BIM4Housing Development Group Meeting 24-10-2023

BIM4Housing Development Group Meeting 24-10-2023

RICHARD …On the 23rd of November where Chris Waterman who is an advisor to some of the members of the Levelling Up Committee. So given the level of confusion around some of the issues raised by that, we approached Chris to see if he would be willing to have a meeting with us at which we could thrash out a number of questions for him to pass on to those members that he works with the hope that we can get some clarification. This is a good opportunity for us, so what we’re doing is for each of the working groups, we’ve got 5 basic questions that David came up with to look at those and see if there’s any particular emphasis that needs to be put for the Development Group. Also anything else that comes out of that that may be more important or less important, but we can include maybe in additional questions that we put forward.

So the idea of this meeting isn’t really to do a dry run of the 23rd, it’s to put your own particular input as the Development Group on exactly what we should be doing on the 23rd. And then hopefully you’ll come along to that and we can get it all together with all of the other groups as well and numerous other people from outside.

CHRIS WATERMAN I don’t want to oversell myself and things have happened since I agreed to do the webinar. We know that Parliament is going to be prorogued, we know that the King’s speech will be on the 7th November, and I spent several joyous hours yesterday listening to the second reading of the Renter’s Bill where Michael Gove was kicking several cans down the road. Section 21 evictions are going to carry on for the foreseeable future and how long will it take him to reform the justice system. The other thing is that quite a lot of this will go beyond the next general election. I can feed in stuff to the Select Committee, but I can’t honestly see that much happening until after the next election. For that reason, I think what we should be doing is putting together a list of must haves/would likes, to get that out there with, mainly, the opposition, but also using LinkedIn to begin to frame what we think should be happening next.

RICHARD I think we can do that around the questions we’ve already got, because obviously they’re issues that have already been identified…The circumstances have taken us over a little bit, but that doesn’t debase the relevance of what we’re doing.

DAVID POAT Just to add my perspective to that, when we formed the Development Group…There’s another purpose to this conversation and it’s primary purpose is to eek out are there any questions for clarification that we feel there will be value in Chris passing on on our behalf, but also part of this conversation is that we’re all trying to manage our way through this change and I’m sure we’ve all come across issues and challenges associated with trying to implement some of this stuff. Actually it’s a nice opportunity for different people from different stakeholder groups to share their experiences and issues from trying to implement this stuff. It isn’t just about establishing these questions, it’s quite useful for people to share their experiences and I encourage people to do that.

When we thought about putting this session together we wanted to frame the topics as best we could, so Richard asked me to consider what some of the key topics might be that this group might want to discuss. We’ve gone a little bit off piste from where this group started in trying to talk about BIM and how BIM might be used, although data and data management might come up on those conversations. So we’ve broadened the conversations to embrace building safety and some of the changes to fire safety regs that we’ve all experienced of late. The kind of topics we’ve come up with are questions about the definition of high-rise buildings, changes to Building Control is a significant change that’s happening and it’s good to get under the bonnet of that to see if there is anymore clarification we need around that. Competency and the need to assess competency requirements, what are our experiences of that, what preparations and we making and what issues are we likely to come up against. Introduction of second staircases, that was a bit of a personal one, I’m sure many of you are experiencing lots of challenges associated with the introduction of second staircases. And related to that is the lack of guidance that still exists around the provision of lifts and evacuation lifts and how all of that processes is managed.

Those are the 5 topics I came up with. It’s not an exhaustive list, they were just things that came out of my head, so if in the group here today we’ve got other topics that other people would like to discuss we’re perfectly willing to do that. So with that in mind, are there other topics around building safety and fire safety regs that people would like to put on the agenda for today?

CHRIS WATERMAN I’m in the process of setting up a website called Grey Rhinos In the Construction Industry, I don’t know if people know what a grey rhino is. It’s not a black swan, for example the Titanic sinking was a black swan in the sense it could not have been reasonably foreseen that an iceberg would rip right down the side of the ship and destroy the compartmentation. A grey rhino is something that you can foresee, but you don’t do anything about…I’ve got a designer coming to see me this afternoon and I’m going to grade things, you know the number of chillies in an Indian restaurant, I’m going to grade things according to the strength of the grey rhino. Cladding was a grey rhino, we’ve known for 20 years, some people knew that was a disaster waiting to happen. Lithium ion batteries are another. Another one is not putting sprinklers in schools. So I’m collecting a range of grey rhinos just to make the industry aware of what might be coming at us that we really know about that we are pushing either to one side or thinking we’ll deal with that in due course.

DAVID POAT Is that a website that’s available now, Chris?

CHRIS WATERMAN No, because I’m polishing it.

DAVID POAT Just before we launch into a discussion, just to be clear this meeting might take 10 minutes if no one’s got anything to say, so I’[d encourage you to participate as much as we can.

PAUL HAYLES An issue that’s come up recently and includes a couple of the subjects you’re going to discuss today, it’s about the planning offices ability in terms of competence and resource to deal with remediation projects. I’ve heard recently that one in particular just doesn’t want to play, the risk to them is too high, they don’t have what they’ve called a Class 3 competent surveyor. That’s a new term to a few of us at my end, we kind of wondered what do you do if you’re willing to go, you’ve got you finances in place, you’re inevitably going to make the building safer than it currently is but the local planners are not helping you? They are not willing to process your application.

DAVID POAT And is this specifically for remediation type works?

PAUL HAYLES Yeah, it’s not new, the buildings are already there, we’ve had loads of assessments, risks are being managed and mitigated at the moment but the remediation is actually underway. They were quiet and then when we finally got them to break cover that was their response, that they don’t feel confident that they’ve got the competency required. And the point that we tried to stress several times to no effect was that we’ve got a known quantity that is not as safe as it could be and we’re willing to improve the building to a standard where it is and the only thing stopping us is you. My question is where do you escalate this to? Is it Secretary of State like it would be for other planning type issues…you’ve just mentioned about proroguing Parliament, could that person intervene and make them go out and get their resources? Is it a bit like spreading grit at this time of year? If your council hasn’t got enough gritters, is it acceptable for them to just say sorry, we can’t grit the roads because we haven’t got the resources.

DAVID POAT What are you looking for from these guys? Is it planning approval or is it building regs approval? Or is it both?

PAUL HAYLES I think that’s the angle we’re going to have to tackle it from, I think that hasn’t been that clear. You’d think it’s planning because they said if any of the works has been materially started, which they would not comment on what it was because we offered to remove panels at ground floor level on all the areas, they wouldn’t accept that was materially started. I think the building regulations route is likely to be a little bit more successful, but their demeanour was I don’t like this new regulatory regime, I don’t want to get caught out and we’d rather you waited until April and went through the gateway process.

DAVID POAT Right, so this the local authority trying to delay so that the people that have got to make the decisions around this then subsequently changes.

CHRIS WATERMAN Purely a process point, I notice this is being recorded and transcribed. If when people spoke first they…could say where they’re from and what sort of but they’re doing that would help me, and certainly to follow up reading the transcript. And the other thing, a really good point, one of my ambitions in life is to get a diagram on the face of an act of Parliament. I’m too old for that to be reasonably achievable, but what is really sure in all of the stuff that’s coming out of government is decent flow charts, decent diagrams. And so if Paul could just put down a simple process for this is what we’re trying to do, this is what we think we should do, this is the barrier, then we could build that into a whole series of questions going forward.

PAUL HAYLES I’m from a social housing provider. it’s so raw and fresh it literally happened in the last 24 hours, I haven’t got a clue where we’re going next so this meeting is perfect timing if people have got any insights. It’s going to be inevitably a more stressful meeting later today where we will come with a plan B, C and D probably.

DAVID POAT Just so you know, I’m from a social housing provider as well, so we’re all in good company. Just i response to Paul’s question, is there anyone else on the call who’s had experience of a similar scenario or have got any thoughts as to how Paul might be able to move this forwards?

MARK PRATTEN I’m from Airey Miller. Paul, do you have a planning consultant on board?

PAUL HAYLES without going into the detail, we think we’ve got everything on board. This is literally that the local authority stopped talking to us, we applied in June, they responded and came back with some questions which we answered and then it’s gone absolutely quiet. And now we know why because when they did finally come to the meeting after a bit of political pressure was applied that was the outcome of it, that they just don’t want to touch this with a bargepole. I think individual people that turned up at the meeting probably are capable individuals, but it felt like the answer came from the top. Not enough support, you’d recognise that, new regulations and not really sure, haven’t got competencies when competency is put right at the top of the list of requirements. So in a way it’s understandable, but incredibly frustrating.

STEVE WYPER Paul, is it an in scope building? Is it over 18 metres, 7 floors?

PAUL HAYLES Yes, the whole project includes 6 of those buildings.

STEVE WYPER OK, there is some stuff on transitional, I’ll message you privately.

DAVID POAT Yeah, Ok, but it feels like the local authority is just reluctant on a competency basis to engage in schemes of this nature and they prefer to wait for the governance of the Building Safety Regulator to kick in, I guess is the position that they’re taking. I’m wondering if there is a question in this that we could assemble and take back via Chris. Through the transition arrangements I guess all of this in the fullness of time is going to sort itself out, but in the meantime what we want to understand is what is the role that local authority planners and building regs people are going to play in order to keep moving forward projects that are in the position that Paul finds himself in, so that we can keep things moving.

PAUL HAYLES Another question from me is what is the actual risk to an organisation if we just continued the work? Presumably they can prohibit, but they’d have to have the grounds for prohibiting and we’d be saying in working with the local fire & rescue service we’re making a worse situation better and you’re stopping us from doing that. Again, that’s stuff I wouldn’t have a clue where to start with but would it be a prohibition notice if we just said we’ve heard what you said, we don’t agree, we’re going to continue.

DAVID POAT I guess if it’s a building regulations issue then under the current regime, so if in the transition arrangements this isn’t an in scope project, under the current regime I guess you’re able to proceed with the work and you’ll get building regs approval once you’re completed. I guess what’s happening is that the planners are challenging whether you’ve commenced or not and then under the new legal requirement you actually can’t start work until you’ve got Building Control approval. I guess that’s the conundrum that you’re in.

PAUL HAYLES It’s worse than that actually, it’s almost farcical. Let’s just assume for arguments sake of the 6 HRBs they are identical and the remediation is identical and let’s say 3 of them have been materially started. So we take those to practical completion, they’re handed back to us and then the other 3 go on the other new regime and let’s just say there is a technical issue where this regime says we don’t like your solution, go back and come back with a different one. Well, we’ve got 3 which went through existing rules, or is that pretty much where the industry is at anyway. There’s a load of buildings out there that if you put them under the microscope of the new regime they may well fail.

DAVID POAT I’m afraid that I don’t get involved in remedial works, I work on the new build side of life, so that’s beyond my understanding, but we’ve captured the question and Steve sounds like he’s gong to give you some guidance around the transition arrangements which may help you. I guess all we can do is wish you well and every success. I’d be really interested in the outcome and I guess it ties in with one of the topics of the day which is about Building Control and any issues and challenges that we’re having. So, why don’t we start with that…what are the issues and challenges that are seeming to be presenting themselves through the new Building Control process? And are there questions that we’ve still got where we need clarification or challenges that we’re still trying to work through?

MARK PRATTEN from Airey Miller. I think it’s about making sure everybody is aware of what the changes are and particularly duty holders in the new regulatory environment, we’re all in the same boat so we need to make sure we’re rowing in the same direction. And it’s about trying to spread the word about what it is in terms of why is it different to what we’ve done before, why are we doing what we’re doing and trying to provide some context to avoid a situation where people start manoeuvring obligations or new requirements onto somebody else because that’s the road we’re all trying to avoid. We all now why the regulations have come on board, it’s to improve the industry, improve safety, to make sure that we’re all procuring responsibly and making sure that things like Grenfell don’t happen again. And to make sure that we build better in the future and to make sure that what we build is also sustainable and doesn’t kick further cans down the roads in terms of making a problem manifesting itself later on for the future generations.

So it’s about education, it’s about making sure that we all realise what the changes are and not just regress back into what we do normally. We make a positive step-change to what we do.

DAVID POAT For me, all of the changes that are happening around Building Control at their core have got two purposes: one is about more control through the process and through the procedure, so there is better governance of the Building Control process; and then it’s about competence, it’s about ensuring that the people that are giving guidance, giving advice, signing off buildings, have got the appropriate competence to do it. There’s lots and lots of detail, but for me when you break it down it’s really just those two things that are trying to be achieved.

CHRIS WATERMAN I’ve been trying to work out who does the building control? What are the title of the person who does building control?

DAVID POAT In the brave new world it’s all going to be regulated by the Building Safety Regulator, so anyone that is delivering Building Control services it will be regulated by that organisation. But in terms of the actual people that are doing it, other than the fact that they’ve got to evidence their competence to do it, particularly for high-risk buildings, I don’t think the people actually doing it are going to be any different.

CHRIS WATERMAN So, who are they? Local authority people?

DAVID POAT Well, a combination of both, you’ll have some local authority people who are continuing, once they’ve evidenced their competence to be able to do it. And you’ll still have private owned organisations who are delivering that service, again having evidence that competence.

CHRIS WATERMAN So the private people who are looking at Building Control, what are they doing that a local authority isn’t? Or are they doing the same thing?

DAVID POAT My view is they’re doing the same thing, and now they will all be governed under the new Regulator, whether you’re a local authority or whether you’re private sector, the governance will be the same.

CHRIS WATERMAN OK, but to go back to Paul’s issue, he wants to do something and in order to do that he wants to comply with the Building Control regulations. So he’s gone to the local authority, could he have gone to a private provider of Building Control compliance?

DAVID POAT I think the answer is yes. So long as it is Building Control approval that he’s seeking, it’s not planning approval.

CHRIS WATERMAN OK, but who is he seeking approval from and who does he need to demonstrate compliance to?

CLARE SUTTON I think we’re getting confused between planning and Building Control. I think the route for Building Control is fairly straightforward and that’s through the new regulators using approved inspectors in the way that it has been done for a long time. The issue that Paul has raised is with planning, so you have to get planning approval for changing your cladding or whatever works you’re doing and it’s the planning authority, the planners, who are causing the blockage.

CHRIS WATERMAN So, if it’s planning that can only be the local authority, yes?

CLARE SUTTON Yes, you can only get your planning approval through the local authority.

CHRIS WATERMAN And that’s what I’m trying to separate all these various bits, because there is confusion and I’m as confused as the next person. So there is getting planning permission and then is complying with Building Control regulations a separate issue that can be either the local authority or a private provider.

CLARE SUTTON Yes, but ultimately it’s the Building Safety Regulator. If it’s a high-risk building…

DAVID POAT And it’s in scope, if it fails the transition rearrangements. I think that’s the thing that Paul is struggling with because the local authority is saying that they don’t believe they have commenced work and therefore can avoid the new regulatory requirements.

CHRIS WATERMAN So is this a planning issue and not a Building Control issue?

DAVID POAT That’s the question I asked Paul as to whether he’s seeking planning approval or whether he’s seeking building regulations approval.

PAUL HAYLES I think Clare has just clarified that and so in that case we are changing cladding products on some of those buildings which are HRBs.

CHRIS WATERMAN And so there are two parallel diagrams. If you’re doing what Paul’s doing it’s a planning issue and then complying with Building Control regulations is a separate issue and a separate process?

CLARE SUTTON Yes, but you have to have one before you have the other, so you have to have planning approval before you get building control approval.

DAVID POAT But Paul can seek planning approval from the local authority, but he doesn’t necessarily have to go to the local authority to seek Building Control approval, is my take. Is there a question in here that we need to ask around clarification? Or is it just about us understanding the detail of what’s already been put out there?

STEVE WYPER There seems to be some ambiguity for sure because there’s bits of information out there that suggest everything is going to come under the new regime, works to existing HRBs but depending on what the works are. Frankly what’s been suggested by certain blogs and information I’ve gathered is just future-proof anything that you’re doing, you wouldn’t have to redo it or undo it. I believe that the registration of new HSE approved inspectors will be through schemes by people such as CABE and my suggestion would be to use a CABE approved, someone who’s actually going to be doing new build planning approvals, if you use someone who’s doing that you’ve gone belt and braces for any Building Control approvals for existing HRBs.

DAVID POAT So basically what you’re safeguarding is their competence to do the job in the sense that they have either gone through that training or they are planning to go through that training, so that would seem to make sense.

STEVE WYPER (Reading Council, local authority). Yeah, it’s about as far as is reasonably possible or practical. We’ve got something going on just now where we had a historic approval, the scheme has slightly changed and we’re in a bit of a no man’s land, so we’re reevaluating what approvals we need and from whom and looking at that quite carefully because of this sort of scenario.

DAVID POAT Thanks, and we’re capturing all of this and post-meeting we’ll try and shape it into some questions and such like. I’m interested in any of you that are involved in non high-risk buildings because obviously the new Building Control requirements don’t just apply to high-risk buildings, they apply to all buildings. And I’m just wondering for those of you that are delivering lower rise schemes whether you feel there is enough guidance out there as to what the impact on lower rise schemes might be.

RICHARD we do record the meeting and we also publish and send out to you highpoint minutes of the meeting along with a video of the meeting. But we also include the chat, so in a big meeting like this please use the chat…because that will be included.

CLARE SUTTON (Abri Housing Association, Development). Just a quick point, and it’s probably too late to do anything about it now, but I do think that the title of principal designer being used under the Building Safety Act for all buildings (not just high-rise buildings) and already having a role called principal designer under CDM regulations and the two roles being different and under different law and for different authorities is extremely confusing. It’s really confusing for people who aren’t part of the building team and don’t understand what all the different roles and regulations are. If we could revise that it would help people a lot.

DAVID POAT That’s a really interesting point, Clare. The government seem to have always wanted to draw comparisons with the CDM process, they’ve wanted to make the point that it’s kind of a process that’s already in play. But as you say by giving the two roles the same name, so maybe there is a question we can go back to with them on which is about to what extent can they clarify the difference between the roles by maybe renaming one of them slightly differently. It might be something we want to consider asking because of the confusion that it’s creating.

CHRIS WATERMAN In terms of buildings, what would you not do for a low-rise building that you would have to do for a high-rise building? This is a totally arbitrary, this was a politician doing this, how high? The point I’m making, in one local authority I think they’re building a lot of 6-storey buildings, presumably because they are gaming the system. But has anyone synthesised what you have to do for a high-rise building that you don’t have to do for a 6-storey building or a 5-storey building?

DAVID POAT Certainly the regulatory requirements are different in terms of specification requirements and such like, so I guess by implication the build systems are less complex. Certainly when you get into some of the M&E (mechanical & electrical) systems, sprinkler systems, AOV systems, smoke control systems, pressurisation systems. So by implication lower rise buildings are less complex, the implication of that I guess is that the level of building control required may be lessened. This is me making assumptions about what the thinking is.

CHRIS WATERMAN Let me just go a bit further forward. If you’re doing a new build 7-storey building which is in scope and then right next to it you’re doing a 6-storey building which is not in scope, what would be different about the building in terms of safety? And what would be the difference in the regulations? What I’m saying is do an infographic of a 7-storey building and everything you’ve got to do to get it through gateway 2 and what would you not do for a 6-storey building that was 10 metres away.

DAVID POAT The immediate and obvious issue is one that we’ve tabled which is around the provision of second staircases. The regulatory requirement of second staircases changes at that level which by implication impacts the evacuation strategy which impacts the number of lifts and type of lifts that you’re providing. Sprinklers would not necessarily be an issue unless you get particularly low-rise, so below 11 metres.

CHRIS WATERMAN Would you want to do some of the things you don’t have to do for a 6-storey building?

DAVID POAT You possibly might. Certainly for organisations that are trying to set the highest possible standards for fire safety, there are some organisations that are going beyond regulations already.

CHRIS WATERMAN If we could tease out those essential differences that might not be a bad place to start.

RICHARD The start is the five questions that we’re discussing, I think we’ve gone a bit off track.

CHRIS WATERMAN I’m answering question 1, high-rise buildings.

DAVID POAT The subject matter is all encompassed in the questions, Richard. You’re right, we’re not answering the specific questions, but the topics are relevant so I’m comfortable with that.

ENZO LABROSCIANO I should probably clarify my answer by saying this is probably a why people are necessarily building them rather than a…I work for Guinness Partnerships, so it’s not a Guinness response, just to disclaim that when you hear my point. I think part of the reason why they’re doing it, it might not be necessarily anything to do with what you do necessarily for the construction purpose of the building or the documents you’d have, but actually because of the building safety certificate sign off what you’re going to end up with is changes to leasehold agreements and responsibility to clients. And so therefore building them at 6 metres negates quite a lot of that legal responsibility. From a building safety point of view the building may be constructed in exactly the same way, the same materials and the same documentation, but people are doing it for a different reason.

DAVID POAT I think that’s a fair comment, and certainly in our organisation we’ve reduced heights of buildings that we’re planning for exactly that purpose. And it’s not looking to gain the system per se, but as you say the longer term liabilities and responsibilities do reduce. You don’t negate them completely because obviously safety even in low-rise buildings is essential, but it does change the liability somewhat.

I’ll come back to the original question, purely from a building control point of view people that are in the process of developing low-rise schemes, do you feel you have already in play enough guidance around what is required around building control moving forwards? or is there more clarification that’s required? And if the answer is no, that’s fine, but it’s good to know. OK, let’s move it along. Coming back to something Chris has said, in terms of the definition of high-rise buildings, and there has been a lot of documents issued recently and actually quite a bit of confusion. My understanding is there was a tribunal recently where the tribunal was trying to interpret guidance that was issued and came to the conclusion that buildings with roof terraces that the 18 metres should be measured to roof level. Whereas the understanding up until that point is that the 18 metres was measured to the finished floor level of the top residential floor.

My understanding is that as a consequence of that tribunal further clarification has been issued which has confirmed that for the measurement of the storeys and for the measurement of the 18 metres, any roof terrace can be discounted and it is the finished floor level of the topmost residential floor. From my point of view I think there would have been a question for clarification, but I think that’s been clarified.

SANDRA CLARK In relation to that, one of the things we’ve had come up as a query that we were having some debate about with the Fire Service in relation to height of buildings was the undercroft car parks. When you didn’t have the entrance, say you had two buildings next to each other and the entrance was on one building, but the car park serviced both of them. According to the Fire Service if you could access the car park from internally the building it should be incorporated into the height, but we read the instruction as that it was only the entrance was part of the building from externally that it would form part of the height of the building.

DAVID POAT My understanding is the 18 metres is measured from the lowest ground floor measurement, so wherever the ground is at its lowest adjacent to the building it’s measured from that point, up to the finished floor level of the topmost residential floor. I’m not aware that entrances to car pars and such like has any bearing on the measurement of the 18 metres. However, when it comes to calculating the number of storeys if you’ve got a basement area, and I guess that might include a car park, and the ceiling of that basement area is above ground level then you would count it as a storey. So you might have a building that you think is 6-storeys, but actually it’s 7.

SANDRA CLARK (Southern Housing). That’s how we’ve ending up doing it. The Fire Service, we were in a PAS meeting and one of my colleagues asked what was their view and they were trying to get us to include, not on the storey but on the height, that if there was an undercroft and it was accessible from an internal staircase then from their assumption it should have been included which obviously caused a right debate in our place.

DAVID POAT Yeah, I’m sure it did.

MARK PRATTEN David, I agree with you, that’s exactly what the height is. I think there’s been some confusion about building height, building storey height. What is a building? Which is another question which leads on to a bit of a mixture and the fact that actually we think that the Fire & Rescue Service do actually know what they’re talking about, because I suspect that they probably don’t know the full ins and outs of the regulatory movements. Because in all fairness the regulations have only just come out this year, there’s been about 15 regulations that have come out in the last 3-4 months. I’ve read them, but it’s going to take some time for that to filter down to the various grassroots of people’s minds, so I certainly wouldn’t take the point that they do know what they’re talking about.

But at the same time the confusion maybe with the car park is in regards to whether it’s a building or not in terms of accessing other buildings and whether it’s an independent structure or not. And those questions are not related because the car park is not a residential area, so if it’s not a residential area and you can access from one building to another through a car park then they are still independent structures for the purposes of the regs because you’re entering an area that’s not a residential area. That would be my take on that and what I think is probably what was going on in that discussion.

TIM WILLIAMS I was just going to point out that there’s a legislation…the high-risk buildings descriptions and supplementary provisions, section 6 part 2, states about that the storey beneath the building which is not below ground level is to be counted.

DAVI POAT One thing that I’ve been troubling my mind with is the fact that there is a difference between what constitutes a building for building control purposes and what constitutes a high-risk building for the purposes of operation. I think I know why they’ve done it. In and of itself I’m not sure I’ve got any concerns about it, but what it starts to throw up for me is during the building control process we are assembling an awful lot of documentation that relates to planning, gateway 2, gateway 3. So all of that documentation is being assembled and it’s being structured in a certain way, then we come to handover the building and of all that information what we need to do is separate out the information for the high-risk building for the purposes of the safety case, the golden thread etc.

I’ll be honest, I’ve not fully thought it through yet and it might not be an issue, but in terms of how documentation and data is managed through the development process my concern is that we’re going to overcomplicate it because of the need to separate high-risk buildings post-operation or post-occupation. I didn’t know if anyone else had a view on that, had given it any thought, shaping people’s thinking around document management and suchlike. It sounds like I’m barking up the wrong tree then, nobody else has got any issues, that’s all good.

We’ve talked a little bit about competency and the competency requirements that have been set out, I’m curious as to whether people feel that there is more guidance that we need in this area. We know there have been some PAS documents produced that give quite a lot of detailed requirements around competency. I’m particularly interested in how we might go about measuring behaviour where behaviour of consultants and contractors is a key ingredient. I wonder if any of you have given this any thought as to what the issues around this might be and if there is anymore clarification that might be needed. Has anyone got any experience of of trying to assess this already in terms of processes that you've put in place in your organisations?

From our point of view we’ve established some framework arrangements over the last 12 months, both for consultants and for contractors, and we've asked some very specific questions as part of the framework process that try and assess the competence of the organisations and try and understand what legal notices they’ve been issued in the previous five years and that sort of thing. But we haven’t yet really got into, other than on a couple of schemes, we haven’t got into the detail of assessing individual competence who are being put forward for schemes other than receiving and reading CVs. So, it’s still very much a work in progress from our point of view.

SANDRA CLARK Not currently, we’ve just recently done a merger so I think the first step is trying to join the two organisations together and I think we’ll look at it a little bit later on on that one.

CHRIS WATERMAN I’ve been to several events where competence has been discussed and the knowledge, the skills and the experience are on a CV. Behaviour isn’t, and this is the crunch issue, and what you said, you look at whether there are any red flags against anybody, that’s one place to start, but this is incredibly difficult to assess. In teaching, which is my natural hunting ground, there is something called List 99 and if somebody is barred from teaching they’re on that list. Now, relative to the construction industry 25,000 schools is a walk in the park, but do we need or should we be thinking about how we weed out the cowboys?

TIM WILLIAMS (Orbit). It’s challenging when it comes to competency to try to weed that out without there being sort of a central control body. I’ve worked perviously on gas and you’ve got Gas Safe there and you can look people up and you can even utilise that system to look into whether they’ve had any incidents which have been investigated, but it just doesn’t exist for normal, everyday trades. The majority of trades we come across they’re relying on the managers within the businesses to know their operatives and to be auditing and checking operatives regularly to look out for behavioural issues and that’s as far as it goes for many of the trades.

CHRIS WATERMAN When you write a job description you put in what are essential requirements and what are desirable requirements. It’s really nice if you’re a teacher if you can also drive a minibus and take the kids out once a week. That’s not essential, but the essential things are there, so are there a list of qualities that we…I know this is a massive problem, it’s really easy to talk about competence and almost impossible to define it.

TIM WILLIAMS I think the asbestos world has a better control on it on the behaviour side because their accreditation does come with the need for X number of audits by the accrediting body every year, but outside of that I’ve not really come across anything in higher detail. We have to look at how we’re going to do this ourselves or ask contractors to do this and evidence it.

DAVID POAT And I think it’s going to be one of those situations where, as the client, we just need to evidence that we’ve done everything that we reasonably can do in order to evidence peoples’ competence. And it’s going to be hard to challenge that.

CHRIS WATERMAN Just one quick example, the taxi drivers who take some children to school need to be vetted and the school needs to check that.

DAVID POAT From a previous life, I worked at BAA at the airports for a number of years and every work person that came onto a site at the airports needed a passport and that passport needed to evidence their skills, knowledge and training. It didn’t get into behaviour, but it was a very strict control over what enabled you to go and work in an airport. It will be interesting to what extent that emerges as a way of accrediting people.

DAVID MATTS It goes back to your point, David, and also the point Chris raised. We are actually procuring our own framework due to the issues in terms of the quality side of some of the work that’s been carried out which again then goes back to peoples’ competencies. Part of that procurement exercise is looking at how the contractors who are successful can evidence first of all their training regimes, their Q&A regimes, but also in one sense we’re trying to get them to work to what our values are in terms of our wider values. And then also that will be an ongoing evidence process as we go through to get an understanding of how they consider working in a long term partnership. I think as an industry we’ve been quite lax about what we’ve let go and they way we’ve policed it has been fairly poor. Again, I have to admit sometimes we struggle.

The recent intervention on the 1st of October in terms of the regulation, I noticed that we’re still no further forward ascertaining what an FRA surveyor requires or the guidelines to what they require to be able to carry out there work which is now two years on. So I do agree with one of the other speakers that there needs to be some sort of overriding organisation or subsection of the organisation that looks at the quality, the consistency and the training. Not wishing to dis any part of the other business, but I’ve never heard of anyone dying because they couldn’t have a bath or their communal corridors had been painted, but we work in an industry where I’m afraid where that has proven to be the downfall. Going back to Chris’ point, we do need to put pressure on the relevant organisations for them to take a more proactive role regarding the guidance and what they’re proposing as we go forward. It seems a bit of a sham that they can hit us with various requirements but in terms of how we’re able to review implement we get little input to that.

DAVID POAT And what other input do you think you’d like?

DAVID MATTS (Vivid, Building & Fire Safety). I think we need to look at the standards of what we’re working to and the standards of the training that come in. We can be very specific about a fire door and about the manufacturers requirement, installers requirement etc, but in some cases even that comes under question by developers in terms of what they think that they have to supply as part and parcel of the overall cost of a development. That sort of thing needs to be, I’m not saying written in stone because it’s very difficult, but there needs to be some very, very strict guidelines to what is required and by who.

ENZO LABROSCIANO Following on from Dave’s point onto Chris’ question about accountability, I think while the government are accountability-averse by not giving strict guidance, what it means is there isn’t a set determination of what they need to produce and when they need to produce it. We’re having these discussions around all of these topics today purely because there are still questions, so to hold somebody to account when there is no direct accountability, I think that’s where a lot of this comes in. There’s a lot of consultants appearing to offer lots of these services that actually if you turn around to somebody and say what actually do I need to produce, what do I need to give and when, list me all the exact documents, people will come up with different types of documents and different accountability. And while that’s happening, being able to say who the cowboys are in this is a very difficult thing to pin down because the guidance doesn’t give a determination, it leaves it open to interpretation because they don’t want to take on the risk themselves.

DAVID POAT I’ve just been reflecting on the whole behaviours thing and behaviours is quite a difficult thing to evidence upfront, but actually from a client point of view we talk a lot about contractors that are easy to do business with and contractors that are quite difficult to do business with, how they respond to queries and challenges. From our point of view we’ve been employing for some time now what we’ve collectively called our quality management team, so we have clerk of works, fire consultants, M&E consultants, heat network consultants who are out onsite on our behalf regularly raising queries and over a period of time how contractors respond to their presence, their questions and challenges could build up an interesting trend of how both individuals and organisations respond to some of the safety challenges.

So maybe in the fullness of time this will start to sort itself out as the behaviours or individuals and organisations becomes more recorded, more known, from a client point of view I guess that’s something that we can focus on to try and develop. Any other thoughts on competence? And specifically any further guidance or questions that we feel that we might want Chris to field on our behalf with government? This is hopefully an interesting conversation, it’s quite difficult to be specific in these sessions. If, after the meeting, you go away and reflect on some of the conversations that we’re having, if you do have thoughts about questions and clarifications that you think are needed, please feel free to email either Richard Freer or Jiss or myself and we can build those into future conversations we have with Chris.

A couple of topics , very personal topics that I put on the table and aren't necessarily related to the Building Safety Act, but I was very interested in your perspectives on how you are responding to the kind of second stair regulation. I think we know all of the challenges that is presenting, but am curious as to how people are responding to that, what are the solutions that you’re coming up with that you’d be happy to share. Just to add a bit of context to the conversation, I’m the technical and cost manager, I work for Notting Hill Genesis in the development team and as the technical manager I get to review quite a lot of designs. I have to say there’s a whole range of solutions that are being put on the table and it still isn’t absolutely clear which of those solutions are likely to be approved, either by the Regulator or by the Fire Brigade. The guidance that we’ve given to our project teams is to be as belt and braces as they possibly can be, but that’s really just about trying to manage the risk of future non-approvals.

So, if we can be as belt and braces up front, but of course being belt and braces typically will mean that you’ve got to put more lifts in, that the stair cores have got to be bigger, it typically means the amount of residential floor space you’ve got is significantly reduced and that typically means that the viability of schemes is challenged. So the project teams are finding it really hard to be belt and braces so they’re on a knife-edge in terms of what they think is going to be acceptable and what isn’t and that’s making our review of designs quite challenging. Of course, the other issue around this for us is the more lifts you add the more service charge there is and the less affordable blocks then become for residents, s you’re kind of damned if you do, you’re trying to do the right thing for residents and making the buildings as safe as you possibly can, but that comes at not only a capital cost but also an ongoing operational cost as that typically gets passed on. I just wondered what other peoples’ experiences are.

DAVID MATTS On that, David, doesn’t that go back to the earlier part of the conversation where we were talking about the point Chris had raised about what’s the difference between a 6-storey and a 7-storey? Even to the point of now is that it would appear, especially with some of the design & build style contracts, that they are initially throwing the kitchen sink at it at the start without any real thought. And I think that’s another thing that we need to consider about the relationship with the developer in terms of looking at it from our point of view, from that the points that you mentioned earlier: cost effective development, sustainability, affordability. To try and find that happy medium, if there ever is one in our game, that’s going to benefit all.

DAVID POAT Yeah, I agree. The approach to design management has just become so complex of late because you’ve got so many conflicting requirements. So in out attempts to introduce two staircases we’ve ended up designing quite monolithic blocks where we’re trying to connect to existing stair cores in order to be as efficient as possible. You then end up with a design solution that has a huge number of single aspect units in it where actually local planners and looking for dual aspect units. So there is a whole load of complexity that is now having to be managed and considered and the risk is that you end up compromising on both in order to find that middle ground.

The one thing I would say is as part of us losing residential space we’ve got a number of schemes that we’re taking back to planners with a view to enlarge buildings in order to try and recover some of that sales space and our experience of the planners generally is that they’re at least receptive to that conversation. It’s early days yet, but there seems to be fairly open dialogue and an understanding as to why some of these buildings either need to be made a bit taller or made a bit wider in order to accommodate.

CHRIS WATERMAN I think there are still quite a few people that aren't keen on two staircases on the basis that they’d rather have one good one that two grotty ones. But again, in terms of what you said, when I was responsible for schools I used to have a little diagram for faith schools where they’d say the roof was falling in and I’d say, oh look, that’s coloured red, that’s your responsibility. But in terms of clarifying this I would assume there are different plans for buildings, so you’ve got a 7-storey building with everything in, you’ve got a 7-storey building with most of it in. What I’m always looking for is some sort of visualisation of what would happen, this is a 7-storey building you used to build, this is a 7-storey building you’ve now got to build, this is why it needs to be 9-storeys. And the other thing, and I’ve spent 25 years talking to politicians to little effect, but what they want is case studies and diagrams and nothing more than two sides of A4.

DAVID POAT Yeah, keep it simple.

CHRIS WATERMAN No, keep it clear. There’s a huge difference between clarity and simplicity.

PETE PATON (L&Q). I really wanted to respond to that pregnant silence, David, when you said what was everyone else’s views. Let me firstly say that there must be a David Poat at L&Q as well because we’re having exactly the same discussions, conversations, contemplations, dissectations, as to what do we think the expectations are. And the reason we ask those questions is because we want to get it right first time and we don’t want to have to redo that and spend money that may have been in the balance financial viability scheme to then to have to put it right because our interpretation has been wrong. So, psychology drives us to be looking for affirmation that what we’re doing is the right thing, if it’s not clear in the written word, in the drawings and the guidance or the legislation.

So yeah, we’re having those chats as well, I wanted to just offer a bit of empathy to say we have equally come up with the same answers and scenarios and silences as you have and we too are perplexed as to what is going to be the purpose of the second staircase. Will it be a mirror image of what’s there already? Will it be used in general day-to-day use and be a mirror of what would happen with a single staircase unit? Or will it become an exclusive use for the fire services only? And will be preserved and not used during day-to-day use. Or will it be day-to-day use and then cordoned off? Will it be used as an access and the other stairwell used as an egress?

All of that debate we’ve had and of course we’re asking as many people the same questions but all we’re really getting back is views and opinion and not necessarily fact and determination so that we can build our case internally within the organisation. So some schemes have slowed down, some schemes that don’t qualify for it we’re just carrying on with and some schemes that we think will need greater thought and greater modelling once we’ve got greater clarity are exactly in that position. We’re doing the same financial modelling and technical modelling as you and trying to get clarity so that the right thing is done. So, you’re not alone, David. Our organisations exist to create homes, we’ll continue building and hopefully do that right thing.

DAVID POAT And I think that’s the key to it, the ultimate goal is that we want to continue to build homes in London (and for others elsewhere) and it’s becoming increasingly challenging to do that. But we’re a pretty resilient bunch so I guess we’ll find a way. This is a related topic, we haven’t really got time to get into it, but it continues to be a challenge where we still don’t have any real clarity in guidance around evacuation lifts. Both in terms of the standards of evacuation lifts, but also how the hell they’re going to be managed when they’re in because as housing associations we don’t have permanent people at out buildings to manage these things and it’s a hugely complex topic.

I’ve had a couple of meetings with the Fire Brigade who have assured me they recognise that there is a gap in the guidance that’s being given and they assured me that they were going to produce some documentation at some point to at least give their perspective on, not setting design standards but setting out clearly what they were trying to achieve in terms of fire safety and that would go some way to inform some of the things that you’ve spoken about, Pete, in terms of what that second staircase is used for and how it will get used. I’m not aware that anything has been published as of yet, so we continue to wait with bated breath.

RICHARD Jiss has put the link in the chat to register for the big meeting on the 23rd November, so if you haven’t already done so just click on there and then you’ll have your place and receive an email confirmation.

DAVID POAT Thank you everyone for attending and I value and appreciate your inputs. There were a few pregnant silences that hopefully in the fullness of time the conversations will be filled with interesting information as we all try and work our way through this sort of stuff. Richard, Jiss, myself, Paul White, possibly with Chris, we’ll try and pull this together into a series of questions that we think we may be able to present and we’ll let you know what we come up with. If you can make the 23d that would be great.


Clare Sutton

Ultimately the planning authority are answerable to their council so go to the elected councillors?

[11:46] Adey Badmos

Yes, for my organisation. we already doing this

[11:47] Dave Williams

one of the major differences are the provision of the safety case and safety case report

[11:50] Clare Sutton

So far we are quite clear but the proof of the pudding will come when we carry out the process.

[11:55] Dave Williams

the diagram in approved document B sets out how height is calculated.

[11:56] Clare Sutton

The only serious confusion or contention we are having is in deciding who is the Principle AP.  We have several situations where we lease part of a development under a S106 and inevitably the AP for lessee is reluctant to take responsibility as Principle AP.  Where leases were not written with this issue in mind it is difficult to define who is responsible for maintenance of structure.

[12:02] Simon Fullard

more guidance will definitely be needed

[12:07] WATERMAN, Chris

Should there be  common framework?

[12:08] Woollard, Ian

Behaviour can only be experienced. CVs and previous contracts and references might be fine but doesn't guarantee competency.

[12:18] Paul White

I haven't yet experienced challenges quite yet where I am so less to say here but it's certainly raised plenty of questions in my mind that I need to investigate so this has been an extremely useful session. The point about competency and what to ask at tender stage and evidence from contractors (and perhaps consultants) is a very interesting point that needs further collective development I think.

We need clarity on the required competency badges for sure.