Contractual Workstream Session 10 Meeting
PAUL McSOLEY Have that one. Roofs, it's compartment walls, it's fire doors and it is sometimes dampers and things as well, but generally it’s walls, doors, floors and roofs. It’s never that simple.
MARTIN ADIE But I think, and I did a stint in aftercare myself. Not only do I think everybody should do a stint because it does open your eyes to how we don't keep records properly. But it also lends itself to appreciating what they're trying to do with the legislation with the golden thread and with all the data capture. It just gives you that sort of head start in terms of seeing what’s coming over the next few years, it really does help. Because if we’re going to improve, and we have to, then we're going to have to do what's laid out in terms of the legislation and the golden thread legislation, what's the latest on that? Does anybody know when the golden thread element of it is going to be formalised? October, is it?
IAIN McILWEE I think if you speak to the Health & Safety Executive they would say last April, but we'll be checking your homework from October. GEORGE No, sorry Iain, I think people are being called in from April. The housing associations are expecting to have to be, certainly starting to be ready by April and I think the deadline is October. I agree. IAIN But I think what the Health & Safety Exec would say is that it should already exist. So, it's yesterday, not tomorrow, we need to be ready for this.
FFION Hi everyone, I’m Ffion from Buig, Mark Bradfield asked me if I can try and fill in for him in this workstream going forward. So, bear with me while I try and wrap my head around what you guys have been up to.
MARTIN ADIE I’m head of quality for a couple of Balfour Beatty’s businesses. Fifteen months ago, I allowed George to persuade me to head up this workstream to just see if we can't ease our way into the golden thread contractual thinking in terms of informing our supply chain and, probably a bigger task, our designers, just so that they understand what it is coming their way.
GEORGE So for David's purposes, I’m managing director of Active Plan. So, we provide solutions for asset information management, including the golden thread and we are both a software company and we're very heavily involved in data management. And another one that we're working on that you're working on, I imagine David, is, is Midland Met? 4mins 5secs. Talking about what Martin was saying there, in terms of the experience of being in aftercare, well, we've got a similar sort of experience because we're working for, in this particular case, Equans, who are the recipients of your information. It’s fair to say that the initial comments that I've had back from my team is that the BIM model and the COBie data is quite good. I didn’t mean that in a patronising way, but we’re so used to getting very poor-quality information that it’s a pleasant surprise. I’m sure that when we get into the detail of it they’ll be some issues, but that’s encouraging. I’m chair of BIM4housing and also, I lead the Golden Thread Initiative asset and survey information group, which is trying to deal with the definition of what’s going on and what’s got to be done.
MARTIN ADIE We are getting better. I think where you’ll find it might get a bit tricky on MMUH is where we took over from Carillion.
GEORGE We actually did a piece of work when we were asked to help, probably three years ago. When we saw it, we qualified out because it was so bad. MARTIN And I hope we did the same. But yeah, there's not a day goes by when we're not working with the NHS saying, well this should be like that, but we don't know what that's like because we didn't do that bit. It's quite awkward.
IAIN McILWEE I’m chief exec of an organisation called Finishes & Interior Sector, we just focus on the construction of the interior and certain parts of the exterior, mostly SFS when we get outside. So, a membership organisation, principally of contractors, but the entire supply chain are within our membership.
PAUL McSOLEY I work for Mace, but I don’t just work for Mace, I do stuff with CIBSE on codes and standards. I’m the process lead for the Passive Fire Knowledge Group and do stuff with George on construction and stuff on design for George as well. I get involved in basically everything. So, there's a big group of us, you’ll always find that when you do all these things it's the same people's faces that come up time and time again because maybe there's not a great pool of people in the industry that really understand the whole system of it all. It's been quite interesting over the last few years.
RICHARD I’m director of BIM4housing. Basically, George’s sidekick and doing what I’m told. I tend to chair a lot of meetings because I don’t need to know very much. When I’m not chairing a meeting I sit in the background, put my camera off and have a coffee. JISS I work for George and Richard, basically what Richard said, a sidekick of both George and Richard, I just sit in the background and do all the administrative stuff.
MARTIN ADIE There’s a couple of other workstreams that I’ve got involved with lately, have you come across the GIRI workstream? Mark sits on that one as well. What they’re trying to do is put out some fact sheets, along the lines of ‘did you know’. Just to ease people in, because they did a swift snap survey of their current members and the people that they interact with along the lines of what do you know about this impending legislation or in place legislation. And they presented it back to us and we were quite surprised at the lack of knowledge around the Building Safety Act and who it applied to also the golden thread and what that entailed. I think they went down the wrong track initially, they started trying to put numbers to impact, to try and sort of forewarn insurers and developers, but we kind of drew a blank, people were talking 4%, 5%, it didn’t really lend itself to useful data. So, at the moment we’re working on these fact sheets that are going to be issued out to developers and insurers and fellow contractors and anybody who's a member of GIRI, basically. Saying this is in place, did you know you need to be compliant.
The one we’re struggling with the most, at the moment, is the competency one, in terms of getting that message out there. That’s the biggest hurdle we’ve got to overcome. I think most people are on board with the Building Safety Act and which buildings it will affect and the implications on the building regs, not just the fire ones. But I don't think people have really grasped the jump that's going to be required in competency levels, certainly not our designers. That’s what we’re doing with GIRI, I’m also working with Joe. We tapped into our supply chain, our manufacturers and some of our installers, just used their knowledge and their thinking to try and get our designers a bit more aware. We used their knowledge and input to try and set a series of requirements and feed them into our designers and saying did you know that by stage one you're going to have to come up with this? And stage two you're going to have to come up with this? The RIBA stages, I’m referring to there. We’re a couple of workshops into that working group, I’m quite pleased with the way it’s headed. Most of us are on the same page at the moment in that we’ve all come to the conclusion that that RIBA stages are one stage out of sync, and they all need to shift to the left, one stage. That's coming out of all the discussions, how we go back to people like RIBA and the architects and the M&E designers with that sort of news, I’m not sure yet, but we’ve got a few more workshops lined up.
PAUL McSOLEY Me and Joe mentioned about GIRI the other week. I put together a passive fire code of practice, all going through the RIBA stages. One of the things I think Joe was probably going to do with Geary, we came to the same conclusion about gateway 3. So, gateway 1, you can’t do it unless you’re at the end of stage 3 and you know, basically, the descriptive of the problem you’ve got so you’re able to prescribe something later. Because at the moment we’re going into construction and it’s not described, then all hell breaks loose because actually the building is too small to fit everything into it. You can’t fudge things anymore, it’s all going against you, you’ve got to have access, record it, know what it was originally. There’s lots of stuff going on around it about designers because you are right, Martin, the competency thing is the shocker, but the procurement piece is the next part because you can’t select passive seals for anything unless you know the descriptive of what it should be, and then you have a product that meets it, then you compare it to the wall as a system. That it all works with that type of supporting construction, then you can get in to install it all, and that’s the bit that, unfortunately, architects just can’t do because they’re not selecting the products. It’s all getting pushed down to the bottom of the supply chain for selection later, and that’s when your problems really start. So, it’s getting it all shifted back to the front end, so you’ve got good rule sets around how it all kind of works.
Is it worth, because Ffion and David are new to this group, getting some of those original PDFs sent around, with explanations about contractual, discrepancy, statutory matters etc. It’s always worth a reflection and a catch up of where we went through originally. One of the big things on competency, it’s trying to make complex as simple as you can without screwing it up. With GIRI there’s some big overlaps of what we’re doing in PFKG as well, so it all kind of ties in.
MARTIN ADIE There’s probably half a dozen working groups out there having similar conversations. I think we’re all heading in the same sort of direction in terms of where this will lead, but I think now there needs to be some sort of upstream feeding in to where we’re concerned, where we see things not working. If we tick the ones that we’ve acknowledged and all the changes that are coming, if we think we can cope with the ones we’ve ticked, as Tier 1 contractors, and then have another page or slide that says these are things we’re still not confident we’re gonna solve by the time they start rolling out, I think that might be useful.
GEORGE Just to clarify, we’re talking about GIRI, that’s the Get It Right Initiative. It was started 7 or 8 years ago. I agree, Martin. It’s such a huge topic that we’re trying to address here, that it can be overwhelming. We’ve started to break it down, in a way, and to try and focus on a couple of strands that we can then work around. For example, I’ve been looking at the whole compartmentation thing. What’s become very clear is that most people aren’t aware of the importance of that. People are looking at individual assets and we’ve still got situations where, particularly at the moment because of what’s been happening with fire plans that everyone needs to get into premises information boxes, that’s going to lead to a lot of fire door replacements. In talking with a lot of the landlords at the moment they’ve got programs of replacing fire doors and the level of failure of the new fire doors that they’re installing is 80%. These are brand new fire doors that are being installed. We're also working with a big contractor at the moment that has been doing inspections of the fire doors they are installing in new buildings, and they’re getting 70-75% failures as well. It speaks to the competence side of things. So, we’ve started a new workstream in BIM4housing around fire doors, in particular around fire door inspections.
Obviously, there's gonna be a hell of a lot of activity in fire door inspections. And the range of different expertise of the people that are doing the inspections and also, to some extent, the motivation of some of the people as well. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but if you’ve got a fire door inspector who is also a manufacturer and an installer there’s a question mark as to whether that’s a Chinese wall that should be there. We held the first of the fire door inspection groups a couple of weeks ago and one of the housing associations said that basically they're taking the line that unless they've got a certificate for a fire door, they’re going to replace it. From talking to other fire door specialists they’re saying that that probably is a bit of a knee jerk reaction because it may well be that a fire door is perfectly adequate. And in fact, actually the replacement one that comes in, it might have a certificate, but has it got a certificate for being installed in the wall type that it was supposed to be? Again, last week somebody explained that on a project that they were working on there was 41 different wall types. Now, the likelihood of the door that's going to be installed in one of those different wall types being tested in all of those different substrates is pretty unlikely.
So the people who have been sort of coordinating us on this journey, and again it comes from the knowledge of people who are real practitioners, and landlords and designers. They’re saying that really it needs to be a risk-based approach and it needs to be taken in the context of that particular door. We’re trying to come up with a standardisation of how inspections are being done, and as we’ve got into this it looks as though we can use the same methodology for all asset types. It's not different for a door as it is for an AOV. Some of the tasks are, but the procedure of identifying what type of thing it is and then having regular maintenance on top of that makes sense. I think there's a great opportunity now, certainly I'm seeing it a lot clearer as to how we can achieve that connection.
IAIN McILWEE Couple of quick points on that. There is a standard, but it's not a standard, which is the fire door inspection scheme F-DIS? 23mins 27secs has a 90-point checklist. And there's also a new association set up fairly recently which is a trade association for fire door inspectors. Might be worth including them in that work as well. I can introduce you to the individuals, George, of course I was away last week so only caught up with a few emails.
MARTIN ADIE My perception, me and Iain have talked about this for I don’t know how long, there’s a dearth of competent installers of fire doors, we're probably going to end up in a situation where the industry's got more inspectors than people who are capable of putting the bloody things in.
IAIN McILWEE Again, there's a diploma for that, which we just need to encourage people to bloody take it. I could spend my entire day talking about fire doors. That's not why we are gathered here today, is it?
GEORGE The important thing is that we seem to have got a big influx of people that are interested in participating, which is encouraging. We’ve got the fire door one underway and I think we must have about 60 or 70 people that have signed up to participate. The next one is on AOVs and smoke vent (and that includes dampers). And then we’re going to look at, I think the next one is, penetration seals. So again, what I've been trying to do, Iain, is look at the compartment as being a thing that we can work around system.
PAUL McSOLEY Remember, George, what we delivered last time to the design group after going through here, which obviously Iain and Joe have seen because I produced it in there as well. It’s a standard way of work-booking it all. I sort of broke it down into things that are static, like pipe seals, dampers and ducts, and things that are transient like fire doors, because you can walk through them, they’ve got other things that go with them. Then you’ve got things that are dynamic, like smoke control which is performing a function. It’s interesting because you can put it in the same platform, you just change the stuff that surrounds it. I think I delivered the damper one last time, George, that’s gone out for peer review now from PFKG to TG6, it’s gone out to NABUK? 26mins 14secs and its gonna go out to a few other people. But it all hinges around having a code of practice for passive fire that doesn’t exist. There is some stuff like part 3, but there’s not like a CIBSE Code M that encapsulates all of it, where you’ve got a way of behaving around commissioning. You’ve got guide A, guide W…that then aligns back to that behaviour. As a group we need to get everyone together so we can get this thing fully aligned and realised. You get workbooks because pipework is the easiest thing to describe, it's the hardest thing to select and practice. It’s a nightmare, because material based, wall thickness, fluid temperature, what insulation, and all the other stuff that goes with it. And because we’re procuring it from 4 tiers down the market later on it ends up as a disaster, every time.
FFION I sit on with NEMA, which has obviously confused the world as well. I try to engage with NEMA on what we call the affiliate leadership group, which is basically trying to round up RIBA, CIBSE, not very successfully (I'll be honest). Rounding up these membership organisations for the industry to see where they are, and it’s really difficult. RIBA and CIBSE being tow of the big fish that are quite difficult to get into a room and look at this. But I think there needs to be quite a new impetus now to look at this with these guys and say what is your guidance to your members? Especially RIBA, because if you’re gonna put out a new overlay it needs a lot of input, and I suspect that could be happening, but I certainly haven’t heard of it.
IAIN McILWEE I think that defines the problem: everybody is solving a bit of it, but it’s not being pulled together. So, there’s lots of siloed…this discussion is always useful because there is always something that’s going on that we haven’t heard about, or there’s a new piece of work. We’ve got to try and then now feed this up, that presentation has got to be done to the CLC, Martin, I think we've got to get the Construction Leadership Council behind some of you guys have pulled together. I don’t think we want to challenge the plan of works, but we know it’s not a plan of works. So, we need a construction industry response to the plan of works that pulls all of this together. Paul made an excellent point in the last meeting, he's done all this work, but how does that work in the world of structure data? How do you BIM that lot? So that conversation is happening over there about structured data, but it’s not necessarily linked to what Paul’s trying to do in the real world, and it’s how do we get these to come together in a meaningful time frame. I think this group has a responsibility now because we’ve unearthed it, we talked early doors about I, we and they, so individual company response, collective action, and then actually this stuff is outside of our influence, so we need other people to do stuff. So, we need to explain what it is, why they need to do it, and get support from the RIBA’s of the world, because at the moment there’s too many people trying to own it. That’s the big problem, everyone is trying to own it.
PAUL McSOLEY I think part of this issue, it’s like the gunfight at the OK Corral, because what everyone’s doing is the architects don’t want to get blanked, they don’t want to be blamed. And actually, they're probably actually a little bit blindness because of the competency thing, it sits outside their reasonable competency on seals and all the products standards, they would never know it anyway.
FFION I totally agree, Paul, isn’t that currently even the case, an architect will tell you I can’t give you an as built because I haven't been able to verify what's been built. So, that's the current situation.
PAUL McSOLEY The issue is that they can't describe a fire door in a wall. Technically they can’t describe it, they can’t talk about the classifications of it. The best example is probably ‘I want a 120-minute rated fire curtain’. The first thing is there is no such thing as fire rating, its resistance, it’s different parameters. We’ve got it on jobs at the moment and actually what they wanted is a smoke control curtain, and they’ve got 120-minute fire rated E-catergory resistant curtain. It’s like, you’ve selected the wrong thing. It’s outside their knowledge field, they don't understand all the different classifications for all the different kit. And when you get into things, and fire doors are complex because you got the security side and all the rest of it. When you get into things like smoke control, the building services guys, they do not know how to classify it. A fire engineer doesn't know the product standards. And I think you've got to get to that situation where you go, all of you just calm down. You do this bit, you do this bit, and we’ll bring it all together, it’s what the Code M does, it enables people to function out.
GEORGE But who does that bringing together, Paul?
PAUL McSOLEY Well, at the moment there is no code of practice to do it and that’s why we’re writing it at the moment. What GIRI do is probably quite similar. There’s gonna be some overlap as well, I’ve done the process flow for it, but it’s getting the RACI’s right to say you behave like that at this point in time. It doesn’t tell you how to buy and select a product, it tells you how to behave. You need the workbooks to get the products right, which again is the equivalent of CIBSE Code A for air systems, W for water, you’ve got to have those codes of practice, like fire doors need. One already exists, but what we’ve got to do is put it into a pictorial format, so everyone understands it.
IAIN McILWEE And everyone knows what their responsibility is. So, at the coalface, what we face is design development ill-defined in a contract, and it’s an absolute nightmare. I’ve got 2 or 3 legal cases going on at the moment because nobody designed development.
PAUL McSOLEY Design development, unless it’s in the main contract amendments defining what it means, there's no such thing. There's only statutory matters and adequacy, that’s all there is.
IAIN McILWEE We talked to our members about a clarification and qualification process, but that loses them work. If you actually do it properly you lose work because people don’t actually want you to go through that process at that stage. Again, I’ve got a perfectly defined clarification through centre stage and a qualification process that should be submitted with your tender and also into support the design development decisions that have been assumed in the process. In the real world, it’s a license not to win jobs.
PAUL McSOLEY We had one years ago, just because you haven't allowed to do something doesn't mean you haven't got to do it either. So, the wording has to be so, so correct, because in some of the legal cases you get if you say we’ve not allowed to do something that means you can't complete the works, you’re doing it at your own cost. It doesn’t matter if you're not allowed to do it, you've still got to do it. It’s a minefield.
MARTIN ADIE That’s an interesting one. So, if you qualify by saying you’ve not allowed for something, I can imagine that the legislation and the interpretation says, well, irrespective, you've still got to do it in order to make it comply. But you still have another argument to say that I made it clear that I hadn’t allowed any finance for that so therefore I’m still out of pocket.
IAIN McILWEE The ESL case recently went through, the caveat was ignored because the contract said comply with the building regs.
PAUL McSOLEY Yeah, that’s statutory again. If you look at the one with the cladding case, with Marlet Homes, they lost because the overall responsibility for statutory compliance sat with the contractors…the architect originally had done a system which didn't make the functional requirement of don’t spread file on the outside of the building, but de facto it was a contractor's own specification because they’re responsible for statutory matters on the contract. Once we were told, we had a satellite fall out of space in Russia many years ago on a job and it did all the satellite channels for this particular development. And we sat down with the employer’s agent, nice enough guys but they could be hard work, that’s what they’re paid to do. They said the satellite’s fallen out of space, what do you want to do about it? We said you don’t expect us to put the satellite back in space, do you? And they wrote to us and said if that's your way of removing the inadequacy from your contract, please just confirm how you want to do it. You’ve got to apply how those clauses work with the work you're undertaking.
And actually, are those clauses that statutory matters, discrepancy, adequacy, there could be things under design, development or scope, gap clauses, all things are amended. Is it appropriate to the work you've got on the level of information? Because if it's not you've got…to raise your hand and say it. If that client says you're being too awkward and you know you can't deliver it, you’re probably best just walking away anyway.
MARTIN ADIE Have you seen the case going through at the moment with Willmott Dixon? The Woolwich Tesco and the block of flats above, they’re challenging because they've had to remediate the whole thing, but they're now suing their architect and supply chain saying you had the same level of responsibility to make sure it complied.
PAUL McSOLEY When you novate a consultant from an employer to yourselves you have to make sure the main contract doesn't have any restrictive covenant that says you must just novate them in the form that we've done because if you’re novating them, but they don't have responsibility for design they did previously and that all sits with the client, you basically haven't got anyone responsible for the time that protects you, and I've seen it happen. So, it should always be supplement to the building contract when you novate them and it should be warranty of all the work they've previously conducted. It sounds simple, but it gets missed all the time. Because you're right, if they have been novated on those terms, which is what it should be, your risk goes straight to them. We've had jobs recently when the architects folded. Half of them get into it. Just gone. Gone to administration. You’re gonna see a lot of it, big money as well.
DAVID (in response to Martin’s question ‘What do you make of it?’). I’m stunned, if I’m dead honest. The level of conversation has been very interesting. The points about the fire doors, effectively the poacher suing the gamekeeper scenario is a concern. I think an inspection regime should be kept separate from installation, my big push is always the biggest frailty with fire doors, as a specific, is the discrepancy between the manufacturer, the installer and the maintenance regimes. A lot of it could be removed by having fully integrated door sets installed from the outset, but that's a level of detail that’s probably…
MARTIN ADIE You can still buy in the UK in 2023, and they’re still being installed, doors and frames separately. Put them into fire compartmentation. It’s just staggering.
DAVID So open to incompetent people doing a day’s work, getting paid for it, with a massive liability left behind them, it’s a concern. Everything I’ve heard so far has been an eye-opener, actually.
GEORGE The scale of this, the fire door side of things, I was really quite surprised to learn that a fire door can be between £3-5,000. Some people have got to replace 3-4,000 fire doors.
DAVID Yeah, without wishing to name any names, one of the projects I’ve just defended, we had a claim for a few million quid to replace 700-odd doors because they alleged that we hadn’t provided the relevant certification at the time of handover. We went through a very painful postmortem of the whole and we resolved that we were able to, because the quality of the doors were good, they were fire doors, we were able to actually avoid that type of massive remediation programme by retrospectively providing the door labels on the doors which should have been admitted from the date of installation. So, there’s a massive focus on, the solution seems to be replace it immediately and it's not necessarily the case. But you do have to take it as a case-by-case example. The resolution to that particular thing, I think ti cost us just a few 10,000’s of pounds just to get the doors relabeled, re-certified, without having to spend four and a half million pounds on 700-odd doors. So, it’s probably one extreme example to another, but the default of, oh, we can’t determine, therefore it must be replaced, I think is a worrying trend. Everyone then turns into an inspector with the conclusion that it must be replaced. It’s a worrying trend I’ve begun to see quite frequently.
I’m involved in probably about 30 projects where there are ranges of claims for all types of things and I get the conclusion it’s easy to point the finger and suggest an immediate replacement solution and these things need to be validated by independent validation methodologies rather than these organisations that we can do all things at the same time. You mentioned AOVs and smoke control systems, they’re my little speciality. They all start from what is the design basis, not what someone’s assumptions are, and it’s very easy to criticise what those systems were designed to do and function. It’s a real challenge to invalidate the original design inception with what’s presented on site. Everything you’ve talked about today has been a real eye-opener for me, it’s a good format and a forum for discussing this and hopefully making sure these can be addressed with further design collaboration and specification setting.
PAUL McSOLEY Just on things like smoke control, I do a lot of work with Paul White, Paul’s involved with George as well. There’s stuff that’s gonna come out soon on diplomas and how you do it, because it’s so messed up. We basically flow-charted out dampers and smoke control, you select one damper in one location, and it comes out this thing about that long (he spreads his hands out wide), all of the things you’ve got to consider just for one damper and one location. We’ve been gradually making it into something more simplistic, but as you said, and it’s absolutely spot on, that if you don’t know the risk category of the building and the space that you’re feeding and how it’s functionally supposed to operate, you can’t set the bloody system anyway. And they’re all trying to CDP it.
GEORGE I’ve got a question that Iain may be able to help with. The whole point about whether the door has been tested and it’s got a certificate, my understanding is that the certificate is only relevant for the test conditions that it was actually carried out under. And therefore, simply having a test certificate for a door set, that doesn't necessarily mean that it is safe because the manufacturer wouldn't know what door, what wall it was going into.
DAVID The certification for a particular door manufacturers’ assembly should have those wall configurations defined and clearly stated within the documentation. If that wall configuration where this particular door set is going to be installed doesn't conform to that, there should be a review of that process because of the application of that door is based upon its integration with a known and tested substrate structure. What you are describing is a mis-coordination the construction of the wall surround and the M&E service of the fire door being fitted, the joinery service being fitted, to ensure conformity. But you’re right, 41 different wall types, no manufacturer is going to test their door frame 41 times. They're going to test it to the number of wall configurations that are the most common practise. And from my experience, there's about 7or 8 or 9 wall configurations.
IAIN McILWEE That's the whole point of the scope that's set. So, if you look at certification, a test certificate is a document that's used as part of a certification process, the certification process that defines the scope that you're allowed in order to use that product in the same way. And it allows for interchangeability based on the experience of the test body and the certification company in order to ensure that they've used evidence to provide reasonable assurance that a product would maintain that level of performance in a test condition which is then translated into the real world. It's what people determine is the reasonable level of protection required for people to adequately escape.
DAVID You could go to what's called engineering judgement on applicability outside a range of known criteria. So that's the standard process that we go through quite frequently, actually, with slight misalignments and certification and installation detail.
IAIN McILWEE Certification process is a re-inspection. It's an audit, an annual audit, there’s so much more to it than just a test.
PAUL McSOLEY it’s good to hear language getting used now, ‘appropriate’, ’adequate’, I love it all. There are only 2 types of standard supporting construction: symmetrical, flexible or rigid. If you look at what Gove’s done recently, oh, 476 has got to go, which everyone’s going to fight because it can go for certain things, it can’t go for others. Whatever you select must be adequate for the function for which it was intended to be used, installed in a workman-like manner. Even if you take fire doors, and this is where we don’t use the word engineering judgement anymore. If something’s assessed to PFPF guidelines and it’s done through an accredited third-party like an IFC or a UL, they’ll generally be a good problem, or if it can be technically assessed properly or not, because the minute there's something intestate that doesn't exist, they just won't do it. Whereas manufacturers will give you their judgement on it quite willy nilly. So, we don't use them anymore because when we start breaking them out we find actually there's not enough ? 51mins 22secs to bloody support it. This is what we found with a lot of stuff on even pipe work and different types of substrates, it’s like there’s not test standard for, say, walls against beams with openings on 3 sides with deflection heads. You can’t engineer and judge it because there is no test data to do it. We’ll work on it, but it doesn’t kind of exist.
What we’re finding as well, building control authorities like the City of London are getting really switched onto it. Other ones haven’t caught up yet, but they’re getting really switched onto it. If it’s not crack on the money, they just go ‘can’t accept it’.
GEORGE I think the interesting perspective that Livewest, the housing association, gave me, their policy is to just replace unless they've got the right certificate. That's coming to a situation where a piece of information missing, if we come back to our BIM world, the certificate is a piece of information. That in itself is a defect. That’s quite an interesting perspective to look at from what we’re trying to do together. Because it's not just a matter of whether it was installed properly, it's whether you can actually evidence that it's got its certificate. And if they've lost the certificate, or as David said there, that was an oversight probably by the installation team or whatever, but you were able to sort it out afterwards, that’s a critical understanding. The fire inspection workstream, we’re not trying to re-invent the wheel, we’re building on a set of fire door inspection guidance that was developed for the NHS. We’ve shared that guidance with the group and we’re getting their comments on it. What we’re going to try and do is refine that as a first pass, as it were. But the methodology that they use is to first of all identify what type of door it is. So, if it’s a new door there needs to be some sort of inspection to say what it is, even if that’s just looking at records of what was installed to make sure that you know what it is and that it's going to perform in the right way.
The second one is where it's already an installed door, and that needs also, obviously, to be identified so that you know what it is. But those two, that type 1 inspection which is for new doors or type 2 inspection which is for an installed door, is only ever done once. So that is the one that requires very experienced and competent people to be doing it. The third type of inspection is the ongoing inspection. And broadly that can be done by maintenance people, as long as they've been properly trained. And it can also be done by, as I saw last week with the information that came out of the government, it can be done by agents and even landlords and maybe even the tenants themselves, they can do their own checking. But it needs to be formally checked, maybe once a year. The basics was saying actually identifying, initially, what it is, is the critical thing. And part of that will be to also do a risk assessment because Alan Oliver, the guy who is sort of leading it, he’s very experienced in fire door inspections and he works for people like the big FM contractors, and sometimes the doors have been in place for 20-30 years. They don’t need to be replaced, if they’re going to perform adequately. The fact that they weren't tested and they don’t have a certificate, if they’re going to perform adequately and an expert says that they will, then that may seem reasonable.
IAIN McILWEE And that's kind of the key point, isn't it? That we standardise these things so we can develop together as a community and that we build on collective wisdom, rather than everybody doing everything differently and then getting to, we can't compare the result. Couple of quick things. I've shared the PFPF document, George, it used to be the guide to assessment in the test, it’s now called something different. The other one to be aware of is the classification systems, this change in the building regs that’s been proposed. That’s effectively saying that because the European standards have better mechanisms to assess performance, we’re going to do away with the British ones in the building regs. For fire resistance and reactive.
PAUL McSOLEY The big thing with this, this is what I can see from the reaction from Gove who’s obviously had to put his hands up and say ‘building regulations had a few problems’. When you look at all this cladding pledge and stuff, I don’t know where that’s all going to sit now, because all the developers are going to go ‘your guidance was wrong, wasn’t it”’. He’s said we’re going to get rid of 476 which means kiss PFPF goodbye, kiss it all goodbye, because none of it is going to be relevant. This is going to be like hell on earth, really, if they even try to do it all. Things like spread of flame, I fully agree, it should be the European system, it was nonsense. Then you’ve got things like steel beams where you go, well, if you use the European system, a 90-minute test for reactive would probably be 60 in the European system, 2 hours would be 90 because the furnace is so hot, there’s big differences in the furnace procedure. The effect on structure is that structure will get bigger, you can see it coming. Walls, I think, being 476, really that should just be EN, because it keeps it linear to all the seals that are tested through walls. Most wall systems are all made of EN components anyway, so it’s all a bit nonsensical.
IAIN McILWEE It’a more a case of timing than direction, and then there is an element of throwing the baby out with the bath water, but the underlying point to it all is the exaps? 1hr 1min 4secs provide a better standardised described mechanism to assess a broader range of performance between elements of a system. And it brings us back to the point about this process moving forward is that's what we need is that standardised approach, and then everything becomes easier again. So you're doing exactly the right thing with fire doors, George, I'm not cutting across it. The more standardisation there is, the better mechanism there is for us to decide based on a risk-based scenario because, again, why do we still sell door assemblies? Because there's a heck of a lot of buildings that aren't high risk that are going to need a new fire door in and why chuck the frame away. There are all sorts of reasons that we still need that broader range of products available for refurb projects. Not everything's a new build, high-rise, high-risk building.
PAUL McSOLLEY There's obviously limitations on wall height, but if you've got PFPF assessment then because there's limitations even accept someone can probably do a good reasonable assessment about higher walls, so you can probably do it. When it comes down to things like smoke control, dampers, all these other nuanced ones like flues, the problem is there is limitations on size with those standards, there is no exap? 1hr 2mins 30secs and it won’t be coming any time soon. But the thing is you've got big systems on jobs where you might have cargo tunnels or rail tunnels, and the thing is those standards aren't applicable to it anyway because you're talking pressures in excess of 10 kilopascals, so you’ve got to be careful what he wishes for. It’s all about Regulation 7: I don’t care if something is CE marked, I care if it’s appropriate for where I’m installing it. This is the bit where you can end up creating a secondary problem where everyone just goes everything EN and everything just grinds to a halt and stops.
IAIN McILWEE That’s all reliant on the fact that you need a process that allows you to make that determination that an insurer will sit behind. That’s the magic position is that I can determine that because I’ve used this process and my insurer is happy that that process is robust. And then you’ve squared off every option of…but at the moment it’s very difficult to get the insurance because the mechanisms aren’t clear and we haven’t thought system, we’ve thought product, product, product. Hence back to the whole point of what we’re trying to achieve here and walls as a system, passive fire knowledge group, GIRI, the work is all leading us down the road of we have to think as a group of people, not as individuals covering our own bums.
MARTIN ADIE Do you think the 476 thing is an overreaction? Trying to get rid of the Class O, but getting rid of everything else that sits around it. I think they’ve made a mistake there, haven’t they?
PAUL McSOLEY You need to look at it on a system approach and what’s appropriate. If you look at smoke control, it’s a fan, it’s a duct, it’s a smoke control damper. It’s not a fan, a duct and 55,000 pieces of ancillary quit so you can balance it in a smoke condition. It’s the wrong thing, you’re making it fallible. You shouldn’t shrink them down, you keep them the size you need to shift the volume. If you sat down and Michael Gove started talking to you about fire doors, you’d just be amazed, there’s no way he’s going to understand anything around this issue, he’s got people who advise him, I'm not sure necessarily they know everything about it either. Because if they did he wouldn’t have gone ‘I’m getting rid of everything,’ because that’s crazy.
IAIN McILWEE You know they started a consultation, I called in to see Clive Betts who chaired the Building Regulation Working Group, he said ‘Iain, how do we get rid of all combustible materials from buildings?’. I said ‘you’re talking to the wrong bloke, I run the British Woodworking Federation. And, by the way, fire doors do a pretty good job, in the main, made out of wood’. That’s the level of knowledge we’re dealing with.
MARTIN ADIE Can I just wind back. I found this diagram and it goes back to what George was going on about over a year ago, in terms of start with the asset information model. I’m thinking if RIBA gate stages isn’t applicable or working and if they are going to issue a re-draft maybe we should talk to them or try and influence their thinking to start with the end in sight. There’s a great diagram in 19650 (shares screen). I like this. ‘Start here’, it’s like a game of monopoly. And this is at the end you start, in terms of strategic planning, delivery phase and operational phase, appointments and start going through your information required from the back end. I remember you saying it initially, George, and I thought it was a good idea then, but it's only recently that it’s resurfaced in my consciousness.
GEORGE I think that’s absolutely right…that originated, it’s a reworked version of what was in the original BIM guidance from 1192. The key thing about it is the stages that you’ve got there, stage 1,2,3 and 4. What our experience is that the industry say they’re working to this, but in fact what tends to happen, the way of testing this is COBie. So COBie is the schema that’s used to manage the data that is used at creating those different stages. But what tends to happen on most projects, the COBie information is delivered either at stage 4 or indeed afterwards. So the trouble is the validation that should take place at each of the earlier stages doesn’t happen, even though it’s in the standards and it’s in all the guidance people aren’t following it. I think that’s a fundamental problem because what we’re discovering on projects is that some of the basics aren’t done. When I say the basics, I’m talking about the spatial coordination, being able to know not just where all the rooms are, but where are the risers. And all of that should be done, really, by stage 2.
IAIN McILWEE But in the way that we procure construction it cannot happen like that now because your specialist sub-contractor is going to be required to make some of those decisions and you go back to your clarification and qualification issue, those decisions aren’t happening then. So, it’s that late engagement through procurement. We’ve just done a really interesting piece of work with Reading University on procurement practice and what’s the typical time scale for when somebody’s appointed on the job, which is when they can start spending money on it, and it’s very, very late. Because he talks about responsibility within our supply chain, that we should never sign these contacts because effectively you don’t have clear and unfettered access to deliver because you don’t have the information you need at the time of committing and then you’re always on the back foot. We’ve slightly diluted the language around it, but we’ve left the point that the supply chain shouldn’t be saying yes, we shouldn’t be asking, and people shouldn’t be saying yes. But until you solve that commercial issue, and Mark made this point very early doors, he doesn’t think we can influence procurement. And i don’t think we can solve this problem until we influence procurement because it goes back to the Latham Report, that was his fundamental point, stage 4 has to be paid for by somebody.
PAUL McSOLEY Nothing has really changed since then anyway. I don’t blame design teams at the moment, to a degree I do blame clients, the ways they bring people in like PQS’s who think the value is in the supply chain. And the builders that pass it down the line to the supply chain, you end up in this big quagmire where you've got, as a system, you’ve got walls that you can’t select unless you’ve got the damper, the door, the glass screen, the curtain, whatever’s going through it all, because by summation you’ve got to get to the wall type that suits all of those things as a system, but there all sporadically split between a joinery company, it could be BG etc., you just don’t know. And the issue is once people are signed up, you might have a good Tier 1 MEP contractor who is going out for pipe work materials and trying to change them later on, but the design is not based on a specific material anyway because they think the values later on. Even for the guys that do passive fire seals, they’re knackered, they can’t do it, they need to know materials, wall thickness, sizes,
IAIN McILWEE But that work that you’re doing, Paul, leads into that. You cannot agree a contract until these things have been decided, and if from the work that Paul’s doing we can get down to what these things are, then that’s when we have to go back to the CLC and that plan of works and say, look, delivering that plan of works this, and this cannot happen based on the way we procure it now.
PAUL McSOLEY There was a guy in the design group who said, ‘this 19650 doesn’t work’, and it doesn’t work because you don’t know the specific asset information. We did it for dampers, George, smoke control and a few others, there’s about 80 things you’ve got to record in the asset information at each location. You don’t know what they are at the end, you don’t know what they are at the start.
GEORGE Absolutely. I agree with you, Iain, but the fundamental thing that is even more shocking is the footprint of the building should be…I can’t see why the footprint of the building shouldn’t be defined by the end of spatial coordination. And at the end of spatial coordination, which is stage 3, we should have a COBie drop there. In the diagram that Martin has just shown, there is one, but very few projects do it because the way in which they’re generating…would you agree, Ffion?
FFION Yeah, it’s atypical to see a drop at 3, although you should see it because at the very least you should see every room, you should see the asset itself, as in the building itself, and the rooms and levels structured. That should be done and fixed and set. If you haven’t done that much, you’re nowhere near 3.
GEORGE One of the challenges is that architects, presumably by the way they bid, they don't define every space. What they'll do is they'll have a typical type of space, or a typical flat layout as a separate drawing, for want of a better term, even if they're working in Revit. They don’t apply those to every instance of the building and therefore how can you have a proper spatially coordinated building?
IAIN McILWEE Is that not the question where we need to go back and say why doesn’t this happen? What’s stopping you from doing this now and what could we do differently to help you do it?
MARTIN ADIE It’s procurement, isn’t it? George said it in there, it’s the way they are procured. So, it’s really a message for customers.
IAIN McILWEE But if we ask them that question and the answer is that, then we go back to the construction process, the Construction Leadership Council and say we have to consistently advise clients that this has to happen, or all the rest of it can't be done.
FFION Exactly, I agree. Even before the need for the golden thread, you can identify massive gaps in what a client is procuring from a design team without a main contractors involved. And obviously I'm not saying main contractors are some kind of altruistic angels, but there is a requirement, there are gaps there and there is a need, more so that ever, for that to be filled.
IAIN McILWEE That feels like a simple ask. it’s not an easy solution, but it’s a simple ask to say how do we go back…I think you use Paul’s specific examples of dampers, because that takes you right into, you don’t need to go into the detail of it, but you could show people where the weeds are and how it’s so easy to get caught up in them.
FFION Can I ask a question? You’ve spent a long time talking about dampers and products themselves. I’m not an expert in dampers or wall system configurations, but one thing I’ve come across recently is trying to use an expression like assume the worst. In our case, where we’ll put that in is if we’re in discussion with an M&E consultant in stage 4 A or I, and we need to progress to design but we’re delaying ourselves with the appointment of a subcontractor. So we need to get this thing further along. And what we’ll try and say, OK it’s generic, but can you assume some things to give us a chance? Can we apply a similar logic? Can you assume that you’ll use this or worst? Cab that be done, or must it be this, it has to be British gypsum? And then you can proceed.
IAIN McILWEE It should be the way it works, Ffion, but the truth is that the tendering process requires you to hit a number, and if you assume the worst, you can’t hit the number. So, the whole process is driven on the assumption of assume the best, because that’s the only way you can get on price.
PAUL McSOLEY When you look at BG6, which is what you are clearly referring to, Ffion. (Shares screen). If you take this as an example, if you ask a consultant to say, well, you’ve got ducts, dampers, all the rest, and you go just assume the worst, they don’t even know how to classify this descriptively. They don’t even know how it works with these. And this is because it’s outside of the competency knowledge of MEP consultants to get it right. What we did originally, when you look at these kind of things here, the fire engineer should know the risk category of the space and the operational grouping of the building, but the rest is outside the knowledge field of that fire consultant. The architects, they should have an understanding of the wall, but they don't understand the wall in relation to any of this. The building services consultant knows that a fire damper is a fire damper, but they don’t know all the classifications in relation to all the other things that go with it. You take principal contractors like us; we’re just passing the risk down the line. Hence you say assume the worst.
But then you look at the supply chains, they don’t know any of this, people that do pipe work don’t any of this. Then you’ve got people that do the classifications, they know this but, but they don’t know it in relation to all of this anyway. And that’s the bit that’s all gone wrong, so we end up getting into a quagmire in PCSA because we’re not spending the effort to describe the risk category of the space in relation to the hazard category of the building. How it operates in practice, we come out of PCSA with a number which is reflective of who knows what. They can’t actually do it, that’s why they want to CDP it, they just do not know.
MARTIN ADIE It’s the way we’re procured, isn’t it, and the way we procure and the way consultants are procured. So it goes back to the customer.
GEORGE And more questions need to be asked, I think that’s the point. Going back to what Iain was saying earlier, the fact is the customers, the clients don’t know that this isn’t actually being done. I sat in a meeting with a big firm of architects that we work with and the partner was doing a presentation to a client, and he was explaining that their BIM models will allow them to zoom into a kitchen in a room and pick up a particular, where the stop tap is or whatever. And I'm sitting here listening to this, and on another project that we're working on with them they've not modelled all the individual flats, they’ve just done types. I thought, well, this is extraordinary because we were having a big discussion with them about the fact that they hadn't done that and yet he's selling it to the client…So obviously the client will think that their BIM model is going to be a complete BIM model.
FFION You're completely right, George. This is the danger, the minute you show a 3D model you give the illusion of engineering, when actually that may not be the case at all.
PAUL McSOOLEY I hat 3D models, I have to get the 2D plan…not to be derogatory to BIM, you have to smell it, breath it, taste it, hug it, whatever, just to understand actually what is it, because some of these components aren’t just blocks and you can’t always gauge from a model. You always physically put it all together and go, oh, that’s the wall type etc, it’s really hard sometimes to do it in a model.
FFION I agree, that’s the danger. The problem we’ve got now, when you give a model now to the site team they’ll say, well, where’s the studs, where’s the interior, where’s the make-up of the wall? Oh, we don’t tend to model the internal partitions of a wall. Ah, that’s a pain in the arse.
MARTIN ADIE The model does tend to give an illusion of completeness, doesn’t it?
PAUL McSOLLEY It doesn’t correct adequacy, that’s the problem with it. You can have a wall with 57 holes in it, all opposing sizes, and you look at it and go a dry wall can’t have that many holes in it anyway, it should have been block. By that time the structure has already been built, it’s too late.
This is a cracking guide just published and freely available that we have worked on to help specialists understand and manage responsibility - https://www.thefis.org/2023/02/15/cicv-unveils-best-practice-guide-and-webinar-to-help-lead-scotlands-construction-companies-through-maze-of-contract-negotiations/
Willmott Dixon case overview, https://www.constructionnews.co.uk/contractors/willmott-dixon/willmott-dixon-sues-aecom-and-prater-over-high-rise-cladding-27-01-2023/#038;utm_source=acs&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=CONE_CN_EDI_REGS_Breaking_270123&deliveryNatme=CONE_CN_EDI_REGS_Breaking_270123
Specifically on Fire Doors and standard for inspection - National Association of Fire Door Inspectors -
https://www.nafdi.org.uk/ I can introduce to Ian and Neil that set up. both I believe rely on certification via BlueSky and are qualified by www.fdis.co.uk
Got to fly, but "assume the worst" is for me - during tender process, requesting appropriate clarification and the qualifying quotations based on reasonable assumptions. Reason you will lose most jobs is it isn't then "fixed price". Will share our procurement research asap.