BIM4HOUSING FOLLOW-UP TO LEVELLING UP COMMITTEE MEETINGS - Q2 - HOW DO WE ENSURE THAT THE INCOMPLETE BUILDING SERVICES DESIGN DOES NOT IMPACT CONSTRUCTION?

GEORGE For people that were here this morning, the point about this is back in the summer we tried to look at some of the blockers, some of the things we think are going to cause a break in the golden thread and cause a challenge in terms of being able to deliver against the new Building Safety Act. The one that we went through this morning was the challenge of how can we, for example, Emmas gave the example of a fire door, but it’s the same with most of the principal assets that in many ways if you’ve got something like a door or a penetration seal or a smoke damper, being able to record against that explicit smoke damper, what’s the performance requirement on that, the specification, what’s the installation details (if it’s new).

If it’s not new what information have you got about when it was last inspected, has somebody done any check to see that that smoke damper is in the right type of wall, because those are the sorts of things that we now require some assurance on. And then subsequently when that smoke damper or fire door is inspected in the future, how do we ensure that the inspection is actually recorded against the same asset? Because what we’re finding is there’s some great applications for doing mobile inspections, but they create their own information each time. That was the one this morning.

This one is addressing the next challenge about the way, certainly on design & build, that a lot of the detailed design is actually being carried out during construction. One impact of that is that the building services routes, and also the size of penetration seals for example, is wrong. It’s not a mistake by the designers, it’s because the design hasn’t been adequately complete because of procurement and therefore the M&E contractor will look at the proposed design, the performance specification even, and then they will then design what products are going to be used and that can impact on the size of pipework.

The impact of that from a safety perspective is that the dry lining, the compartmentation, has already been built and the builders work holes that maybe Ana might have located are actually slightly in the wrong place so therefore they’ve got to be sealed up again and new holes cut. Of course that compromises the integrity of the fire wall. So in theory that’s going to be solved now because all of the detailed design is going to be completed by gateway 2, fantastic! We’re moving onto a situation where it’s an extraordinary concept, but the idea is that you finish the design before you build it. In any other industry people would say that’s a logical thing to do, but largely because of procurement reasons and the like that isn’t the way we work at the moment.

So all of that has got to change, but I’m not sure that clients have really understood that that’s going to change, I don’t think construction companies have been given the opportunity to make that change. So people like Paula from Waites, we’ve been discussing this for probably two years, and it is something that the more forward thinking contractors are well on board with, but we’re constrained by the way procurement is done. We ran a series of questions that came out of different working group, there’s four questions. One of them we did this morning, this one is largely about the M&E design and we’ve got two more next week.

RICHARD The question is how do we ensure that the incomplete Building Services Design does not impact construction? We’ve got a number of answers or relevant points to this that have been contributed over the last six months, they are there. Some of you will have seen an email asking you to rank the top three that you think are the most important. We’ve had some input from a few people on that so a good way for us to start is to take a couple of these that have been put forward and we’ll put on the spot the person who put this forward. The design of a building should be complete before construction to avoid mistakes and uninformed decisions. Design changes should be minimal to prevent budge overspends. George has touched on that already, but Paul White put that as one of his preferences.

PAUL WHITE What you’re looking to do against the design at the moment is procure it against something that nobody knows where the boundaries are. And not knowing where the boundaries are you’re requiring people to contractually take responsibility for this design because you don’t want the responsibility. The whole point about having a principal designer is that they take responsibility and in terms of most of the things that I look at I’m not even seeing a design document. I will see a fire strategy which is an opinion, I see a specification which is not good, and at that point somebody is building something from that and there is a few drawings and bits and pieces, but there is nothing specific.

The point is you’ve got all of the issues with regard to where everything goes, what order it goes in at, so a lot of this is from the construction point of view from the construction contractor is they’re being told that they’re responsible for the design as contractually, but they’ve been give an whole load of opinion and I tend to call them kitchen sink specifications, because they’ve got everything in them because nobody wants to be wrong. And therefore you’re relying on somebody for the design and designing on the hoof as a contractor design portion, you’re relying on people who don’t necessarily know what they’re doing. And therefore if the building was designed fully, such that everybody accepted it, then that would be great.

On HRBs potentially you’ve got gateway 2, but i still don’t know that we’re actually going to get a proper design at that point, or if we are then various people would have committed to time and money to be part of that and then if it goes out for quote at that point in time then that’s all been waste money. So it’s partly that yes, the design needs to be done, but also it needs to be very, very clear where responsibility for design lies because if you’re taking responsibility for a design and it says something in the fire strategy I’m not sure contractually now whether, you’re essentially following an opinion which may or may not be right. But that person who’s made that doesn’t seem to have any responsibility.

RICHARD We had this in our other questions that we did the other week, the role of principal designer and when that is passed over and it was all a little unclear.

PAULA CHANDLER I was just going to top and tail on my soapbox that I got on this morning about process. I think we need to be a bit courageous about combining what is the RIBA plan of works and the BSRIA BG 6 because they work as two separate isolate processes that don’t always talk to each other. I can see it from the other side of the fence as a main contractor, we have SES as part of the Waites family, so we’re much closer to our building services colleagues and we can have those open and frank discussions about what information we need, who’s responsible for it, are they providing it from a competent set of people and how does that dovetail into what we’re trying to do from a bricks and sticks point of view.

But not everybody has that in the industry, and that being said we haven’t got it perfect either because people still tend to worry about their own bit of the building. It would be interesting to see what Ana’s view is, but I think we need to dovetail and not separate the process so that it’s inextricably linked and exactly as Paul says, you’ve designed it at the end of stage 4, that everyone understands that stage 4 also includes the CDP elements, and that we make it really hard for people to change the design or shoehorn value engineering in at stage 4. That should be game over ahead of gateway 2.

ANA MATIC I totally agree with Paula, kind of restructuring of both BSRIA and RIBA stages will need to happen after we see what the real repercussions of building safety acts are in practice. However, two things to remember: one which is that the procurement as such we have at the moment, which is popular in the UK and across the world, is here because it offers certain commercial advantages to the clients. it also removes the risk from the clients, so both of those things are good for clients, therefore that’s why D&B became very popular. So, we’re fighting incredibly tough forces of money. It’s very nice that we all as designers agree that designs should be completed at a certain stage, but frankly we all also want to pass the responsibility mostly onto the contractor to resolve things that haven’t quite been resolved during the design.

So that’s one thing to remember, I don’t think we’re ever going to arrive at a complete design that never changes. A follow-up point after that is I don’t think we should be too scarred of the changes, changes are inevitable on a project, you will have to deal with change all the way until you literally handover the project. There is no such place where your design at stage 5 will not change during the construction because things will happen that you haven’t even accounted for, especially if you’re refitting an existing building or if you’re working on a project that has a complex set of stakeholders. If you’ve ever worked in healthcare or education you know that by the time you’re building the school or the hospital half of your brief will have been thrown away and a new brief will arrive.

What I’m trying to say is we shouldn’t be freaked out by change, we should be getting very good at acknowledging which changes are significant. Which changes are really, really going to put the risk to the project. And frankly cutting new openings and putting new fire barriers, it’s cost but it’s not impossible. Working with a good subcontractor who’s going to advise you on the correct fire barriers is essential and you’ll then to try and employ that subcontractor later on because there is not much point working with them in the design, handing over you beautifully coordinated fire building openings and everything, and then the subcontractor gets sacked because they’re too expensive or they don’t really fit the main contractor.

I’m not being pessimistic, but what I’m trying to say is we shouldn’t be too afraid of the changes, we can accompany quite a lot of the changes during construction, that’s normal. But I think we should in this process become better at understanding which changes are the reel risk.

RICHARD So, you’re disagreeing with that point then, it doesn’t need…

ANA MATIC Yes, I’m disagreeing because I’m being realistic. I really can’t see the design being completed at stage 4. Who’s going to bring the subcontractors on board? Just think about it factually. Who's’ going to pay for the subcontractor to do the design at stage 4? No one, ever.

PAUL WHITE I think that’s the point in the fact that what we’re actually looking at here is people designing buildings who don’t know how to do it and therefore they ought to know some of this stuff. I think they’re going to realise that they need to start learning it and having specialists within their own business to do it…

ANA MATIC It’s not to do with knowledge. Have you ever tried to install a large boiler in your house? Your plumber might arrive with a different boiler on the day of the delivery and you might have to redesign your bathroom.

PAUL WHITE If he arrive with the wrong boiler I’d send him away again.

ANA MATIC It’s not the wrong boiler, maybe that boiler had to be discontinued and your getting a new boiler because it’s much better.

PAUL WHITE But then he should have discussed it with me. The issue you’ve got, particularly with HRBs is, if you move a hole in a wall or it’s the wrong wall in the first place and the contractor finds out, he’s going to send it straight back to you and you’re going to have to put it through building control and it’s going to take six weeks. So if that then happens on three or four occasions that’s eighteen weeks out of your programme that that can’t be done and therefore after that point if they’re waiting on that to be done, all of the other things are going to get pushed back. I think this is something that nobody has actually cottoned onto yet, this is an HRB, certain changes require you to put it back through Building Control and they only have to respond within six weeks.

And you don’t want that because at that point who’s fault is it going to be? Well, it wasn’t designed right, i can’t do anything about it. I didn’t know about this, I’ve had to go back to the designer and it’s got to go back through Building Control. And you can’t put that down on the contractors if the programme goes out because it’s not fair because something is wrong to start with.

TOM OULTON I disagree with what Ana’s got to say, I think she’s defending a broken system and this is…there will be a fundamental change in the way that things are done where procurement and frameworks will have to have changed to accommodate this system because the fiscal implication of these continual six week delays on both time and budget will be unsustainable from the client’s point of view. I don’t see any benefit in saying but we’ve always done it this way, it’s the classic thing, the way we’ve done it has become more and more broken and has veered off further and further over the past 10-30 years. This is an opportunity for the reset that we need to actually really address bringing on board the whole supply chain earlier on and there are mechanisms in place that can start doing that.

We have frameworks, we’ve got used to doing frameworks, it needs to be written into those sort of things, we’ve got the playbook. There’s need for change and this is the hook on which we hang that change. There is no reason why the design can’t be the design, we’ve done this ourselves where we’ve had jobs onsite that have been fully designed. I’m currently at Rider Levett Bucknall, I’ve worked at T&T, but I’ve also worked client side with councils with the NHS and stuff like that. When we’ve had fully designed projects, particularly with the council, we have had problems onsite because people didn’t stick to the drawings because we designed a Class 3 building. Once people realised that the design was fully class 3 and they just had to fit what had been designed, it worked, no issues. That’s just what we’ve got to do, we’ve got to be fully designed as we go to site and bring everybody in early.

PAULA CHANDLER I wanted to come back on a couple of Ana’s points. I agree, Ana, there is nothing to be frightened of with change and we can expect change when it’s born of surveys and discovery, because we can’t do anything about that. My point is we shouldn’t be actively looking for change to suit commercial viability, for example, because that’s when it all goes absolutely skyward and that’s where the problems happen.

The other thing, because I think this is fundamental, you said you must have a lot of money if you’re engaging a specialist at stage 4. Stage 4 is when we engage specialists, that’s CDP, there’s no design in stage 5, that’s embellishment in technical detail. So there’s a crossover, as you know stage 4 and stage 5, we engage the specialists and stage 4, because CDP is a stage 4 activity. And if we don’t understand that as an industry we’re already on the back foot because we chuck everything into the stage 5 bucket and it’s too late then.

ANA MATIC Yeah, but you might not be in contract in stage 4 so you can engage your subcontractors as much as you like, you’re not going to be paying them until you get into contract. Guys, I’m not bringing doom here, design is a complex beast, it depends which sector you’re working on, it depends what kind of size of contract you’re dealing with. I’m not condoning not completing design in stage 4 nor promoting it, all I’m saying is an aspect of completing or adjusting design will still remain once all subcontractors have been procured, and in fact once we know where they’re buying their stuff from. A subcontractor will depend on a chain of suppliers, their suppliers might go under by the time you actually procure the project.

I’m not defending a failing system, i’d love to complete my design at stage 4 and go to site on stage 5 and simply just watch everything being installed in a sequence that we predicted in our BIM models. How often does this happen? Almost never on projects. Because you can have a beautifully coordinated clash-free model and then you go onsite and actually MEP have installed sprinklers before they’ve installed the ventilation…

TOM OULTON But that’s a site management problem, that’s exactly the problem we’ve had, so that’s where the system is broken. We don’t allow that, we come down on it, and that’s where the change needs to be. We sacked the site manager and brought in the right one.

RICHARD Emma has put a pertinent question in the chat to you, Ana: How much conversation do you have with manufacturers at the design stage?

ANA MATIC We have a lot, but it’s not guaranteed that those specific manufacturers will actually be used on the job. That’s how procurement usually works, especially when it comes down to detail…

RICHARD There’s not a lot of pint talking to manufacturers that you’re not going to use.

ANA MATIC There is because you’re investigating design.

RICHARD But surely you would be talking to the ones that you did choose?

GEORGE Richard, the problem is procurement process currently means that the designer, if the designer actually selects a product and promotes a product they are outside of their contractual…it can breach procurement. That’s wrong in my view, I think under the new rules it’s changing because, certainly for the safety critical products or things that impact on safety critical elements, those items have to be selected before the end of gateway 2.

ANA MATIC They can be selected, but other things can influence their selection later on. Building is like a breathing, living system, so you change some things and other things will have to change because of that. So you might not want to change your fire stopping subcontractor because you’ve spent weeks talking to them and you’ve scheduled all of your fire stopping builders works in your model and you’ve everything, lovely design scheduled and everyone knows what we’re buying. And then the main contractor changes the MEP subcontractor and the MEP subcontractor decided to go to another subcontractor. These things just happen everyday. I’m not defending the system, it’s real life because projects take a long time as well.

We might be finishing our stage 4 for a phased development for maybe three of the buildings and the other four buildings will only become stage 4 maybe net year. in the meantime all the lovely coordination that we’ve done on the basis of the design for the first three buildings will go out of the window because the subcontractor has gone bust and now we have to use new doors, new windows and a different ventilation system.

PAUL WHITE That part of if I agree with Ana because certain product you can just specify, but you have to be aware of what structure they’re going in and therefore you might be able to make a specification but if it can’t be fitted in the space that you’ve given it then that becomes a major change and then you’ve got a big problem. And that isn’t the contractors fault if you haven’t given them enough space to put something, it’s as you were saying with regard to the boiler. The other point, and this is my biggest issue, is smoke control is not a CDP issue because if you haven’t designed the building so you can fit it in the first place it doesn’t matter how much you shout and scream about it, you end up with a compromised system that’s wrong, or you actually shouldn’t fit it, simply because the shafts aren’t in the right place.

This is a particular issue because you’re then requiring a contractor who doesn’t know anything about it and can’t change the design of the building because it’s there. You’re then putting the onus onto the subcontractor who’s now trying to come up with a solution that they’re not really allowed to come up with, or they’re not designers. So you need to be careful about what you’re pushing down to CDP and particularly if you’re talking about in a phased situation. If one of the subcontractors has gone bust it doesn’t matter because on the smoke control system everything still needs to be in the right place, but if you’ve changed something else, like you’ve decided to put another floor in or move something around and put walls in different places, you screw smoke control. So you’ve got to be aware of these things before you get into this state of moving it on to the contractors.

EMMA SWAFFER Quite similar to what Paul was saying, excuse that I’m not a designer or an architect, my background is in manufacturing, distribution and also contractor side fire safety and general construction. In regards to specification of products, something I’ve found quite striking when i’ve been out onsite with principal contractors is the fact that they’re not engaging with manufacturers of products at early stages. They’re not allowing the right spacing, the right design for these products to be suitably installed into the building to lead them to be effective. For instance, there is no spacing for letter boxing, for passive fire stopping or if there is it’s either too close to another wall, so can’t be effectively stopped itself.

Smoke control is a massive thing that I’ve seen, dampers being put into ventilation channels where you can’t actually inspect them for you due diligence checks, all of that type of thing. plus also we’re seeing, back in my days when I was working in distribution of products, was the fact that you’ll get a subcontractor ring up a builders merchant and they’ll say I need X number of sheets of fire board in this brand. The merchant might not stock that brand because they might not have an affiliation with them, and they go we’ve got an alternative product for you, it might perform the same. And they’re putting in products that haven’t actually been specified or designed for that building and then potentially for things like fire stopping they’re being covered up prior to Building Control getting in.

So then you’ve got a potential Grenfell situation where you’ve got incorrect or unsuitable products being used on a build on the advice of someone that doesn’t have the competence levels of an architect or designer to do so.

RON BURNS I was born in South Africa, and the reason I say that is I spent a lot of my time in South Africa, i’ve been in Ireland for a year. A comment was made when we had our first speaker speaking on point one and I’ve been struggling with an item here. The designer doesn’t seem to be responsible for the design of the building for life and the designer has the ability to, as soon as it gets tricky, to give the design responsibility away. That’s incredibly foreign to me. In my life I’ve done sone big basement designs, 50,000 sq metres, multiple levels, and there is always some bright spark when the design is all finished and I’ve spent hundreds of thousands of rand on a CFD, as they come and change the equipment and I have to reevaluate a different design alternative.

That doesn’t save the client money, it costs me money. The client may save a little bit of money, but he loses design time, and then I’ve got to now redo all of the modelling to prove whether the other design doesn’t work. So if the design has been undertaken I believe the designer should be responsible for that from start to finish, including overseeing the commissioning. It will then make it almost impossible for someone to come with a bright spark idea and change things. My discipline is smoke control, so I’m last in the building, I’m at the highest part of the building and I’m the most forgotten and smoke kills more people in the building that anything else. 66% of deaths are related to smoke in a fire.

Whilst the designer has specified a product, is some M&E subcontractor doing a deal with a builder to save some money and then the designer has to redesign. S I think the system is broken at the design end, not at the contracting end.

GEORGE Arguably as well, it is procurement because it’s where the money lies. I’ve got a question for Paula. You were saying that you're typically procuring the M&E, for example, during work stage 4. How common is that? Because I’ve certainly come across many contractors that tell me that until they’re in contract, which is normally at the end of work stage 4, they don’t want to commit to paying an M&E contractor.

PAULA CHANDLER M&E is a bit different because it’s split up into feasible, generic and all of that stuff, so you’ve got those subheadings underneath the heading of stage 4. George, we’re a design & build contractor, so we don’t just inherit the design and try and build what we’ve got, we get involved in stage 4 to try and make the consultant base design buildable with our specialist partners. And so that’s our mode of operation which is slightly different to where Ana was coming from. We don’t just enter stage left at stage 5 and then try and change everything, we try and work with the consultant team to make sure the base design is complete, compliant and coordinated and buildable. And if we can get involved at stage 3 or earlier, even better. But yes, we do procure our specialists for most key packages at the later end of stage 4. So, consultant-based design front end, CDP middle, CDP integration into the base design at the back end.

GEORGE Am I right that…you have a pre-construction service agreement on certain projects?

PAULA CHANDLER Most of them, nowadays.

GEORGE And that pre-construction service agreement only takes you up to the end of work stage 4, is that right?

PAULA CHANDLER In most cases, yes.

GEORGE So, at that stage you’re being paid, presumably, by the client organisation to develop the design to a level of certainty so that you can then commit to delivering something that’s a complete design.

PAULA CHANDLER What happens for us mostly is we shepherd along the design team at the stage 4 consultant base design period and we go into contract at the start of stage 5, but we know that stage 4 overlaps. So the overlap occurs with the CDP element happening whilst we’re doing all of the enabling works onsite. So stage 4 runs in parallel with stage 5 on most projects, that’s the plan of works states. So we work with the consultants to get the fundamentals right and then we bring in the specialists at the appropriate time based on the critical path.

GEORGE So if, for example, when you appoint…I’m just going by the example that I was given which is probably a fairly simple one from the complexity that you guys are all dealing with. If, for example, we’re talking about the mechanical services, my understanding is that the M&E consultants design goes to a certain level, certain routes and certain products. But when the M&E contractor is engaged, and clearly it depends on the project, some M&E contractors will install exactly what the M&E consultant has designed, but in many cases they don’t and actually they create a brand new model. The reason they create a brand new model is because the sizes of the pipes or duct or the location certain items and things like that cause on impact on where the routes are.

So therefore you end up with, as Ana was saying it’s a staged delivery and when people are then putting partitioning in that may be installed before the M&E contractor has completed their detailed coordinated models.

PAULA CHANDLER I’m a visual person so I’d like to sketch this out, but if i try and explain it as eloquently as I can. Old 4a, feasible, generic, that’s with the consultant. We usually keep old 4b which is coordinated generic with the consultant and then we bring our specialist in at old 4c, which is coordinated specific. But what we do at that 4b stage is we hold the hand of the consultant with the bricks and sticks so that we shouldn’t be a million miles away. And we might get pipes that graze structural elements here or there in the model, but it will all come out in the wash if it’s 50 mil here or there. But it also allows is to check from a fire safety critical element point of view that we’re not moving away from a compliant solution. So we get involved earlier and then the contractor will make it a reality onsite. So there is overlap earlier on between contractor and consultant.

GEORGE And when you bring the CDP M&E contractor in, for example, would they then come in at risk? Or would you be paying them for their time on that?

PAULA CHANDLER We pay them at 4c, but we’ve got such a partnering relationship with them that we ask them to come to the table and give us a risk and opportunities appraisal for what’s being proposed, to get us on the right foot before we get into full contract. That’s the way we operate, it might not be the same for other main contractors, but that’s how we try and de-risk what we’re trying to do.

GEORGE From what I understand Waites are particularly good at this. I know you’ve worked for other contractors, how common is that?

PAULA CHANDLER My previous life at Bouygues, because we had an in-house building services team there as well it’s very similar, so I think we probably capitalise on the fact we’ve got all of that in-house specialism and we’re literally across the corridor from each other so we go and sit and go through the drawings together. It’s a useful team to have for collaboration.

ANA MATIC Could i pick up on the point of stage 4 being split into 3 stage 4s and t stage 4s or whatever. MEP, but MEP influences everything else, nowadays the buildings are like machines. Usually, and we work mostly on D&B projects, so large, complex, not all high-risk but a lot of advanced tech as well which requires really careful fire safety strategy. Usually the actual specific meaning kit design does not happen until the subcontractors are first fully appointed and then that MEP subcontractor is appointed their supply chain and their further subcontractors. That’s 4c. So usually, for example, a large fan wall that is a big thing that can change on projects, we might not know how big or where it’s coming from until that specific design has happened, and that’s 4c. By that time we’re well into stage 5. It’s called 4c, but we are in construction.

PAULA CHANDLER You can set the zone earlier on and it only is an issue if for whatever reason you deviate from that zone, or your access arrangements change, otherwise that’s safeguarded.

ANA MATIC Not if we deviate, if the subcontractor deviates. We’re using a word designer in a very strange way, we’re pretending there is one designer. There isn’t one designer on a project, all consultants are designers and then furthermore the subcontractors are designers.

PAULA CHANDLER Not all consultants are designers, only the ones with design responsibility. But we wouldn’t deviate from a specified product unless, as you say, it’s been discontinued, we’d rally against change for the very reasons that Ron has mentioned. Because you come unstuck, everyone comes unstuck and then you try and fill in the gaps and you can never do that, it doesn’t work.

ANA MATIC But can we then agree that instead of pretending that the world is going to change overnight, which it isn’t, actually one big takeaway from question 1 is that actually design needs to be a bit looser so that it allows change at a later stage. And that actually what we need to watch out for is the big changes that influence everything else like, for example, the change of a ventilation system, or a change of the location of the location of the air handling units, or the change of the door system. There are certain aspects of the design that will change everything else.

PAULA CHANDLER I’m in the opposite place.

PAUL WHITE I’d have to say that if you’ve put in risers and you thought that they could squeeze a 600 mil duct into a 650 x 650 riser and then put a damper in which needs over 100 mm all around it, and you have to be able to get to both sides of it to check it on an ongoing basis, that has to be sorted. That’s not a coordination issue, that is ‘I cannot build this’ issue. It’s not a fan wall where you’ve got this, you’re squeezing everything into too tight a space where people will not be able to solve your problems for you. And if you continue to ignore that you’re going to run into what I was saying on the HRB thing. And worse than that you’re going to run into things like Part L because you’re going to have to make constrictions in duct work and then you’re going to use more energy, or your fans get bigger.

And all these things are not the contractors fault because they don’t have the space to do it. If you decide it’s the wrong damper and you suddenly need to protect the escape route, a) it’s bigger b) it’s got more pressure drop. That’s a huge change and it doesn’t just affect the fire safety, because the fire safety is then dealt with if the product is installed properly, but you’ve got Part L and Part M issues. And smoke control, again, you’ve got potentially Part M issues, it doesn’t work, you’re extracting from the wrong place, (you’re extracting full stop, which i have a problem with). None of these things can be solved after the design because they all need more space and if you don’t provide that space because the client’s going I need more lettable space, then you’ve got a problem.

Because on year one now if all the fire dampers have been installed and people can’t get to them that’s going to now be found out because they need to be checked every month and somebody’s going to get a report and the client’s going to go back to ‘who allowed this to happen’. And then it’s going to go fundamentally back, ‘well, there was never any space to put any access in, so we didn’t bother’. But that’s a design issue, it’s not a subcontractor or a contractor’s issue. And it’s been going on for years and it’s got worse because lettable space has become the important part.

GEORGE Ana understandably, because obviously she works for Scott Brownrigg, a very respected practice, and you’re working on some very complex projects. So we’re not looking at this through rose-tinted glasses, that’s the point about having this community, because all too often people come up with a process map and say this is what we’re going to do, everybody go out and do it. The purpose of these meetings is actually to uncover where those uncomfortable difficulties are and try and flush them out. I think it’s also the case that we need to make sure that client organisations are aware of this complexity because often they’re not. I was saying this morning that we’re working on a project at the moment where it’s taken us four months to find out who installed the communal fire doors, and we still don’t know. On a brand new project that’s being handed over, we still can’t find out who installed them.

ANA MATIC And that’s a very realistic situation, George. Thank you for quantifying what’s going on, I’m not trying to be difficult, what I’m trying to illustrate is that design is a very organic process. As much as we would like to fit it into a lovely RIBA linear kind of thing, in fact almost no projects ever work in a linear way. They go forward and then they go back for some reason and then something else happens and the client changes their mind. The MEP subcontractor goes bust, then we have to work with another. Again, it’s not because we want to change our minds or we want to save money for the client, we do want to save money for the client because ultimately they’re our client, but they will be your client as well if you’re working fro them. I think it’s worth just being aware of things that we can do rather than pretending that they’re not going to happen, that’s all I’m trying to say.

RICHARD As George said, this is the point of BIM4Housing, that we bing together all stakeholder groups so that all perspectives are covered so that everyone can understand everybody else's issues. OK, let’s do this question: rethinking procurement processes can help ensure a smoother transition from design to construction. Who’s got some suggestions about how to improve procurement processes?

PAULA CHANDLER We’re going out early on a stage 3 design now to our subbies to get their input, and we’re not paying them at that stage. The idea is that if they get imbedded in what’s being proposed and then we embellish with more detail as its being delivered by the consultant team, that we’ll be ahead of the game. And we should have ironed out some of those coordination issues earlier on.

GEORGE And that’s probably based on trust and relationships.

TOM OULTON George touched on it earlier, a lot of the problems that we have is the existing procurement processes prohibit people from making specific choices early on during the design of a building. We are hobbled with contracts going out as performance specs, rather than actual specifications, we’ve got vague ideas of what we want. And for various internal reasons clients aren’t allowed to actually say what they want. I’ve worked with one council who aren’t allowed to specify the boilers that they want in housing for procurement rules, so they end up with in every house a boiler that they don’t want. And then when it fails because of value engineering i.e. going for the cheapest piece of shit that’s available, they then put in the boiler that they do want which means they have to refit the whole boiler room and in causes problems. Whereas you’d save time and money if you could just specify right at the beginning exactly what you want.

So I think government needs to…procurement rules, through frameworks, the government who in particular never want to get off the fence with regard to any specification. There needs to be an understanding that for cost assurance and time assurance and design assurance that actually being specific with the requirements is a good thing and that procurement should be allowed to specify exactly what they want rather than vaguely what they want. I think there are frameworks, which we’re all part of, that could be an enabler of that, were the rules are allowed to change. It’s going to be tricky, but there needs to be something.

PAUL WHITE I completely understand what you’re saying, but also I think the specification is certainly the starting point. But the other thing you have to be aware of is that everybody then decides that that product is the best one for everybody, you all specify it and then the next thing you know you won’t be able to get them because everybody else is buying the same thing.

TOM OULTON But then look at what the Ministry of Justice have done with their new prison scheme, where they’ve come up with a common set of designs for the cruciform buildings. That are being used by various different contractors and are being made in multiple factories because there is a common design and they’ve decided exactly what it is that they want so they can distribute that manufacture of that particular product across the country and across different supply chains. So, they’ve rethought the whole system and i think that’s a really good example of the change that we need to see in the industry. It's excellent and lessons should be learned from that.

GEORGE Tom, would I be right to say that under the new Building Safety Act with the requirement for change control to be as rigorous as Paul was just saying, that the principal critical assets, the products have got to be chosen before the end of gateway 2?

TOM OULTON Yes, that’s my understanding.

ANA MATIC That’s correct, but the key word is principal.

PAULA CHANDLER What that does then is it removes the overlap of stage 4 and stage 5 which means we truly design it before we build it. Because you have to have it all signed off before you can even step foot on-site, so the overlap goes and that’s what we all need to understand, because Ana doesn’t agree.

ANA MATIC I don’t agree. Basically, you can get them signed off on a performance spec, you don’t have to have a full products spec at that point, that’s the key.

GEORGE So you don’t have to name the product?

ANA MATIC No, or the supplier, that’s my understanding.

PAULA CHANDLER I’m not sure about that, I’m not sure that anyone has stipulated that yet. Because if you go on a performance spec, as Paul was alluding to you could put a bit of kit in that needs to extract from one side or the other and you need to be able to access it from one side or the other which could completely change your whole spacial fit, meaning that you have to go back essentially to stage 3. So, if I was the Regulator I’d be saying you have to have everything pinned down and signed off before you start on-site. If there’s going to be workarounds like that then we’re going to still find gaps in the process.

PAUL WHITE Yeah, that won’t streamline the process, and again, I keep going back to the products that i’m looking at and it’s the same thing for all the pipes and cables and everything. You may say I want 60 minutes here and 120 minutes here, but it might be the wrong wall and therefore, depending on how the wall is constructed, you may not be able to get a product for it because there’s so many walls now that products aren’t tested to meet all of the walls. Now it might have a fire performance, but actually where you want to put the penetration through it, then there may not be a solution to your problem. And this is the problem that we have.

GEORGE Let's say we’re looking at a compartment wall, which is made up of probably some dry lining. It would be doors, a door set, there’s probably some smoke control in there as well.

PAUL WHITE And you’ve got ventilation and pipes and cables.

GEORGE So all of those things, therefore I think those should be interpreted as being safety critical items. So therefore the products that go to make those up, my reading of the situation is that those are products that should be selected before gateway 2. If that were done then swapping out British Gypsum walls for Knauf walls, or swapping out Sentry doors for a different door supplier, or swapping out an Actionair smoke damper for something else, each of those possibilities would therefore be considered to be a major change. Is that right?

EMMA SWAFFER That’s how I would perceive it. However, certainly Paula from Waites, I’ve worked with a couple of Waites sites before in the past where you’ve got specification through your design & build contracts. But what your subcontractors are delivering on the backend of that, because sometimes things like fire sopping are so removed from your original idea, you’ve got subcontractors on subcontractors on subcontractors. I think the problem is how do we control that? Because with the best will in the world, certainly Ana designing and you designing at Waites on your design & build contracts, what we can’t control is what the backend is doing and I think that’s where we’re getting these gaps in specification and performance. And people making not uninformed judgements on changing products, but I think we’re seeing people making the best of it in a situation where potentially it’s been alluded where we’re not having enough space.

I went to a Tier 1 contractor timber-frame block fo flats, it was only three floors, however they hadn’t left enough spacing above the doors to put the letterboxing in in order to fire stop that effectively and compliantly. And then they said can’t we just fill it with a bit of foam, and i asked them what services were running through it, what services were critical? Because another thing that I’ve picked up, sprinkler pipes running through some of these HRBs and through your high critical buildings, it depends on what pipe those sprinkler systems run on and the make up of that pipe because certain fire stopping actually corrodes those pipes. So you might be putting two things together that aren’t tested together, and therefore we’re having situations where you’re having sprinkler pipes which are life safety life safety life critical devices that are now completely ineffective when they’re needed.

PAULA CHANDLER I totally agree. A couple of points there, we don’t design, we manage the design process so we manage the designers at certain stages to make sure that what’s being produced is buildable in a way that we would choose to be build it, it’s a collaboration. The other thing is, to kind of top and tail, is lots of things get chucked into the CDP basket and passive fire protection is one of them, but it should have originated as a typical detail at stage 3 from the lead designer. That’s my view, probably not Ana’s view, but we can have that conversation. But we need to embellish with greater levels of detail as we go through the stages and we need to work together to do that.

On-site, they need to build to those drawings, we need to have sufficient detail and they need to build to that. If they haven’t and therefore are contravening the approved detail in terms of passive fire protection, that’s a problem. And then when you add in that certain passive fire protection measures corrode pipes, or intumescent paint, the expansion zones haven’t been allowed for etc, this makes it all the more important that we pin it down before we even go to site and start messing about. So, you’re absolutely correct and I’m absolutely aligned with you on that.

EMMA SWAFFER Yeah, it’s just something I’ve noticed. As I said, I’m not a designer or an architect, but I’ve got a lot of experience out on these sites viewing the problems that contractors get. Or dealing with problems where we’ve been called in just prior to occupation stage where they’re saying the fire stopping has not been done correctly, or we’ve filled up with foam and we've’ got pink foam coming everywhere. We’re dealing now with other methods of construction like modular builds, timber-frame builds, and when you’re actually looking at the test data we don’t have certain test information for certain scenarios. So if you’re looking at a timber-framed floor and you’re looking at a penetration through a timber-framed floor, there isn’t actually a tested detail for that situation because the test cost can run into £100,000. So I think what you’re saying, Paula, I’d agree with you. I’m working to champion a lot of this early engagement stages with competent and professional passive fire and active fire contractors, before we start going on-site. Because we shouldn’t be expecting a man with a bit of mastic to solve a problem because quite often you can’t even get to the penetration to even fire stop it.

Ana, I do think we should be nailing that design down a lot earlier. I completely understand, things do happen on-site, I don’t think the world is completely rosy, but design and certainly the critical components need to be designed better and stuck to.

PAUL WHITE That’s absolutely right. One of the things we need to be looking at is gateway 3 is supposed to match gateway 2. So even if you haven’t declared something it will be found and then I don’t know what happens at that point, but `i guess you don’t get occupation or whatever the handover is. The what’s built, when you get to gateway 3, must match what’s at gateway 2. So gateway 2 is the design and gateway 3 matches the design.

ANA MATIC That’s a very interesting point. Who signs that off?

PAUL WHITE The Building Safety Regulator.

GEORGE Is it Building Control?

PAUL WHITE OK, yes, but the point is that we’re talking about HRBs, so the Building Safety Regulator is Building Control. I’m specifically looking at HRBs because the point is, and we’ve got to be realistic about this, is that if that starts working then we’re going to be doing all buildings like that because people will realise that it’s a good idea and then it will become contractual and all the rest of it. A lot of the problems that everybody doesn’t think we’ve had have all been solved by people who’ve done something and run off. The reason is that they didn’t know better that they shouldn’t do it, everybody else says brilliant, the problem is solved, that’s been happening continuously for the past 20-25 years.

And now we’re starting to see that as people are going around to inspect fire dampers, I’d say that probably 90% of fire dampers have been installed correctly, and the legacy issues that go with that is one of the things that we’re trying to avoid. So they’ll only have access from one side, you could have no access at all, the installation is wrong. It’s every single building and in a lot of buildings it’s every single damper because somebody has made a decision that they’re going to do it like this today. The legacy issues, which is what we’re trying to avoid, they’re there and this is why it has not been a problem up until now because contractors or subcontractors have been solving their clients problems by doing something. And they’ve been doing something that they shouldn’t have been doing. And because nobody wants to know about it everybody has accepted that all the way through, I don’t think we’ve seen the end of that yet but we’ll see how that goes.

GEORGE I think that’s a very interesting point because it answers two questions that Jamie’s put in the chat and also Tom did as well. Jamie put that the changes haven’t been documented properly and therefore what’s handed over at the end of the project doesn’t match what’s on-site. I absolutely agree with that. And Tom’s made the point about soft landings and how that is pulled through and Paula has made the point about the golden thread, because that actually is what I’ve always believed that the golden thread needs ti be. But it has been watered down by a lot of people more recently and people are considering that it’s just a group of documents perhaps, but you can’t audit and validate that type of thing in any sort of vigorous way. So, that’s a very interesting point, Paul, the gateway 3 needs to be comparable with gateway 2, what was agreed, and therefore there needs to be a gap analysis there.

ANA MATIC Plus all subsequent updates to gateway 2. All the changes that you log, that is in effect your golden thread, it will become much less BIM and exciting that we thought it would be, but it will be basically a collation of all of the decisions that were made during the construction and any changes that were logged. You can probably track all changes if you really want to, but you probably only need to track changes that have been submitted.

PAUL WHITE The other point is it’s traceable back to the original design and there’s going to be an electronic record back to that and that will include all of the other things. One of the things that I’ve been saying to people, to be fair we’ve had building regulation 38 and building regulation 16 before that where all of this information should have been handed over. The issue we’ve now got is building owners are trying to find it, into which basement they threw it or, worse still, which incinerator they threw it into, and it’s not there. This is the BR 38 stuff as the golden thread that is now being handed over to the client, the building owner. And if they can’t provide this in the future, or there is found to be holes in it, they’re going to be coming to ask you for that information.

GEORGE More strongly that that actually, now by law, under the amendments to Regulation 38 in August, there is now a legal requirement on the client or the responsible person to confirm that they’ve had it all. And then when they then hand it on to…that’s just to handover a new building or where there has been a refurbishment, where there is a need for that then they have to confirm explicitly that they’ve received it. Now, that’s really significant.

PAUL WHITE Absolutely, but how do they then have the competence to know that they’ve got everything?

GEORGE Exactly, that’s why we need to be more explicit in terms of what that is and simply handing them back some documents isn’t adequate for that. A lot of the information will be in documents, but we need to make sure those documents are properly referenced so that, if for example, you do have a declaration of performance or something like that. I was talking with Swegon last week and they were saying that for their products (Actionair etc) they will probably produce a new updated declaration of performance five or six times a year for a product.

And one of their frustrations is that people will use a previous declaration of performance. What kicks in for me on that is if the people that are collating the O&M get engaged maybe two years into the project and what they actually put in the O&M manual is the declaration of performance that might be found on the Actionair website, but the product that was bought and installed was two years before, it’s going to be the wrong one, isn’t it?

PAUL WHITE Hopefully not because you’d hope that their DOP included all their old stuff, and if it’s a specific product they’re increasing it. The other thing is people say I bought some old stock, well, you don’t buy old damper stock because they build to order on every occasion, so that sort of issue isn’t there with that sort of product. I still come back to, as a client you go and buy a car or a washing machine, you never ask anybody whether it meets all the compliant standards or whether it’s electrically safe or whether you’re going to die in a fire, you never ask. I don’t quite understand what the clients are doing, however this is a bigger investment and there are more people involved in any one place I suppose, so maybe that’s why it is.

ANA MATIC But also the client is ultimately responsible for a lot of it. Client is not buying a product, client is procuring a product, procuring a project. Ultimately the client is responsible for CDM, so for the safety of the building, because it’s impossible for the design team or the contractor team to just deliver them something that they are not taking responsibility for. I get almost slightly confused that people tend to compare buildings to off-the-shelf products. They are such different things.

GEORGE Paul Bray, I’d be interested in your take on what we’ve been discussing here because I know you’ve done a lot in terms of identifying major risks and the like. Do you think we’re on the right lines here?

PAUL BRAY Yeah, it’s been interesting listening to the conversations from both meetings today. I think the challenges that have been talked about regarding ensuring that the installations are done correctly i.e. by competent people and also that you’re keeping the records of it. I think the journey that we’re going on as an industry from now on, the challenges are how do you ensure that from gateway 1 down to 3 that it is as designed and finished as it was designed. Interesting hearing people’s experiences of how they procure equipment or materials and it may change because a supplier hasn’t got what was specified. i think it’s a massive amount of challenges going forward, but in this group people seem to be very well informed to take it forward.

GEORGE The other interesting thing that Tom did from RLB, he checked with his Building Safety Act experts…

TOM OULTON I’ve just asked them the questions, we were talking about is this the death of the performance spec, we were saying at the moment things are quite loosey-goosey and tings get firmed up as you go through. As far as they’re concerned, and we’re briefing a lot of people on the Building safety Act and our friends in government on this, is that yeah, they don’t see how performance specs can really go beyond gateway 1. You can maybe hit gateway 1 with a performance spec, but it needs to be resolved very quickly as you get through into stage 3. And that design & build will continue, but it won’t continue into the construction process, you will have a resolved design by the time you hit gateway 2 that will be adhered to. It will bring forward the appointments of the supply chain and those contractual relationships, bring them ahead and then we’ll move forward.

And that’s where you’ll be able to have these checks and balances between what was approved at gateway 2, what has been built at gateway 3, a quick check in between if there is anything different (which there probably shouldn’t be). When we were talking about the client taking responsibility for their building and the industry not just dumping a load of information, that goes back to that soft landings which I think will become more and more an integral part of definitely the stage 5 project delivery. Where because you know what’s being built you can make sure that the client is brought up to speed with that and what their responsibility is for looking after it, maintaining it and operating it in that into stage 7 and operation and maintenance. Which is what we all want.

GEORGE Basically the specification, there is a descriptive specification and a prescriptive specification and one of the challenges is that architects, perhaps, will use something like NBS Chorus to produce a descriptive specification and it only becomes prescriptive when somebody like Emma or a manufacturer then comes along and interprets the information. Because the architects that I’ve spoken to, although NBS Chorus will drop in there all of the different clauses and specifications and ISOs and standards, when I’ve then asked the architects that are producing these things to say what does that actually mean, they say I don’t know. Because they’re not adequately specialist, and it’s understandable because there’s thousands of these bloody things.

The people that actually understand how to read a fire strategy and also know enough about the detailed standards for smoke control or for fire doors, they tend to be the specialists that are very much embedded in that process and therefore…

TOM OULTON It’s a long time since I was a contractor, I used to be a ductwork fitter, I run ductwork contracts 30 years ago I’d say 90% of the designs that came to us from design teams were wrong, they couldn’t be built. And we’d always do that redesign and we used to lament the fact that we weren’t brought in earlier, just to make life easier for everybody. Occasionally we were, and it worked. Architects have got a hell of a job to do, they can’t be expected to understand every kind of aspect of the whole building, but this is where tis bringing the supply chain forward, and the Building Safety Act as an enabler will produce better outcomes.

GEORGE I think it’s that descriptive specification that we need to get to. You deserve a right of reply on my comment, Ana.

ANA MATIC We do know quite a lot of the BSs and BISs and ISOs. With regards to the gateways, at which point we actually specify full specification rather than performance, it’s not really just to do with willingness to do it, it’s to do with things coming together. I think we should have a whole one of these sessions on how design actually develops so that everyone understands at which points which decisions get taken because often people talk about design as though it’s the willingness of the architect or the MEP designer to simply make a decision and then stick to it. It really isn’t like that. At stage 1 and 2 we might only be discussing things like is it concrete or is it steel, we might change that. What I’m trying to say is it’s not that you don’t want to make a specific specification, it’s that you can’t because you’re still awaiting very big decisions to come together.

GEORGE Yeah, absolutely, and it may be that all of a sudden somebody brings some retail into the project.

ANA MATIC Yes, or you may need to change the ventilation rates very late because you’ve moved your rooms around and the occupancy has changed. I’m trying to say that we shouldn’t be treating design as something that is grudgingly done by designers and then just left over for somebody else to sort out, it really isn’t like that. Things take a long time to come together, for all sorts of reasons and the n you can make specific specifications.

PAULA CHANDLER I come from a design background, it just so happens I’m a main contractor now, so I understand the spiralling nature of the design process. What we need to do is not just let it go on sporadically and unravelling. As the spiral goes round you’re increasing levels of fixity and you’re reducing levels of risk, that’s the whole point. And there’s always going to be curveballs that get in there, what we’ve saying is reduce the opportunity to allow those curveballs when it is to do with safety critical items. And I think on this we’re all agreed.

ANA MATIC I think we’re all agreeing on that, it goes without saying.

PAUL WHITE I think that’s the point is when somebody comes and says we can get rid of that riser and we can do this, that and the other, you need to be aware of all of the issues that then causes. To me, I’ve always called it space, this is my space theory: space, the final frontier. People need to realise that if you want all of this stuff you’ve got to be able to squeeze it in and when you’re in the building you never see any of it because you’re in the rooms, but there is so much stuff that needs to fit in and it all has space implications. That’s what i mean by the design, I completely understand, I see it, but if you put a wall in the wrong place you completely change how a smoke control system would work and you can’t design it later to overcome that because you might have put in extended corridors. if you put in extended corridors you may need a shaft at the end of the corridor which you probably don’t want to put in.

Just one more point, you said the NBS, these terrible standard specifications that go out, and I call them kitchen sink specifications. It’s basically just a list of every single possible standard that anybody can think of that might be related to it. They’re meaningless and they’re overcomplicated and they’re unnecessary. I could give you a smoke control damper spec today that would probably be about four lines long and you could never be wrong, but if you look at the NBS it’s probably about 16 paragraphs with a load of unrelated standards that somebody might have thought were relevant at some point in time. I don’t know how we change that, but that’s a different thing.

GEORGE Yeah, we could probably invite NBS, it might be something that they’re interested in participating in because if Tom is right that descriptive specifications are going to disappear, then I presume NBS are working towards that.

ANA MATIC No, absolutely not, no chance. I’m happy to have a bet and we can meet in three-years-time and you can take me for a nice dinner because I don’t think things like descriptive specification are going to disappear. I know what you mean about kitchen sink specifications, but to be honest to specify a good fire door you absolutely need to quote every single parameter that describes that door. Including security…

PAUL WHITE I do argue with fire dampers and smoke control dampers because I know them so well.

GEORGE We need to close it now, I hope everybody has found value from it. The points that we’ve got there, there’s 14, if we send you a table would you mind picking the top three or four that are particularly interesting from your perspective? So that we can try and put some priority on these things. We’ll send you something out…and if you can pick the ones you think we ought to be concentrating on because we want to try and feed this information back to the HSE and the Regulator and stuff like that.

CHAT

[13:58] Emma Swaffer

At design stage are manufacturers of products consulted at all?

I am not an architect or designer, so apologies for my basic question

[14:36] Tom Oulton

Just spoken to our BSA experts - their understanding is that Performance Specs will be a thing of the past and that D&B model won't disappear, but will change so that Gateway 2 is the full stop on design changes

[14:39] Jamie Hall

Out of curiosity, how well are changes documented? Have had more than one instance where some documentation handed over at the end of a project doesn't match what's on site (usually 'hidden' items.

[14:43] Paula Chandler (RDD)

This is exactly why the Golden Thread of information is key to our robust demonstration of compliance in the future.

[14:41] Tom Oulton

...a more rigorous Soft Landings process, including ongoing and thorough CoW action