Government Advisor Returns to BIM4Housing-20230209_110745-Meeting

RICHARD Because for half of the people in the meeting it’s their first time in a BIM4housing meeting we’re just going to give a quick intro on us and what we do.

GEORGE I'm gonna spend a few minutes just showing what we've been doing and and hopefully how you could get involved. We're a community of about 400 volunteers who really want to use better information management to reduce mistakes. We've got working groups who agree on issues that could be improved. They form workstreams to come up with solutions that we can share with the wider community and we're going to give a little example of that after Chris's presentation. When the department asked L&Q to set up a group of industry experts to help define the golden thread, we were tasked with the asset and survey information piece. And that was simpler said than done, because the answer that we got from experts about what information they needed was typically ‘it depends’. So we worked with HACT and we created 250 asset types that we could have data libraries against. The GTI team also mapped the new gateways against the RIBA plan of work so that we knew when information was going to be needed right into the occupation stage.

And over the last couple of years, we've run about over 100 round table workshops. Most of them were virtual and with subject matter experts who share their knowledge about dampers via fire stopping, cavity barriers, firewalls, alarms, detectors, AOV's, emergency lighting and sprinklers. And all of that has then gone into the data sets that we've got here, a deep dive stuff. So let's just have a look at what the fire door team came up with. Fire doors sets are quite complex, so we open with the detailed breakdown that would be helpful to the maintenance teams in particular. The HSE wanted us to concentrate on the risk that any asset helps prevent. And the team also shared their experience of what tenants can often do to stop fire doors from performing. And you can get all of this from the website. We also asked what detailed information the asset information we should be asking for and that's really where we got into the ‘it depends’ territory. So we ran some scenarios to provide some sort of context for people to share their knowledge. And in this case a fire breaks out in a kitchen. So what measures, or treatments as the HSE calls them, are in place to protect tenants.

It became clear that all of the assets that form the compartment have to be 100% to prevent the spread of smoke. In case that fails, the smoke control and detection systems have obviously got to be working. But the problem is that the inspection of the individual assets like fire doors is often done in isolation to the rest of the compartment. So what we need is the golden thread needs us to be able to connect all the asset data that's currently in those individual silos. All of that sort of informed our recommendations for a landlord strategy to create their golden threads. Obviously, everybody's focused at the moment on getting their fire plans into the SIBs, but they also need more information about the individual assets. We'll come on to what we're doing with inspection regimes a bit later, but the asset data needs to tie into whatever software is being used to report statuses, and by April we're going to need the asset information to be all joined up to support the widest safety case work. Several of the big landlords have already adopted this methodology. And to ensure their investment in getting surveys done is capturing as much information as possible when the teams on site we've got together with five of the biggest scan-to-BIM firms and we've given them standards for producing machine readable drawings and also intelligent CAD blocks as symbols.

Some of them are using cool technology to capture point clouds and 360 photos both at the same time. They use the point clouds to create the floor plans that we use for the SIBs, but also those floor plans have got machine readable spaces so that we can locate the 360 photos that they're taking at the same time. The smart CAD blocks allow data needed for the safety case to be added progressively to the assets and the 360s allow specialists to work remotely, not without having to visit the site, and create asset lists. It's a really cost effective way of creating a very practical digital twin. The collaboration between these big players is now driving consistency and data quality. These are coming from different firms and they're all learning from each other. So why do we need intelligent CAD blocks? The survey firms aren't fire engineers so the ratings of walls, doors, dampers or performance of smoke vents needs inspection by experts who will all have their own survey apps. The landlord needs to ensure they can access that data easily from their coordinated asset information models. The smart objects on the floor can also check that there's no key information missing and if assets need replacing, they need to be able to connect directly to manufacturers sites to get that product data. Working through that, the aim can then build a digital record of what new products were installed, where they're fitted across the whole estate and who did the install, and all of that can be captured in the contractors own golden thread applications, which is great, as long as the landlords can pull it all together.

RICHARD Chris welcome. I think it’s been about 5 or 6 weeks since you were last here, and a lot has happened.

CHRIS WATERMAN Yes, and I need to ? 8mins 15secs of the fact that I’m a government advisor. In the sense that I do a lot of work with government, but I work with the opposition. I work with a a small group of peers in the House of Lords. I work with Tanni Grey-Thompson, the wheelchair athlete who is of course interested in building safety. And I also work with a handful of Labour MP's who are on the levelling up Select Committee. And so I am working with the legislation, but I'm certainly not advising the government.

RICHARD I see, but you are close friends with everyone in government?

CHRIS WATERMAN Well, yes, apart from Liz Truss because on Monday I bought some grapes on my way in to the Commons and I washed then and was handing them out. people were saying ‘where are these from?’, I said ‘Liz truss gave them to me, they’re all sour’.

RICHARD I happen to know that a certain senior Conservative politician nominated you for the MCC.

CHRIS WATERMAN Well, that’s an interesting thing. I don’t know if anybody here is a member of the MCC but if they are then I'm not allowed to canvas, but please vote for me for the nominations committee election next week. On to serious things. It was quite interesting to hear the golden thread mentioned. I first got into this, I’m a primary teacher from the 60s, but I got into legislation when I wrote the plain guide to the Children Act back in 2006, and I'm just fascinated by, I suppose it's a bit like justifying the ways of God to man in that I'm forever trying to enable people to understand legislation and what it means. So I did the plain guide to the Children Act and then about 3 1/2 years ago I was contacted by Elspeth Grant, who is a fire safety training expert and at the moment we've just launched a range of courses on evacuation strategies and PEEPs. But anyway she was talking about the fire safety bill and I thought I'd have a look at it and as some of you might know there was a draft bill of 250 pages, explanatory notes 250 pages and they were all in separate books. T

The other thing that I've known from the 25 years I've been working in Parliament is that a lot of the MP's are not Humanities graduates. Unfortunately, most civil servants at senior level are Humanities graduates, so what we got for the draft bill was telephone book-esque, 500 pages, and there it was with the notes and the bill and loads of examples. So what I did to get my own head around it, I converted it into an A3 landscape spreadsheet and in column 1 there was the Act verbatim, in column 2 was the explanatory notes verbatim, which corresponded to that bit of the Act, and in the third column were the examples and the fourth column was left for the members of the draft bill committee to make their own personal notes, a bit like getting a blank card from Hallmark. Within two weeks, I was a policy adviser to one of the MP's who said it transformed their life.And by the time it got to the proper bill committee, the majority of the committee were using my plain guide because it was just much easier than shuffling bits of paper. So that's where I am.

And the publication I am launching this week is the plain guide to the Building Safety Act. And all I've done, and it's not rocket science, but if I turn randomly to a page that I selected earlier on, the top bits are the Act, the blue bits are the explanatory notes and the green bits are the examples. So if you’re lucky enough to have a copy of this, it’s in three volumes at the moment, it’s spiral bound and it lays flat. If you’ve got a copy it’s your one stop shop for information about the Act. But I'm sure that BIM will be sending you a flyer and an order form later on. When I read Dame Hackitt’s review she talked about the golden thread, and indeed I thought that the golden thread for buildings was gonna be a bit like this (holds up a piece of golden thread with knots) and that all you had to do was to sort it out (unravels the knots). And that would take you from concept to moving in. I then looked a bit deeper into the golden thread and in fact looking at the industry it looks a bit more like this (holds up tangled different coloured threads). There’s the architect over here, and over here with a great big knot the developers and in fact the golden thread is more like this than the one we are all aspiring to.

(First slide ‘Building safer buildings’ is displayed on screen). This is a graphic I did, really to get my own head around it. What I’m interested in is legislation to implementation. In 1981 there was a new Education Act and I went all the way to Ealing, a long way from Uxbridge in those days, to hear a lecture on the Act. The guy said ‘this is the lecture I’m not going to give’ and he told us about it and then gave us another lecture. The one he didn’t give us was the one we’d all wanted to hear. So this is gonna be a fairly short presentation, hopefully there'll be plenty of questions and I’ll take questions as we go through. So stage one, you’ve got some people with a lot of money, the finance providers, they're probably from Qatar, if they've got any left after buying Man U. You’ve then got the design concept where the architects kick in. They then buy the site and perhaps it wasn't the site they wanted, perhaps there are some covenants, perhaps there’s a very old resident living in a little terraced house that doesn't want to move. So after they’ve bought the site, they adapt the concept and then the architects come back and they draw more detailed plans and then they try and get planning permission.

And there’s this sort of toing and froing, I think the posh word is an iterative process for the planning application. And obviously they're closely involved with the officers, but also some of the developers might know some of the people on the planning committee and there could be some quite high level discussions about how the development could take place. Once the planning is done, then the architects finalise the design. These are my special building safety glasses, for those of you who are old enough they’re a bit like the red and blue paper glasses you got when you went to see a 3D film in the good old days and I wear these because these have got a special safety tint. And I think that everybody in the industry should have a fire safety tint on the glasses they wear, especially at the first stage, the architects. Because what the architects need to think about is something like are we gonna have two lifts? two staircases? I think actually they've nailed the two staircase one, but everyone needs to have one eye on safety of the building.

They appoint the developers and the developers appoint the main contractors. The main contractors appoint the sub contractors and, it does vary I imagine, but the suppliers are involved and all of those groups need to have some fire safety glasses. The main contractors are key and of course as are the suppliers. I’ve done quite a lot about about doors partly because my sister in law's on the 15th floor of a tower block, so I'm quite interested that when i go and see her (and even when I'm not) that I am safe in the building. In this particular building run by a local authority that I won't name…well, actually, it's Portsmouth, there are three different signs in the building telling residents three different things about how safe they are if there's a fire. And I pointed that out. But basically the developers, contractors, subcontractors and the suppliers all need to have their special glasses on.

And then, and I put them in a in a special group, there are the regulators. And if you look top right of what you can see, there's the regulator's box, and that includes health and safety executive, who will be setting up the BRE, Local Authorities and Fire and Rescue services. And that’s on top of the people who will inspect the building at each stage. And then somebody actually moves into the building and at that stage the owners, the agents and the residents all need to have one eye on fire safety. I’ve put in owners and agents because quite often the owners are, well, they're not lost in a mist, but it's not very obvious to the residents who they are.

So, you’ve got the Fire Safety Act, the Building Safety Act, you’ve got regulations which are coming quite quickly and then there is guidance, which I've asterisked. And there are two important things about guidance. Well, one important thing actually. Some guidance is framed in the context of act ‘in accordance with’. And that means what it says. You gotta act in accordance with it. Other guidance is ‘have regard to’. Which means you have to have regard to it, but you certainly don’t have to do it. And then there's the regulators and then there are the august bodies like BSI, that will produce British standards. And then there are the law firms and the consultants and if you just Google, you will find at least a dozen law firms on the front page all trying to sell you advice about the Building Safety Act. And then the purple group are the professional and trade associations, all of whom have an interest in a) selling their memberships and selling their products but b) contributing to fire safety. But the middle block which is the key one as far as I'm concerned is how do we change the culture? And where does culture start? I think it starts with the professional training and  a subset of that is building safety. And again, we're back to looking at everything we do with that in the back of our mind. I’ll take any questions at this stage.

JIM CREAK Just on the basis of culture, are we to consider the actual tenant as part of that or are we going to build with safety in mind despite the tenants. Specifically, there’s a great problem with over storage on balconies in purpose, built flats. And obviously we've got hoarding that creates a problem well over fire safety loads. And then we've got vandalism itself on the emergency lighting and the facilities within the flats. Now, I'm not going to say that it's a huge problem, but it certainly had some parts to bear in some of the sad stories, specifically Harrow Core and Shirley Towers in Southampton that for me was the start of coroner's rule 43’s start recommendations. So is it despite the tenants or with the tenants?

CHRIS WATERMAN OK, no, it's with the tenants. And if we go to the bottom of the slide you see residents and what is interesting is that residents have been significantly ignored for some time. But one of the fact sheets talks about residents voice and resident engagement is now an increasingly high priority for every responsible person. I agree with you about the dangers, and of course, if you've got a cannabis farm in your big bedroom, then you're not gonna want to let anybody in to have a look round cause a) you might have to give him some or b) you might shock  them - joke. However, a particular issue has arisen with mobility scooters, e-bikes and e-scooters. I think so far there have been 3 deaths in England because people doing Deliveroo would buy an e-bike second hand, buy a knock-off charger off Ebay or somewhere and they'll leave it plugged in overnight and it will catch on fire. A block of flats I visited, outside there’s a store with a dozen charging mobility scooters in it and it’s safe. It is fireproof and the fire should one of them, I think they're called lithium ion batteries spontaneously combust. Then it will damage the other scooters, but nobody else.

And I had a bit of an animated discussion because the problem, and let me show you a book by Peter Apps who is the new editor of Inside Housing. It’s a real page turner about what happened at Grenfell on the night. It charts what happened hour by hour but alternate chapters are about what happened with the cladding, the staircase, so it's an excellent read. If a growing problem is going to be spontaneous combustion of lithium ion batteries in flats, what are we going to do about it? Now, because that book is called Show Me The Bodies, because there have only been three fires where they might have been responsible the government could say, show me the bodies. So we need to know so we can put it in a tenancy agreement that you must not keep an e-bike or scooter in your flat, but then, if that's the case, you have to provide secure external storage, because otherwise the people that have vandalised the building will pinch an e-scooter to disappear. So it's very complex, but I think we have to emphasise tenants responsibility.

RICHARD It’s my understanding that under the Blair government he brought in a rule, an edict, that the committees sort of running a building had to have a majority of tenants on it.

CHRIS WATERMAN That may well be true. He had bizarre ideas like having shareholders on the boards of companies and all of that has gone in 13 years of deregulation.

JIM CREAK The ion batteries interests me because where does it stop? Because it's for mobile phones, it’s for laptops, laptops and aircraft have been known to implode and the reporting is disproportionate to the risk and so this is where I have a problem in having a zero tolerance to risk right because we then talk about having containers to put all of this equipment in because it is a problem at the moment with batteries. We’ve got problems with electric cars. It really does impinge on our residents in a whole bunch of cases because still today we have far more deaths in the ordinary domestic premises than we do in purpose built flats. So in terms of getting it in proportion and what I would consider to be proportionate resources I feel as if we literally are prescribing zero risk.

CHRIS WATERMAN a) there’s no such thing as zero risk and you’re right about it being proportionate and it's where you draw that proportionate line. Unfortunately, we weren't proportionate enough, which is how Grenfell happened, with risk. And certainly mobile phones, there was a few of those that spontaneously combusted, but I think it might be proportionate to make it part of a tenancy agreement that you cannot store an e-scooter, an e-bike or a mobility scooter inside your flat.

GEORGE I just wanted to mention that Paul Bray is on the call as well. Paul’s a former firefighter, but he's head of fire safety in Plymouth. One of the points that Paul made to me was it's the fact that people are leaving their e-scooter near the door because that's quite a simple thing. So if they are going to have them in the, because that obviously if it combusts there then that means they can't get out the flat at all. So, that’s a practical suggestion, but is it potentially a compromise?

CHRIS WATERMAN It might be, but…and of course at the moment nobody knows how many of these devices are in flats.

NICHOLAS NISBET The word culture on your diagram, and it always worries me when people start talking about culture. Isn't it about competency? In other words, culture is something nebulous that you can’t change directly, whereas I think competency you can.

CHRIS WATERMAN Right. If I can answer that directly, in this country we've changed the culture about smoking. Some people still smoke but you can’t smoke indoors in public buildings. So I think culture is a much bigger ask, but it is possible to change the culture. But it's where do you begin to change the culture? And certainly competency (next slide displayed on screen) I think that knowledge, skills and experience is the phrase that captures competency, pretty much. And so what I did, we’re back to the golden thread again, on the left hand side the pink boxes the 11 groups that were identified as needing to be competent. Building safety managers were taken out of the Act which is why they’re in a different colour. In the middle you’ve got accreditation bodies, training companies, loads of training companies. You got some of the big organisations doing their in house training, you got FE colleges doing training, you got Universities doing training and on the right hand side in the pale green are the different levels of training. And i found it really difficult. If you imagine the little puzzles in young children’s comics where you have to join one of the pink boxes to one of the green boxes on the right to make sure that everybody gets the right training, it is at the moment very confusing.

You got the government and the regulator and Ofqual looking at training, but I can't find any simple way of making sure that all of the people in the pink boxes have got all the training they need. And so that is where you get the knowledge because I can’t see…I mean, if you do a T level which will be in here before long, you have to do 45 days work experience as a 16 to 18 year old. But most of the stuff is about building knowledge and I don't think the online training is that good at building skills. But then you develop the skills and you acquire the experience. And it's defining competency and how you make people competent and the only way of getting experience is sitting by Nellie, really. You don't get a plumbing qualification unless you can change a tap washer. So I think you're’ right, competence is key and that is the other thing that we need to unpick and we need to deliver to make sure that everyone at least has the knowledge, skills and experience and they’ve got some inbuilt ethical compass. Does that help?

NICHOLAS NISBET Thank you. Ethical compasses are as common as unicorn’s teeth.

CHRIS WATERMAN It’s funny you should say that because I went to one of these big…I think it was at Excel. They’ve got these open stages and they had somebody from a developer and this person, and I won't name Balfour Beatty at all, but this person said that developers needed to reset their moral compass. And I explained to her that as part of my research before I went to the conference that I'd looked at the moral compasses of half a dozen major developers, and I said the one thing I didn’t find was the letter N because wherever that was I found a pound sign. That was one of the few occasions I got a round of applause at the housing conference. But you're right.

RICHARD I think actually there are many moral compasses, the problem is they're all contradictory.

CHRIS WATERMAN Well, I think a lot of them are pointing to the bottom line, but that’s another story.

GEORGE I think the other aspect that we’ve tried to look at from that point of view, we've tried to learn from the the black box thinking methodology and we’ve set up an area on the BIM4housing site where people are able to share their experiences. And you know we we've got some good examples of that and we'd like to encourage more of it. But I think that's a really important thing to move the culture from one of blame and risk transfer to one of identifying that something, nobody’s perfect, but let's report it and let's learn from it so that we can engineer the problem out. That's the way in which, as I understand it, that the airline industry has become so safe. Not because it was inherently a safe industry, but because they've actually grasped the nettle. And they encourage people to actually report when mistakes are made because in many cases you can identify that mistake wasn't just down to that individual, it was down to process and it can be engineered out. I think that's something that we ought to be trying to do within construction generally, but residential in particular.

CHRIS WATERMAN Yeah, and I’m a simple soul and what it would help me to understand is if you take a typical engineer, and I don't know what a typical engineer is, and just look at his knowledge, skills and experience pathway and say these are the things that a competent engineer would have done. And if you were to do a very simple case study for all of the people in those left hand boxes then that might it…and it wouldn't be a prescription, but it would at least indicate. I’m very keen on the Toyota concept of lean A3 and you can get on one side of A3 the typical training pathways from the person who does an apprenticeship in construction down to the Level 8 professor who's done a Masters degree or a PhD in architecture. But I can't find that anywhere. And how do we get our heads around what is needed in terms of knowledge, skills and competence for each type of person?

RICHARD Actually Pete Paton has put in the chat calling it conscious competence and it’s knowledge, skill, experience and behaviour which I thought was quite interesting.

GEORGE One of the practical things that one of our groups is doing at the moment, Paul McSolley from Mace is leading it, is looking at decision trees. So in other words, looking at what decisions a competent person is taking into account. He’s got a really good example working through for smoke dampers where the selection of the smoke damper has got quite a lot of complexity in terms of what wall it's going into, the context and the like. he’s gone through working with a couple of the other team members, Paul White in particular I think, looking at what those decision points are. Now, if we can take that and have that in a proper structure. It is very complicated, but when we look at what ChatGPT has been able to do with creative writing and the like I’m sort of the view that AI may have a means by which we can look at these very complex tasks and, to some extent, automate them. But the key thing in beginning is capturing that domain knowledge to say what would a competent person do, what information do they need to make that decision to make the right product selection?

CHRIS WATERMAN Yeah, and I’ll happily talk to that group. One of the things i used to do when teaching 10 year olds, I’d say write down how to make a cup of tea. And some of them would have poured the boiling water all over the kitchen floor before they’d taken the lid off the teapot. And it's breaking stuff down. It's those simple stages, stage by stage, which is where the decision tree comes in. And you talk about artificial intelligence but even if we go back to using decent digital intelligence…I mean, in the time it’s taken me to answer this question, one of you could have probably worked out where you could stay in Ibiza on the 27th June for under £39. So we’ve got the information technology but government in particular is very bad at using it and getting it up-to-date. So I agree with you, I’ve used artificial intelligence to answer a couple of questions I've posed them and I've then shown it to legislators and I think this is gonna be the way forward. You're right.

GEORGE Yeah, I’m not saying, by the way, that we should necessarily be using artificial intelligence but I think it's inevitable that the complexity of some of the questions that we are tasked with and also the issue with training new people coming through. What we need to do is get real intelligence, so people's knowledge, and we need that to be documented so that we've actually got that process.

NICHOLAS NISBET I’d really like to separate artificial intelligence and ChatGPT and stuff which is guessing at what a good answer would look like. We’re helping people to document rules to share knowledge and that was the aim of some aspects of the industry in the late 90s. And I think we should go back and take another look at saying that if we can help experts capture their knowledge so it becomes more general, so common sense is overruled by expert sense, there’s a really good case for that. I wouldn't fly in an aeroplane that's an average of all other aeroplanes or walk on a bridge that was the average of all bridges. And yet that's what AI in ChatGPT is asking us to do.

GEORGE I’m not suggesting that we actually go down that route, I guess I'm just saying that…I agree with you. I think what we need to do is have much clearer documentation of what that knowledge is, that explicit knowledge of experts, and make it in an accessible form.

ANA MATIC Chris, thank you, I wish you could see me smiling while you were talking, so many fantastic points. I'd like to go back to to your previous slide because the massive elephant in every single room where we're talking about things is procurement and all of those threads that you were holding are all held by the mechanism of procurement. And everything we're talking about from BIM to digital to AI to, it doesn't matter, I mean even if we're just doing it all by pencil, it doesn't really matter. Every single relationship will be actually set up by how each of these people are procuring the next level of consultants, subcontractors, suppliers. And yes, the competency has to sit there with each one of those kind of team members, but it's also set up by how we’re procuring the next supply chain. And frankly, the government could actually do a lot about setting up the rules within the procurement rules, if that makes sense. Because that's where the money is. You have to follow the money.

CHRIS WATERMAN What you've just said is what the government could do is to set up rules. You're totally wrong. Government doesn't know which rules to set up, nor does it have the expertise to set them up. What I'm saying is further education in England has a victim mentality and they're always complaining that government doesn't give them enough and blah, blah, blah. And I’ve run an FE college, but FE colleges could be offering the government what they want. Now in terms of what you've just said, the industry is worth squillions and they're waiting for a handful of civil servants who are probably Humanities graduates to tell them how to do it. That is victim mentality. It is up to the industry. We want a working group from BIM or bum or trim or trum, or whatever, we want to begin to plot to show government how to do it. Governments do not build buildings. If there's an engineering graduate in the DLUCH, or is it the D-LUX committee,   if there’s an engineering graduate I won’t offer to eat my hat because they’ve probably got one. But he expertise is with the people on this call, not in the Government Department.

I'm a bit of a journalist, I do all sorts of stuff. I never write a press release because it just gets spiked. You write an article that a journalist can top and tail and publish because journalists, like everybody, are bone idle. So you've got to give government something. I think government will probably be seeking more money from Rishi Sunak so they can pay £200 for a copy of my plain guide to the Building Act.

AUDREY HESSE Yes, Chris, I totally second what you said. I understand Anna, but I also despair of being in situations where people from the building industry aren't listened to. And as you say, I have nothing against humanities graduates, for example. But I do despair of people who don't have the experience and the knowledge and the skills in the building industry now having to make large decisions in the building industry. And that comment that you made just resonated with me totally. I think I wonder how we in the building industry are going to overcome it because it almost seems as if we’re slowly being overruled.

CHRIS WATERMAN Yeah, well, you’re only being overruled because you haven't given the rulers the answers that make sense.

GEORGE I think that’s part of what we’re here to do. What I found as well is that when we first started down the working on the Golden Thread initiative everybody was expecting the department to tell us what needed to go in the golden thread. And, as you said, Chris, they don't know. Even the people that are part of the Brack group that was advising the government, people like CIBSE and the like, very knowledgeable people, but there wasn’t the cross…that’s really why the Golden Thread Initiative was set up because it needed a cross-disciplinary set of knowledge that could then get fed back in. We shouldn’t be sitting back waiting for anybody to tell us what we should be doing and the way the regulations have been set up is that it's actually down to the industry to come up with solutions,

CHRIS WATERMAN Yep. I don't know if I made this point but there is a difference between simplicity and clarity. So when people say something is very complex and it can't be simplified, I agree, but it can be clarified. I used to run a company called Diagram and people would send me 10 pages of text and they’d get back one side of A4. Because the problem is, every time you turn a page you forget a bit of what's on the page you've just been reading. If you get it all on one side of A4 or A3 in front of somebody that makes it much clearer, not simpler, much clearer.

RICHARD Chris, when we were speaking the other day before the meeting you were saying that you'd actually added a new column into one of your documents, or a new heading, which was fire doors. Because from your experience in the last few months you've realised that they're basically totemic fire doors.

CHRIS WATERMAN Well, all I did, and I’ve done several of these webinars now, looking at the slide in front of you, if just to the left of the culture change box you put in at the top ‘fire door’ then everybody, the architects, the planning officers, the developers, the contractors, all of those people need to know a bit about fire doors. Fire doors are totemic, you could put in other key issues into that and just see, and this is where everybody needs a pair of these glasses so that wherever you’re coming from, whichever specific element of a building or development you're involved in, you've got that fire safety tint on your glasses.

GEORGE I think that's a really good way of putting it over and I think the other aspect of that is that there's going to be several different tints. You're gonna have the fire safety tint, there's also a building safety tint which will require slightly different information, and we've also got embodied carbon, which is another tint. So there's a range of different things that you need to hold against that door that represents the different stakeholders.

RICHARD That was a clever segue I made to fire doors because we’re actually launching a fire inspection workstream, the first one of which will be on fire doors.

CHRIS WATERMAN Can i just say that I'm a self unemployed pensioner and I do weddings, funerals, bar mitzvahs for a modest fee, should any of you be interested. But seriously, I did a whole load of train the trainers for Tetrapack and IKEA when I had a couple of years in Stockholm. So if you need me to do anything, I think on LinkedIn it says ‘available for hire’ or something. That is me.

RICHARD Also if anybody's interested in securing a copy of Chris’ Building Safety Act publication put it in the chat and you’ll be first in the queue.

GEORGE What we’ve been looking at doing is looking at inspections because fire doors is obviously, as you say Chris, totemic. There's a lot of activity going on around them and it may be that some of the work that's being carried out may not be necessary or may not be being carried out properly. So one of the things that we've been doing, we're learning from other industries. I met somebody that had done a lot of work in healthcare, they were running a training program for fire doors a couple of months ago, and when I went through the training course with him I discovered that t's quite a simple method. First of all, it’s a matter of identifying what the door is, so a type 1 inspection or a type 2 inspection is really only ever done once. So it's done there to capture the information that's needed about the door, and then the ongoing inspections are type 3 inspections. For people on this call, there's quite a few of the colleagues that have already started getting involved in this, this will be very familiar to them. But we had our first meeting last Friday  and we've actually got a workstream meeting taking place next Thursday the 16th. So if anybody is knowledgeable about fire doors and wants to contribute to that, we've got manufacturers we've got inspectors, and also landlords, involved in that.

So we're looking to come up with some standardisation. We're taking the work that's been done for the NHS and then we're actually repurposing it for residential. We’ve got almost 30 people involved. And what we’re also looking to do is the same methodology for a smoke control. That’s happening on the 21st February. Paul Bray, who’s from Plymouth, is also a member of CROSS. What we're doing is looking to see if we can do it across a much wider set because the methodology seems to work of having that initial identification stage and then doing the regular inspections. Is anybody interested in getting involved in that type of thing?

JAMIE CLARKE I believe we’re actually already in it. It’s exactly what e want to be involved in.

WILL PERKINS George contacted me earlier on in the week just to to have a brief talk about product standards and how that relates through to the type 1 and type 2 inspections. And as George has just said, we're getting together as a smoke control group on the 21st of February to actually put some meat on the bones. What some of you will be aware, but a lot of people won’t, and interestingly, I gave a presentation to the House of Lords to a committee there just after Grenfell about product safety. So a lot of people don't realise, but we have got a very established mandatory system for construction product testing, especially fire safety products. When we were in Europe we developed product standards, European standards, and since we've left Europe we still maintain those and in certain instances they are mandatory under what's called the Construction Products Regulation.

The principal behind drafting those standards was really good, twofold: one was competition, so easy movement of goods throughout the EU and the second was obviously safety and the way we went about drafting these standards is groups of experts, I’m expert in smoke control, so I was representing the GB in these talks and we sit round and we take a fire safety product, my expertise is smoke ventilation automatic opening vents, and as a group we say what are the key bits of that product that make it deliver its primary function. And those elements are captured and they are called the essential characteristics. And those essential characteristics are captured in what's in an annex at the back of the standard, and then the committee then draft the testing process for any certified laboratory to test the product and give an output against those characteristics. So it's really simple because straight away you can see if you're comparing products you’ve got a set table of products that are directly comparable, that have all been through the same testing and you're not allowed to vary other than the actual value or output, you can't change anything, so it's beautifully transparent. And so the other element is obviously those essential characteristics are driven by safety as well, and this is all mandatory. So where those standards were harmonised and they've come across to the UK as well, then those are mandatory.

I’ll just share a couple of slides with you that explain this. (shares slide on screen ‘Natural Smoke & Heat Exhaust Ventilators’). My expertise is smoke ventilation, the British standard that covers this product is BSEN 12101 Part 2. That's a harmonised standard. So there we are. What does it look like? It's a standard and a residential application, end of corridor vent. That testing, because it’s a fire safety product, can't be tested in house, it has to go to a certified laboratory and all of that process is underwritten by UKAS. And that enables you to, in the transition period, either CE mark or put UKCA, mark on it. And interestingly, after the Building Safety Act, we now have a product regulator in place called the national construction product regulator or the OPSS. Those people are in place and they are coming to the fore. So how does that actually work in the application we're talking about? So it all comes down to specification. So if we were to go down a fire engineer…under the Building Safety Act we need a principal designer who's going to be ultimately responsible for that fire design.

Let's say in the example, we go down the approved document, we’re following approved document B. Well, that standard I talked about is called up in the approved document. BSEN 12101-2 is called up in the approved document and the functional requirements of the approved document says it has to achieve this free area. Well, guess what? That free area equates to one of those essential characteristics. So you can see straight away just from that example those essential characteristics directly tie it back to the fire strategy, even in this case, the approved document B. So very quickly to finish the work we're doing with George is to say, OK, if I'm a landlord or a building operator and I need to inspect or one day replace that product the critical performance functional requirements are there, captured in the essential characteristics. Doesn’t matter what colour it is etc you have to match those essential characteristics because they tied back to the original design functional specification.

CHRIS WATERMAN That’s interesting. If a screw comes out of the fire door how do the people know that the screw they’re replacing it with meets the standard? Is there a tension between global safety and individual product safety? What about a door suite?

WILL PERKINS That’s a fantastic question. I’m not going to take the example of the door, because that's not my expertise. But I will give you a direct answer for an automatic opening vent. When that product is put on the market it is fully tested, every element of it is tested. Therefore if you substitute any element in there thereafter t's ultimately at your risk because it's gonna waive…typically it will be out of guarantee. It will break the chain of operation, so then it becomes a commercial decision by the building operator.

CHRIS WATERMAN And that commercial decision if it's financed driven, because the resident in that building isn't gonna know that they've cut a corner or they've added something or taken something away.

WILL PERKINS To underpin that and again on the back of Hackitt, she called for industry to raise our own bar. So I'm a member of the Smoke Control Association, we’ve introduced third party accreditation for engineers and installers. Therefore if you are using an accredited company really they will know that they can't substitute. So they'll go back to the manufacturer or whoever, and make sure that what they upgrade or fit is fit for purpose.

GEORGE As I've got more into it, Chris, it is very complex though. So, for example, in the meeting that we had on file doors last week, one of the challenges is that to get a fire door tested it's quite an investment and the information that is captured isn't something, in most cases, that the manufacturer may want their competitors to know because the context in which that particular door is tested can be significant. So therefore there is that concern. But we've been speaking about that for some time now and it is something that does need to be shared in some way because there's also IP issues in that as well when the testing comes about. But we do need to overcome that. I'm hoping that through these these workshops that we're now coming up with, the new ones, we can get to the meat of what those things are. So if anybody's interested in any of those different asset types, then that would be great and we'll set up meetings accordingly.

GEORGE So if anybody is having drawings produced and wants to use those CAD libraries or the CAD specifications that I was talking about earlier, you're welcome to have those because it will just mean that we're producing better structured information that can be used for different purposes rather than just the goal of just producing some drawings. We’ll provide those through BIM4housing for free for anybody to use. What we're trying to do is drive up the quality so I'm happy to share those.

SOMAYYA YAQUB Thanks for putting on these sessions, which are very helpful. It's great to hear from others as to view points. We may not always agree, but it's a passion, it's the energy there which I think is fantastic. We have got a long way to go and as I've said in my chat is if you go to any new development that's recently taken place, the quality is poor. And because we're in that race to get these units up, and I'm calling them units because that's how it's seen, it’s not seen as houses or something like that. It’s seen as units, let’s get them done and we’re on to the next one. No one will put their name to it because they don’t want to get caught out. And until we get that attitude changed where you're proud of what you've designed and proud of what you've built. I agree with Chris and it's been enjoyable working with Chris recently on his book and hopefully, Chris, we can continue to support as best as we can going forward. Thank you.

CHRIS WATERMAN Thank you, Somayya. I spent a couple of years in Stockholm and one of the worst things about the building industry in England is the weather because it's not (audio cuts out) …robustly, and it's not hot enough to make them put air con in. And because we can get away with building shoddy buildings with windows that don't really fit, then we've got away with it. So I think that global warming could dramatically improve the quality of building in England.

BRETT HIBBITT Really interesting. Apologies I hadn't been able to attend a lot lately, but I'd like to definitely get involved with the fire door discussions. One thing I did pick up on is the different types of discussions, and I'm aware that I may have been invited but couldn't make it, but the type 1 type 2 type 3 could easily be confused with the type one to four in fire risk assessments and that was basically something I picked up on that could be a concern. And they are very distinctively different in that their approach, but they're basically being done in kind of the same building.

PETER McATEER I’m the CEO of a company called Sysmax. Present offshore the night of the Piper Alpha disaster, advisor to investors during the deep water disaster, Deepwater Horizon with BP and the Gulf of Mexico. Submitted two properties that I bought during my lifetime to the Grenfell disaster inquiry, and I would like to think I'm the person that brought up the subject of the golden thread because I could see no semblance of competency or compliance with building regulations from the glints from the architects eyes through to handover to me (audio cuts out)…So both of them were highly explosive. I've worked in the jungles of the Congo, Mongolia, Alaska, bunch of places that you would think are dodgy, the most dangerous place I’ve been in my life was my home. I want to do something about it. So we've been working with Direct Works. We did 6 pilots last year including five social housing companies and the largest contractor in the sphere. Currently working on the golden thread with a couple of other organisations. I just wonder if this group would like to see what we're doing.

GEORGE Most definitely. We know Keith Simpson who’s been involved with Direct Works.

PETER McATEER Keith is our biggest advocate and I have daily calls with him, he’s been a key promoter of us. Direct Works agreed to use our system as a platform across the social housing sector and what we want to do is to share that learning and have everybody operating from one data set that keeps everybody's cost down and keeps it simple. And we're on a journey of learning and we're historically from the oil and gas sector. But another thing that we're doing is going global with PepsiCo. So we've gone from producing oil and gas in the nether regions of the world to Doritos, Monster Munch and Quavers, and that demonstrates the simplicity of the system and that's the biggest challenge in this.

NICHOLAS NISBET In terms of the next steps, if the guidance fails to define the statutory guidance (audio cuts out) digital…then we are back at square one regulatory framework concerned. Yes, we can voluntarily do digital properly (audio cuts out).

CHRIS WATERMAN Just to say for those of you who are feeling distinctly underdressed I am still wearing my pyjama bottoms today.



Peter Thorns

A problem is if the golden thread follows legal requirements that are flawed. It then just demonstrates process to failure.

Nicholas Nisbet

Is it culture or is it competency?

Roy Buckingham

I would suggest it is both

Roy Buckingham

i am not seeing any noticeable change in the culture of the industry so far.

Neville Tomblin

It is a problem we all have, but unfortunately it sits with us as the landlords. It is easy for the regulator/govt to make resident engagement part of the requirements, but we all know that it is not easy in social housing to get resident engagement

Gary Bage

a bigger problem coming is electric cars in underground car parks where you have a number of high rise blocks!

Scott Sanderson

Brilliant & terrifying book - 'Show me the Bodies'. Peter Apps.


creating rules for tenants, is one thing, policing them is another!

Peter Thorns

Not just eScooters. My son charged a battery for an electric drill. Cue burned carpet and scorched patio as he threw it out the door.


The recent fire involving a baby monitor is an excellent example! And all of this is about fire safety and will occur in buildings  with safety certs!

Somayya Yaqub

We need to look at Housing Management wholesale. it is not working in a lot of areas and it has an impact on what we as landlords do.  Advising and educating and then policing comes into it.

Neville Tomblin

Regarding mobility scooters etc in flats is very hard to police and changing exiting tenancy agreements is very complex. All we can do is provide advice.

Peter Thorns

If you need to use an eScooter you may not be mobile enough to leave it downstairs and get to your flat. However you may not have someone who can move it to a designated area after you have got to your flat.

Brett Hibbitt

This topic is all about the risk assessment and whats reasonably practical. The golden thread followed by regular comms to relevant persons, fire risk assessments, resident meetings etc should reduce the risk to a tolerable level. The risk still exists and will happen however the frequency of incidents should be reduced and controlled.

Peter Thorns

Smoking and seatbelts I relatively easy to police.

Gary Bage

Culture generally takes a generation or two to change people’s mindset!

Alan Brinson

Some years ago, BRE ran fire tests which showed that sprinklers control or extinguish fires in mobility scooters, preventing them from developing to become life-threatening.

Tom Spencer

I dont disagree with the issues around batteries for different things but I think we need to manage the problem, restricting residents from having mobility scooters in their flats would be a huge, almost impossible challenge to overcome. We have spent the last few years trying remove mobility scooters from common parts, in most cases the only place for them to be is in the owners flat.

Paul Bray

There was still a substantial amount of toxic smoke produced, so not convinced this will save the occupant.Mobility Scooter Fires: Sprinklers Can Save Lives - Lewisham Homes

Pete Paton

Conscious Competence = Knowledge Skills Experience & Behaviour : “KSEB”

Matt Bright 

Agree that it is almost impossible to prevent residents from having e-scooters etc in their flats (particularly when there is nowhere else to store them).  We have taken the approach of providing guidance such as only  buying certified products, to not charge at night and keep in a room with a door and smoke detector at night rather than the hallway to protect the escape route.  Definitely a growing issue

Jim Creak

The price for Grenfell refurb was subject to unbelievable discount ? The race to the bottom is bound to cost ! Quality was not demanded only rough equivalence ?

Alan Brinson (External)Yesterday 11:51 amI agree that it is not clear that someone who stays in the same room as the escooter will be safe, despite the sprinklers. I am not sure that BRE measured this - will check. One idea is to put the escooter in a large cupboard so as to buy more time for the occupant to escape from their flat.

Peter Thorns

Instead of banning, how about providing dedicated sockets (for example). A socket for charging batteries with a built-in cut-out to detect charging problems is more likely to change habits, as opposed to saying don't charge batteries. You need to help people change behaviour.

Somayya Yaqub

Jim, if you walk around where new development has taken place you will find the finish is poor. Give it a month and scaffolding is going up due to a doggy drain. This is not right. Those which were constructed a 100 years are still standing strong and solid. They may not be energy efficient but at least those who designed and built were proud, and residents appreciated this.

Peter Thorns

You need to rank information so AI can judge reliable sources as opposed to the majority of information available.

Garry Tinkler

I am sorry I have another meeting to go to, thank you all for your presentations, much appreciated

Stephen Coppin

Competence: Listing all disciplines with minimum core knowledge and skills i.e. qualifications etc, then additional knowledge, skills & experience pending upon type of sector and projects i.e. through structured CPD with a Training Needs Analysis (TNA) . Behaviours can be possibly measured by questioning the individual's response / reactions to dealing with issues and risks  by positive engagement and providing solutions and demonstrate they are not typically adopting it is not my problem and responsibility and or doing the blame  culture we want to eliminate.

Ian Abley

Diagram 40 was less than a page of A4 from 2002 to 14 June 2017, but the transposition of Class 0 (National) with Class B (European) was wrong. Class 0 Conundrum

Stephen Coppin

Sustainable Procurement: As already mentioned. This is the achilles heal and a missed opportunity if not addressed by the client's project/programme mgt team. If only they engaged with a good risk adviser to incorporate in the assessment / accreditation of the surveyors, designers and contractors and build into the contracts the minimum standards that require to be demonstrated at each project lifecycle stages and be benchmarked against using led and lag KPIs (balance score card) etc.


it would be interesting for the group to consider the merits of composite doors v timber ones

Roy Buckingham

Its not necessarily the material but the fire testing that is relevant to the doors and also whether the door is an assembly or a complete doorset


Roy, I'm aware of the testing issues but in a world of "net zero", the performance and sustainability of the product will also be of interest.