing before I start getting chased by the usual “urgent” project support questions..


Jiss – thank you for the invite and the overview below which is a great set of scenarios to discuss. I have bullet pointed some initial thoughts, from a Designer perspective what information is required, and observations from some live projects which are impacting the design:


  • Fire strategy report, for us as Architects / Designers, is the starting point at any RIBA stage to enable us to design / specify the systems / products that are related to the spread of fire / smoke,
  • We are receiving a combination of typical fire strategy reports, with coloured mark-ups of PDF plans and more recently, colour coded ‘mark-ups’ of our BIMs. This is helpful, as it allows the Fire Engineer to understand the scheme in 3D, and therefore provide the compartment lines in 3D i.e., not just in plan view, but in section and elevation,
  • Using the data embedded in our BIMs we can filter and view our wall / door / ceilings based on their fire rating / spread of flame etc. This helps us digitally cross reference to the fire strategy to check alignment,
  • Our GA Plans, Schedules, Glossaries and Specification are then developed to deliver the strategy,


  • Security / access control strategy for the building being changed – which impacts on type of doors / ironmongery etc. that is required,
  • Smoke extract system specialists being appointed way down the line, under the M&E specialist sub-contractor. Once detailed CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) modelling is done, they may require changes to location of doors, AOVs, make-up air ducts / grilles. All of which may require re-coordination of the systems / products that are related to spread of fire / smoke,

Gateway 1 and 2 requirements would, from what I’m aware, require a coordinated fire strategy and design, including from specialist, to be in place much earlier. Therefore, the procurement of these specialist before end of RIBA stage 4, to enable the design team to coordinate and include them in the design, seems like a must going forward?