BIM4Housing Roundtables Cavity Barriers 20210720 Meeting 1
RICHARD We went through this exercise on Friday with the Fire Door group and we found that it was beneficial to change our modus operandi to what we're going to do today. We’ll go through each question individually, look at the answers we’ve got and then we're gonna ask you to if there's anything you think it's missing. Put that into the chat and then Jiss will put it into the document.
GEORGE What we've recognised and discovered, is that we've got quite a wide range of people who need different information for different purposes. So, for example, the people that are responsible for maybe procuring works, what they are particularly focused at in many cases is appointing somebody that is properly certified and experienced and competent carrying out the work. They probably don't want to know too much detail about what the competent person does because it would just be overwhelming if they had to check everything that everybody's doing and that's recognised. In terms of this session is concerned, let's recognise that we are all of the view that we need to have competent and qualified people carrying out works.
But that in itself isn't enough because there's other members of this stakeholder community who maybe be instructing those people to carry out the works, and therefore they're going to need the next level of detail, maybe even a detailed schedule of work, step by step, of what they've got to do. So the important thing with this is that what we're trying to do is to identify all of the information that all stakeholders might need for any circumstances. And then from a software engineering point of view, you don't need to worry about that. If we've got, for example, against an asset type 200 bits of information of which maybe you're only interested in three or four bits of that information, don't worry about it. What we really want to make sure of is that in this community the four or five bits of information that you consider to be critical, we want to ensure that that is captured.
And then from a software engineering point of view, whatever software applications you're actually going to use to deploy that information, you'll be able to filter out all the stuff you don't want so you only see the stuff you do. But the master data model needs to incorporate everything. So I just wanted to place that in there because we did spend some time on Friday with people saying, well, actually no, we don't want to know that we don't need that level of detail. But in practise, overall, somebody needs that level of detail and therefore we want to try and accommodate it. And I've got just a couple of examples that I'd like to just show on that (shares screen).
I compiled this for the fire door session on Friday, so please bear with me that it's not cavity barriers, but you're all involved in this whole area. So what we're really saying is that what we want to do isn't just about new build construction because the biggest job is around looking after existing buildings. So if, for example, I need to procure a new fire door what we've discovered is if you look at the MBS specification for a fire door you’ll see that there's quite a lot of things that really a maintenance engineer, or maybe somebody that's in the procurement department of an FM company, would not easily be able to interpret. So you've got the specification which then requires them to look at British standards, they’ve then got to look at the the fire plans and also then probably look up a door schedule and then be able to interpret that. And the problem is what about the door closer, the hinges, the lock, the intumescent strip etc.
So what we're saying is that we need to have much more explicit information and that information and that information is not generally available in PDFs in an easy way. We've got one schedule here, this is a sorry data sheet from a manufacturer, and you can see here we've got fire rating clearly shown, but it's only human readable, not computer readable. Here we've got the same information, but it's presented quite differently. And here we've got another where it's presented differently again. So the only way to know whether the information that somebody might need to know about that fire door is to manually go and read everything that goes into the O&M manuals. And, quite frankly, that information may not be there and certainly in my experience, a lot of the other constituent parts needed for that fire door, like the ironmongery and the door closer, they're not actually there.
There’s a perception that BIM sorts it all out whereas in fact it doesn't unless we require it. So we need to standardise the way this information is presented. Here we’ve got different ways of describing a 30 minute fire door. This is the major thing that I think helped people on Friday to understand, this is the BIM data that you would typically collect or have in a BIM model. Most of these questions don't get answered in the BIM model, but that's another question. But that looks to I think most people as an overwhelming level of detail in there. So if, for example, we’ve got compliance in here the people that are responsible for compliance perhaps are only interested in four or five bits of information. But there's other members of your team, maybe design, operations and even environmental who might need other information sets. So the point about it is, let's collect all the information and then we can then filter it out.
RICHARD Question 1: What risks do cavity barriers mitigate? Is there anything that you can say you can think of that is glaringly missing?
ED I think the lower two probably cover it in most detail in the sense of what are we actually trying to protect here, although there's a focus on wall cavities and external walls, naturally, given the history. Actually if you look at ADB, the definition of a cavity is far broader than that, it’s any concealed space. So we've got to consider there's different types of cavity barrier that we might be looking at.
GEORGE Suzanne picked up quite correctly something that we were discussing yesterday in one of the Golden Thread Initiative chairs meetings and that is that the health and safety executive are looking at things from a POV of their perspective. So coming back to what I was saying earlier about different stakeholders wanting different things, they're driving the agenda towards the things that are important to them. And one of the things that we were briefed with was that they wanted us to focus on things that were catastrophic and that were below incidents high impact. That’s cool, but in doing that that was when they made the comment to me that the spread of fire in a flat isn't a risk that they want to be bothered about (that’s a paraphrasing that, the spread of fire). Suzanne quite correctly said that from an operational perspective, fire in a flat is important. So Suzanne, do you want to say something about that?
SUZANNE I said it depends on who your audience is or who you are depends on your perspective of risk in that, if from an enforcement perspective, the fire brigade, the HSE, the regulator are only interested in a fire that spreads beyond the flat of origin because that's within the legal remits. From a housing perspective, we're interested in all fires because there's a risk of life risk of death in a serious fire in a flat, even if it doesn't break out from the flat of origin…and if you're the owner, occupier, leaseholder, tenant there's a risk. You're worried about the risk of fire in your own home from doing life safety and property damage. So I do think it depends on who the audience is, depends on your risk appetite, risk interpretation. So the HSE’s definition of a risk of a risk of fire doesn't go beyond a flat is a very narrow view in there.
I think you need to add on the list there is a risk, why do we put cavity barriers in? Because we want to stop a fire from spreading across a block of flats. But from a housing perspective, a landlord’s perspective we want to stop the spread of fire from flat to flat. From an asset perspective, from a property perspective, there's not just a life safety, but there's also a property perspective that the HSE regulator are not interested in.
GEORGE Whilst we’re still on risk, let me show you something that’s been shared with me yesterday which is work in progress. What my colleague Nick Nisbett is trying to do is put risk in the context of Uniclass so that we’ve got a common way of considering risk. He’s one of the authors of PAS 1192, Part 6, he’s working with MBS to actually start to create a series of additional levels of risk so that we can then underpin these with the information. Therefore what we probably want to do is to have whatever risks we identify underpinning this level here, and then the idea is that we can then start to have measures that mitigate these risks as a standard way of addressing them. So really this is just feeding into the whole process of standards.
GEORGE Question 2. So what we're trying to do here is to go down to the next level of detail to say about each asset type what information do we really need to know about it. I was going through this with Chris Hall from Siderise yesterday and we've got another working group within Bim4housing called the Housing Association data group. So what we're doing is looking at each of the asset types that go into residential developments and then saying what information do we need about them and, importantly, what information don't we need. And cavity barriers is a particular challenge because it's actually a composite, there’s a number of different types of cavity barrier that are used in different circumstances. One of the things we’ve done to try and deal with that is we’ve been working with BRE (shares screen). I'll just show you what we're doing because what I'd like to do is see if we can get some volunteers from this group to see if you'd be interested in actually defining what there is.
This is called the harmonised standards, I didn't really understand any of this, it’s a European standard for saying that a cavity barrier, what information is needed against European standards against it. But the other point is that it's actually made up of lots of different components. So the work that we've been doing with the BRE is to say that the cavity barrier is made up of a number of different constituent elements. And then we've looked against those constituent elements and then we've looked at what are called the essential characteristics (this is coming from the declaration of performance side of things that manufacturers have to work with). You'll see here down in this first column here you've got the different values which, for example, in the list that Pauline's given us there are quite a few of these. It would be great if all manufacturers and all people are actually working off the same data sets.
Interestingly, I’ve gone onto MBS and this is the MBS cavity barrier model. Everything that’s in yellow is standard COBie so that's nothing special to the fact it's a cavity barrier. Where this information here, fire performance and fire free air provision, these are things that MBS has determined are important to match with that. And finally this is one that Chris has shared with me which has come from the work that they've done with…I think this is the national BIM library that they've commissioned. So they've got a series of terms down here like fragility rating and surface spread of flame that are important. But a lot of their information again is just standard COBie.
The final bits we’ve got here, this ETIM is the wholesalers information sets. Now for cavity barriers you probably wouldn't supply through wholesalers, but maybe there's some of the materials that have defined earlier that would be. So ETIM is the world standard that wholesalers are working to.
There’s a couple of things here. One is the explicit set of answers that Pauline has given earlier. That's an important element of what we're trying to get to. So in other words, what are those items and the properties behind them. And Chris, would you contribute on my complete confusion about all the different elements that go to make up a cavity barrier and what information do we need to know about those individual elements.
CHRIS It depends how granular you want to be. Typically when you're selling a cavity barrier you are selling the performance of the combined product. Typically a cavity barrier, if we just stick with cavity walls for a moment, would be the actual cavity barrier element itself. There would be brackets for fixing and that would be ancillaries, maybe types and intumescence for making good around penetrations. So you would sell those as the finished product and you would provide data for that as a finished unit. Would you really be required to go down to the origins of the components? Probably not in my opinion, because then you're into multiple layers upon layer upon layer of information that's not really relevant because a cavity barrier is being used for its performance characteristics.
So what you really need to know is what is it designed for and how has it been tested and how has it been accredited and how is it fixed? Those are the basics that you need and this particular list that I'm looking at now is is quite good. I mean, you could go on ad nauseam and you make the point that some people want to know a little bit more and that's absolutely fine. But at the operational level, you need to know is this a cavity barrier that's fit for its intended application and does it meet the requirements of the design? In other words, does it have the required insulation and integrity classification and has the installer been trained how to install this particular product.
RICHARD Chris, I’ve seen the idea interpreted to mean that a tile is a system because it requires a finish and an adhesive. Would you consider that drilling down too far?
CHRIS No, in terms of a cavity barrier, they don't hang on sky hooks so they generally need brackets, so they you have the cavity barrier itself and then you have a bracket arrangement to actually fix it to one of the substrates, and then you generally have finishing items that allow you to deal with joints and penetration. So yes, it is a system, we see it as system you also have to bear in mind, and this is quite a common problem. If you use systems from different manufacturers, say for example you use a horizontal cavity barrier from Siderise and a vertical cavity barrier from Rockwell, you're in trouble because you've introduced a variable.
You can't do that because that's just not a great idea because they haven't been tested in concert and so you get…this may or may not be relevant, you'll often see someone will say, I like the cost of your cavity barrier horizontally, but I'm gonna buy the vertical from someone else. And then when it gets to site, the manufacturers are then asked to ‘sign off’ on the installation. and we all have to say, sorry, noncompliant, not my product. So you have to look at things in systems and you also have to go to the build because if you've got multiple cavity finishes as well. For example, you've got a curtain wall and you've got a rainscreen and you've used different manufacturers there. Where the junction of the rainscreen meets the wall, you have a problem with the interface.
GEORGE Picking up on what Chris was saying i think the thing that was missing from it was the interfaces - how one product interfaces with another. Because at some stage it will interface even if you’re not mixing…
CHRIS By the way, there's nothing to suggest that the products wouldn't work perfectly well together, but they haven't been tested together and it’s a question of product liability and professional indemnity and all other other good stuff…
GEORGE The other question I was going to raise was one that seems to be being missed is the individual instance or the individual location of that particular cavity barrier in that context. So what do we need to capture about that individual piece of material or component going into that particular location? That's one of the things that I think is often missed.
CHRIS The fire strategy for the building informed by the building regulations and the fire engineer should determine where the cavity barriers are to be positioned. And if any building doesn't give that, then you need to go back to the designers and say where do you want cavity barriers. Although build approved document B gives you a guidance, that’s just guidance. It's down to the individual building. RICHARD i think George isn’t talking about where they’re specified to be geographically, more in terms of how the location affects the performance.
GEORGE Two things, one is what information do you need to capture about the individual item. So in other words, photographs for example. We’re finding people are asking for photographs of the item of the cavity barrier. CHRIS So you’re talking about post installation inspection.
ED Just to follow on, it's actually locating that particular product where it's actually used because you may have different products, you need to be clear where you've used it in the building and actually some clarity on on its application. Because we do have different types of cavity barrier, one that's suitable for walls is going to be no good in the roof void. So it's just a classification of different types of cavity barriers probably needed in there. I would add in there location a particular product or item is used and what is the intended purpose of that item.
GEORGE Intro to Question 3. One of the things that is a given is that we want to be encouraging (and in fact probably demanding) the use of qualified and competent people. So I'd like to take that particular question out of the equation for the moment. That's a given. But what we've also found is that even competent people that have been properly trained don't necessarily follow the right tasks and procedures because they're humans. Therefore in another workshop that we had in December on cavity barriers, Sharon McClure, who's one of the experts in this area, said you've got qualified people arriving on site, but there's so many different types of cavity barriers, they’d not actually been trained on that particular cavity barrier.
In the M&E maintenance world what we've been doing for several years, they've been developing standardised sets of tasks and procedures that everybody can then have as documented processes. So not just to say that something needs to be maintained every six months, it's that you've got to do these eight tasks every six months, so it becomes a checklist. And we think that by having that same type of rigour it means that we've got a method of basically reinforcing the issue of competence with something that then is auditable which we think is important. 'd like your views on that. So that's why the method statements are more than simply saying we need somebody that's got the qualification.
GEORGE We've got there different types of inspection, for example. What we’re thinking is that if we can have a standardised set of tasks that people can then add to or subtract from according to what type of cavity barrier it is and also the context of it, then that would be a useful thing. Would you agree with that guys?
CHRIS This is an area where we have a considerable practical experience. I'd like to start with the comment, might be slightly controversial. Employing a ‘specialist’ doesn't necessarily mean you're going to get a good job. Unfortunately, that's the nature of the beast. Secondly, the training courses that are available for installing cavity barriers are very generic and whilst they have a value in their own right, they have to be supplemented by training from the manufacturer in the application of their particular products. Because at the end of the day, often the manufacturer is going to be asked to come back and make a final inspection and if you've used the wrong bracket so I haven't fixed them correctly because the training course from the ASFP or the NFRC said you did it in a different way, that’s unfortunate but that would happen. So I think you're going to have to have two levels of training, George, a basic level of understanding, we’ll call it a foundation course, and then manufacturer specific training.
There's also the question of the practical implications of using specialists. I'm now a bricklayer and I want to install a cavity barrier and now all of a sudden I have to stop what I'm doing and get along someone to install a cavity barrier, so my work is now interrupted. There's all kinds of programme implications of the use of ‘specialists’ in inverted commas, so I think the training has to be widened out to include other trades that would traditionally fit cavity barriers, because the fact of the matter is that they're not terribly complicated to do. So from that point of view I think we gotta be careful here that we don't build in cost complication and challenges on site by over egging it as it were. But I think it's going to come down to the fact that manufacturers need to be obliged, bludgeoned, kind of dragged kicking and screaming to make sure that if they sell a product then they have a duty, be that moral, ethical or statutory duty, to be able to provide the right installation training for that product to be installed correctly.
GEORGE And is there any work going on within your community to try and standardise how those instructions are delivered? Because clearly, if everybody's doing their own…
CHRIS Unfortunately George, not for some people have seen it as a marvellous opportunity to sell training and they've jumped on the bandwagon and they're charging people for £400-500 a day for something that I could do for them in half an hour. But, but that's just the nature of the beast. That’s a generalisation. The ASFP are doing some good work. The NFRC have started a course specifically to do with installing cavity barriers in ventilated facades. The Association of Brickwork Contractors are doing something, but they’re all disjointed and they are good in a sense that they provide the basics, but the basics also have to be supplemented by the manufacturer's training people how to install their products. So the checklist would help, George, but it also needs a bit of a cultural change at the manufacturer level for them to buy into the fact that they are responsible for the training of the installers of their products.
GEORGE There’s work going on at the moment to develop a UKAS series of accreditation because it's clear that the different organisations that are delivering different training and different services, that’s because there is no standardisation There’s an organisation called Direct Works, I think actually probably all of the housing associations that are on there are members of it in some way. Direct Works did an exercise a couple of years ago checking to see whether people were competent on fire doors and of 550 people they assessed there was only 6 that passed the assessment which is quite a shocking figure. It would be interesting to know on cavity barriers.
CHRIS I don't think any works ever been done at that level of detail, but I'm conscious of the fact here I'm coming up with all of the problems and none of the answers. We do need somebody to set…it’s perfectly okay for these courses to exist, but they must meet minimum standards and they must all cover the basics and the best organisation to deliver this is the ASFP because it's their meat and drink. They represent most of the credible cavity barrier manufacturers. So people like the Association of Brickwork Contractors for them, candidly it's a good thing they’re, and they're doing a good job, but it's more of a revenue generation stream than anything else. Unfortunately, we're gonna have to have training at two levels, a general appreciation of what a cavity barrier is and why you use it and why it's important. And there are some common issues and some common instructions to all of them. But then you also require manufacturers training because it's the manufacturer that's going to have to provide some kind of a warranty or a sign off, and he's going to have to have some skin in the game by way of training the installer and how to install his particular product.
GEORGE And what about maintenance, because what you've been talking about largely in terms of the level of information, the brackets and things like that, when you were supplying it on the new build, you'd supply it as a complete assembly. But in five-years-time or something when somebody's just carrying out some work to just correct something that's an important area. I feel that they would need to have the detail of what those component elements were in order…
CHRIS Typically, cavity barriers with two exceptions, suspended ceilings and raised access floors, are once installed never touched. That's normally the case. So the question there is not so much maintenance, It’s a question of what is your anticipated life span or your design life or however you want to express it for that particular product. At the moment, the demand from the industry at large for 60 years. So the idea is that a cavity barrier, given that most of these are hidden, you would rarely access them again. If you do have to access them then in our particular instance we've gone down the route, and I can only speak for Siderise, of digital object identifiers where you will have a QR code on the product that you can scan and it will take you back to web pages held in perpetuity, so it'll tell you everything that you need to know about that particular product. And if the product has been superseded by another model, it will point you to the replacement model, if that makes sense.
GEORGE And that would include the intumescent strip and all of the component elements that went to make up that assembly. CHRIS It wouldn't include the intumescent strip because you don’t sell the intumescent strip separately, it is part of the assembly, part of the system. If you damage the intumescent strip then you would call up and say, we would know by the DOI what that product was and what the appropriate strip was to replace that. GEORGE So therefore if that's the case, bearing in mind the fact that we want to have something here that is going to last 50 years and, with respect, Siderise might get bought out by somebody else and it might…Therefore, the asset information should include that detail. Is there any reason why it shouldn't be provided?
CHRIS This is cutting edge stuff at the moment, BSI Identify have just started this, it’s very much in its infancy and the list of the what I would call the things that you have to declare could go down to that granular level if it was required. Because basically it's just data and you can declare as much or as…there are certain fields that you have to declare and there are certain fields that are kind of not mandatory, they’re informative. So you can have ad nauseam the list of data that you want to put in there, but it's all a question of is it relevant, Is it what you need to be there and who needs to know?
GEORGE So therefore at the end of the day, you're quite right that the level of detail may be very low and you might not need it very often, but when you need it you really need it. So therefore, I think that I'm going to propose that we should be asking for that level of detail because it can always be filtered out. And BSI, yes, they've got their new initiative coming through, but they don't normally go down to this level of detail. Whereas as far as the Golden Thread is concerned, that is something that we have to be able to provide in my view. What do you think Edward?
ED I think you definitely need quite rich information which you're not gonna need that you’re not going to utilise on the day-to-day basis. But if you need to justify something or do a certain type of work you will certainly be reliant on that information. Certainly gone are the days where we just say we just get someone competent in to do it. We know we need them to demonstrate their competence and part of that is the understanding of the product itself as well as its installation and its maintenance going forward. So really too much information, within reason, it doesn't exist. It's just about how you manage that information.
CHRIS It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the DOI platform could be adapted to store an infinite amount of information. At the moment our DOI, we are limited by the platform because we're part of a group of BT users so we’re kind of working with a common set of data, but in theory it could be expanded to include everything that you may consider to be even remotely required in the future.
GEORGE What we're trying to do is just overcome the situation where somebody needs the information and then can't get it because it's tied up in…CHRIS Just for clarification here, If someone has a damaged piece of cavity barrier, you replace it. You do not repair it. You buy the whole unit, not the bits and pieces, not the components. You replace the whole thing. GEORGE With our experts on the panel here, we've also got circumstances I think where people have said that the building might move so something may need addressing. Is it the case that you'd always replace the entire unit?
CHRIS The design of the product should be able to accommodate service movement and service under fire load. And it's part of the design specification, you should know if your building is going to move, how much is it going to move, and will the cavity barrier flex and come back and move with that building. If it doesn't, you've got the wrong cavity barrier. And of course that happens. If you needed to replace a material that had not performed as you'd intended it to, in other words, it hadn't been able to deal with the normal service movement, I would say that’s claim under warranty. If you say something can accommodate 20 mil or 30 mil movement and it doesn't, then you've got a warranty claim and you would probably be looking at a replacement material for that particular element.
What you replace it with very much depends on is the mode of failure down to some use of the product in an inappropriate application? Is it down to an installation issue? Has something fundamentally changed in the building? It could be a whole host of things. GEORGE And therefore in my experience when maintainers are trying to ensure that the building still runs they can't rely on the warranties to actually address that. They will replace the parts. CHRIS Possibly,, but I'm just trying to highlight is that the practicalities of some of this are quite significant.
PAULINE I was just going to ask whether we would be capturing then that the range of the tolerance of the building's movement? I don't know if that's already written in some of the answers.
SUZANNE I think it should be added, I think I originally raised the query about the building's movements and have been…aware of cavity barriers flipping out of place, moving out of place. I agree that they should be specified correctly, but we know that that's not happening in practise, so somehow it is about the system, it is about linking all the information together and it's about doing the right thing. But so often that's misinterpreted or not applied correctly because people, there's a competency….
PETER is it a competency failure or is it there's two competent people not talking to each other, so somebody who's calculating the building movements, then somebody who's fitting the cavity barriers. I don't know who it would be calculating the building.
GEORGE The other question I was going to have on this particular point about the tasks and the schedules. What I think we're saying is, Chris has explained that different manufacturers have got different procedures for their particular products. So therefore one of the things that we should be requiring from the manufacturer is the list of tasks that they would consider to be appropriate for their particular product to be installed correctly and also commissioned. Would you would you say commissioned? RICHARD A methodology of installation. GEORGE Yes. Would you do any testing on a cavity barrier?
ED Not in situ, testing is done in a testing facility beforehand, hopefully. Unless we have a real fire, of course.
STEVE A lot of this comes down to the manufacturer, as we've said, and normally they're quite guarded on giving away all their crown jewels, as it were. So as Chris said, we've got to drag them into the 21st century kicking and screaming and they have to play a part in this and that's what it's going to come down to.
GEORGE Could I just reinforce that, Steve, because I think I've heard that mentioned several times and it is something that I think that as an industry as customers like you would need to be insisting on and there is opportunity here to get that. I was looking again at a declaration of performance for a fire door last week and I was trying to understand it. I’m an information management person, I’m not a professional in anyway like like you guys. But I'm just trying to understand if I was going to buy a replacement fire door, whether the performance specification that was given on this particular project was something that would help me. And what I discovered was that it was sufficiently obscure about what the particular performance of that door was, the individual door, what the closer was. It gives me a range of performance that if the door is of this size and of this thickness and of this weight, then it would need this class of door closer which has been assessed to this particular British standard. But it doesn't actually tell me what the door closer needs to do.
STEVE Absolutely agree, it’s all about liability and they try and shift the emphasis as much as they can onto the end client. And you get a global assessment, It gives you everything you need, but it's what they don't give you that's the interesting part. And you can go all the way back to Hackitt when we're gaming the system.
RICHARD So basically in terms of to get the manufacturers kicking and screaming into the 21st century, are we saying that that would need to be regulatory? ED Yes, you’re right, we very rarely see actual test reports, we only see global assessments. RICHARD It's a very interesting point for us to use because remember we're feeding into those regulations. So this is the forum to actually raise these things and make it clear how strongly we feel about this. ED My thought on this is that we’re buying a service here, it’s not just a product, the services are stopping a fire spreading.
GEORGE Intro to question 4. As I was saying earlier, the competency side of things is a given. The question is who are the competent organisations and certainly as we've got there ASFP (the Association of Specialist Fire Protection), I’ve connected with Niall Rowan, the former chief exec, I think he’s going to contribute to this. Is there anything else that anybody wants to add in, in terms of the competency and training?
Warrington Fire. Can somebody explain to me what Warrington Fire does? Do they do testing like BRE does as well as training? SUZANNE Warrington do provide the full service. They do testing and they’ve got test facilities in the UK, probably equal to the BRE’s facilities.
DAVE I believe my organisation TUV SUD can contest anything, whether they actually do that on these products at the moment or not, I'm not sure. But yeah, they do have test facilities in East Kilbride and down in Fareham I believe as well.
GEORGE Another point on this, the training information that Chris was talking about, that is manufacturer specific. We should be getting that information from the manufacturers in a form that then could be delivered maybe as youtubes or toolbox talks etc.
RICHARD So in terms of our question that manufacturers training should be readily accessible which at the moment we're saying it isn't. Would that be correct? GEORGE It seems that that's the case, but what would you say guys?
ED I think there's one thing we need to recognise is there's different levels of expertise and perhaps what you need to know as a bricklayer to install cavity barriers in brick walls is very different to say an open state cavity barrier in a rainscreen system. So there needs to be a recognition within all of this that there's going to be different levels of training and certification because otherwise we'll make it impossible for certain trades to actually operate. So there's a whole set of syllabus framework.
GEORGE So that's something that's something that it's reasonable for us to require, isn't it? As the Golden Thread Initiative, if you're going to be a manufacturer that is supplying products then you should be providing your basic training in a form that can then be consumed.
ED Bear in mind some of these operations should be part of your trade training. So if you're a bricklayer, you are taught to put cavity barriers in a brick wall when you do your training, So it becomes part of that. I was a bricklayer. For a bricklayer you'd have probably some generic training, then you would need some product specific information. Let's face it, there's some manufacturers out there who provide excellent instructions. And that's all it is, step by step instructions, how to use their products and any pitfalls. Others actually provide nothing and that is where the problem lies. I think if you have good generic training for certain products and then you have good instructions that may be adequate, other more complex…
RICHARD So this comes down to regulation again. It needs to be a regulatory requirement. Obviously one would think that there there's adequate information, adequate training for all these products. ED And for each product a decision made whether instructions are adequate or product specific training with maybe some hands on aspect of practical assessment is required. So there has to be a decision is this complex enough to warrant having a practical assessment.
GEORGE I would say that it may not be regulatory because if we're relying on regulation to do everything then that could be a big challenge because you've then got all sorts of different items. I think that could be that just as building owners you require that as part of your information requirements and therefore basically unless a product that requires some specialist expertise to install it is accompanied with training material, people can't use it. ED Code of practice.
GEORGE Everybody uses Youtube now so it's no great issue for people to have that information available freely. If you've got a washing machine or something like that, you can always go and look at the information on that. A few years ago, if you want a new manual because you've lost your old manual, you had to go and buy one. That's no longer the case, is it? So I think that's something that we as an industry should be asking for.
RICHARD Should some of this information we’re asking for on buildings be confidential? Secret almost? Is there the possibility that the wrong people could get hold of this information? I’m just wondering that some of this stuff shouldn't necessarily be in the public domain, it needs to have some sort of security going on it?
GEORGE You're right, Richard, and there is some of this information that we need to be able to filter out, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be gathering it. The answer to that question is how the information is delivered and presented. So, for example, James Carpenter who's at L&Q said to me that what he's particularly concerned about is making sure that tenants get the appropriate information. Now if you overwhelm them with too much information or, quite frankly, give them information that they could use against you that’s problematic. That isn’t a difficulty from an information management perspective because if we've got a way of just delivering the information that is relevant to a tenant, then that can just be filtered out from the master data set.
SUZANNE I completely agree with that and I think we've had many conversations internally and with L&Q and other housing associations about data and the management of information. A live discussion at the moment is around the PEEPS (personal emergency evacuation plans) and the information of vulnerable people in premises information boxes and the data security around that, there’s a whole debate going on around that. I think you need to be careful what information you do put into the public domain because it does need to be read in context.
And sometimes you can overwhelm people with complex information that can be taken out of context and then have just a rolling PR nightmare/misinterpretation/legal complications. And that's not to say it’s wrong, you just need to handle the information correctly because of all the different key stakeholders. And you do need to be protective of it some regard and not necessarily put it out there all in the public domain because of various reasons. And that's not to say that something to hide, just that it needs to be managed appropriately.
RICHARD Well, the thing is when you give people information, what you need to also ensure is that they're going to understand it. So often there’s an element of education involved, it’s not just about supplying information, they’ve got to be able to understand it.
SUZANNE Absolutely. There’s been a long running debate about making fire risk assessments available for residents, which I think most landlords now do because fire risk assessments are written in a very broad context and and probably can be interpreted by lay persons. But when you start to get into some of the technical stuff that we're talking about now you do need to have it in a different context. RICHARD Well, transparency then suddenly becomes opaque, doesn't it? Because they can't see through it.
GEORGE On that point, Suzanne, fire risk assessments. One of the things we’ve been looking at is whether fire risk assessments could be standardised in a way that then becomes machine-readable so that you’re then able to do proper comparisons, to be able to find things more easily, rather than it being currently all the ones I've seen have been narratives. What’s your take on that?
SUZANNE Fire risk assessments have evolved very much into something that is a tick box exercise almost. We now have a template in the PAS 79 and people have sort of manipulated that over the period of time. And I think from moving forward, I mean Ed will have more about this, but in terms of safety case, I don't think there's going to be a template around safety case or a template around gathering information for the very reason that it needs to be organic and dynamic, it needs to be your own. You need to think about it rather than just ticking boxes and populating information.
WENDSY I do agree. Having gone through the PAS and looked at several different companies risk assessments and also looked at what was going on historically, because historically the risk assessments were done by the fire service and then it was handed over to the individual building owners or responsible person to complete. I think that's where it's fallen down because as you've just said it's become very organic to the point that the risk assessments are so extremely far apart now there is no consistency and the fact that people doing the risk assessments, if they are hiring outside risk assessors, it doesn't necessarily mean that they have any understanding of actual fire.
PAULINE Well, we do have, similar to what's been said, an internal template that is used by our assessors, but it has become, although it is still largely narrative, more of a tick box exercise over the years.
GEORGE So do we think it's a good idea for us to have some form of standardisation of fire risk assessments?
SUZANNE Well, I think you're never gonna get away from it, it is what it is now. It’s a done deal. Fire risk assessments are standardised, pretty much, and I think that's the way they're gonna be. I don't think moving forward we should standardise what we're looking at in terms of safety case, BIM digitalisation, I think we should stay away from because it makes them people own their own data, makes it much more organic and relevant.
GEORGE I definitely agree that it must not be a tick box, but my suggestion would be that it still should be structured. So there ought to be a standard process that is capturing information about certain elements. So, for example, I’m working with Noel Powells from PRP to better understand the methodology that he's following. And what we're trying to do is to say how can we make sure that you know, for example, just a particular asset type, we’ve been looking at the new BS8644 draught that's out at the moment. There’s elements in there which are both asset types that are mentioned, but again they're just generic, and also there's some information that needs to be captured against those asset types.
We could this standardising down at that level so that, for example, when we are talking about a different type of cavity barrier it’s actually being named in a consistent way so that the circumstances under which that particular cavity barrier and that particular risk, again, we could be classifying the risks. So we're standardising the way risks are being described. Now that doesn't mean that you're then taking away the intellectual interpretation of the expert saying under these circumstances that was the risk. But does that make sense?
RICHARD Yeah. So you're talking about standardisation of process and methodology rather than actually finite outcomes.
GEORGE Intro to question 5. Change management. This is probably one of the biggest conundrums that we have during the design and construction process and I would argue that it's also a major problem in terms of ongoing operational management. And one of the real challenges with it in both circumstances is the fact that people aren’t adequately recording what was there in the first place that was changed from. And this includes in the new build side of things where the information is often initially put in by an architect or an employee consultant about the type of products that the design was expected to be supporting and then when it goes out to contractors, they'll then swap them out. There’s all sorts of good reasons why they do that, some of it is cost, some of its availability, but because we don't have a proper record of what was specified or suggested in the first place, you've got no track to say that was what it was and this is what it is.
So one of the things we're trying to do in the BIM world is then actually be far more clear about what was intended to be used, even if it was expected…so that when the contractor then uses the technical submittal process, and we're suggesting all of the asset types that are critical to fire safety should have to go through a technical submittal process, then running through that. Everybody is familiar with the technical submittal process. And therefore would you agree that from an operational perspective, because most of you are involved in looking after existing estates, that a technical submittal process is a viable way of addressing change management in the operational side of things?
So what I’m saying is if a door closer needs replacing my view is you ought to be with the contractor that’s replacing it ought to be providing somebody, let's say you were the client, with an example of what they're replacing with what they’re replacing it with.
SUZANNE Yeah, absolutely. We don’t have that level of detail but that’s where we need to be at if we’re going to effectively manage our buildings properly and be able to demonstrate the regulator then we need to be going to that kind of detail and have that change management processes in place.
GEORGE Chris, from a manufacturer's perspective, I don't know how relevant is this to you having a change management process?
CHRIS Massively, for a whole host of operational reasons. The amount of times we go to site and say we've got a, particularly in the current climate where people are stripping buildings back and kind of inspections, the amount of times we turn up when somebody said your products were specified, we assume they've been used, we turn up and it's somebody else's materials is biblical, I’d say it’s 6 out of 10. So to the point now where we say we'll come, but if it's an abortive visit, we're going to charge you for it. We haven't got the time to go around chasing unicorns all day. It is a problem and one that to some degree is endemic across all of the industry, not only to do with cavity barriers, what was specified being swapped out.
If I could be slightly controversial as well, it's nice you talked about the supply chains, George. It's generally down to the cost or the price of the product and that's primarily in my experience (and I've had a lot of it) these people's reasons for changing products are more to do with putting money in their back pocket and not somebody else's. And our prospect of managing those changes depends on the project management itself. Some of them are very good, some of them are managing the changes after the event, someone's installed something, closed the building up, and then they do some kind of a backward kind of review of something that's already happened. It’s shocking.
GEORGE Suzanne, are you, as a client, included in the discussion when…even on a new build do you have adequate access? Are you involved in when products are being selected and swapped out?
SUZANNE I have been and I can be (and I say me because it was a previous role that I was doing). I’m not at the moment but that’s because I’ve changed roles. But Ed and I both have worked in our development team over the last few years and been very involved with what's going on on-site and followed the processes and procedures through in construction since Grenfell for the last few years. And we definitely can be, but we're not always consulted as the client, sometimes it happens and we're not asked, it just happens. Then we may go to site and find that that's happened and then have to sort of pick that up. So it's how good the quality management system is that the contractor on site follows and your EA and so forth in terms of the data provision.
GEORGE Is it fair to say that we ought to be insisting on it and the golden thread?
SUZANNE Yeah, absolutely. Every nut and bolt really, maybe not every nut and bolt but pretty much the that level of detail, should be recorded on these buildings and should be reflective as built, not what was put through building control to get sign off through building control and then make it up as you go along. The reality is people push it through building control and then just start again, start over and do whatever they see on the…If this is going to be as the government wants, the public wants everybody wants, if we are going to be true o the Golden Thread and true to improving then we should be having this in place and working towards that. Yeah I mean it's funny I mean I've worked in many industries and. The Golden Thread be the gold standard in terms of information provision. 9997 doesn't allow you to go below legal standard, in a management system you can't fail a legal minimum legal standards, you have to have that or you have to be doing that.
CHRIS There has been a marked change in the attitudes towards the cavity barriers, people do tend to respect the specifications now, there is more care being taken on buildings that are being constructed today. Grenfell has highlighted the whole need for a holistic approach and to do the things correctly. I see the biggest challenges in remedial works and in legacy projects. We're being asked now to dig out records from 10-15 years ago and I think that's going to get worse because now the government has given the possibility to people that have extended the period of time when someone can take action.
So for us at the moment we've got a massive programme of trying to codify and putting one place all of the information from all of the various systems, CRM and accounts that we’ve had from years gone by so we can try and access them. And going forward as well, that's another impetus for us wanting to use the digital object identifiers. So if Suzanne wants to look at what she needs to replace to my cavity barrier with, she can get her facilities man to scan the code and it'll tell her what it was and what the replacement product is.
PETER It’s really interesting what you were saying, Chris, about people not understanding and the change now. I was just thinking what processes we have in place. We’re probably a bit behind Suzanne and Edward in terms of the work with our development team. There's probably a hard line between handover and I guess where we've been notified of change that's always been positive. So do you want to put sprinklers in this building, do you want to make this cut in noncombustible, whereas if there's money savings, I can't think of an instance when we've been told or asked if we want to go for cheaper products, are you happy with that.
CHRIS That’s good to know, Peter. My experiences are unfortunately as the result of too many years in this industry and watching designs being murdered at the altar or design engineering, or whatever it is. Just an excuse to make things cheaper and less effective. ED In the defence of value engineering it’s the term is being misused because you’ve got to keep the value, it’s cost engineering. It's a development out of the Second World War of finding electronic devices that would do the same job because of shortages.
PAULINE Basically we have the same kind of issues that have already been spoken about in terms of being the last point of handover, of accepting buildings from development into operations. And we don't tend to get notified of any changes unless it is a positive change. Anything else we find out by shock, horror or surprise. ED Sometimes you're asked because they want to assign liability to some…
GEORGE I’d like to see if we can get a few minutes from people to look at the data template that we're trying to develop for the BIM for housing associations. We’ve got about 200 asset types of which 20 are specifically for fire. Chris pointed out that cavity barriers weren’t even in there. The list was actually made-up from things that the maintenance team were maintaining, and as Chris said earlier, because you don't maintain cavity barriers, they were left out. So therefore what we're now trying to do is to bring that around. So what I'm asking for is to see if we could get some support from people to actually look through and look at what these characteristics are and decide if there are things that you would ask for that are needed…
(shares screen) This is the work we’ve got at the moment, it’s under the UK BIM banner. Peabody, Southern Housing and L&Q have been feeding into this but we'd like to expand that obviously. And the idea, basically you'd be able to start creating standard data templates for types of products and then use that to inform what information is required, so standard information requirements. By doing that we've got something that can then be used for existing buildings and new buildings and we can then use that to tell product manufacturers what information we need. We'll be able to inform Chris of the information that we need from a point of view of fire, but also probably things like environmental requirements and then we can also put the prestiges in as well. So this is where we're trying to get to, which we can then feed into whatever software applications are being. So would everybody want to just be included in that round Robin? 3 people on the call agree to take part.
It's not a matter of getting into a bit of BIM speak and all the rest of it which quite frankly we can simplify that. The idea basically just to be able to make sure that the right bit of information is needed. For example what I've discovered going through the new British Standard, they’ve got a number of new properties that haven’t been mentioned before. And I'm presuming if they're in the British standard, that somebody wants to collect them. But these are the new requirements: distance to fire structure, integrity, insulation. That particular one, I really don't understand why they've got that as an attribute and I think that's going to be questioned. But you've got things like here angles and datum and fire explosion direction which I can imagine a specific certain types of product.
So we need to figure out whether these questions are ones that we want to incorporate in the base templates, So, for example, Chris, how many of these attributes are going to be relevant to your product range? So if we can get people's view on this then we can then properly feedback to people like Chris and installers and people that are maintaining the buildings so that we're making sure that the data that you need to have is that…because one of the things that's very apparent to me is the way their original Golden Thread definition is written. It puts the liability on the accountable people and the responsible people and I can't see how a building safety manager can be expected to know all the information they need to know about a product without being told what that information is likely to be. It seems to me that all that's happening is that risk is being transferred. Part of my goal with the work that we're doing here is to try and inform that so that we’re actually giving you the right information.
CHRIS George, I don’t know if you’re aware, it might have some oblique reference, RIBA have just launched a fire safety compliance tracker. It’s bound to be data heavy and require boxes to be ticked and fields to be filled and all of that other good stuff. So I'd be interested what…as a manufacturer, my biggest concern with all of the data requirements is having a common format, so ideally we can put it in one place and disseminate to many different ports. What you ask us is easy, it's just about that everybody keeps coming up with a completely different way of expressing the same attribute. One man’s resistance to fire is another man’s reaction to fire, one man’s cavity barrier is another man’s perimeter fire sealer and it’s creating a work with that's really adding no value.
So I suppose you respect to the Golden Thread our concern as manufacturers, we end up producing the same information but having to adapt it to suit the various platforms that seem to be springing up left, right and centre, and the latest one is the RIBA Fire Safety Compliance Tracker. And I've asked them what it’s all about, it's only available to RIBA members, so I don't even know what information is required in it or what data they need. So that's a great start. So we need a little bit more of joined up thinking, we need a bit more transparency.
GEORGE Yeah, One of the things that you will be using, Chris, is something that we've developed called the Templater. So the Templater is a software application that as Active Plan we developed and we gave it to the BRE. The BRE is giving it to the industry under Construction Products Association, we insisted that we would only give it to everybody if it was going to be completely free. So it's open source then really other type. It’s completely free to use and the information is being stored on the BRE servers as well, so it’s not going to any commercial organisation. But the important thing about it is exactly as you're saying there, what we're trying to do is get commonly agreed terms. What we can do from a software engineering point of view, the fact that you've got to seal or whatever the other thermal that you use there, it doesn't really matter because if you've got different people who want to consume the information using different terminology, that's fine. It just means that we use lookup tables, map them to a…
But it means that from your point of view, you answer the question in a language that you are comfortable with and behind the scenes we translate it. So there's quite a lot of work going on with the Construction Innovation Hub in that as well so that we can use something called ontology, which is a way that information can be presented differently under different circumstances. So if your cavity barrier is being used in one context, it will take on board certain properties, and if it's being used in a different context, the same cavity barrier would carry different information as well. But we're trying to sort out behind the scenes. The important thing is for us to know what does that mean in terms of information.