BIM4Housing Roundtables AOV 20210721 130612
GEORGE These are all coming through from the British standard, the PAS 1192 Part 6. Now, most of these aren't relevant to the Golden Thread, so what we've done is identified a number of additional attributes, that’s been done by people like Nick Nisbett, So we've got here structural risks and also specific fire risks. This is being fed back up into MBS and the intention with this is to actually have a classification method that we can use and therefore if we can say there failure to get people out risk management or failure to attack the fire, those are obviously things that we're managing in our collaborative effort and if we can identify maybe solutions to those, then we can map the two things together. So that's principally what I wanted to cover on that.
RICHARD In terms of methodology what we're going to do, we've had a great number of responses back for the five questions. We’ve put those altogether and we’ll go through each question one by one focusing on answering the questions. From experience over the last few days with these meetings, if we can focus on getting the questions answered and then sort of like have a chat about them at the end of that each questions session if that makes sense.
GEORGE In the team, and I'm going to pick Steve cause he's a mate and it's good to embarrass a friend at times, and if you've not had a chance to actually contribute something yet anybody that's not yet had a chance to contribute if you're able to speak up. So if Steve you can think of any risks that you're aware of that an AOV is there to protect against, that would be helpful. And the same with the other questions.
In principle, from what I've seen here, it's relatively straight forward to say in principle what an AOV is designed to protect against. It’s the impact of smoke impacting on escape etc. But the other thing I wondered if we could try and pick up here, are there risks that in a practical sense from your experience, you've come across that have resulted from an AOV not working.
RICHARD Following on from George's lead, I'm going to ask Steve if there's anything glaringly missing from that list that you can think of.
STEVE I’ve had a look through some of these and it’s really that AOVs kind of work in utopia, but there’s so many different scenarios where they can be overloaded. And one of those that we've come across recently in domestic properties is furniture that shouldn't be stored within escape routes, but is being stored within escape routes. Now, one of the ones that we find didn't have enough a fire rating, so the amount of smoke that that would produce would completely overload the AOV if there was a fire in that area.
So it's OK fitting an AOV as long as everything else is compliant and as long as everything else remains compliant. The particular one that we did hadn’t had a fire review for two years and that sofa, all the furniture that was in there had actually been in there for 18 months. If they'd had a fire at that stage, that a AOV would have been completely overloaded and therefore…So, I think there's other issues. It’s OK the AOV and it being fitted in compliance with how it should. But what are the circumstances is that not going to be operational and I don't think they're always taking into consideration.
RICHARD So we're talking about these other assets within the immediate environment and their impact on the AOVS performance?
STEVE Yeah, but it's not necessarily an asset, it can be where there's these things have been put into that…in this case, it was furniture that had been put under the staircase of the main fire exit, the main fire stairwell. If you're looking at that the fire risk assessment would say that that shouldn't be stored there if the fire risk assessment is not linking that to the AOV. And the fire risk assessment should take that into account that, yes, the issue you're going to have with risk is smoke within the escape route. The other risk of that is that smoke is not going to be extracted through an AOV and therefore the two are inextricably linked really.
GEORGE I just wondered if anybody else has got any similar examples of specific circumstances, risks that would impact on an AOV performing.
ED I think a few things we commonly say is the actuators not fixed particularly well to openers. Openers that strike elements of the building as it opens, they don't actually open for an effective clear area. Along with, yeah, this this issue of combustible items being left in essential area which should be sterile in a residential setting. I suppose there's also a confusion over terminology. We use the term AOV when actually what we're talking about is a smoke control system, and the AOV is one component of it.
So we just need to be clear, are we talking about the component or are we talking about the system in its entirety, the cables, the control equipment, the activation equipment. We need to be very clear about these definitions because it leads to confusion because you end up then with maintenance teams saying, well, we've got an AOV system and we've got a fire alarm in there. Actually, it's all part of the same system, it’s the activation system for the AOV.
GEORGE I would say that you need both and. so we need to absolutely understand how it's going to function as a system. But we also need to have the detailed components, that's the point that you've raised it as well. ED Yeah, and bear in mind, an AOV can be a component, a set of components itself. So it's an actuator and a window, for instance, or it could be some louvred vents and an actuator. So there's lots of different permutations on just the AOV component.
STUART in my experience with an AOV that we had opened, it was an extremely windy day and actually caused the pressure differential issue within the lobby area where the vent was causing the doors to almost be un-openable because of the pressure issue. I created like a really high pressured environment, so you couldn't physically pull the door towards you almost unless you were very very strong. So it's a bit of a tenuous one, but it is something that has to be considered that sometimes an AOV might need to be shut to at least allow people to escape, even if it's not a tenable escape route.
WILL Going back to the point Edward made, absolutely, 100% agree. For those of you involved in the HADG working group to actually bring those clear definitions together so as an industry we're all working on the same. Because there's the industry terminology, so in terms of testing products AOV actually isn't recognised. It's what's called a natural smoke and heat exhaust ventilator, an NSHEV. So that's what you actually get your C mark or your UKCA mark against and that doesn't kind of even recognise AOV.
But Edward makes absolutely the right point, that’s only one component of a bigger system, so we do need to agree on what those definitions are. So in terms of an action then that's something myself and Leona are working with George in the HADG working group to provide that explanation, not just the definitions but actually the terminology that's commonly out there and kind of translating that through to what the product certification standards are.
GEORGE One thing that Pauline told us on the Golden Thread Initiative project was that AOVs were being blocked from being opening properly because of scaffolding. Basically what she was saying was that they had some work done externally and the people that were doing the work put scaffolding up on the externals of the building and therefore the AOV couldn't open. So that was a circumstance that probably should have been part of a method statement that identified that to to those people.
The other contribution that I had last week was one of the other experts said that he’s come across where an AOV didn’t open when it was supposed to and they discovered it was because people had been smoking inside the corridor. They’d been pushing the window back, thinking it was just a window, and by doing that they actually damaged the actuator, so it didn’t work. I think it was Edward and Susanna that said t's important that everybody understands why that AOV is there and include the tenants in that, so that they can understand if they damage something like that (without realising it) that that could contribute to the problem.
ED I've had similar experiences with scaffold blocking smoke ventilation on tower blocks and at the same time blocking the dry riser inlet. So that is a genuine issue that comes up.
KEITH Some of the common issues I think have already been raised by others, but there's probably a bigger issue in terms of the actual sort of design of these systems. And we should remember that a lot of people are putting in AOVs, they're not performance based solutions, they are just literally taken straight from ADB. And therefore they will suffer with things like wind, it won't necessarily be any guarantee of performance, putting in a 1 1/2 square metre vent, depending on the fire size and the situation. I think probably, and I did feed that back in writing, that the sort of arbitrary nature of the design of AOVs can in itself be problematic sometimes depending on what the fire risk that is trying to protect against.
RICHARD So you've raised again atmospheric conditions, weather conditions, have we got that down? KEITH Wind forces, which relate to topography of buildings. So where you have taller buildings that are taller than the buildings around them, they'll suffer, particularly depending on the wind.
SUZANNE One thing we don't do is we don’t…we have these openable windows or ventilation that's very key in the fire strategy design of the building. And then we don't make it clear to residents or to anybody who key stakeholders to come in the building what the purpose of those are. Maybe there's a whole suite of signage that needs to be designed around that that, a sticky sign can be put on the window, next to the vent. It says this is a vent for life safety or fire, do not tamper. Maybe that would be helpful. I’m not one for lots of signage, so many times in the past I’ve seen fire extinguishers with 60 million signs telling you how to operate it, you don’t want to be too confusing. But we've never highlighted ventilation in a building and it's such a key component of the life safety, the means of escape and fire-fighting purposes.
ED Two more issues. By opening an AOV vent you can create a situation fall from height, so we need to be considering about safety considerations in that respect (it was that Part K approved documents if I remember rightly), I know there are other approved documents apart from B. Also roof vents being used also as maintenance access so they get more use than they should do and often left broken, so your AOV at the top of the stairwell or the top corridor is being used to access for cleaning purposes.
WILL regarding using roof vents for maintenance access. A quick answer to that, again it brings it back to the product testing that's recognised in the suite of product tests. If it's smoke only it has a reliability classification of 1050. If it's dual purpose so it's used for environmental ventilation or access, then it would need a reliability class of 10,000 which is part of the essential characteristics. Edward, you’re absolutely right to raise it because this comes all the way back to the correctly specified product in the first instance.
GEORGE It’s not just about it’s original specification, information was carried through to the people that are doing the maintenance so that it needs to be replaced or repaired then you've actually got that information because we're obviously putting these together. These buildings are hopefully going to last 50, maybe 100 years. You’ve got to look at the whole life cycle.
WENDSY The one thing I haven't heard mentioned was the impact of issues with smoke detectors. Because AOVs can be triggered with smoke detectors, I know that through talking to other people within the fire industry, human intervention again can cause issues. So if somebody does mess with a smoke detector, or one example I was given is they actually hooked up a new smoke detector but the placement was incorrect, so the AOV would either open too early or too late. I guess it’s about competency of training, i don’t know if it comes under that heading, but it’s a risk.
Adding to that, someone was talking about topography and the effect of the forces. The other thing that comes into play here is that when new buildings are built, is there anything in place that ensures that the surrounding buildings are not impacted, because that will change the wind forces around each and every building.
KEITH I think the short answer to the last part of your point is no, because if you use approved document B and you just followed the guidance verbatim there would be no requirement to consider surrounding buildings other than for B4, as in far spread between buildings. So people who understand them would probably consider these points and in reality would probably end up recommending a smoke shaft with AOVs rather than a simple AOV at the side of the building.
WENDSY But there isn't actually anything in legislation or in any of the other documents that actually requires testing to be done on the effect to the surrounding buildings? KEITH No, nothing in in the statutory guidance to my knowledge about that. Although it would depend on the competence of the people involved in the design work, because people who were aware of it would obviously consider it, but people like architects who might just follow the approved documents, it probably wouldn’t occur to them.
GEORGE It just occurred to me there’s quite a lot of work I’m aware of where people are adding storeys to existing buildings. So therefore the circumstances could be changing on the adjoining buildings that hadn't weren't there when the building was originally designed. I think perhaps we need that as a prompt, don’t we? If developments are taking place in adjacent buildings, what's the impact on the AOVs?
Question 2. So this one is about what information do we need. We've had some great input from there. What I thought would be useful is also just to explain what we're doing already on the information bit of AOVs and the other asset types and to put it into context. There’s a thought that this information is going to be put in BIM models. Here’s an example from last week for the fire door one (shares screen). IFC is the standard for the international data in BIM models. You’ll see here we’ve got almost a hundred attributes that collective teams have decided are important about a door. Some of those elements are highlighted here in COBie which is the very basic information that you would have if you're handing over to the asset team.
But all of them are things that somebody in the team has asked for and the principle here is that all of these have got somebody wanting this information. So we don't need to worry about whether we're gathering too much information because, quite frankly, all we have do is switch off the information you don’t need. So if, for example, you're bothered about compliance, it might be just those five attributes of the door that you're bothered about. Or if you're bothered about the fire side of things, it might be the fire rating or the whole range of new things that have come through from BS8644. So the reason I'm just mentioning that is that you don't need to worry about getting too much information because each of you, if you only want to know a part you only need to see what you need to see.
If you ask just the standard COBie, you won't get information about fire rating, acoustic rating or smoke stop, because these are all attributes that you need to require and request. And finally, this is the thing that we're doing with HACT, the housing association data standards group. What we're doing here is trying to create standardised data templates for all of the products and materials that are going in your buildings and therefore we can then feed that information through into asset management systems. The way in which we're doing that, this is what we showed yesterday, this is for a cavity barrier. The cavity barrier, in this particular case, is actually made up of 16 or 17 different items.
We’ve then got the essential characteristics, which Will is a champion of in our little community. These are the things that come from the declaration of performance, but here we've got these from MBS, so these are the parameters that come from MBS in their data template, the majority of which are standard COBie. I’ve tried to do the same today for an Automatic Opening Vent, but of course there is no data template for an AOV, it’s a bit similar to a cavity barrier as it’s an assembly of different things. So what we’ve done is say, OK, it’s a window or a door that’s got an actuator on it.
These are the definitions for, this is MBS, here we’ve got attributes for an actuator and here we've got them from the declaration of performance. So the long and short of it is that what we could do with after this we're going to be hopefully recruiting some of you, several people on this group have volunteered to do it for cavity barriers from yesterday. So we're going to be asking you to build on what Will and Leona are doing at the moment. They’re coming at it from the manufacturer's perspective and they're also installers and maintainers, but you as maybe building safety people or asset managers or fire safety people, you would probably have your own views.
Question 2. That list there came from Pauline from L&Q and what jumped out for me on that is activation history. I thought it was a really useful thing, I’d not thought of that. That’s very much recording and presumably that means it’s recording when it’s been activated. The other thing, somebody mentioned about product life span. That’s interesting because in many cases the product life span would not be measured for something like an actuator, it’s five or ten years. It might be, that might be its warranty. But I’ve noticed perhaps it’s the number of actions that it needs to take, it might be that it’s tested to work 10,000 times, is that right?
WILL it comes back to the point Edward made earlier, if it’s got a reliability classification of 1050 that assumes it's going to be tested once a month, twelve times a year right over the life of the building. If it’s going to be used for day-to-day access onto the roof, then that's why you suddenly move up to the 10,000 cycles. So yes, it's important going back to the activation history or the event log of understanding how many operations it's actually performed because if it's going to reliability class of 1050 but actually it's being used for day-to-day ventilation to stop overheating it's gonna massively shorten the life of the (typically not the hinges of the window or the vent or the louvre) but it potentially will shorten the life of the actuator. Therefore there's a replacement needed, therefore the actuator that needs to be replaced to maintain the product compliance needs to be a compatible product that doesn’t create the product certification to be waived.
GEORGE So that's a really interesting one for me because it means that you've got to record against that individual AOV how that’s expected to be used. So you might have identical AOVs, but one of them because of the use case is going to be used more frequently. WILL Yes, it’s individual asset relevant.
ED Just one thought, on the 1.5 square metres, and I think we need to be clear that's geometric area, clear area, and if you're having a proper system designed, you might have aerodynamic free area. Maybe you need to distinguish between the two in there, because if you do have a proper system that might be something you want to know.
WILL Again, that's one of the tables that included was an extract from the Smoke Control Association guide which tries to explain exactly that point you raised in there because approved document B has got a 1.5 free area, which is just a hole in the wall height by width. That isn't recognised by the 12…Part 2 product standard. Therefore that table kind of says, well 1.5 is equivalent to 0.9 square metres of aerodynamic free area, that's what we tried to do as a trade organisation in that table I included.
WENDSY The actual free area, the fact that it isn’t actually defined specifically within document B. Yeah, that was it, because it states a minimum, rather than saying it’s got to be 1.5 or any specific aerodynamic free area, it just specifies the minimum which is zero. It’s about lack of detail, it’s very generic, it’s not actually putting it into a useable context. Saying something can be zero doesn’t give it any scope, does it? Like, it doesn’t need to open then.
GEORGE i didn’t really understand. If the minimum is 1.5 metres the minimum can’t be zero, can it? WENDSY In the actual document itself it states a minimum, it doesn’t actually say any number. ED it says minimum 1.5.
STEVE I’m kind of looking at this more from what is gathered is also endorsing this on a fire risk assessment basis, that these things are not being communicated to fire risk assessors always and you really have to dig deep for this sort of information. And also it should be part of the compliance side of things, if that's not being checked then it is a risk and it needs adding in there. I know you guys are looking at the design side of it, but the continuation of that afterwards I would think there are fire risk assessors out there at the moment that wouldn't know how to check one of these or where to find the information of what how that should be compliant.
I know fire risk assessors that would not know where to gather that information from and I know a lot of landlords that have taken over buildings that wouldn't know where that information is or even if they had AOVs fitted.
GEORGE It’s a very important point and I think that’s fundamental and since Will explained to me about free area I’ve been asking people where is that recorded in the O&M? If I could just build on that because that’s one of the things I think we need to sort out.
If f we look at a declaration of performance (shares screen), here’s one I prepared for the fire door example. This is from Assa Abloy, a big manufacturer, it’s their declaration of performance. These presumably are important attributes that we ought to be capturing and presumably therefore checking from a maintenance point of view because if they're required, then presumably you need to know this. But if you've got something like closing torque or opening torque all we've got here is to say it's a pass or a fail. So that's basically saying that this door could be used under all these circumstances. And what it's also doing here, this is the performance specification to say that for this size of door, you need this type of door closer.
My view is if you gave an FM manager this information so that is intended to inform them of what door closer to buy as a replacement, I think they'd be lost because they'd have to measure the door thickness, to weigh the door leaf (how do you go about doing that?). So it seems to me to make a lot more sense that you actually give them a specific set of information to say this door is installed, that particular instance was installed and this was the door closer that was used. So as a manufacturer and also the person that’s commissioned it, it’s a combination of the two I suppose, it’s installing it in a particular context and then saying in this context this was the product that was used, this was how it was set up. Presumably you can set an actuator so it it only opens a certain…
PAULINE A couple of other things we’d probably like to know would be what floors the AOV covers and also probably if it was either a retrofit or an upgrade AOV and the date of that retrofitting.
RICHARD Moving down to question 3. Tasks, methodology.
GEORGE We recognise that we want to make sure that everybody that's doing work is competent and trained, but it's become clear from drilling down into the detail of these that you've got probably 3 levels of training. You’ve got industry training and the example given yesterday was on cavity barriers, several different organisations do high quality training on cavity barriers. Individual manufacturers have also got product specific training that needs to be carried out and therefore what I think we need to be doing is making sure that we're not entirely reliant just on whether somebody's got a certificate or not, we need to also be able to see that they need a checklist.
The other point about that is that in the M&E market over the last sort of 20 years they've come to realise just having an experienced and qualified air conditioning engineer is not adequate to make sure that they can be confident that the work has been carried out properly because of the range of different things that they've got to do and also the new activities that come in. So what they've done is created a means to manage that and I’ll just show you an example. This is SFG 20, this is basically the building services industry and they've included now things that maintenance people have to do like fire doors (so it's not just M&E) but you've got here the competency of the person carrying out the work, how long it's going to take to carry out the work, obviously all the procedures and things that they need to check, but the most important thing is that you've got a very clear list of tasks that have to be carried out against the door leaf, the frame and all the other elements.
Now, if it’s the case that Will, for example, on his products has got a series of tasks that would make his product be installed properly, What we agreed yesterday, it would be a reasonable thing to ask that the manufacturers who have got that knowledge provide that information. Siderise said that some manufacturers see this as an earning opportunity and they obviously sold courses, which is great, but that shouldn't be the only way for people to access that specialist information and therefore what we're going to be recommending is that manufacturers will provide the information in a form that could be put into checklists, for example.
So what tasks? That’s really my question about this. I’d like to end up with a series of method statements or tasks that we might be able to use to inform that type of data set.
The manufacturers information should be relatively straightforward to ask for. The real challenge is how do we distill your knowledge, Pauline, of what…is there a method you would expect people to follow? Or you'd expect them to follow a checklist that you might ask them to do to make sure that they've considered things properly. With an AOV and one of the things based on your experience that if you were doing the installation or the inspection or maintenance, what are the things that you'd look for?
PAULINE We would be looking to use a checklist of some description to ensure that we capture the information that we need. I think we probably have AOV inspection checklists, I haven’t got one to hand.
SUZANNE No, I don't think we have a specific AOV checklist. I think it's a checklist that would be within part of other checklists. So it'll be like the housing checklist, monthly, weekly check form saying is the AOV openable and or is it free of obstruction or so forth. It would just ask very basic questions and then in terms of the other checks more detail would go into that. But I don't think we've got a specific just for an AOV.
WILL Just to pick up on that, we have to be careful about just throwing this under the umbrella maintenance because what we're talking about is regular and very important observational checking. Now, that’s an element of the overall way of making sure that this system operates when it needs to, and the level of skill required to do that is not the same as, for instance, a qualified electrician. So there's the regular observational checking, which is kind of what Susanne just talked about, but then even for an ADB compliant system that system needs to be checked against the cause and effect, and even more so if you're into a mechanical extract system to measure your extract rates on a mechanical system, or even to validate the amount of free air opened via the essential characteristics by the declaration of performance.
That has to then move across to probably question 4, which is stepping into competence. So I think there's an important distinction, but the point you are making, George, about the need for manufacturers to provide that observational checklist, I think it’s a brilliant point and it's something I've actually taken a note of because I think that's important.
GEORGE One of the problems with something like an AOV is the AOV is controlled by the fire panel and there might be a specialist panel for an AOV. The point that was made was that it might be that somebody will replace the fire panel and it might even be a qualified electrician that understands how a fire panel works. But what they may not have known is how the software was set up to deal with the smoke side as well.
WILL The point is absolutely right. Fire alarm systems have specialist software, most smoke control systems have specialist software and that's where you move into expert user level. I know Pauline touched on open and closed protocol earlier and it's important, any organisation can go in and maintain a fire alarm but to make changes that organisation has to have access to the necessary software (It’s common in all fire alarm technologies) but part of accessing that software is you have to be competent to know what you're doing. And there’s going to be an audit trail of the changes that are being made, because you might, if you're not knowing what you’re doing, reconfigure a fire alarm system and it makes it more dangerous. So it’s very much the next point which is competence, but it's understanding the interactions as well. In summary, it comes down to the individuals being competent at quite a high level.
GEORGE One thing I've heard many times is protocols and closed protocols. Are fire alarms systems accessible to anybody that needs to have that access or are they closed to somebody like Chub?
SUZANNE It’s a really good point actually and something we should probably cover in that, yes, if they end up installing a fire alarm panel on an AOV system on just a smoke system but it's closed protocol, not everyone will be able to access it and maintain it. And I do think even with the AOV panels they do also have closed and open protocol.
ED It’s a 2-edged sword. On the one hand, closed protocols are a pain commercially as an operator because you're tied in to ? 1hr 2mins 42secs or whoever it might be. But on the other hand it does protect against poorly trained people tinkering with the system. So there's two sides to it and we have to then choose what is the greater evil, really. Probably the main thing is that there's something in there that records what is the protocol and what level you can work up to. A lot of the systems, you can do your normal checks and verify it's working, but you can't make changes to the system. You know, you want to add a device or you want to connect to a lift etc. And that's maybe where you need more expertise and it might be good to push it to a specialist.
WILL I agree. Replacing simple devices, normally you wouldn't even need software it's dip switches on the back of the MCP and that's one out and you don't even need the software. As systems get more complex, especially mechanical systems where you’ve got quite an evolved cause and effect, it’s really quite dangerous to let somebody who's not really fully understanding of that to make changes because you could lose your compartmentation straight away in case of an activation and it's so important that it comes back. So to me open and closed protocol is kind of almost a misnomer. It's just making sure whoever has access to make those changes is competent.
Because I don't believe there are any organisation, manufacturers, we have to have software based systems because that's how we managed to cover the complexity of the system and that software is available to whoever wants it as long as we can train them to do it because it would be irresponsible for us to go, yeah, there you go, fill your boots. It would be dangerous.
ED To be fair, in defence you get lumped in with other sectors where they use closed protocol in a different way, lifts for instance, where the lift will be sold to you at cost basically but then they make it back on the maintenance. I don’t think the smoke control industry is guilty of that.
GEORGE Intro to question 4. It’s a given that we want UKAS accreditation and competency for people, so we need to be supporting that activity, but it’s become very clear that that in itself is not the sliver bullet. The Direct Works group that I’ve mentioned is made up of 120-140 housing associations, they're sort of coordinating organisations that have got their own DLOs and they're involved with a new standard that's being created with UKAS for competency. They tell me that quite a few housing associations are now signing up to that so that people that are doing maintenance on their buildings are going to have to demonstrate that they are compliant with this.
One of the reasons they said that this is so necessary is that they did a review a couple of years ago of people that said that they could fit fire doors that were apparently competent in fitting fire doors. They examined 550 people and only 6 of them passed the assessment. Therefore we need to work at two levels. To be honest, most of the answers that we've had here are consistent with this, that first of all if, for example, you’re procuring a service you shouldn't need to go into the detail of how they're actually going to do everything, you ought to be able to access the method statements that they use. So, it’s that 2 two levels of being able to work at a competency but also the ensure the method by which…
The other thing is that it does appear to be that there's that there doesn't appear to be standard way that all of these different training organisations arrive at what their certification is. I would argue that probably needs to be more consistent.
STEVE I think we could have a whole week's meeting on competency to be honest. And you made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when you said about UKAS accreditation there, George, that unfortunately in most instances UKAS accreditation is down to the company and not down to the people actually undertaking the work. There needs to be a scheme where the people are evaluated on their competencies, it’s very difficult to prove it, and it’s something that we're looking at with our software where if you were doing a fire risk assessment, you have to highlight your competences.
So people will not be competent in doing AOV, they may be competent in doing fire doors and fire risk assessments, so they wouldn't tick that box. Therefore, if they said that their competence in inspecting fire doors or fire extinguishers, then they are challenged on that on a weekly basis - certain questions will be asked of them to measure their competency. It’s something i see all the time, we’ve just had it with a hospital where they’re using our software to do their fire doors.
For the last three years they’ve been inspecting 2,500 fire doors, they actually only have 700 doors that were acting as fire doors. So the competency of the person that had been checking that should have been flagged up way before that, but because it said fire door on it the people checking it assumed it was a fire door. I think we really need to nail the on the ground competency of the people undertaking these checks and balances and not only the companies undertaking them.
RICHARD We’ve had this raised with cavity barriers. Somebody walks onto site, they've got a little certificate saying they're certified for cavity barriers, but they've been trained in a specific cavity barrier which he doesn't identify on the little card and they come on to site to fit a totally different cavity barrier that they have absolutely no experience with whatsoever. But it says that they're certified so legally they can do it.
STEVE Cladding was a prime example after Grenville? shouldn’t it be Grenfell? 1hr 11mins 53secs where we were phoned on a number of occasions asking to do cladding surveys and quite rightly we said we're not competent to undertake cladding surveys. I know companies that are less qualified than us that undertook cladding surveys and this has really got to be nailed, it’s got to stop being a ticking the box exercise and it's got to be valued information that is being collected and that's an onerous task, to get everybody up to a level of competency, but it certainly needs defining in my life time.
WILL It was probably only three years that ago that the smoke control industry had no competence scheme whatsoever and post Hackitt we had to do something about it. Hence we approached the IFC, we put the SDI19 scheme in place, now it’s mandatory for any SCA member must be IFC accredited and in the last 12 months that schemes been underwritten by UKAS. But as Steve rightly said, that's only the first step because that's at an organisation level.
What the SCA is doing now is starting to create individual training modules so we can go down to an individual user. So the message is it doesn't stop, it's got to go down. I guess the whole experience is it goes wrong at a granular level so we've got to break everything down to granular levels for people, for products, etc and it's only once they're achievable and measurable that we’ll start to see significant improvement.
GEORGE if, for example, people are fitting windows, would you take a window of the style that’s being used and then turn it into an AOV, or would you always create a bespoke AOV?
WILL Ultimately, it comes down to the product certification, it’s got to function when it's required to do so. So in answer to your question what you would do is if you wanted to use a window that matches the rest of the window, you go to a company who could provide the certification for their actuator on that specific window and provide a declaration of performance. That's what we do, we don't manufacture AOVs we work with those window companies, I think we’ve got 67 window profiles tested to satisfy that. The alternative route is you go and buy a whole product which is typically the roof lights would be the roof light and the actuator altogether tested as one unit. So both directions are achievable. The essence is the product certification evidence through the declaration of performance.
GEORGE In terms of fitting it, would the person that’s fitting all the other windows, is it likely that particular contractor is also going to fit the AOV? Or would it always be somebody certified that does it? WILL Somebody certified has to check it at the end. GEORGE So therefore the method statement of actually doing it and the records of maybe photographs of it being installed etc. We're doing a project at the moment for one of the Oxford colleges where they're installing new windows and they're taking photographs of the installation process so that they can then evidence what they've done. So I imagine that that's the source of methodology. But what you're saying is the certified person could then come in and just check it.
Intro to question 5. Change management is accepted and recognised as being one of the big breaks to the Golden Thread. There’s two elements to this: there’s obviously on new build where somebody might pick Will's product because of its performance. So the designer will maybe specify or recommend it and there's a reluctance in many cases for a designer to actually specify something because of both commercial and liability reasons. Hopefully we can overcome that, but that’s where we’re at at the moment. But then the contractor comes along and says, well, I can get something that looks very much like an NFC controls AOV and swap it out for something else. Now, in construction at least there’s a methodology by which that’s done through the change management and the technical submittal process.
But the important thing about the technical submittal process that we need to make more rigorous is that the designer needs at least to start by saying what product it is that they were going to use because unless we can go from what was being intended specification was supporting to what was actually being used, then we don't have a proper change management process. So we're pushing for that in the construction side of things, which I think we're getting good buy-in because frankly that's the way it always used to be done, but we’ve lost the habit of that.
What we said yesterday was we ought to be adopting that same methodology in existing buildings. So although it's not as easy, we ought to be able to record what door closer was actually being used, what door closer are we replacing with what new door closer and then making sure that we've got a proper handover process between the two. And obviously the performance specification of that particular product in that circumstance. We need to make sure that the specification for that needs to be individual asset specific, not just for a type of product.
PAULINE Similar to what you were saying yesterday about the cavity barriers, I'm kind of at the end of the chain in terms of receiving handover of properties from development. And so we very rarely get notified of any change, we don't really know what's been proposed initially we're really not party to that and if it's then changed out we’re then not party to that information either. But being at the end of the train and having to manage the properties going forward with the recipients of any issues that arise as a result of changes that we weren't aware of. So although we don't have anything in place for that, it is important that we do and that we should introduce something going forward whereby we are notified of any changes from what was originally proposed and the implications of what any of those changes may have in terms of the management and maintenance of the property.
If issues arise we don't always know what we're looking at initially and you end up having to even get people out to start undoing and taking things apart to find out what we've actually got and a lot of backtracking to find out what should have been or what was originally proposed and who authorised the change and why that change was made. So it's all that kind of information that we don't really have party to but we should.
RICHARD I can imagine if you kind of like going backwards in examining these things, you can get into a situation where you're actually compromising the integrity of what you're checking. PAULINE Yeah, definitely, if we don't really know what we're checking or what it should have been, what the original intention was or what was originally proposed. It’s like working in the dark to try and find out where we are and what we then need to do to put things right.
GEORGE As a building safety manager, if you’re not getting adequate information about what you're taking on responsibility and liability for, how much opportunity have you got to refuse?
PAULINE At the moment this is something coming up from the emerging team where these are the things that are are now being put forward and that we are now tightening up and into trying to introduce those stock points where we do have the opportunity to be made aware or to question if there have been things that have been changed and have the right to refuse if we know and understand what the implications of the changes are. So we’re not there yet but we know that it’s something that we need to be working towards.
GEORGE I don’t know who wrote that, but that’s very good. I think the Gateways answer that to some extent, as long as they are vigorously managed. I'm just a bit concerned knowing the way construction projects work that the asset team are not given adequate time or authority to actually object and they become under pressure to sign things off. Under normal circumstances that’s not very good, but if you could incur a jail sentence, for example, because you’ve taken over a legal responsibility for something I would think you'd really want to know that you've got the right information.
ED regarding having a schedule of safety critical elements. This is something that we're looking at our sort of design brief now or have been. And one of the things we've put in there is you define what your safety critical items are and once they're specified they're effectively locked in. OK, there might be circumstances where something has to change which is inevitable, you can't get something, but then it has to go through a proper process of being checked by all the right people, not just a decision made by the QS saying, oh, actually we’ll just get another one of these and then fire it off to site actually has the original design side of it. Do people actually know what this component does, have sight of that change and also being able to comment on it and also the client because sometimes a change can effect the way you manage a building.
On smoke control, something that comes at us quite a lot is about control equipment and we often want something that will actuate lifts, door releases and if you don't get the right kind of control system, you can't do that. And I've had quite a few at the last minute say, ohh, can you just sign this disclaimer? And the answer is no, because I'm not going to sign off because I have control system that's been put in under a different standard of 5839 because it was cheaper without being involved in the decision in the first place.
I suspect that comes about because when the main contractor gives out works packages, they don't convey all the information to the specialist contractors. So if Will's team doesn't get told, by the way, this system needs to open the doors and ground the lift, they're going to put in an ISO based system rather than BS5839 and it's all too late by the time it's been installed.
STEVE I think there's also something that's quite interesting here as well, that I agree fully that people changing things within that it should be at the specification design. But we came across this recently where somebody had actually fitted a suspended ceiling below an AOV. Now that's really useful, but what had happened that wasn't actually in the design, it was the actual people that fitted the suspended ceiling and decided to continue it across for aesthetic purposes. They were not aware that an AOV had been fitted. The guys fitting the ceiling obviously probably didn't even know what an AOV was. And I think it's that as well that what else is going to impact on equipment that that people are putting in. It may not be that you’re changing the equipment, it’s the fact that you're putting something into that building or like that suspended ceiling that completely nullifies the fire compartmentalisation. And it all has to be pulled together and we see it on a regular basis where certainly on refurbishments as well where, great on the build, it's probably being signed off at some stage, but it doesn't take long for a building to be refurbished and what is the impact of what they are doing on there. So it's not just changing specifications, it's on equipment, it's also changing specifications for the building.
GEORGE Edward, just on what you've just been saying there, if you if you are doing that at the moment it would be good to talk to your people that are doing it because this is what we're doing with the housing association data group (shares screen). This is a list of 132 asset types that have been collected from all the different housing associations, largely from their maintenance systems and we’re trying to put together data templates for each of these things.
And they picked out 16 originally asset types that were relevant to fire. When I gave this to Siderise they said you’ve missed out cavity barriers. The penny then dropped, it’s because this list here is only things that they're doing regular maintenance on, or inspections, and if they're not inspecting cavity barriers it doesn't go on there. There's also some omissions here, so for example smoke detectors. Heat detectors, but not smoke detectors. There are systems as well.
ED I was just thinking fire alarm systems because in my mind of organising things I want to see system and then components of that system, organised in that way. We’re things like dry risers, wet risers, hydrants etc in there?
GEORGE Dry riser is there. We’ve got this in our asset information requirements tool, so we can add against this all the different attribute information that's needed against each of these items. So it might be worth us just having a separate session, Edward.
ED There’s probably a few of us in Clarion that would be happy to help out on that, it’s a subject close to our hearts. It's capturing all the right information in the right way and ensuring that things are maintained. SUZANNE I concur with that, and actually something we've just discovered is private fire hydrants, which are fire hydrants that are supposed to be serviced once a year and often aren't picked up by the brigade. And that's something we're talking about at the moment about trying to make sure that's correct.
GEORGE Has has anybody got any interesting stories about when one product was swapped for another and what the impacts of that was? Because people like stories.
ED There's a multitude of things, we’ve had things with balconies (it’s actually more like decks) where insulation products, the wrong ones put in there, for instance polystyrene, which the industry will say you need to encapsulate. You put polystyrene with a timber deck over the top, you create a situation where it's very easy to start quite a substantial fire. And then what you find is products around it which would normally pass fire tests don't because of the size of the fire that it's exposed to. So for instance, EWI systems with polystyrene in them, they got a nice render on them which in the normal fire test in the lab will pass with a small flame. But you put a two megawatt fire next to it, it's going to fail. It just melts, vaporisers goes through the render and it burns.
On the point of certification, the other one is bodies that pose as certification bodies but are merely just training organisations that masquerade as certification bodies. So there is one out there in the fire stopping world that you need to be aware of called Nat Fist? 1hr 39mins 17 secs, you can do some training with them and then you can self-certify your work. So that’s something we need, genuine bona fide certification both of companies and of people's training. It's a bit of a Wild West out there. I mean after all, what do you need to become a fire stopping installer? A bread knife, mastic gun and a white van, to be quite blunt. And actually, what’s stopping you becoming a fire risk assessor? Although you don’t want to see regulation to death on everything, there are areas where you think actually we do need to set a certain bar.
GEORGE The big problem is that if you make it too rigorous nobody can do the work so therefore nobody gets inspected.
STEVE It’s also I think that we’re back to competency again. A real good example of that is asbestos. You can take somebody off the street, put them on a week long P4O2 course, they’re now a qualified asbestos surveyor. They don’t have any knowledge of buildings, anything else, but they’re qualified and can go and work for a UKAS accredited surveying company as an asbestos surveyor. It’s pretty similar in fire where you can go and do a 4 day NEBOSH course and you are now a qualified fire risk assessor with no knowledge other than what you've gained in the last week.
GEORGE At the moment we’re doing fire doors, AOVs and cavity barriers because they’re three things I’ve been told are critical. But I'm sure that sprinkler systems and all these different types of things…are you guys finding this useful? The the collection of experienced people around this table is I think stunning. And I think what we're also doing is we're learning from the people that know about fire doors but don’t know about AOVs and vice versa.
SUZANNE Thank you and I agree. It’s important to keep the group smallish but have a broad range of people because if you get more than 10 or 15 people, then people don't talk and just sort of coming and not contributing. What you want is actually people have got good experience and different experience and able to bring the different dimensions. I agree. I think the doing the homework beforehand was really useful and that was really good because it focused everybody's minds specifically and then keeping it to a two-hour-workshop is good.
Also I think it's good for us to be driving this and influencing this and it's coming from industry. It's exactly what Dame Judith Hackitt wanted, the industry together to come together to do this and and to drive it forward and rather than have, as in some instances, the regulator or the government telling us what they are going to do and that’s not feasible or possible, surely it’s better that we say what is possible, viable and practical and drive it that way. So I completely agree and I think we should do some more of these around sprinklers, fire-fighting equipment.
GEORGE The other thing that you should be aware of is as we don’t want too many people on these we’ve actually split them so that we’ve got another three sessions on fire doors, AOVs and cavity barriers coming up over the next month. So if there’s anybody that you know who you think could contribute let us know. Unless we do this, it's not going to happen and it would only become a risk transfer process. I just feel it's so important that this is a once in a lifetime probably opportunity to get this right.
So we’ve produced a little form that we’d like you to just fill in to give us a credit to say you found it useful. It’s just something to say that you’ve attended the session and say something nice about it, and also constructive criticism.
WILL In terms of the development of the HADG data dictionary and the template is there an opportunity for me to arrange an hour discussion to help us move that forward? Shares screen. The left hand side is straight out of the template that you were showing earlier, George. The green column is the asset, the blue column is assets that aren’t covered currently, there’s the industry asset name which is what we test against and available product testing. So just so everybody's aware of that's what we're working on at the moment.
GEORGE Are you building into that…I’ve been through BS8644 to try and pick out any additional attributes that they're recommending which I have to say they're not really understood how these things work to be honest. Taking that to one side they have come up with some resistance to fire and reaction to fire. They've modified those slightly to say reaction to fire required. I don't really understand what they mean by that.
WILL Yes, Leonna and myself are looking to incorporate whatever information is needed. We’ll be led by as much by you guys as ourselves. 8644 part 1, management of digital information.
GEORGE Re data dictionary discussion meeting with Will. I think the first step was probably for anybody that's in this group is to actually just understand all the asset types that we're dealing with within the housing association data group so that we can actually…part of the issue is that like cavity barriers is probably there…no, that one isn't actually but AOVs were mentioned. But there's probably other asset types that are composites or assemblies that have not been considered because there's no specific maintenance of them. And that was the point that will made earlier, we need to think of not just as maintenance, but it's inspection as well. And life cycle replacement.