Contractual Workstream-20230313 Meeting
GEORGE Would you say they’re a relevant organisation, Iain?
IAIN Yes, they are. The Fire Safety federation is designed to be a unifying voice for all of the different parts of the fire industry and construction industry that touch upon fire related things. It’s always been a bit dysfunctional. I attended their AGM a few years ago, and it was like the wedding out of The Game Of Thrones. But, that aside, there are some very relevant people in that organisation and I always supported it because no thing worth doing is easy. And all of the conflict is borne out of the fact that it’s a dysfunctional set of requirements, you’ve got fire service, you’ve got client organisations, the relevant parts of the fire industry and you’ve got the construction sector. To be honest its vested interests that are a barrier to change, everyone’s looking what they can make out of the change process rather than driving change.
MARTIN I’ve put a web address for the FPA, George, they’re probably a bit more mature in terms of the way they go about that sort of thing. I hadn’t heard, until this morning, of the other organisation you just referred to, they sound like a relatively new thing.
IAIN The FPA is a heavy voice, John O’Neill used to be heavily involved and was on the board of the Fire Safety Federation. MARTIN So they’re not an ASFP, they don’t have members? IAIN No, it’s more like a Construction Leadership Council type of thing. When I was involved, it was a fairly nominal sum. It put me in contact with the fire and rescue service. The issue at the time was about the union for the fire officers and then there’s the Chief Fire Officers Association, and it was some kind of issue between those two. You’ve got unions around the table with trade associations, everybody's got a different view on how things should move.
MARTIN Going back to your original point, George, in terms of advice, I’m not talking about fire doors here, but any other fire stopping, service penetrations, there’s a whole industry that’s grown up over the last 3 or 4 years, mainly ambulance chasing type organisations, of people who will approach you customers who own buildings with people in them and say we can find fault with the fire protection on these buildings for a fee, and you can go chasing after your builder for recompense. It’s an absolute scandal, but what’s happening at the moment is there’s a lot of people out there who have basically got a digital camera and a little bit of knowledge, and unfortunately a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing, so more and more people are looking to some sort of accreditation. So, I’ve just stuck up there an ISO that I would point your customers toward to find out whether or not these guys are accredited, or is this just a couple of likely lads with a digital camera who can pop their head above the ceiling and take some snaps.
GEORGE That’s exactly why I’m trying to address this, in part because I think there’s a real danger of a lot of doors being condemned that don’t need to be condemned.
MARTIN Doors will be covered by another licensing scheme.
GEORGE This whole thing about inspection, I absolutely agree with you that we need to get some degree of standardisation there. I think if there are standards then let's use them. If they need reinforcing and we need to get more people to agree to use them that’s really what our coordination role is.
IAIN There’s a big gap there. The big gap is that standards are recommended so they don’t tend to have legal status and the challenge is that through the construction process we don’t specify them. So, what we should be doing is where it’s performance-based specification and leading into maintenance, we should be specifying the standards that support the compliance, and then they end up in the programme and they’re not recommended, they’re required. Nobodies paying for the standards, you look at the sales of standards, it’s relatively small compared to the number of people who should understand what’s in them. So, you've got all these standards, they're out there. It's information management standards, maintenance standards, procurement standards that the architects just don’t stick into the specifications. I presume they know they exist, I don’t know. I’ve been running over this a lot lately, what’s going to happen at Gateway 2, is it going to be product specification or performance specification. It doesn’t necessarily have to be one or the other, but if it is going down the performance specification route, then if they want to maintain their integrity as a principal designer, then they've got to specify these standards to go with the products. It's got to be the process and product-based specification. And then Martin, when you're tendering for it, that's what's in the standard, isn't it? You've got to show you're going to comply with those standards and equally when you're passing it on to the supply chain, they're going to show up to show how they meet the standards. Everyone's going to have understand the bloody standards.
MARTIN Yeah, it leads on to the wider question of whether or not they’re ready for this. You suggested last time, Iain, that we should try and get our concerns about the RIBA stages and shifting those to the left across to RIBA.
IAIN I got asked something really concerning to me the other week, and I stood my ground and said no, but I don’t know it the initiative will carry on anyway. I’m involved in a working group for the Construction Leadership Council looking at professional indemnity insurance. From the concerns being raised from the specification end that they can't get the level of PI cover that they need in order to design the works. So as a consequence, rather than dealing with that as a problem, which is what I thought this whole group was about, they've written a letter to government (and this is semi-confidential) to be approved by the Construction Leadership Council to say can they be exempted from having professional indemnity insurance, and I was asked to support the letter, being on the working group, and I said, emphatically, no. Because a) if professional indemnity insurance is broken we should be working to an insurance model that supports the sector, not sticking this rather clumsy patch over it, and b) the risk hasn't gone anywhere, so that all they've done is they've taken the safety net away from the supply chain which is going to be expected to absorb that risk, so I can't see it's in our interest. So, whilst I understand it potentially unlocks a block in the marketplace…there’s more risk. So I couldn’t, in all conscience, sign the letter, because the whole process felt flawed to me.
It does pick up on this issue which is that at Gateway 2 (Stage 3 of RIBA plan of works), then we’re not ready to build it, the designers aren’t ready to give us any further information, we’ve just got this bloody great void sat around Gateway 2.
MARTIN So, we’re brining that up through the CIC and that’s been put on the agenda. We (BB) are the chair for one of the working groups for a period, one of the MDs is sitting on it. Everybody’s seeing this now, that the whole thing needs…You can't be designing once you've started digging holes everywhere, everybody in the industry is seeing it. I suspect the architects are seeing it, but they're not getting the fees to cover the design that's required prior to starting on site and it's going to reflect on the people who are commissioning work, which is mainly developers and the government. They’re going to have to put more money up front in order to carry on with the development, and with the industry as it is…we’re going to draw people’s attention to it, formally, through the CIC. We did, as an organisation, a session with Judith Hackitt, and that was one of the topics that raised its head. She said, yeah, feedback, feedback, because otherwise you’re just going to get steamrollered.
IAIN Siderise have had a good stab at it, actually. Siderise sponsored a roundtable the other week, and they shared with me in advance. They’ve had a really good stab at lining up the gateways and the standards onto a flow diagram. What it does show is that detailing, design development, kind of ends up being lumped in as a mush. Even when they try to clarify it, you can see it’s not clear. I’ll ask Chris from there if it’s alright for me to share it further. And I’ve also shared, if you want to share it with your MD doing the CIC, that’s the procurement research that we've done with Reading University, the final result came out a couple of weeks ago. It paints a picture of the time pressure the sector is under. It shows some of the issues and some of the cultures that are bleeding through. I's done as a main contractor and specialist subcontractor and you can sort of see how the problems accelerate as they go through. You look at it, there's a problem at main contractor and then it becomes a bigger problem at the specialist contractor end. I think it's quite balanced, it's not a main contractor bashing report, it's not designed to be. And it's just there to show how the sort of procurement processes that are putting pressure on the supply chain and sort of play back some of the sentiment. So there is a few main contractor bashing points in there which Construction News picks out, but that was more from dialogue…it wasn’t stuff that was said by Stewart, was stuff that people said as part of the research, because he did a load of interviews as well as the quantitive stuff.
GEORGE I was talking with an architect last week, they were talking about how they need to gear their processes up to respond to the DFES, because the DFES’ gateways, or deadlines now, workstages, are just crazy. They've got to have everything done within three or four weeks. It's quite a challenge.
MARTIN Interesting times. But I think there’s going to be some sort of blockage that’s going to need unblocking, for developments that are coming through the pipeline. More and more people will say, hang on, you’re not ready. And when you have got ready, we need to engage, there’s going to be a lot of work to do before e start digging holes, you’re not in that position yet, you need to do an awful lot. And then when you get in touch with us, there’s an awful lot to do. I just don't think a lot of the professional designers are being covered for all that additional work that's required before mobilisation onto site. They’re still looking at the old fashioned RIBA document, which is a most amazing document, because it’s never named in any contract and yet it governs the timeline in the programme. That’s clever, that’s influential, nobody refers to it you can’t fail on it and yet it determines the success of the job.
IAIN That’s a great point that it’s never referenced in a contract. Some of the cases that are going through at the moment are absolutely giving me sleepless nights. St. John's Oncology, another hideous one, because the design had been changed, signed off by the client process, but because Lendley still had design and build responsibility and it was subsequently deemed to be questionable they’ve awarded against. So ESL tells us that even if under pressure you can’t caveat, we've had that experience with St. John's Oncology which tells us even if the client signed it off, you might still cop for it. With all of these things, the information management is nowhere near where it needs to be at the moment.
GEORGE I'm just passionately against risk transfer as a methodology: you can only manage risk, you can’t actually transfer it. You increase risk by trying to transfer it and trying to put the things in place to transfer it.
MARTIN it’s interesting, because where you’re at with your head there is probably one step ahead of the majority of the architects that we interface with are. They’re still at the understanding this, rather than the trying to get out of it. There’s an amazing scheme, big office block, lovely architects, a proper local practice, and the guys have been banging into them in the last 3 months, it’s all news to them. You need this level of detail before we start, what on earth is going on, and unbelievable amount of unacknowledged knowledge going on at the moment.
GEORGE Coming back to what the regulator is going to be asking for, the interdependency of the different asset types that go to provide the mitigation, looking at the compartment wall, for example, coming back to the relationship between all the components that go to make up the compartment wall, and then how does that then interface with the smoke control system and how does it go with the alarm system, for example. Those are such critical relationships that just doing fire door inspections, for example, doesn’t actually tick the box. And yet that is the way the industry and landlords are procuring their services, they’re not looking at things in that holistic way. I can understand why, because if you’re going to get somebody to come and inspect fire dampers you need somebody that knows about fire dampers, and it’s unlikely to be the same person that knows about fire doors.
MARTIN Yea, it won’t be the same person. Also, there’s a lot more technical knowhow needed with the fire dampers, fire doors tend to be you see what you see. To do it properly, and this goes back to the ambulance chasers, with a damper you need to do some intrusive investigation, so often you need to cause damage in order to do the inspection properly. Very few people are willing to do that, particularly if it’s a fire wall. For me, it’s a definition of insanity trying to prove that’s something’s not right, it’s kind of like braking up your foundations to prove you haven’t got enough reinforcement cover. But it’s going on heavily in the PFI market.
IAIN …What should be available is the information for inspection should be available, and you shouldn't need to physically inspect it. So what we should have in an ideal world, if I was looking to inspect the fire dampers, what would I be looking for? What can I see, what can't I see on the construction site? If I can't see it, where’s the photograph of it?
MARTIN That's exactly right. That's what the golden thread is all about, that’s what we're working on.
GEORGE The methodology that we’re using on the fire doors, and we’ve got a meeting tomorrow on smoke control, we’re going to suggest the same methodology, is that there’s 3 types of inspection. One is the inspection of the new thing that’s gone in to make sure that it’s been installed properly and the digital record that it’s been installed properly is there. That’s only ever done once. The second inspection is to inspect something that you don’t have the digital record for, and therefore you need to find out what it is, and that’s where you would possibly need an intrusive inspection, or certainly a really good desktop exercise of looking at the record information. And again, that’s only ever done once, and it then becomes the baseline against which the third level of inspection comes, and that is the regular inspection.
IAIN Have you done anything on hazard identification in that? Because the big risk is somebody's done something, so we sort of need a record. It's almost like if your risk assessment and method statement approach, we need a risk assessment done on what could have gone wrong because the one I remember is there was a realisation how people were cleaning ducting systems which was principally by spraying hot caustic soda up them, which isn’t great if you’ve got a load of intumescence materials providing protection through the system. That’s kind of the hazard that we need to identify to say what is its maintenance cycle, how is it being maintained and will this add a risk too. So it’s almost like there is another tier of inspection required which is hazard identification. Are you likely to have done anything to it which has compromised its performance in the past 12 months i.e. cleaned it, maintained it, I can’t think of another hazard.
GEORGE Yeah, that’s exactly what we have been doing as well. In the work we did the year before that Joe helped with, where we actually did 12 key asset types. One of them was sprinkler systems, for example. I learned that the normal way they test dry sprinkler systems is by filling them with water and testing them. But then to drain them again they typically pump oxygen in to blow the water out, but that then creates oxidisation and therefore the sprinkler system is damaged and therefore starts to leak.
IAIN It can be damaged by chemicals from the outside, so you get the erosion of the pipes due to chemicals and proximity as well.
MARTIN So, your three types of inspections, George. There’s the legacy inspection, that was never done before, so you’re doing it for the first time on something that exists. There’s the inspection of what’s just gone in, which should be a principal contractor or supply chain role, And then the other one is maintenance and routine inspection.
GEORGE Exactly. That seems a simple straightforward way of looking at it.
MARTIN The biggest cause of failure with fire doors failing in terms of their integrity isn’t the door or the frame, it’s the junction between the frame and the surround, and in order to see that you have to smash the architraves off which is where you get into destructive sort of thinking and actions prior to proving there is a defect.
IAIN That’s a detail that should be routinely photographed because that’s not gonna be a worsening situation unless somebody's trying to pump something through.
MARTIN No, that's only gonna get better, you're right. But for these legacy sort of inspections that George is referring to, to do it properly you will have to damage the integrity of the wall by smashing the architrave.
IAIN It’s that panel above the door as well, that often falls between the cracks of the fire door inspection or any other inspection is who is responsible for the panel above it, because that can quite often be misspecified.
MARTIN Or the panel in it, or the air transfer grill in it, there’s quite a lot goes on.
IAIN The guy that posts about letter boxes all the time…he turned up to an ASFP event when I was speaking on the panel, I tried to ignore his hand going up, he started reading a letter that he’d written to somebody 5 years ago. He’s got a point actually, he just makes it so bloody badly that it’s easy to overlook.
GEORGE One of the interesting things, of the fire door inspectors, I don’t think these guys are ambulance chasers, Martin. Ian Cavanagh, he was originally a manufacturer, but he’s been an independent fire door inspector for 10 years. He said he’s yet to come across a compliant new door. We’re doing a project with Barclay at the moment and they fed to us that in terms of their fire door inspections only 25% are passing.
IAIN Ian Cavanagh is a good person to listen to. It was Dale Joinery that he used to own, he’s set up that association of fire door inspectors and he’s been very vocal, in a good way, about fire door safety. He’s got all of the qualifications, he’s an FDI qualified inspector, he’s certificated his business through Blue Sky certification, so there are no more hoops he can jump through to prove he’s a bona fide fire inspector. There’s others out that that are not accredited or went down that awful…BRE did that certification scheme which was absolutely destroyed by the building inspectors at the time. We were starting to cop a load of flack for it because everyone thought we were running it, we had nothing to do with it. One company told me that they didn’t care if people died in fires, it was good for business.
GEORGE Both Ian and Neil Ashdown are both very vocal on the fact that being a member of an accredited organisation is not the answer because there’s people that just pay a fee and they’re not actually doing the job, as it were. They’re both on a campaign to get it to be UKAS accredited, third-party.
MARTIN We’re heading towards Hackitt’s vision, which was a licence to practice, which an only be a good thing. But, we’re talking 5 years, I think.
GEORGE The other thing is apparently if you’re a member of one of these accredited organisations one person that’s been trained and certified can actually manage 20 people who haven’t been trained. MARTIN I didn’t know that, I thought you all had to be part and parcel of the same training regime, certification. GEORGE As it’s been explained to me, one person can be responsible for 20 people.
IAIN Some of the installation certification schemes, people have to remember they are primarily supervision schemes, so they’re about process. You have to have a certain number of individuals trained in order to manage a workforce. I didn’t know 1 in 20, but that may be true. The practical issue you’ve got on the ground is that the contractual headroom for supervision may be insufficient to allow you to fulfil the needs of third-party certification. I’ve had members come to me raising concerns that there's only a certain amount allowed in the contract for supervision, and they need to provide more than that in order to deliver the requirement of their third-party certification. And it creates a real significant conflict for them because they can't learn the job at a loss, but they can't run the job at the price is the price that…and it's often a post-contractual squeeze. Again, you see in that research, you priced it at one point and then there’s a sharpen you pencil round where the only thing you’ve got is to cut down on supervision, then the pressure is to reduce the level of supervision that you’ve got which can undermine your third-party certification.
GEORGE Is it possible that would be BM Trada he’d be talking about?
IAIN Yeah, all of them, BM Trada, Firas, IFC, they all have certification schemes, but that mostly relates to installation. The only UKAS accredited third-party certification scheme for fire door inspections is the Blue Sky one. If you’ve got UKAS accredited certification, you’re always going to say it’s better than what anybody else has got, so there’s a commercial situation…both Neil and Ian are in the fortunate position that they’ve got Blue Sky certification, others don’t, and it’s a time consuming process to go through. FDIS are trying to get UKAS accreditation. I wouldn’t think that 1 in 20 applied to inspections, that probably is heavy, but what’s an average workers per supervisor rate, 1 in 10, 15 or 20, not a million miles away. The fire door inspection, what’s the output we’re looking for that’s related to BIM4housing, because I can see the commercial route there, but how does that link back to the BIM4housing work? What output are you driving towards?
GEORGE We’re going to produce a document that’s going to be freely available which has a set of guidance.
IAIN I’m trying to line all these things up as data management as well, is it setting down a data requirement, or is the data requirement what follows on from the first stage which is the inspection standard? In my head, I’ve got product data sheet, product passport, and the two stages at which we pass data through, and then that becomes your asset register ant the end when you hand it across. So, it’s a case of who needs to do what at the product data sheet and who needs to do what at the product passport stage in order to preserve the consistency and integrity of data. The data sheet stuff for the manufacture, we haven’t even nailed down yet, which makes the product passport stuff even more complex.
GEORGE Without doubt. (shares screen). This is the methodology that we've used on all of the asset types. So, we’ve got the risks, what do people do to stop it from working (including cat flap and letterbox). And then the information that’s needed for different stages, and then information about what maintenance procedures are. This is the bit that we’re trying to flesh out, Iain. The only thing `I could find that’s in any sort of standard is BESA’s SFG-20. I’d like to get to this type of reasonably explicit set of information.
IAIN The BWF produced a checklist when I was there. I don’t if I can share it because I think they put it all behind the paywall.
GEORGE I’ll just show you this healthcare document that we’ve been working to. It's got a number of different sections. The type 1 inspection, which is for new things, type 2 which is existing, type 3 which is fire door inspections (the regular maintenance or inspections) and then putting together a fire door plan. So, this is what we’re working on, going through and taking out all the references to the NHS and hopefully adding in photographs from others as well.
IAIN There’s a practice guide and an installation guide from the BWF. The installation guide was written by Hannah Mansell who’s on your list, but I don’t think has attended a meeting. She’s since gone on to become technical director at Masonite, they’re an American-owned door company.
GEORGE So, this is it, Iain (referring to the document displayed on screen), it’s quite detailed. So, if we can get something remotely like this for BIM4housing and we make it free, that would be a good thing. I want to try and do the same for AOV’s, initially smoke vents, smoke control, dampers etc which is what we’re kicking off tomorrow, and if you’ve got anybody who might want to contribute. At least what we're doing is getting people talking about it.
MARTIN …I went to the mine, and they took me to the defect academy and they said go in there and tell us what’s wrong. I found six things that were wrong, they said well done, that’s more than most people get, but actually there’s 20 things wrong.
IAIN We did FireX one year, and Neil Ashdown mocked us up a mini-door, a functioning fire door about half the normal size. We had it on the exhibition stand and asked how many defects can you find. I think there were 21 defects on the door, most people got to about 12. The problem is by the end of the week there was 24, you see new defects creeping in.
MARTIN So, George, that 25% that you were talking about earlier for some fire doors according to an institution, when I did the work with BG about 10 years ago, fire walls made out of metal stud partitions, 10% of those new installs were compliant. I think we’re a bit better, but we’re nowhere near a hundred as an industry.
GEORGE I’m working with a firm of inspectors in Nottingham and one of the directors there is Joe Allen and he used to run the Academy at BG, so he’s got a lot of experience of doing inspections of the walls.
MARTIN It’s really surprising, it’s not dissimilar to doors or service penetrations, there’s a lot to know, that’s why you have specialists and you need them involved early on to advise the architect, because the architects don’t know, anymore than the principal contractors. I’m not blaming people, they just don’t know.
GEORGE At the weekend, one of the BIM4housing guys, Steve Poppin, posted something on Linkedin. It was a guy trying to get out of a fire door that was closed because it was a pressurised vent system. Very powerful. It shows how complicated…that’s why we need to have that holistic perspective.
MARTIN So, unfortunately there’s no sign of Fionn or Peter coming back, so I don’t want to drag it on any longer than we need to. Is there anything else anybody wants to bring up.
IAIN We’ve launched our pre-construction guide to drylining which we put out at Future Build last week, with a view to try and get stuff done, what needs to be done before we arrive on site. You remember that research I talked about a few months ago, we had a 17% rework, we decided that there was a sort of void in our information which is that we had a site guide, we had a best practise guide and we had a specified guide, but really honing in on that pre-construction stage was important. I’ll pop a link in the chat to that.
MARTIN On Thursday I’ve got another workshop with the supply chain that we use, and Joe, has he got access to that?
IAIN Yes, he’s got access to that. Matt Taylor wrote it for us, we’ve used Matt on a retainer basis to do some drylining specifics, he runs Taylor Design Consultancy.
MARTIN His name crops up with some of these workshops that we’re running with our supply chain. What we’ve got to do is tap that knowledge into this shift to the left for Stages 3 and 4.
IAIN That’s effectively what Matt’s been doing for us. We’ve been giving Matt a lot of insight from the research, he and I constructed that original piece of research, we banged it into a questionnaire. We then commissioned Matt to write that report, and Joe’s done all the editing and support. Matt’s one of those very detailed people, he disappears down that rabbit hole of detail very quickly, so Joe’s been helping to pull him back up so it turns into a guide. There’s 2 guides, there is the site guide which is a re-cut and then we pulled all the p[re-construction stuff out, a bit like what you’re trying to do, George, with the BIM4housing fire door stuff, get the information in an easy format that people can use.
GEORGE You know we’ve talked about getting the product data into a free library that people can use, that’s now working. The software is working, so we can make that available under the BIM4housing banner. But also, we’ve got Lloyds Register agreed to certify that it’s actually come from the manufacturers because I think that's going to be an increasingly important thing in terms of ensuring that the information can be verified. But that needs to be optional for the manufacturers, in my view, because there’s too many fragmented paid for services, you’ve got all the different BIM Store, BIM Object, you don’t know where to get the information from. Whereas my belief is that we need a place where this information can be stored. BSI Identify are onboard with the idea, so I think that’s something we ought to be pushing forward with.
IAIN Is there any opportunity to use the leverage of BIM4housing to put pressure back on Lexicon again, George? For me, that’s kind of a missing piece of the jigsaw, we're not agreeing standardisation around data sheets and as a consequence we’re still not really exchanging consistent data.
GEORGE I agree with you, but unfortunately I don’t think so, no. I don't think there's real desire, that’s the problem.
IAIN That’s commercial, isn’t it? There’s desire from the industry to sort it, it’s just there’s commercial barriers in place against getting it done. And that’s kind of what Lexicon broke down was those commercial barriers. It’s the right thing to do, but sometimes we lose sight of the right thing because it’s difficult. I’ve lost all track of what’s happening with Nima, it seems to de drifting.
GEORGE Yeah, I don’t disagree. I think, off the record, the rebranding…I do agree we need to move away from people thinking it’s all about 3D modelling, and it should be about information, but given the fact that 95% of the people will think about BIM, to remove BIM completely from the whole remit of the UK BIM Alliance seems crazy.
IAIN It just seems that we’re slipping into that the organisation has become more important than the job, which is the danger of the world that I live in. The path FIS is treading is hard, because we’re trying to….in these things, to give them away and share them which means you don't realise the value of them through membership in the way, ideally, you'd like, because much as in an ideal world, the sector rewards good bodies that do good things, that’s not always true. But my view remains that the job is more important than the organisational structure and we have to be sacrosanct…It’s undermining development and change and Nima’s got to step up or step out, for me.
GEORGE The thing is as well, there’s a lot of BIM consultants who are probably steering Nima and BIM consultants are naturally going to what to keep it relatively complex. I don’t mean that in an unpleasant way. For example, BIM Level 2, or the last 4 or 5 years you’ve not been able to use the term BIM Level 2, it’s now ISO 19650 Part 2 compliant. I don’t think that’s the right way forward because at the end of the day in most contracts you’ll see BIM Level 2, not written in new contracts. It’s a common language, people understood the difference, there was Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, I think simply changing the name, taking it out of the lexicon as it were, is not a way forward.
IAIN Maybe this is something, Martin, in terms of your conversations in BB to try and drive some of this through the CIC is we need to get back to that standardised approach to structured data, or it’s a beggar’s muddle, right? The date has got to line up against the plan of works in the same way.
MARTIN We tried a little bit of this with the MOD, but they are stuck in BIM language. Some of the questions that they asked to see whether or not you're a suitable contractor revolve around what’s your BIM strategy, it’s like winding the clock back 7 or 8 years. So we try and say to them, guys, it’s all moved on, we are talking about other things now, information management etc. They’re a big customer and they’re not untypical of the way the government’s still at in terms of procurement, so it’s a big problem, they’re still stuck in that world.
GEORGE I’m working on something for a client, they’re being asked to take over at handover the responsibility of keeping the BIM model up-to-date. I've told them that they shouldn't accept that responsibility (I’ve been telling them that for 18 months) because what they're being asked to do is actually impossible. It’s a few words in a contract they signed up to 5 or 6 years ago. And also it's being interpreted at the moment that all of the room data sheets, for example…this is for a university complex, but even for a hospital it would be even more complex. The room data sheets are a contractual deliverable and therefore they are expected to keep the room data sheets up-to-date, but not just that, to keep them up-to-date by updating the BIM model.
The reason it’s impossible is because those room data sheets were produced using a specialist application that the architect used called Codebook and it was done at a point in time. And even the main contractor, who was employing the architect, when they came to do the final verification of what was actually installed in each room they went in and edited the Word version of a 2,500 page set of room data sheets because they couldn’t update the BIM model because they didn't have this specialist software. And even if they bought a licence for it, there’s all sorts of reasons why it couldn’t have been done. We’re trying to explain this to the SPV at the moment and it’s beyond their comprehension as to why it can’t be done.
IAIN This is the kind of thing that Nima should be picking up. Let’s go back to the other source of all of our problems, JCT hasn’t been updated since 2016. The whole information management conversation has shifted on, but there’s no standard terms around it that reflect the way that we are working now. It’s one of the many areas that JCT is absent on watch at the moment because they are not evolving with the sector. Since 2016 we’ve had a bloody pandemic, we’ve exited the European Union, we’ve had a major overhaul of the building safety regulations, we’ve had inflation like none of us have encountered in our careers linked to fluctuation clauses which don’t reflect the way that any data is held about material price movement anyway, and you’ve just got this beggar’s muddle of contracts. This is where Nima should be stepping up, petitioning JCT to put the right information management clauses in and agreeing what the fair share of information risk should be ??? 1hr 03mins 17sec contract, and at the moment they’re faffing around with the logo.
MARTIN Fionn, we did have a question for you. Iain was saying your liaison that you have with Nima, is that getting you anywhere? Is that moving on?
FIONN It’s sluggishly moving along. With regard to affiliates, which is the bit that I’m involved in, the only update I’ve got for you (which I might have mentioned last time), Casey is one of the main guys, he’s mentioned recently enough that there seems to be a better chance now to involve RIBA in discussions, they’ve got onto someone who is receptive to being involved, because RIBA are not involved. If you think about that for a minute, RIBA not being involved in this is a major problem. There’s a meeting booked in for this Friday, so I think then we’ll have an update which I’ll be sure to share with you whether we’ve progressed anywhere with getting a RIBA representative to look at some alignment with those guys.
IAIN …A few thoughts off the back of the little rant I just had about how we’re not making any progress on contractual issues around information management.
FIONN It’s a good point. What we do with Nima is we kind of co-lead by quarters the affiliates, and I’m co-lead with Sarah Kite at the moment who’s got a legal background and here interest is on contracts. There’s an event where she is progressing something with JCT, how well publicised that all is and who’s supposed to going to that, I don’t know.
IAIN I think we are due a JCT review next year, my understanding is they’re going to republish the…contracts, I don’t know who’s representing who and at what stage are those discussions, they’ve got these colleges that take control of different parts of the contractual structure and it’s all based on what people did 40 years ago, I suppose.
FIONN I’m with you on that, as it stands now it’s not really fit for purpose. I’ll see if I can dig up and circulate that in-person event.
GEORGE One of the frustrations I've got is that the Devil's very much in the detail and what I think we need to be doing…I was just saying, Fionn, I've been spending time over the weekend writing something that explains why the contractor can’t have produced the information that our customer (who is the FM contractor) is being asked to inherit and take responsibility for. It's because there's an unrealistic expectation of what this magical BIM thing does. We’ve got 27 work packages, we’ve probably had over a hundred BIM models, they’ve all been federated but they’re individual files, we’ve got all the 1 to 50s and the schedules and room data sheets that have all been generated at different stages by different people. I was just explaining that you can’t simply go and make a change, if you make a change to a room in your BIM model and then try and recreate all of those outputs, in practice it can’t be done because they’ve used Codebook to create the room data sheets and the main contractor doesn’t have codebook. Therefore the only option they had was to go and manually edit all the room data sheets and therefore there is no way of validating whether what was in the room…
FIONN George, just on that one, when you say there’s no way to validate it, just playing Devil’s advocate, there’s no way to validate it using data.
GEORGE Yeah, the only way of doing it is literally manually.
FIONN This is the thing where it devolves, that’s the tried and tested, suddenly we’re printing out, we’re doing side-by-side mark ups. But it technically could be done, it’s just not going to be done as it ought to be done.
GEORGE Yeah, certainly the checking, and they have checked. They’ve taken the room data sheets, they’ve gone in the rooms, they've checked to make sure that what's in the room data sheets has actually been installed. What I'm saying is that the way things are described in the BIM model and the way they're described on the room data sheets are different, the descriptions are different. And then moving on from there if changes have taken place, even if you change them in the BIM model, you’d then regenerate the room data sheets and you can’t automatically compare the two because, again, they’ve not used standardised descriptions. The other honey is that when you’ve got families with assemblies then you can’t actually generate, you can’t export them…
All I’m saying is that there is a lot of technical stuff that this magical BIM thing…if there’s some information missing that’s a defect and we need to recognise…I mean, the job’s been done really well, it’s much better than most of the projects that we’ve worked on, but it’s not 100%. And when you’ve got ambulance chasers in the market that are going along trying to find defects, there’s quite a lot where they’re finding digital defects and that then becomes as critical. We’ve got to be reasonable. At the end of the day the whole point about this process was to deliver better asset information and certainly if the project has been done using BIM it will deliver better asset information, but it won’t be perfect. And therefore if it's the case that somebody has got to take on a liability because of the way the contract's been written that either, in your case, Balfour Beatty has produced a perfect model of a hospital or something like that or the receiving party, the FM Co., is accepting that they’ve got a perfect model, it’s mad, you can’t do it. So, I don’t know how contractually we deal with that, other than best endeavours.
BIM4Legal event is scheduled for the 23rd of March: Basics of BIM in contracts. I'll send on details when I can. I need to jump off again unfortunately, but I'll call George to catch up later today.