DAVID POAT I’m the technical manager for Notting Hill Genesis, but for a little while now I’ve been co-chairing this development group with Paul White from Gravesham. Jiss will be recording today, we tend to record these sessions so that we can put notes together afterwards. My role here as chair is to get as many people participating as we possibly can and sharing your thoughts. By way of background, within the last couple of months there have been workshops held with carious groups, there’s a whole load of information and thinking that’s coming out of those groups. But on reflection there’s lots of conversation about what needs to happen, not hugely a lot of conversation about how and how we actually go about making things happen.

And a couple of the topics that came out of recent conversations. The first one seems to suggest that it would be a great idea to get specialist designers involved much earlier in the design process, but also to what extent we can involve manufacturers and specialists in the quality assurance process, once things are installed. Those kind of topics gave us some subject matter that we thought would be worthy of some conversation, particularly from a client and developer point of view, one of the discussions that’s going on within our organisation is how does all of this impact upon our procurement thinking. From our point of view, typically we’re a single stage design and build client, that’s our preferred approach, and certainly a lot of consultants are starting to suggest to us that might not be the best way to move forwards.

One of the debates that we’re having is around procurement, we’re getting lots of advice. We’re particularly interested in whether we had manufacturers or contractors as part of this group, because it’s all very well looking at this from a client perspective, but actually the concept of getting specialists involved earlier in the process, how do we do that? Or what is the best way to be engaging those specialists and what are the issues that that creates. I guess commercially, I guess from a risk point of view, from a resource point of view etc. Just before we get into that, the whole need to involve specialists earlier seems to predicate itself on a suggestion that the amount of detail that’s needed at gateway 2 in order to satisfy Building Control is far more detailed than it ever was. George and I had a conversation about this the other day and it’s fair to say that we’re probably at either end of the spectrum.

At one end you’ve got we just need to provide enough information to be able to evidence that we’re Building Control, building regs compliant, and at the other end of the spectrum you’ve got full specification information that evidences how systems are intended to perform, even at that gateway 2 stage. So I was interested in George who dragged Adam into the conversation, I thought we’d kick of the procurement conversation just with a sense of what views do we have around the room, what our anticipation or expectation is for the detail at gateway 2. My view at the moment is it remains ambiguous, so there are no right or wrong answers, but I’m interested in what information people have and what thoughts people have.

GEORGE I think there is a context in this that we’ve been talking about for several months now. To some extent it’s been led by Paul McSoley from Mace, and Paul White the damper/M&E specialist, because part of the challenge is that the way procurement is currently done is that at gateway 2, or the end of detailed design when construction starts, where people are starting to put partitioning up, the M&E contractor may then just be appointed. They look at the M&E design and then they’ll make changes, either for coordination purposes or for practicality purposes or product selection. The net impact of that is that we end up with builders work holes being in the wrong place and therefore the compartmentation is compromised. So additional and perhaps unnecessary work is needed to try and make good something that should have been sorted out before hand. Paul McSoley’s position is that that work should have been done by the M&E contractors being engaged during detailed design to address those particular areas.

There’s probably other specialists that are involved too late as well, but certainly the M&E one, it’s easy for me to understand and I though from the discussions that we’ve had in terms of the construction control plan and the need for products to be selected before construction starts, I was quite encouraged that we were on the right track with that. But I have to say that I was interested in Adam’s comments over the last week or so because I’m feeling as well there seems to be a rolling back of that.

ADAM HOPKINS I tend to keep my head down and, like all good, technically minded, introverted people try not to talk to people too often, but I sometimes stick my head above the parapet and the recent occasion is the one that George is referencing. I’ll try my best to not repeat what the Regulator said, but to give my take on the Regulator’s apparent change in stance over the last few weeks or months. I attended this and other similar meetings over the last months and years and as George was speaking about then I think the conversation has very much been on the bar is going to be very high at gateway 2, there’s going to be an expectation that there’s a lot of detail upfront. And then you’ve got this situation where your designers have designed and your builders build, to put it in a very simple way. That’s a very nice and clean thing and obviously everything we do in the construction industry is nice and clean and simple like that, so why wouldn’t that work?

I think that was the prevailing message from the Regulator, it was design and then build, and I think that’s what most working groups like this have been focused on for a number of months, if not years now. And then on the 10th January the Regulator held one of their webinar sessions they’ve been doing for the last 2 months, topic based, and they’re doing them basically chronologically. They started with one on planning gateway 1, which i thought we were all familiar and comfortable with and had experience of by now, and then they’ve worked on through some other topics. The most recent one on the 10th January was about gateway 2 and how an applicant in a project team would work with the Regulator to get that initial approval and then during the construction phase onsite.

And through that meeting there was a bit of a presentation and then there was a Q&A and one of the questions to the Regulator was what’s your expectation at gateway 2 as far as design development is concerned?

I’ll admit I probably rolled my eyes when that question came up on screen, because I thought we’ve done that to death and we all know that, so why are we wasting time dwelling on it? And then I had to kind of eat my words because actually the Regulator’s response was…in the majority of cases, a RIBA 3 level of design would be acceptable if it sets out the parameters for how the built asset will achieve compliance with the building regulations. So as long as you’ve said here’s the box or the gap and the subsequent design is going to happen within these two goalposts, we’ll be happy with that. There will be conditions or requirements, but that was the message, and all of the speakers on the call agreed with that position and said that was likely to be how things would play out going forward. That struck me as a change of messaging and it played on my mind for a little bit, and then I watched the recording back and made sure I wrote it down word for word.

I spoke to a number of colleagues in our business and a number of our suppliers and people in the supply chain and most of them just either laughed or shook their head or thought I was talking nonsense. So, we’re working through that now, we’re trying to understand what that means. I don’t think it should necessarily change our approach, because I don’t think it’s a sensible thing to do given the risk of change once you’ve got into contract with a  construction partner and you’re building the thing, I don’t think you want the risk of lots of hooks left in approval, these requirements and conditions on your approval. But it certainly seems that the Regulator is happy to accept less design than we had all been anticipating.

DAVID POAT Adam, that’s really helpful. I didn’t go to that particular webinar, but I’ve been to HSE webinars pre-Christmas, when they were being asked similar questions. And certainly what they were saying at that time was consistent with what you’ve heard, there seemed to be a suggestion that the level of detail that people were expecting to have to give didn’t seem to be being reinforced in the message that was coming from the Regulator. It’s interesting because the conversation that George and I had, I was coming from a place that said we simply need to provide enough information at gateway 2 to be able to evidence that what’s been designed and constructed will meet building regulations, you don’t need to go any further than that at that stage. So the suggestion that you’ve got to start to specify individual components certainly wasn’t at the forefront of our minds.

But then there is a big however, because I’ve spoken to George several times about the issue about the fire dampers, and Paul from Mace, he’s got lots of experience of inspecting fire dampers that have been put into buildings that they simply can’t access the to maintain them because they’ve almost been put in as an afterthought and squeezed a pint into a quart pot. So just because the Regulator doesn’t need that level of detail for Building Control that doesn’t necessarily mean that if we’re going to move forward and deliver better quality that it’s still not the right thing to do. But again, we’re in this situation of ambiguity where some people will and some people won’t.

JIM CREAK Because I’m particularly interested in products where details are not actually considered until almost the premises is ready to be occupied, very little thought goes into it at design stage. Because this little thing at the moment for HRRBs called wayfinding, that’s not clearly defined other than in the mind of those that wrote the paragraphs and I’m continually being sent plans or safety strategy plans to say please list wayfinding signs as required by building regulations. And it’s too late, it’s literally too late in the process if it hasn’t been considered at design stage because this is fire & rescue deployment stuff. And there is a huge amount of work because it’s all bespoke, it’s not straight product off the shelf.

The sighting of these products needs to be absolutely correct, otherwise the fire and rescue get wayfinding to all sorts of different parts of the building, but that work currently is expected to be done free and for gratis by those tendering for the last pieces of M&E work. Illumination of these components or arrangements is absolutely key, so there’s a huge amount of consultation to be taken. I’m sorry to take a bit of time on the illustration, but this is where I feel it always falls down on dotting the Is and crossing the Ts. And with all due respect to you, Adam, I know how you feel, because we’re expected on our desk at the very last minute to be shoved a drawing and make hear nor tail of some two paragraphs that with all due respect to Tier 1 or a subcontractor has said can you tell us what we need and price it up please? That’s the reality of it, I don’t know whether it helps, but that’s my problem.

DAVID POAT I think it’s another good example of design considerations that get left too late, so it’s definitely on message.

IAIN McILWEE I don’t think it’s any surprise that Building Safety Regulator has fallen back on specified process, not just products in order to prove compliance, because that can out of the first webinar. There was a lot of ambiguity around it and a big push back from the RIBA contingent when they said everything completed at stage 4. The onus then falls back on us as a supply chain to work out what does that mean and what is sufficient process, because if you refer back to the plan of works it refers to a design responsibility matrix. I’ve still never really seen one that actually manages design responsibility, and I think that’s where our opportunity is to push back and say these are the documents that we need. When we talk about early supply chain involvement we have to be really precise about which packages and when.

We now talk about super systems, so for us it’s interior systems that sits alongside engineering services and we’ve subdivided that into floors and staircases, walls and ceilings, and fire stopping and finishing. Because again we seem to be surprised there’s doors and walls, but they’re two different packages, they’re not talking to each other. Then all of a sudden we’ve got difficult details, my first call this morning was about an interior partitioning?
20mins 38secs with a composite interface detail that nobody has got any test evidence for. What stage is the project at? We’re just building the 10th floor out now. So that’s way too late, that conversation only came out because the contract had been reviewed and there was an assumption all the way through that that detail is going to be covered by the specialist subcontractor’s insurance and the specialist subcontractor said that detail can’t be on my insurance, I’m not insured for that.

The manufacturer probably recommend it as a caveated details the principal designer, the principal designer said I can’t cover it, stick it in the specialist package. There’s only really three options with that now, one is that the detail gets assessed. The first option should have been a redesign to allow for a detail that was in scope, now that we’re at the point of assessing or testing that detail which is going to cost somebody an awful lot of money and we’re at the point where we’re building out the 10th floor, that’s the stuff that we’ve got to get better. So I think there is a point at which you say pragmatically we need to be clear about what completing stage 4 actually means, if we talk about stage 4 design completed. And then where stage 4 design not completed the design responsibility matrix needs to determine the process by which that’s going to be abdicated and then the competence of anybody’s bidding for that work needs to be properly assessed against their ability to deliver that. They’re the kind of processes we need…because otherwise it’s just going to be chaos out there.

EDWARD COSTER Selfishly I’m thinking about the end of the process where we go into occupation. I’m involved more with creating safety cases and safety case reports, and of course we’re going to write a bit of our safety case on the basis that the building had robust controls around design and construction, so any changes to that what we saw was coming through as a really robust strong regulatory system potentially starts to undermine our safety case. In some instances we might end up in the impasse where we say we can’t write a credible safety case for this building because actually the process has been a bit too fluid because the Regulator hasn’t been strong enough. It’s quite as simple as that, if we’re not allowing adequate time for design to unfold and all of the parties to work to produce a safe product, that’s part of our safety case gone because we’re saying basically this building safe because it was designed and constructed, the product is safe, and then we’re managing it safely. If we start to lose part of that we’re in a difficult position at the end where we’re going into the operational phase.

DAVID POAT That’s an interesting perspective, we might come back to that.

GEORGE I was just going to build on what you said earlier with regard to what Paul McSoley was talking about in terms of, let’s say, a damper. Although you’re absolutely right, one of the challenges is whether you’ve got adequate access to be able to do it, but the other point that Paul McSoley has been making was it the right damper. Was it the right product for that particular circumstance because often if the product is picked without due consideration of where it’s going and what system it’s going to be part of then it could well be a very good product, but it’s the wrong one for that particular location. He says that he’s seeing it time and time again that the products, because they’re being picked too late in the process, or they’re not being picked in the right context, then that’s part of the issue.

DAVID POAT So if that’s not going to get picked up at gateway 2 s part of a building control process then how does that issue come to light? Where is the governance that does that piece of quality assurance that says actually we’ve got this wrong? Or we can’t put the product in that we want to put in because we don’t have the space.

GEORGE That’s an interesting point. My understanding is that until recently Building Control have provided advice and people have been able to go to them and say this is our design, does it comply with building regs? And they’s been willing to contribute their view. From the conversations I’ve had with Building Control people in the last few months that’s absolutely fundamentally changed, they are not going to do that anymore. You might argue that they never did because they never took responsibility for it, although people perceive…I’ve had lots of conversations where people have said, well, it has gone through Building Control therefore it must be all right.

DAVID POAT We certainly have experience of engaging with the Regulator, but it was specifically around fire related design. So rather than broad kind of building control engagement, it was at the time that the HSE were starting to get more heavily involved within the governance of fire safety design that we were certainly able to engage with them and have those conversations about fire safety planning applications and building control applications. Has anyone else got any experience of trying to engage with the Regulator about this sort of stuff?

JIM CREAK It did all change when we went away from prescriptive requirements to objective requirements. And we lost a huge amount of resources in the fire engineering section of fire & rescue services where we could go into consultation, and also when we privatised…when we went out to approved inspectors and we gave them a very narrow scope and we lost huge amounts of the capability that we had in that segment. And then on top of that the building research establishment decided to go into saving the environment rather than actually look at details in buildings. So there’s a whole cacophony of realisations about why we went away from what `I call some real professional understanding of what was actually required.

The last but by no means least is this phrase on every drawing that asks for a price, it says ‘or equivalent’ or ‘similar’. As soon as you see that you can quote for anything because you're free of any specification if you don’t know what the competitors important specifications are. I don’t mean to be too negative, I’m of an age where I remember when we did quote and we did go into consultation with all of the stakeholders on a particular development, but the trust and relationships have been lost. I’m from Basildon and the manufacturer I was involved with for 30 years was a company called J-lite manufacturing photo-luminescent escape systems originally for the off-shore oil industry, but then to do with safety way guidance systems in buildings. It actually impinges with something of everyday like emergency lighting, and it goes hand in glove with emergency lighting.

ADAM HOPKINS I work for Peabody, it’s a housing association in London.

PETE PATON I’m the head of strategic building safety at L&Q, so like Ed I look at the backend and like Adam I look at the frontend, so I’m a bit of a double pantomime horse at the moment. I had the luxury of taking part in some of the building control related sessions with Neil Collins Hope and Colin Blanchford-Brown when they were doing them, Adam was there. I enjoyed your article on Linkedin, Adam, thanks for speaking out. The phrase, I know this will resonate with a few of you, that was drummed in to the audience during the building control sessions were that the need is to demonstrate how the application will meet the functional requirements of the building regs, full stop. And given the remark that was made earlier, the building control professional will now no longer give design advice.

I’ve been about long enough to be having the conversations with the building control officer on-site and you have a chat where I’m thinking of doing this, we might do that, what’s your feeling about it? And you would often get a steer as to what their comfortable with and you would go down that route with a degree of confidence despite the caveat that you’d be doing the right thing. It’s my interpretation of the discussions that have taken place so far with the Regulator have been that advice will no longer be given in the operational guidance, that would be an infringement to do that if you’re a building control professional, giving design advice because the message I understood was don’t do it. I’m the same as everybody else in this room which is we’re trying to get to the position of what do we need to do to get a successful application across the table so that work can commence to build a new HRB or do work on an existing HRB.

So I read that with interest, Adam, about the shift. i didn’t make it to the call because I was applicant number 501 for the tickets and they stop it at 500, so the only way you’ll get to listen to it is if you retrospectively register for the video on-demand and you can then take from that. I don’t want to misquote Neil Hope Collins, but he’s made it really clear that you need to follow the regulations. That’s what you must follow because they’re now shifting from an advice and collaborative approach to soon an enforcement approach. There is nothing I’m saying here that is new to you guys, the tricky bit for us all is trying to work out what level of granularity do we need to go into at application stage to be successful. Some of the clarification I got through those sessions in August was that you do not need to put a complete end-to-end completed design package at that submission, to the minutiae of the detail, you do not need to do that.

That was the discussions early doors and that sort of shifted. There was discussions around phased completions and sectional completions and that also became a bit more relaxed. The pragmatic understanding I took away from it was in your application, where there were holes in your design because you haven’t appointed that specialist designer yet, then that should be declared in your application. And as part of that you should also declare at which point in your programme will you then submit that piece of design information in order that Building Control can consider that. So, you can have gaps in it, but you need to be clear when you’re going to fill those gaps and give them that and you cannot commence that piece of work that you do not have that approval for. So, how that translates into real life is a real conundrum, given the real life that we’ve worked in, but I get it that trying to define a product so late in the process and getting into a stage where you’re doing a wall detail when you’ve reached the 10th floor, that’s the stuff we need to be moving away from.

It would be impractical to think for a moment that we could design everything in the initial application, it’s not possible, but there is latitude there for you to do that, and that’s the message I got. I’ve not seen or heard the real words, Adam, as to what level of relaxation they’ll be giving us now, I’m not sure, but we’ve got to strike the balance between avoiding and getting to the stage where a damper that’s required cannot fit into the hole that’s been left for the special subcontractor to do it. And the sense in that is nobody want to get there and you want to have those sort of level things sorted out before you are cracking on, well before you’ve appointed. Does that mean that you might have to get specialist design advice prior to that? It very much might, which I know spits in the face of the procurement arrangements that we’re all trying to work to.

And that fun guidance which says ‘or equivalent, the reason that’s there is to protect the designer and also from the procurement regs. So you can go out and procure fairly and not be accused of cutting across the procurement regs because you’ve specified a product, but of course as long as you can put the details together…I don’t have any real answers, but I think what we’re trying to chase here is striking the balance for how much level of detail can you go with in order to get across the table. And the answer has unfortunately been left in our hands because the Regulator will not tell us what level of detail is acceptable. What they’ll likely say is that insufficient information has been provided for us to consider this application, you can have it back, that’s more likely to be the outcome.

DAVID POAT I get the sense that while at the moment there are no precedents, so my understanding is that there has not yet been a gateway 2 submission that’s been made to the Regulator.

PETE PATON We’ve certainly not submitted, and I’m not aware of any other register providers that have done. The difficulty is the guy that wrote the policy, Colin Blanchford-Brown, no longer works for the Building Safety Regulator, he’s now an independent consultant. So the go-to person that we’d speak to would be Colin, perhaps it might be easier to invite Colin to come and talk to us. He might find himself speaking more broadly, than he would have been when he was employed by the Building Safety Regulator.

DAVID POAT The reason why I wanted to have this conversation, before we start talking about procurement, is because this topic does start to then inform a conversation about when do we need to start getting people involved in the design process? When do we need the specialists involved? How do we make sure that through the procurement process the right people are involved at the right stage? But it seems to me like we’re still caught in a position of ambiguity where on the one hand we’ve got a Regulator that’s saying you just need to give us enough information in order to evidence compliance with building regulations. But intuitively most of us around the room know that in order to minimise some of the risks that happen during construction you need to have made some of these design decisions far earlier in the process. To what extent is this going to be led by Tier 1 contractor’s clients who are saying yeah, we won’t ignore the building regulations stuff, but actually we need a process here to try and de-risk the construction process as best we can.

GEORGE I’d like to ask Peter a question. What you were saying there about selecting products later in the process, my understanding is that when you select a product that also has got to be accepted or approved. Is that right?

PETE PATON That’s my understanding as well.

GEORGE So smoke dampers, for example, if you don’t select your smoke dampers at an early time you could end up in a 6-8 week delay whilst those are being approved. Is that right?

PETE PATON Correct, but equally…your programme won’t just include construction activities, it will include in trim? interim? 41mins 36secs building control application information going in. So you’ll hopefully have a six-week gap for that that will happen early enough in the programme before you’re at the stage where it becomes vital, that it doesn’t effect your end programme. Allowing, of course, the potential for Building Control to come back to you and saying we need a bit more information on that, you’ve not suitably demonstrated that how that achieves the functional requirement.

DAVID POAT Could I play devil’s advocate to that and just maybe push back slightly. If I’ve made a building control application that’s got an internal compartment wall that is a fire resisting wall that needs a fire damper in it, if I’ve submitted a design that says that wall has got one hour fire resistance, there is a duct going through that wall and therefore that wall needs a one hour fire damper, so we will install a one hour fire damper. How far do I have to specify what that one hour fire damper is in order to be able to evidence to the Regulator that my design meets the fire…? So, what I’m saying is, if you haven’t got to be specific at building regulations, the fact that you might choose a different component six months into construction, when you haven’t even declared a component at gateway 2, so at the point that you select a component six months later, that in itself doesn’t represent a change unless you’ve changed a one hour damper to a thirty-minute damper.

PETE PATON Sure, that’s right, but my understanding is that you’re detailing the functional requirements of the component, you don’t necessarily need to say it is brand X, model number Y. As part of your design brief you’ll be expecting the damper to deal with a particular set of environmental situations, that’s what you’ll be generalising and it’s connected as part of this and any final design detail will be fed back. Now, if you make a material change from that product, like the situation you mentioned, and it changes the argument upon which you’ve based your functional application advice in, then that becomes a material change because it effects your original. Let’s say you might change…there’s going to be a change in purpose group between that, so my 60 minutes needs to become 120. The work must stop if work has even commenced on that piece and you need to go back and get that element of it re-approved, allowing a six-week bit for it.

And then there is the balance, because if you’re too specific with product and component and then you want to deviate, then you may have to inform, or if it’s a significant change in performance that can effect your argument…in initial application, that then becomes a notifiable and a stop.

JON HASELL I’m representing Waites and SES, so on the Tier 1 side. Very interesting, because obviously the risks involved with proceeding further without having some level of specialist input just kind of grows and grows depending on the stage where that input comes in. What’s interesting is that discussion about the end of RIBA 3 and into RIBA 4 and the type of specialist input that you may need to de-risk the programme and de-risk the project. The damper ones are a great example because having a feasible generic design to move on with will have looked at, to some extent, the dampers that are on the market and that have tested details for fire stopping in different situations and that actually they could physically fit in the space. So when you have that level of specialist input not there, there may not be consideration for the space around the damper and the other services to go through, then you can have massive changes as you go to the next stage and all of a sudden the space doesn’t work.

The builders work opening isn’t big enough through the concrete and the corridor isn’t big enough. So there is this knock-on effect that you might end up having elements that were fine to pass through the gateway that are going to impacted later on because actually now you’ve had to change it, not because the design has fundamentally changed, but the level of coordination has changed and now we’ve got a fundamentally different route that it’s taken. And it’s something we do, I know one of the questions regarding early engagement and we’re probably lucky really, I’m with SES so the MEP side, and we get engaged quite early with Waites on projects and give access to the different people that we work with and our critical friends who can get called on for advice at earlier stages, which is quite useful. It’s like knowledge silos and flagging things early enough that they can get rectified before the design goes down the route of it being technically fixed in place without having any of that specialist input.

DAVID POAT It’s an interesting segueway into the procurement conversation.

PETE PATON I was kind of hoping that our contract model colleagues, the MEC  and GTC guys, would have come up with something that gave us a bit of latitude within the contract arrangement and that the ? 48mins 41secs folks gave us some latitude either to allow for this scenario because we may designer A coming in to give us early specialist advice, and then designer B on that sub-element designing the finesse of it and then making sure that it installed in accordance. And then we might have to cater for a difference of opinion from the original designer and then the final designer, and that’s a good thing. So no answers there David, just the same conundrums that are going on in your head as well.

DAVID POAT I guess that’s why the Safety Act has put in play the change control process, it’s there for that purpose. It’s not saying you can’t make change, it’s just saying under these circumstances you need to come and talk to us again. Time is moving along, and this was a precursor to a conversation about procurement. Jon, do you work for Waites or do you work with Waites?

JON HASELL I work for SES which is the MEP specialist in the Waites group, so Waites construction and we’re SES supporting Waites on projects. We also work directly with other main contractors as well.

DAVID POAT A lot of the people on the call are either clients or developers, so they’ll be thinking about how they go about procuring their Tier 1 suppliers particularly, but I just wanted to explore the notion of specialist designers getting involved earlier in the process. I was made aware that Waites have already made some decisions and have changed part of their process in order to try and include specialists earlier in the design process and I wondered if you could give us a bit more of the thinking behind that and what’s prompting that decision.

JON HASELL Probably leading on to what lots of people have said, there’s this element of risk that increases the further down the path you get with the potential that you pass through RIBA 3 into RIBA 4 and then you have to drastically change what’s there, partly with the fact that spacial checks need to be in place, it needs to be feasible. And to ensure that it’s feasible there is a certain level of input that’s needed, especially around passive fire protection and fire safety that we’ve mentioned, and that can have an impact at what would be the very early planning stages of the mass spaces that you’re dealing with. So there is an element of de-risking that we want to see and we’ve got the ability (this is from Waites) to call on SES who have then access to their specialists who are on a framework agreement, so can provide guidance at an early stage.

And again, it’s around de-risking the potential problems that are going to come later in the day and there is a series of internal checks that we’d need to go through to go from prior to any construction starting, it’s quite detailed. Going through a model now where Waites building services dealing with the MEP side of things, it’s moving towards an SES partnership and it just brings a level of technical expertise. And it’s trying to, like lots of companies there’s lots of experience with people who are spread out in various silos, and so the intention is that we kind of make it easier for the information to flow, to use lessons learnt in a better and more efficient way. And to make those judgments about procurement, about who needs to get brought on, based on the risks that we’ve experienced previously.

DAVID POAT And it feels like most of Waites’ supply chain is already in place. I suspect there are a list of specialists that you can call on, but that supply chain is established.

JON HASELL That’s correct.

DAVID POAT So, in a design & build environment, is that extending your design period before you start construction? Where I’m trying to get to here is how does that change in approach impact upon the way in which Waites as a Tier 1 supplier need to be procured? Fundamentally this is coming, in a design & building world, does single stage tendering still work? Or is two-stage tendering a better approach to take? I’m trying to look at it from a contractor’s perspective before we look at it from a client perspective, so I’m interested in your views about how this new approach influences the best way to procure Waites and their services.

JON HASELL Earlier gives you that better chance of steering and keeping to the same kind of durations that you’d have had. So the idea is that you make the initial design stages more robust by giving very pointed and specific information for key elements that means that at the end fo that stage there is less activity to pick up and rectify. So it’s not a case of extending the overall design period, but the reality a lot of the time is that merging of design and construction periods, we talked about that hard stop of it’s designed and then it’s built, partly what we’re wanting to do is reduce the overlap between the design and construction where feasible. Obviously you can have phased insulation/installation? 55mins 51secs which might not be impacted by ongoing design, but the idea is that you’ve clearly run through the design, you’ve gone done the route of in lots of the cases we’re digitising it, we’ll go looking at the digital twin side of things. So it’s just releasing as much of the benefits as you can from the technology of it as well, it means that as you start pouring concrete you can be validating that in real time versus the MEP design. Overall there is the chance that design stages may start being a bit longer, but the reality will be that that’s the overlap that it’s reducing.

DAVID POAT So by involving your specialists earlier you’re creating more design certainty earlier, but looking at it from a cost management point of view, at the point a client is asking you to give them a fixed price the earlier that you employ a specialist the longer the time period between that specialist giving you design advice and actually having to do an installation. So from a risk point of view, if you’re a specialist subcontractor, to what extent are you trying to get them to fix their prices? Maybe six months even to a year before they’re going to be on-site actually fitting something onto a building because the longer that gap potentially the more commercial risk that there is that needs to flow up the chain. I’m not sure that’s a particularly coherent question, but I’m just trying to understand the commercial dynamic and to what extent that changes by involving manufacturers and specialists earlier in the process.

JON HASELL You’re right, you’ve got the risk and the probably near certainty that the conditions will change if you have an extended period of time between the two. And really it’s targeting what information do you need early and it’s not a case of engaging every specialist on the project ahead of time. And a lot of ti maybe information that’s brought through and it’s guiding and giving advice to people who are already engaged with, not the specialists but actually a level of advice to mean that you get to a point earlier that fixed price can be fixed with an element of inflation in there and market conditions.

DAVID POAT From a Waites point of view, what is their preferred means of being procured by clients? Would they prefer a single stage or a two-stage and is that view changing as a consequence of the new approach?

JON HASELL I’d probably need to defer that, it’s not something that I’d probably be able to give a good answer to.

DAVID POAT It was an unfair question, but it was just to provide a segueway into a conversation about single versus two-stage.

GEORGE Just building on what you said, David. I’ve been involved in this whole area of collaborative working and brining people in earlier in the process for probably 20 years, and in fact we developed a new contract with the government called integrated project insurance where nobody on the scheme had an EPI. The project has the PI, and everybody is procured not on the basis of cost, they’re based on the basis of quality, and therefore they’re actually appointed and therefore they can work collaboratively earlier in the process to make sure the design is right before the prices are fixed. That process has won awards, but it’s obviously a huge step away from where we are in the industry, so my question Jon is if, for example, you’ve got a specialist contractor in your supply chain, maybe a ductwork contractor, that you might bring them in to contribute their knowledge and experience to the process.

Would you pay them for the time that they’ve spent doing that? Or is that something that they’re doing completely at risk? And they would give away what they might see as their good ideas, and then go to an alternative supplier.

JON HASELL It’s a good question, George, and like was mentioned before we’ve got a trusted framework of suppliers that we go to and specialists that we work with. And we probably wouldn’t have that if we…

GEORGE Reneged on it.

JON HASELL Yes, that doesn’t mean that we go away from a competitive tender process with supply chain, but there is an understanding that we work together and if certain projects are won or lost, there is a balance in there. So it depends on the project and it will depend on if it’s part of the framework agreement that we’ve already got and that we already have people in place with on previous buildings. But the idea is that yeah, we want to be fair with the people and partners that we work with. So it really wouldn’t be expected that we’d be mining information and then not using that information. Obviously there’s different types of contracts that we are looking at and hopefully we’ll develop further with partners.

You’ve mentioned the integrated project insurance and it’s something that would be really good to see a little bit more of in this country would be an integrated project delivery style contract where you’re sharing the risk, but you’re sharing the benefits and everybody is working to reduce the risk in the same way that your insurance kind of contract does as well.

DAVID POAT Jon, I just wanted to say thank you for coming onto the call and sharing, it’s feeling a bit like the Spanish Inquisition right now I bet, but we’re genuinely interested in what you’ve got to say. Similarly Martin, pleased to see you here.

MARTIN OATES I’m from SE Controls, we’re a specialist smoke ventilation company in the high-rise residential market. A very interesting topic that i’m jumping in on now from Jon because we are almost a secondary subcontractor traditionally specialist contractor, very often sitting under MEP. But of course hugely influential within the design of the project, as we are designing smoke vent systems with CFD modelling and early design with fire engineers, so there are in-house fire engineers and services that we offer as a specialist subcontractor that is usually provided much further down the line. Of course the trend moving forwards now is that skill and level of service is required earlier, pre-appointment, and that’s exactly what’s happening now with Waites and Pete, with L&Q we’re working on a number of projects now where that early engagement is happening. And of course it then begs the question and the challenge of you’re not employed, you’re not guaranteed to do that work, but then the contractor or the design team require the support of that specialist business to get the design done at an earlier stage.

So that’s the conundrum that we now have. How are we getting over that? There is  a huge element of trust because there is a lot of financial commitment from the specialist, like ourselves, our design team, our fire engineers, our BDMs are involved in these design negotiations and discussions very much alongside the fire consultants or the M&E consultants who may be designing the project, but very often we are also requested then to validate that design because potentially the contractual responsibility for that design may come down contractually to us. So even if there is a fire design done, we will have to potentially do it again because we may take that responsibility or we’ve been asked to validate, and there’s a few projects at the moment where we are validating the CFD that’s been done by the fire engineer. So this is the here and now and this is certainly the trend moving forwards for us. It’s much earlier engagement, its high commitment from highly skilled design members of the team and how do we do it? Framework is the answer. So the discussions we have with these businesses is look, we can only provide this level of service to so many people with so much resource and that is a mutual agreement with Waites, be it with L&Q or whoever. I suppose in a way the worm is turning in that that service is required and there is only so much of it available. So it’s about being strategic, putting frameworks in place, your not necessarily guaranteed the work, but as an overall framework over a period of time the commitment is there from both parties, and thus far we’ve found that we’ve been able to provide that level of service and commitment. And the project will then go through design, it will go into procurement, you’re not guaranteed that work, but you get your fair share and you get the amount of work that you are happy with when you go into this discussion from day one. We understand as specialists that purchasers need to have choice, there’s always been a reticence to bring specialists onboard because I’m gonna be tied to them and then they’re gonna pull my pants down. And that’s got to change because to get that early level of engagement support and skill, it is a two-way street.

There has to be some commitment to bring specialists on in a framework, but the protection needs to be there as well so that you’re not exposed. We’ve found there is a balance to strike and thus far that has worked well. And of course the day doesn’t work when you do all of the work and then you get sold down the river, of course then you move onto the next one. And that’s where the trust comes because contractors, Waites, L&Q, they want that level of service and will retain that level of service via framework agreements. And of course as soon as they go away from that, then they will lose that support and that support will go elsewhere.

DAVID POAT Is this because, are you being asked to get involved during the tender stage? So, in a Waites scenario is this that Waites themselves haven’t even won the contract yet, so is it part of the bidding process? Or is it post Waites appointment?

MARTIN OATES Yes, we are now working within the tender process as well.

NEILL SHIRLEY I work for the EA-RS group and we’re somewhere near the foot of the chain. Martin you’ve covered a lot of what I was going to share, I think we probably sit at a fairly similar level in the supply chain. Jon, it’s been great to hear how Waites work, it’s collaborative. Some of the challenges we face though are numerous. First and foremost, basics, we work within the fire & safety compliance world, sadly a lot of the time people don’t understand that world and they see it as a grudge purchase. So we’ve got to overcome why you need a fire alarm system, it doesn’t generate revenue for somebody, but we have to overcome that. This discussion has been about involving people at earlier stages from a design perspective, we would thoroughly endorse that. Going back to Martin’s point, we have limited capacity both within us as an organisation and also the industry full stop.

I don't think many people tend to leave school thinking I'm gonna go into the fire alarms and security industry, they tend to fall into it, and there is a lot of people on this call with a couple of grey hairs or two and once you fall into this industry you don’t tend to get out of it. We face challenges every single month with increased product costs, it’s a huge challenge for us and much as we’d like to go into those early design stages, for us to give a fixed price on the 1st of January when we may not be onsite until the 30th of December is quite difficult to do. And that’s a real challenge for us, we want to raise fire safety within the whole industry and I think what we’re talking about today is a construction industry…I was around pre design & build when we did do designs in those early stages, and we were at times in those stages paid to do the design work and for our technical expertise, we were paid a fee to deliver that expertise. We at the foot of the ladder, in many respects from a supply perspective, we are more often than not expected to give our service and our technical expertise on a free gratis basis, and we’re due to give that on the basis of possibly we may then secure the project further down the line.

And that is something we’ve got to overcome, and we can only overcome that by the people on this call agreeing to that process, that if you’re looking to get technical expertise you’ve got to pay for that expertise. You simply can’t expect suppliers like SE Controls and like ourselves to subsequently keep giving that expertise and then hoping and praying to God that our price is as competitive as it needs to be to then secure the works. So it’s a huge challenge for us at the foot of the ladder. Martin, I think you commented an awful lot about what i was going to say anyway, but i hope that’s been helpful, to give a perspective from people further down the food chain, it can be quite challenging.

MARTIN OATES If I may just add to that, everything we do isn’t free. We are being engaged and employed and paid to do levels of design, it depends on what that design is. If we’re using fire engineers and doing CFD models of smoke systems of course we do often get paid for that work. We may be engaged with a design order on a project, predominantly when it’s won, we generally wouldn’t get a design order for a job that a contractor, for instance, is tendering for. But once that tenderer has got that project, then very often we may get a design order that locks us in to give that level of service, with no guarantee you’re going to get the project. So, it is doable and I think one thing that the industry needs to understand, and I think does understand nowadays, is by putting upfront cost to design by aligning specialists to influences such as consultants.

Consultants will provide a specification based on standards, regs and design, but then when you bring a specialist aligned to that team that kind of puts meat on the bones of how you actually deliver that system as well, then yes, you may have some upfront costs to do that, but your savings down the line…there’s always this hidden cost of coordination, mistakes, getting things wrong first time, and the cost of that is never understood. Whereas of course to do this work, and we are finding this level of work really early, we’re talking about some of the items that you mentioned there, how do you fit that damper in that opening? We’ve seen designs where you’ve got a huge fan on the top of the roof that’t too high and it’s too high for planning, or it’s facing the wrong direction and its shooting smoke into the plant room. All of these kind of things happen with design that doesn’t involve a specialist who’s got experience of these issues. And these issues are being ironed out now much earlier in the process which will save…how much money that saves in the long run in money and time (more importantly) is huge.

JIM CREAK I'm just coming back again on the procurement side, I totally agree with Neil and the points that Martin makes and that is I think that the answer is within the framework agreements, so that the framework agreement covers not only building regulations, but also there are other pieces of regulations, specifically that manufactured products have to cover. So building regulations to me means sort of a cat nap approach, cheapest available technique needed to avoid prosecution. And then Neill has to be concerned about the actual occupants in that building, how they behave when the fire alarm goes off and other things, including care in the community for those people that may be infirm or envisaged to be encompassed in that HRB and make recommendations for those. And why I say the framework agreement, because the framework agreement for specialist contractors can actually encompass through the procurement system a whole bunch of other technical add-ons.

This is the thing about the product that I happen to be involved with which is the application of safety communication within buildings. It’s loosely called wayfinding, it could be fire & rescue deployment that is in building regulations, it could be fire door keep shut signs which is in building regulations. But then we’ve got further occupational health & safety requirements that also need communicating within that building and those solid pieces of advice is absolutely important the design considerations of how that building is going to be occupied. The other last but by no means least is that competition doesn’t necessarily have to have all of those technical advice situations, they just wait for a list of products that needs to be tendered from a manufacturer. The other thing that manufacturers have to contend with is working with other contractors and distributors that may add these products to their offering in order to fulfil the total legal requirements within the building.

So what’s really positive to come out of this is the framework agreement is the mechanism to do it, engaging with specialist contractors to talk honestly about fire alarm systems, because you can’t actually conform to a standard for fire alarms because they need to know what the purpose group and application and occupants of that building are going to be to consider the design. So that needs to be an open book as well, that’s where I found the meeting today very constructive in terms of specifically Jon and what Waites are doing with SES collecting that body of technical framework. And of course Martin, you must be a leader in this because to be able to create that and have already the workings of a framework agreement in your own specialist contraction is fantastic.

DAVID POAT I’ll just give you a little anecdote from my dark potted past. I used to work for BAA whence john Egan joined BAA and wrote a little book with the government called Rethinking Construction. The book was all about how do we get supply chains to collaborate more effectively and I always remember, i ran a workshop for a project team and there was a cladding manufacturer there and an architect. and the cladding manufacturer said to the architect why do you always design your cladding panels 800 wide (or whatever the dimension was)? The architect said, well, that’s the way we’ve always done it. And he said the problem you’ve got is that the steel gets delivered to my factory in a certain width and all I really want to do is fold that steel into a dimension.

Because you’ve specified a width of panel I have to cut it which adds another process in my factory which adds cost. Unless we’d got an architect together with a cladding manufacturer together in a room to talk sensibly about what adds cost and what doesn’t that information would never have come to light. And it’s just interesting in a framework environment, frameworks are fine, but you’ve still got to  create collaboration within them to have the real conversations that de-risk things for the supply chain and actually deliver a better price for the client.

What I really wanted to tease out, and maybe we’ll do this another time, i wanted to get a sense from the client organisations and the developers, the guys that are procuring Tier 1 suppliers. Is your thinking changing around procurement? So those of us that traditionally do single stage design & build tenders, are we starting to think about moving away from that as an approach? Or do we still think it’s relevant? Certainly for us, Notting Hill Genesis, we’re doing a lot more joint venture work than we did before and by its nature it’s creating a more kind of collaborative upfront approach to life.

ADAM HOPKINS I can talk about our experiences at Peabody, I won’t talk on behalf of the entire organisation. We’ve done a lot more joint ventures over the past couple of years, based upon my understanding of the recent history of the last 10 years or so, and they’ve appeared to be quite successful for the same reasons that you mentioned, that earlier collaboration. And then on projects where we aren’t going down a joint venture route which tends to be bigger stuff, for a variety of reasons, where we’re doing D&B land-led type of delivery we’re finding more success, I think, in the two-stage approach. I think the key consideration for us is what the scope of the contractors involvement is at the early stage and making sure that words get used like control and influence, and it’s making sure that we as a client organisation are comfortable that design at the point where that construction partner gets involved is within acceptable parameters for us and includes all of the things that we want and need.

And the contractor is coming in and adding that kind of extra layer of detail and bringing their specialism and just fleshing that out and doing that in a way that mitigates risk by getting it all packaged up before we eventually negotiate and go into a contract and make building control applications.

DAVID POAT My take on that is there seems to be a movement towards a two-stage approach, that seems to develop a better result for you guys right now.

ADAM HOPKINS It does and we’ve spoken to a number of our contractors recently and perhaps unsurprisingly they’re all saying that we want to work with you earlier and there’s obviously benefits to that. No one fell off of their chair in the meeting room when that got said. But we were interested in the timing and the manner in which that engagement happened and when we asked the question what time do you think would work for you, particularly in the context of the new Regulator and gateways and building control procedures. They were saying really once you’ve finished RIBA 3 that’s when we need to be in and when we want to start helping you and making decisions. If you bring us into late, so maybe you do a kind of 4As (as we refer to it), they said you could do it later, but then you’re risking that we might actually need to go one step back to go two forward. So, you’ve got to weigh up the risk of that.

We’re not wedded to any particular route yet, we’re in a very flexible place and we’re trying to work out what’s best for us, so there is no hard and fast rules yet. Those are the kind of things that we’re considering and we’re talking to our supply chain to understand what’s going to work for them and how we can be a good and appealing client to work for. So when a tender goes out people go oh yeah, that’s a Peabody job, we like working with them because we make money and those jobs go well, which we’ve got to think of as a client.

DAVID POAT I hope that’s been an interesting and useful discussion. We maybe didn’t get as close to some of the specifics about how we might go about doing things differently going forwards, but I don’t think that’s a surprise because I don’t think there’s a right or a wrong answer right now, there’s just better answers for different parts of the supply chain.

GEORGE Each working group meets every two months, so that means that we’ve got 12 a year, so there is one a month. The development group meets every other month, but next week i think we’ve got the operations group.

DAVID POAT It’s great to see so many of you on the call. if there are issues, topics, questions that you’d like to see discussed in this sort of environment then please let us know, either to George, Richard or myself, please just email us and we’ll try and shape future sessions to suit the things that you’d like to discuss and talk about.


[15:20] Ban Al-Hajjaj

[16:04] Iain Mcilwee

Fundamentally the designer needs to evidence that they have ensured (through effective consultation with the supply chain) that there are products on the market that  fit the space, that can be evidenced in the context of the design and is available to buy.

[16:04] Martin Oates (SE Controls UK)

specify the product standard of the product and its essential characteristics aligned to its application

[16:08] Matt Taylor

Is the Gateway considering the product performance in the location specified, or simply the performance potential of the product itself.

For example, relatively few dampers are tested into Shaftwall or twin frame constructions and programme delays result currently, when this should have been considered during the design phase, but has not been.

[16:16] Iain Mcilwee

We have completed some procurement research with Reading Uni on Finishing and Interiors Work.  Happy to share the detailed report with anyone who emails me on From this we've boiled the recommendations down to:

[16:18] Iain Mcilwee

More emphasis needs to be given in the procurement process to the involvement of subcontractors in front-end construction scheduling and planning.

Key procurement milestones should be scheduled at the earliest possible date.

Standard form contracts should be unamended, and a clear understanding of risk aligned to insurance should be central.

Multi-project negotiated frameworks built around a preferred network of subcontractors and suppliers.

The default should be two-stage tendering. The minimum lead times for subcontractors should be agreed at the same time as the outline schedule of rates.

Subcontractors and suppliers named in the initial tender should be those to whom the work is awarded.

[16:36] Iain Mcilwee

Great point from Martin about the hidden cost. We found out through our research that 17% of Derylining was rework 2 years ago.  Design issues and programming issues are causing this (workmanship too, but often linked to rapid mobilisation impacting effective labour deployment).


1. How do we procure, competent, specialist designers earlier in the development process?

4. How “finalised” does the design need to be before starting construction?  Is this the same for all fire safety systems?

5. How do we get better design coordination between building design and M&E design?