Recording –

MARTIN The sustainability voice within my organisation were lobbying for the headlines and the quality were lobbying for the headlines so there was going to be a joined up thing, very messy.

MARK It sounds like you’ve got the same difficulties that we’ve got. The voice of our sustainability team and that whole carbon agenda is very strong within the business and it’s almost taking priority. Then you’ve got the whole building safety act and my frustration internally is that there is a whole number of us that sit on a senior committee to talk about it and I said I don’t think the guys out on site are even aware of what’s going on. There’s kind of this whole echo chamber going on, we all think we know what we’re talking about and learning about.

I’m pretty sure, and it’s part of my interest in doing this roadshow, it’s going to be more discussion than presentation because I want to be able to report back exactly where I think the individuals are and I’m reasonably confident I’m gonna get a lot of confusion back. People will have heard of it, of course.We sit and talk in these groups and think we’ve got a certain amount of learning but when you go out there those guys are busy and not in the least because of things like carbon sustainability etc. They’ve got so much coming at them they won’t be hearing it all.

IAIN We’ve been trying to set down a competency management plan and to be honest safety, quality, compliance, all those words are fairly interchangeable in terms of the competence agenda. So we’ve split competence down into 3 levels: organisational competence, occupational competence and functional competence. Effectively through those 3 processes you look at how the organisation manages the process, how you’re expected to behave within you’re given profession or occupation and then finally you look at what’s different and unique about the way your business and your role works within the business. So you’ve got that functional requirement where all of a sudden you might be giving advice about specification and as a consequence that needs to be looked at. So, using those 3 levels is starting to make it a bit clearer.

It’s looking at competence on a 3-dimensional basis. You’ve got organisational competence which is effectively the quality management environment that you operate, it’s the compliance environment, it’s are people aware of, do people know how to, is your organisation communicating effectively and supervising effectively. Then you’ve got the occupational competence which is the things that basically you’d be expected to do if you’re a surveyor or dry liner etc. Then you’ve got the functional competence which is the nuance of your own particular role, so within every organisation it’s slightly different what that person might be expected to do.

MARK The dynamic i think is interesting is when you talk about competence you can operate in an environment and be ‘tick the box’ competent and then particularly in the world we work in you could be dealing with relatively low-rise at one end of the business and then a 30 storey complex building at another end and it’s finding that balance and being able to say that’s beyond me.

IAIN That’s where the functional one comes in because it’s the functional where you start to look at the tiers and levels, so you start to assign effectively through job description, so it might be saying to work on high rise high risk buildings I need to have a vague awareness of fire safety. To be honest if you look at the wider consultation on the building regs I think we’re all lulled into a false sense of security on what we’re going to get away with on high-rise high-risk buildings because effectively the consultation puts all of the competence requirements on all aspects of the building regs, so it knows says we’ll be checking your admin more fastidiously on the high-rise high-risk buildings. The thing you’re going to be asked to do is demonstrate in court that if you were in a 5-storey building fire and somebody perished you’d have to prove that it was reasonable to be less competent to work in that environment and I think that’s going to be a bloody hard case to make.

MARTIN yeah, this ties in remarkably with what you’ll find, Mark, when you go around the projects because we started this exercise and the first thing you get back from the project teams (who are not working on high-risk buildings) is none of this applies to me and that is a hell of a hurdle to overcome. Well, actually no, it does and you’ve got to go back and sort of re-do the message. This elephant in the room applies to everybody and then there’s a bit of a nuance to it. I don’t think our employees who are working on projects are any different to our customers, designers or supply chain, there’s a lot of people out there thinking it’s all fascinating, but it’s not my bag I don’t have to worry about it.

MARK it’s a really good point. There’s 2 things, the building safety act, people have automatically focused on fire but actually it’s building safety. And everybody is focused on the high-risk building, the 18 metres, so if I’m outside those categories people are thinking no worries.

GEORGE i get a lot of feedback which is it relevant to this particular project I’m working on because it’s already gone through planning.

MARK Yeah I’ve been trying to have some discussions with clients where we’re in PCSAs to try and discuss how we’re going to deal with this. We had a good meeting with Westminster, we’re working on a PCSA for the 2nd phase of Ebury bridge Estate and it was an interesting discussion, but most people focused on the problems of the timescales of the gateways, not so much the management of the information. Actually, whilst I’ve got worries over gateway 2, it’s gateway 3 that from a client POV they were focusing on because before you start that gateway 3 process the way the consultation is written at the moment it needs to be complete and there’s also a potential 12 week determination period. So, where does practical completion sit, and that’s where the meeting ended up focusing on: how do we divvy up the risk on that?

GEORGE When Ffion (a colleague of Mark’s) asked me that question on Ebury Bridge I went out and asked people who I think should know and i got a mixed reply, nobody was clear. Erin Miller said most definitely. Will it be considered as gateway 2 and will it be considered as gateway 3? If a building is being finished in 2 years’ time, say, could it get caught at gateway 3? The impression I have is it could.

MARK I’ve not had that conversation with Ffion, but if he asks me I’ll tell him, absolutely, there’s no debate. I accept this is all subject to the mechanics of the process of the consultation but I’ve got no reason to believe it will be any different. From the 1st April the transition period starts and from the start of October we enter the gateway regime. I know there’s been a subtle change where we thought the gateway regime was April, but it’s not, it’s the start of the transition period. You’re not going to have schemes that are allowed to carry on for a number of years for the reason the government’s become switched on the industry’s gaming of the system.

GEORGE Under those circumstances taking that specific example if they go through gateway 2 by October then they may not have to deliver against gateway 2 but then they would have to at gateway 3. MARK Yeah and I think there’s some complexities in that transition period, the approved inspector of the local authority can refer the building to the building safety regulator anyway. If people want to make this change, I can’t see there being doors left open so my advice to people internally is assume this is happening.

IAIN I’ve asked that question specifically of the HSE and their response was it’s the wrong question to be asking because you should be reassuring internally that you are doing this stuff anyway. The only at-risk bit that’s in question is the cost of delays associated with them full stop, but of course if they can intervene at any point unless you’re reassuring yourselves you’ve done it that’s a clear and present danger. GEORGE And you’ve got the defective premises act which is significant. IAIN There’s the risk of the cost of delay and the risk of the cost of failure so there are 2 different risks that people are worrying about. The defective premises act is now, irrelevant to the gateways.

MARTIN if it’s any consolation, we’ve taken the same approach across the board: assume it is happening when they say it’s happening. If you’re looking for shortcuts or clever moves you’re looking for the wrong things. MARK Stepping away from the difficulties there’s so much of the principles of the building safety act, to me it’s a no brainer, we should have always have been doing it. We shouldn’t be engaging in building something if we don’t know that a) our teams are competent, that our design teams a re competent, that we’re checking that design and that we’re actually building what the hell is on the drawings. It goes on: things are built that it is not what are on the drawings.

GEORGE One of the things we’ve been talking about for a while is contractor design portion and how can we draw that into so that it is finished by gateway 2/ the end of workstage 4. In particular M&E.

MARK To me there’s a couple of things there. We as an industry have probably allowed us to drift into something that isn’t really the right way of designing things, we’ve allowed specifically building services M&E to become, the design process to become disjointed from the overall process because time and time again whoever I’ve worked for, that has been an issue. Concluding building services design via a subcontractor CDP and yet that procurement process always ends up taking longer than people expect and yet there’s still the demands of having that RIBA 4 completed because you’ve got an overlap with construction Riba 5. If we all stopped and thought about this from a design POV the right thing would be to bring that all back in so we’re completing 4 before we submit information for gateway 2.

Do I think that’s gonna happen? No, I don’t. I’m changing my view on that, there’s too much to change in the way procurement works in PCSAs. We as a business are endeavouring to reach that point on our developments but I can’t see that happening rapidly with the general world. I think people believe there will be a staged approach, essentially. Nowhere does it say you would have to have finished the stage 4 design. If we are working within a PCSA and we’re going to the typical RIBA 4A (which doesn’t exist but we all use that terminology) and then we make the gateway 2 submission there’s an added risk of the regulator turning around and asking for more information.

Or the risk of saying, OK, you’ve given me enough information for you to be able to commence on-site, you get your gateway 2 sign-off, however you’re going to have 2 or 3 milestones to submit information on smoke dampers, fire doors etc. That introduces another risk for us as a contractor because we’ve now got prelims clock ticking on-site and we’ve got to make another submission and wait for that to be determined. I can’t see this wholesale change that everybody accepts that they’re going to have to spend all the money in a PCSA to complete every element of the stage 4 design.

IAIN What’s the big block then, Mark? Naively, just start that element of the process, run it consecutively and box it off. Why can’t you do that earlier in the design?

MARK Because I guess from a client POV it means committing to a lot more money earlier on. That’s the simple reason, there are other reasons which as we’re being recorded I’m not going to mention. IAIN Committing to money they’re going to have to commit to, it’s a staging issue not a…it’s not like they’re going to be committing to more money because of it. MARK There’s probably a risk discussion in there as well, the more you complete and develop the design the more potential risks you unpick and part of this is transferring the risks to the contractor, pushing it later.

IAINI I guess that’s part of the reason for the building safety act, to look at how that risk is fairly apportioned. The act is trying to say everybody’s got to shoulder their fair share of the risk, what’s fundamental to it is that money shouldn’t be a barrier to safety.

MARK I don’t disagree with any of that but I think there will be a point that the industry just cannot move beyond. There’s a lot of change coming, I accept that, but I just think that’s a step too far.

GEORGE from developer contacts essentially, I had a workshop with Tower Hamlets recently and they are very dependent on design & build the way it works at the moment. I mentioned this to them, the whole thing with contractor design portion, but on the basis that D&B is likely to be effected and possibly even disappear through it and they were quite shocked. So, it’s something (as Mark’s saying) that’s so embedded in the industry that I think it’s a challenge. On the plus side I’ve noticed (having been talking about this quite a lot to people) and almost across the board M&E consultants and architects are being asked to specify the provider prescriptive verification for the products. That’s a plus that’s happened over the last year-eighteen months.

MARTIN We’re going to be doing that, at each stage outlining what it is that we expect as an organisation exactly what it is in terms of level of detail from our designers and if they want to work with us then those are the minimum entry levels. MARK And that’s another one of those that we should already be doing. If you’re not selecting a product then you’re drawing a pretty picture, you’re not actually designing something because you’re not contemplating that product being integrated into your design.

GEORGE So as far as Balfour Beatty is concerned, you’ve obviously got BBK and you’re obviously also procuring from other M&E contractors, so are you looking to appoint earlier?

MARTIN Yes, very much so. At the moment we’re in a position where we won’t work with customers/developers who don’t want to abide by the spirit of the building safety act, who look to negate that risk through very clever legal representation. We can afford to do that, it just means your turnover is not what it was. But those developers who don’t want to abide by the sprit of the building safety act will find somebody. I’m more optimistic, I suspect, than you Mark, in that the regulator will be populated be people who will ask those really daft awkward questions like ‘are you Mr Contractor happy with the way this has been designed to date? Do you think this is at stage 4 or is it 3 plus. You’d like to think the building safety regulator is going to ask some of those questions.

IAIN You’ve got this Building a Safer Future Charter organisation that you’re all signed up to, is any of this coming out in the audit process? Is this discussion not the kind of thing they’re auditing? MARK i don’t want to comment on behalf of the industry, but i don’t see an awful lot coming out of it, it just seems to be another body that asks you to pay some money so you can put a logo on your website and away you go.

GEORGE In answer to your question in some ways, if Paul McSolley were on this call he’d be all over what you just said there because you’re absolutely right and that is that the wall, by putting a door in it, is going to be compromised and therefore whatever test you’d be doing would need to reflect what type of door and frame it is in that wall.

MARTIN That would be the ultimate, if we could get to a situation where we know all there is to know about the wall and all there is to know about the door (which is where we’re at) but the ultimate objective would be to be able to predict how that door and wall will interact when the 2 are joined.

IAIN I think there’s a 2-stage approach really because eventually everybody seems to be moving across to classification and EN systems in which case you’ve got the ex aps through the European standards to help us do that. At the moment a lot of the test evidence and information is provided in a BS format so we’ve got to work out how to manage the transition in the future because the solution is probably in that classification. The way the classification system starts to work is you can usually extend the applications to start to give you interpretation of scope, probably in a more structured way than the BS does. My worry is the manufacturers are going classification, that’s the easy answer for us, but it leaves an awful lot of space for the industry in the meantime to try and prove the stuff that’s been designed but still won’t fit a classification model.

GEORGE The work Active Plan is trying to do, I’ve come to the conclusion some of the stuff we try to do in automated ways and having everything machine readable is possibly a step too far. Not that we don’t want it, but as you just said you’re probably 2 or 3 years away from having stuff in a form that we can practically use. So therefore the approach I’m taking is let’s make it, so you can actually identify all of the instances where that fire stopping has gone through the wall and provide as much information as you sensibly can to a human that can actually be directed to the right specifications that they need to look at to actually make that decision. That’s a middle way ground to try and address the overwhelming number of different standards that are needed.

MARK In this discussion my worry, as always, losing touch with the design. The use of technology is great providing its augmenting what you’re doing because you only have to look at something like the reporting on Cross, the confidential reporting on structural safety, there’s quite a few that come through where people have produced calculations based on a particular software package and someone has then churned those calculations by hand and gone, actually there is a problem here. So there’s a line we can cross there that causes ourselves even more problems.

GEORGE i entirely agree. Back in the ‘80s I was involved with some of the first clash detection applications and some of the leading building services companies that were doing clash detection, we had the clash detection functionality in the software and the best ones never used it because they had the 3D model, they had the knowledge about where things were going, so they didn’t need to run the clash detection because they had enough information. The clash detection would come up with many false negatives/positives.

IAIN As said in earlier meetings, we don’t really have a well enough defined process to digitise it yet. The other thing is that design constraint is important. At the moment there is no constraints on design ergo we’ve got problems on every job we bloody work on, whereas if we start to coach them, start laying down a process, we can actually start to communicate some of the design constraints. That’s not to say you can’t have that design…you’ve got between serial bespoke and out-and-out bespoke, serial bespoke is operating within the confines of the test evidence, out-and-out bespoke means you’ve got an additional design cost which is proving that design can be built. We’ve got to get to some kind of a process. The process has to set down the right questions being answered at the right points and the first point you made is how do we do that if the procurement process is all cock-eyed?

GEORGE The work that Paul White and Paul McSolley have done which they’re principally doing with Joe Scillia and FIS, that’s taught me how bloody complex it is. What Paul’s been doing is actually turning it into a relatively simpler process of decision making that therefore if we can use that type of way of providing a human (because the human brain can do amazing things that computers can never do), but let’s provide them with information in a form that you’ve got the time to do something with it and also the record of what’s been done. Then you can start to get into proper AI, Iain, which I would say is machine learning and you can therefore start to train things to automate some of those processes.

But at the moment everything is done uniquely. Therefore the more we can look at some of these elements using standardised systems and standardised products within those systems, you can record how they’re going to perform under certain circumstances. And also identify through all the work we did on the golden thread initiative. Every time I ask any expert what information do we need the answer was invariably ‘it depends’. If we can capture what all those ‘it depends’ means then we’ve got a chance of turning that into a decision tree.

IAIN In terms of the golden thread and the BIM templates how far apart do you think they are? Because it still strikes me that we’re moving towards a standard model for BIM template where you’ve got things like Lexicon which are driving us in the right direction, you’ve got standard product data sheets, so you link to that and say the product processes the product side of things, all the information we need should be on a standard data sheet, that should be standardised. The difference is how we communicate, the other part of the golden thread is the information about installation that we need to carry with the product.

GEORGE The data templates, everybody thinks of them as product data templates (like under the Lexicon initiative) but you can use data templates for all of those activities. So, we’ve been trying to look at data templates from the POV of environmental performance, we’re taking the environmental product declaration information and we’re currently turning it into standardised data templates because one of the frustrating things EPDs for different products are structured differently in different localities. In different parts of Europe they’ve all got EPDs but they’re all just slightly different which stops them being machine readable.

I’ve helped start something called Zero which is a construction process, an initiative with over a thousand members. We’re trying to learn how we can take carbon out of the construction process. I’m mentioning that because it’s bringing me together with some people in the States who are doing some really good work on EPDs and we’re trying to use the Templater that we developed with the BRE to gather together the right property sets that enable you to pull those together. And we can do the same with tasks and labour etc so it’s not just about products.

IAIN That ties in because the other aspect to it other than installation is maintenance. For the work we’re doing on sustainability one of the things that’s very apparent is what we declare and the use of that information is sometimes slightly at odds. We’ve got an EPD for a product which has a 30 year lifespan. The average lifespan of a fit-out is 7 years, so 23 years of that is an utter waste of time, right? So what actually do we do with it after 7 years is the question. That 30 year lifespan is only of any use to me if I can get it out and use it again. A relocatable product, happy days. But that comes back to your point about design constraint, Mark, because can we build products with enough tolerance to deal with the floor to ceiling height issues or spanning issues. The lack of standardisation makes re-use an absolute nightmare.

GEORGE The problem for designers is when they are selecting a product based on what the embodied carbon is, how do they find out what the embodied carbon is? Because all of the databases that I’m aware of are all absolutely flawed because they don’t give the right level of granularity. IAIN Embodied carbon is complicated but if you assume for a minute that there is embodied carbon in a fire door (regardless of how much) it makes sense to relocate a fire door from one building to another if we’ve used it on a CAT A 14 mins 24 secs part 2 that’s been opened 3 times.

GEORGE I agree. What I meant was if an architect choosing a door or 100 doors, what they’re trying to do, they’er being asked to provide embodied carbon information. The databases (like 1click LCA for example) that would give you that information is wildly out because unless 1click LCA has been set up for that particular product then swapping it out for maybe where it comes from or what material was used on it. What people do is they’ll just try and get an answer because it’s just ticking a box that they’ve got a figure whereas what we need is something more granular than that that enables people to make decisions that actually do have an impact.

If you look at the values that the BRE have given us through a project called Buildings As A Material Bank, there’s something like 280 data points that you need to calculate for an element which would include where it comes from etc. It’s fiendishly complicated but it can be done.

IAIN They have their digital life cycle assessments in EPD formats, the other name is Linus? We were all trained to use it. The original point was should we just be focusing on product data sheets? As you say they can carry all this information, is it just an iteration of that that we need.

GEORGE I’ve argued for having all of the product data in a digital format for a long time. We should still aim for that, but in the interim just having a data sheet for a specific product would be a real plus, rather than having a catalogue where somebody just refers to a range of products. Having a unique data sheet (as a PDF even) and the declaration of performance and the EPD as a data set, that would be a big step. Many products don’t have all of this. What I mean by that is manufacturers will produce a marketing document or a technical specification that refers to a range of products and therefore when you’ve collecting the information for the O&M the trade contractors just copy in a manual that’s got lots of things in it. You can’t get to it. The same with declarations of performance, if you want to get one for a product that’s not straightforward.

IAIN Does this feel like a piece of work we should be doing, what products are we struggling to get data sheets on? Because they exist. I guarantee you for every single product you can produce a product data sheet. MARK Isn’t it that it’s not so much the data sheet but it’s the data within the data sheet and the consistency of that information. IAIN Again the standardisation of that, because you have to, if you’re putting a product up on MBS you have to provide the standard data format. We’ve steered away from getting too worried about standardisation of data sheets because we feel it’s already happening. I suspect it’s not that the information doesn’t exist in the format we want it, it’s just that we’re not transferring it well enough.

GEORGE With MBS for example, you’ve got SpecifiedBy, you’ve got BIM Object, BIM Store, you’ve got lots of different competing service providers selling their services to manufacturers. MBS is probably the exception on what I’m about to say because most of the service providers they don’t try and standardise in any way the way the products are described so therefore the attributes aren’t machine readable. You must have seen my thing on fire doors where I pull up half a dozen different fire doors and the way the fire rating for example is described on all of them is completely different. Even if we don’t go down that rout, Iain, if it’s still a bit on the too hard scale, actually having a data sheet, I agree with you. I think this would be a really useful thing for Bim4housing to do, to collect data sheets for the products that are going into…

We’ve got 250 or so standard asset types that the Bim4housing community has identified as being important, a lot of them M&E. So if we were to provide that as a standard data set for manufacturers to provide their information on, just as documents, I think that would be a plus. The frustrating thing for me is this information from manufacturers is collected uniquely on every project. Every project you’ve got an O&M contractor or compiler and they’ll be going back top the trade contractor that’s providing the Gronfoss pumps 22mins 49secs and they’ll be collecting that PDF every time and it will be stored uniquely in every single O&M which is madness, isn’t it?

IAIN It sounds to me like there’s lots of databases, but a lack of standardisation and then the commissioner of O&M manuals are asking the wrong people the wrong question putting the wrong information in the pack. MARK it feels to me like there’s some other people who need to be involved in the discussion. A particular scheme and the client was looking for us to use what in the residential world I guess is an enhanced amount of COBie information. I had a conversation with our construction major projects team who more regularly are dealing with this sort of thing and there’s a particular hospital job that we’d be using as a point of reference. I divided this process into three parts: there’s deciding on what the information is, what the assets are that you’re collecting the information out and what the particular pieces of data are, that’s the start of the process. Then, miss the middle bit out for a minute and get to the end of the process and it’s deciding how you’re going to present that information and I guess it could be something like a straightforward COBie spreadsheet or something more funky.

And those two elements, whilst there was some difficulties in making the decision you would get there and you could put a number to what you’re going to do there. The bit that I was told was a problem was extracting the information out of the supply chain and that’s where all the risk was because we could never decide how many people to provide to be continually trying to pull out data sheets, to go back and say that’s not the right information, I need that. That’s where we had the biggest problem going back to the client, the middle bit and just extracting this information. it strikes me listening to this conversation maybe that’s what we need to drill down into, what is the actual problem? Because that’s how it was presented to me.

GEORGE I agree. i’ve spent quite a lot of time with Theon on that and i think we’ve got a solution to that process and part of it is really to look at simplifying a lot of that data capture because we’re asking trade contractors to compile information that they’re not actually very familiar with. They know how to install a pump but negotiating through how to relate a pump against the specification and then…in most cases the installation contractors aren’t familiar with BIM software so therefore they have to relate it back to something. MARK But it’s nothing to do with BIM.

GEORGE I agree, the way I look at it is you’ve got fixed data (stuff that never changes),as Iain said the data sheet on a pump. The information that we really need from the installation contractor is the commissioning information and possibly the serial number. But at the moment we ask the trade contractor to provide the information on the pump when actually that should be coming from the manufacturer and it should be collected once.

MARK yes, I agree. That was the bit I said to Theon, the input and the output, we can put a number on that it’s very little risk, it’s the bit in the middle. How many people am I going to put with your team, Theon, to make sure we can pull this information out, how many have we got to allow for, and that’s where I kept drawing a blank on that particular aspect.

GEORGE I think that’s a worthwhile thing for us to explore, especially if we look at something like residential developments. we’ve already got a standard 250 or so asset types that we know are regularly used and people that are more involved in building safety than I am have said we need information on smoke vents, smoke dampers etc. So therefore if we offered people like Actionair and Sweegone 28 mins 29 secs the opportunity to provide their product information, just as data sheets, into a free library that everybody can access then that’s going to simplify things enormously. IAIN The free library is probably helpful but it’s more about the standardisation. It’s the format that’s the most important thing and actually then we go to all the libraries that are out there and say ??? 29mins 04 secs. Look at the buying power just sat here, there’s a couple of billion quid sat right there isn’t there?

GEORGE No, no that’s part of the problem. The buying power isn’t in Balfour Beatty or Buig’s 29 mins 27secs hands, they’re normally bought by specialist subcontractors. IAIN But you just make it a prescribed contractual requirement to put information in a certain format. GEORGE Yes, I love that, I’ve been trying to do that now for probably 10 years and one of the challenges we’ve got is there’s a lot of vested interests from people like MBS who don’t want that standardisation. There’s two levels: one is actually people that have got structured data and they’ve got services where they encourage people to structure their data (like MBS). You’ve got others who are like BIM Object who expressly state that they will not try and influence manufacturers to standardise the way they provide their product data.

IAIN We focus on the burden in front of us which is the immediate hurdle of inconsistency of information and then that’s another hurdle to jump at some point in the future – if they won’t adapt then they won’t survive, surely. MARK George, you don’t think it’s feasible that we could be in a scenario the likes of Balfour Beatty and Buig, everything they procure there’s a little caveat that says all information to be supplied in accordance with a standard as such, you think that’s not a point we could get to?

GEORGE I’ve spent the last 7 years with Templater and Lexicon and the like trying to do exactly that. IAIN The difference is now the conversation has moved on, it’s a bit like the blue card red card green card thing. Five years ago nobody cared if someone had a blue card or green card on a construction site, now everybody’s rushing to get their blue card because you’ve got to have a blue card. What’s changed, the main contractors actually care now because it’s one of the requirements that they have that you’re going to provide us a blue card workforce.

MARK Exactly, it’s like the job we were just talking about, George. Previously in terms of information about assets, Cobie and everything, our residential clients, the vast majority had no interest, it just wasn’t a thing. That’s why the major project side of the business has got more experience at this, but the world has changed so maybe now’s the time.

GEORGE Listen, I’d love this to be the case a) from a complete philosophy POV I’ve been banging on about this for at least 10 years. And we’ve actually built the technology to actually deal with it so it would be fantastic if we can do it.

IAIN Just on that product process people thing, the other thing that’s changed is people are accepting now that you can specify products and you can specify a process. So, that’s a big change in the world because nobody would ever have specified process before whereas now if you look at particularly sustainability that is starting to come in because I know MBS now are looking at how you can specify processes like strip out for example because now it’s not built into the program because it’s effectively an unspecified thing. So if you then say the strip out must be done in accordance with it’s something we can all build into a program and charge for. So you can specify a process, you can specify a product and you can specify a competence so that product process people thing, that’s 360 degrees specification now.

I think that’s part of the solution for every because at the moment we’re all in a stalemate because the designer won’t specify because they don’t feel they’ve got the competence to do it and they haven’t got the insurance. The industry is doing it because there us no other choice but at some point the building safety officer is going to say no way and the manufacturers put all their attention behind the minimum possible risk to them which exposes the supply chain to even more risk and we’re all dancing around this bit in the middle which is…so how does the building control officer mange this in the lower possible risk environment to them. They can see a product specified a process specified a competency thing specified. Alright, it doesn’t do a 100% of everything for everybody but at least it de-risks the project which is what this is all about.

GEORGE I agree. The solution that we’ve built is it starts by determining what information on each of the different asset types is actually really important. So therefore you’re not saying we want 200 attributes against an item, you might want 5 that are critical. You might ask for more, but the 5 that are critical are what you want to track. And then the product information that is provided from the manufacturer should be complying with that so those 5 things at least are being answered. And then you pick up a different 5 set of information from different people through the process. What we need to do is start with something that’s manageable, but coming back on my frustration with the Lexicon process is because there’s been quite a lot of headwind from people that are protecting their commercial positions (Lexicon’s free, that’s the thing that affected people) to actually start off simply by saying I’ve been looking at the O&Ms.

The O&M information invariably on projects, we’ve got a BIM model, a COBie data set (and sometimes they don’t match) and then you’ve got the O&Ms and i can guarantee that won’t match. So you end up with 3 sets of information which are not aligned. At the basic level even if we can’t get everybody to comply with producing standardised data, as a subset of that if we just asked them to provide a unique data sheet for each of the products that they are supplying.

MARTIN is that not in the constructions product regulations? I’m not over those regulations sufficiently to be able to answer that, but that would have been my answer. I know the construction product regulations are about everybody who touches a product has to make sure that it’s not counterfeit/suitable for its intended purpose. I can’t see that there isn’t some sort of data sheet or attribute. IAIN i don’t think it’s in there specifically but I think it’s sort of in there in terms of if you lined up all the pieces of regulation it’s another one it’s hard to argue that you shouldn’t. I don’t think anywhere it says you must provide all information in a standard format but it does say you’ve got to provide information in a format that people can use.

MARTIN We could quite easily amend our standard conditions to say you’ve got to provide a data sheet in accordance with the construction product regulations. Do we want to bring somebody in who’s a bit more over the product regulations than I am? GEORGE Yeah, that would be a good idea. I think this is a quick fix that could actually be of a lot of benefit. What do you think, Mark? Asking for product manufacturers to provide a unique data sheet for an individual model. MARTIN And then we can list out the 5 key criteria if you like.

MARK It’s got me thinking about why does a manufacturer generate a data sheet, for what reasons. Is it a sales thing? Is it genuinely to provide important information? I don’t know.

IAIN It’s both, isn’t it. In the case of a declaration of performance, which is effectively a data sheet, it’s a mandatory requirement. That’s the whole point of the construction products regulation because the construction products regulation and the declaration of performance is to do with standardisation of declaration so that you can compare apples with apples. It just doesn’t embrace all products so…well, that’s not true. The specific requirement to provide a declaration of performance doesn’t cover all products because that’s linked to the harmonisation of a standard and bear in mind this is EU regulation. So, the issues of standardisation often sit around how we communicate in other parts of Europe rather than specifically how we do it in the UK.

Of course, the gift and the opportunity we have is this is up for grabs because we’re now moving to a UK CA market and a UK compliance market in which case we’ve got more control of what we ask for in the UK. I know that the direction of travel for government is they’re struggling to get their head around why it is right for one product to put a declaration of performance down and not another. There are reasons but government sees them as excuses rather than reasons. I suspect however that regulation moves forward we’re asking for something that regulation is going to demand eventually.

GEORGE A declaration of performance for a door is made up of ten items, isn’t it?

IAIN A door is a bad choice because there isn’t a standard declaration of performance for a door set, not for its full scape of functionality. Effectively the way a declaration of performance works is it sets down a criteria of what it regards as essential characteristics and additional characteristics. Essential characteristics are things that it must comply with as a product, additional characteristics are the things that, if you declare them (there’s no mandatory requirement to declare them), they must be declared in the format that’s required. A window is maybe a good example where you’ve got to declare the performance of a window in a standard format. So the new value of the window is something that has to be done in way that everybody can understand is exactly, its transferable, you can pick up one declaration form and another declaration form and they look identical.

And then with the verification of performance you end up with this different level of the declaration of performance, from level 1 plus down to level 3. 1 plus means the certification body has got to sign it off. At level 3 you’ve got to get the test reports signed off but you can actually sign off you’re declaration of performance, so the test report has to be accredited but the declaration of performance doesn’t and then at level 4 you can just make it up.

GEORGE So declaration is self certification? IAIN To a certain extent, but then there are levels of declaration that require a 3rd party to sign them off. Normally when it comes to resistance to fire or reaction to fire.

GEORGE The point that you’ve made, Mark, is the one I would think as well and that is if somebody has got a product and they produce a data sheet why isn’t that freely available? Now, it probably is, but what I find when I ask people for that information is they say it’s on the website. I’m not saying they are not willing to share data sheets, but it’s not done in an organised way and it means every time on every project the O&M people have to phone up the trade contractor and the trade contractor then has to contact the manufacturer to get the data sheets. It seems such a wasteful process when it could be so much simpler.

MARK You had the spreadsheet showing all the different asset types AOVs, cavity barriers etc, was there any thought about this in terms of what was in data sheets? GEORGE Yeah, we’ve got a data template against every one of those that we’ve created so we’ve got a set of information requirements that’s largely been driven by IFC. That needs refining to be less onerous. IAIN So the base exists, the practicality of it needs to be tested so the product data sheets are practical, and then we need to look at it from a specification POV to make sure you specify this bit of this packet of information. The other point you made was around stuff like sustainability which is probably not going to be in there, but in a way we evolve mandatory requirements and voluntary requirements, a bit like they do with the essential and non-essential characteristics – it’s not an essential characteristic for the purposes of the law but for the purpose of this product we need it to be a declared characteristic therefore it has to comply with the requirements of this data sheet.

GEORGE It’s an interesting point that if more and more designers are being asked to be prescriptive in terms of what products they are selecting then you’ve got the opportunity to build the relationship easily between let’s say the MBS specification and the product that satisfies it. Then you’ve got a baseline at least to manage change.

IAIN And you’ve got a credible process for value engineering as well because realistically value engineering still needs to happen, doesn’t it?

GEORGE Ok, shall we put together something? I’d like to do this quite quickly actually. MARTIN Yeah, I think the answer is out there that you’ve talking about. Would we be able to influence the people who are drafting the construction product regulations at the moment to add this bit in?

IAIN I don’t think it’s a regulation, it could be secondary regulation but also it could be guidance. MARTIN like you were talking about the AVCPs any fire related product should be 1 plus or 1.

IAIN If we wanted to tie it up with the work we’re doing for the pacifier knowledge group 48mins 22secs we could always get somebody from the office of product safety to come and present at the pacifier knowledge group which obviously everyone from this could come along to. The OPSS (Office of Product Safety) could come down and do a presentation. Fortuitously we’ve just recruited somebody who’s been working for the OPSS, not to do product safety stuff but actually to do training. So again we could look at how we unpick that. I suspect that possibly the point we’ve got to is all the right parties weren’t around the table when you were having these discussions before, George.

GEORGE I think what would also be good is if we could do something as a demonstrator under the Bim4housing banner which then doesn’t get influenced by other parties that may have other interests. We can get something that we can then show and then grow it out from there. We could build something around the 250 or so asset types. I’ll pick that up with you, Mark, and then we can arrange another session.