pre DCW – BIM4HOUSING AT DIGITAL CONSTRUCTION WEEK

pre DCW - BIM4HOUSING AT DIGITAL CONSTRUCTION WEEK

GEORGE Alan, it might be that some of your colleagues could attend Excel on the 18th May. It’s understanding what we need to have in place for the safety case for the Building Safety Act. So what we're doing is, last year we had a table for manufacturers, developers, designers, contractors, operations teams and we're trying to replicate the same process. And the $64,000 question is what information should we be collecting to satisfy the regulator.

ALAN BRINSON People have been producing these already. I guess they have, haven't they?

GEORGE Yeah, but the regulators haven't decided whether they are adequate. So what they're doing at the moment, I think there's something like probably 80 or so, the early adopters have produced their safety case reports. So I'm talking about the housing associations and councils. So they've submitted them, but none of them have been accepted.
ALAN BRINSON They haven’t been rejected either, though.

GEORGE In some cases they have been rejected, but in general terms it’s been not quite right, please try again. But what they won’t do is tell people what they actually want, and part of the view on that is because they don’t know. What they’re doing at the moment, it’s a little bit like CDM, they’ll come down on people when they haven't provided what's needed.
ALAN BRINSON Right. Who’s writing these?  I assume they're being written by fire engineers, is that not the case?

GEORGE Typically it’s fire and structure, and therefore they’re typically being coordinated. There’s a safety case report which is a snapshot in time. There's two methodologies that are used by these risk assessors. One is using something called Bow Tie and the other is using Hasip, they’re both risk based assessments of safety. And what we’re then trying to do is answer those questions. We, Active Plan, are working through with a couple of Councils and housing associations in terms of how they're compiling the information. There’s also some specialists, a company called Adelard, who we’re working with at Tower Hamlets. They’ve come out of Petrocam and Nuclear and things like that.

What we want to try and do is to identify, there’s different views as to the level of detail that people have got to be gathering. So, the purpose of the session at Digital Construction Week is really to understand where people are. We had a development group meeting yesterday, most of the participants were landlords. They were telling us quite a big variation, some people are just recording documents and hoping that’s going to be enough, other people have got full 3D digital twins. So, I think it's a matter of probably somewhere between the two is probably the pragmatic solution to that.

ALAN BRINSON But the safety case, it’s not at all clear what is required because none of them have been approved yet. It’s interesting, and I wasn’t aware of that.

RICHARD George has explained why we’re all here, we’ve had a number of these already. We’re looking at what’s going to be required of the safety case. What came out of our meeting 2 hours ago was people were a little bit confused and wanting a little bit more focus, George. Paul Bray sent through a document he’s done on fire testing and fire safety for fire doors within his organisation which we’ll have a look at. Basically, I think what we'll end up doing is pulling together the thoughts from these meetings so that we've got some good focus for the DCW event. So we've got something very specific. Does that make sense?

GEORGE I think so, yeah. I think the thing is from all the work we’ve done on the Golden Thread Initiative the steer that we've had from the HSE is that the regulator is going to be looking at this as a risk-based approach, not a compliance-based approach. What I mean the difference between that is that it's all very well if you've got a fire door inspection and you're fire doors are perfect, but if those fire doors aren't part of a system that's going to protect the spread of smoke, for example,  then that's not really the answer the regulator is going to be looking for. So the important thing is that the overall scenario needs to be tested. That's what we've been told in the past, and I've certainly had that reiterated. It's also the case that they're being a bit vague in terms of what they're going to accept, and I think it's because the jury is out on that. What they don't want to do is, I guess, be too prescriptive, they don't want to be prescriptive at all because they don't want to take liability. But what I think they're probably doing is they're leaving it down to the industry to come back with what they believe is needed to keep things safe.

And we’ve already discovered…in this room we’ve got Nick with the balconies, Chris with the cavity barriers, Jim’s signage and lighting etc, Elliott with his kit, Roy with all the ironmongery, Alan’s sprinklers, Stephen with…we are well covered. I guess what I’m saying is there’s a danger of everything being in silos, and I think that’s where we are at the moment. What we’re also seeing is the fact is that the golden thread concept has been quite successful, in fact possibly in some ways too successful in the fact that everybody's now producing golden threads, so we’re ending up with landlords having…Asif from Barclay is ending up with 10-30 golden threads. There’s going to be a golden thread that Elliott's bringing through on fire doors and somebody else is going to be doing it on compartmentation.

JIM CREAK I totally agree with you, George. We are in silos, but it's totally obvious from the whole process over the last 12 month. But in actual fact, we’re also independent on all the other regimes being of the same quality as the stuff that’s individually manufactured, in other words everything depends on something else. When we looked at the venting it’s amazing how all the decisions were based on the understanding of the other components that were nothing to do with venting. It's the same with signing, unless the lighting is of a sufficient quality, then the signing can't be seen. So this is where at the moment I don’t see the connection because it leaves too many questions to be answered for the property manager, because we're all making lists around the checklist or the decision making tree and it comes up with more questions than answers at the moment.

CHRIS HALL I wouldn’t use the word silos. People are producing golden thread initiatives based on their understanding of what's required, and there's a vacuum on exactly what's required. And you helped us the other week, we had our little round table and that gave us some steps forward. But there's no consistency from anyone as to what the golden thread looks like, and I keep on hearing in various forums, not only to do with the golden thread, ohh, let industry sort it out. But we’ve been given a really wide brief to try and sort anything out, and it’s hardly surprising the get businesses or industries going off and developing their own version of the golden thread. And until we get some template…this is gonna continue and trying to have a common data platform for that that's interoperable, it’s gonna be nigh on possible.

RICHARD That’s part of what we’ve trying to do, Chris, is to try and get some sort of coherence going.

CHRIS HALL I don’t think it’s silos so much, Richard, I think it’s people trying to do the best in the absence of any clear guidance.

GEORGE I didn’t mean it as a criticism. Even with a particular product like fire stopping, it’s the common situation where the fire stopping report, let’s say from Bolster or Plan Radar, it's actually related to an activity, which is the inspection, rather than the asset. And the result of that is that then you've got one organisation going in maybe doing some remedial works for fire stopping and they'll drop a pin down on a plan and they'll put a reference against it, which is great, we’ve got some really good information there. The trouble is the next year somebody else comes along, they’re doing some work and they’re not using that original reference. So, I think I think that in itself has been a big step forward in recognising that that needs to be done. So, in other words, what we need to have is a unique ID that can then be used by all of the different systems that are going to be used, but they're all referencing back to that same unique ID. If we can even do that it’s going to make it much easier for somebody like Asif at Barclay to manage quality.

ASIF MIRZA It’s a really interesting conversation, and I agree with you, you’re spot on. Obviously everyone’s going to have their own version of the golden thread. We’ve got our own, we had no choice, we had to just crack on and develop one. What we have tried to do obviously is try to capture everything end-to-end, Our main focus is that’s how we mange our quality, we’ve used the same method to then hopefully capture all of our golden thread information. We’re part of the way through that journey. So far so good, but we’ve not had very good direction, to be fair. We’ve also met with the building safety regulator, and i agree it very much seems to be the case of industry needs to come up with something that they’ll make a decision on as to whether they deem that acceptable. Not helpful, but that’s where we are.

We have not submitted anything. There’s ongoing talks at the moment. Obviously we’ve submitted fire statements etc but we’ve not submitted anything for Gateway 2, certainly not for Gateway 3. My understanding from my initial meeting with the building safety regulator is that essentially what we submit at Gateway 2, all they’re going to do is check whether we’re compliant with what we’ve submitted at Gateway 2 in order to get through Gateway 3. There does seem to be some variations on that interpretation, but that's really my understanding of it. So everything centres around this Gateway 2 submission and that's where we are still, in reality, a little bit confused.

GEORGE Well, the other thing that in the major contractors, as you Asif, we’ve been working with Balfour Beatty and Bouygues and Mace and yourself as well. But one of the challenges that people are concerned about is change control. So what is now happening is that if, for example, dampers, there’s some safety critical items like dampers and sprinklers as well, if you change them from what you originally say that you're going to use, they’re expecting people to specifically say what they’re going to use before the end of Gateway 2. Then, if you change them during Gateway 3 it goes into a 6 week process.

ASIF MIRZA I don't think that was actually set in stone when we had our meeting, but yes, that that does ring a bell, a kind of a 6 week process. Admittedly we're we're quite good in that scenario, if we change something we do have quite a robust change control process, but  I'm not sure whether it it goes far enough, and there is variation across the group. So, for example ? 18mins 56secs will do it in a in a slightly different way, possibly a better way than we will do it at East Thames?. So again, the real challenge there is that do we have a standard way of managing that that we can then evidence back to BSR.

GEORGE One of the things we’re doing at the moment is actually having a BIM4housing library of products that we can then product data. So, it makes it easier to actually capture during that change control process the product that is actually being selected. We’re doing that as a free service, to put data sheets into a product library, that can then be assembled. If we can do that that might be something as well that obviously all of you as manufacturers can do. The trouble is at the moment the way information is gathered, it's through O&M’s, it’s a bit chaotic really.

RICHARD George, are we ready to take that information, take those product sheets?

GEORGE Yes, we’ve just got to set the site up. We’re ready technically to do it and we’ve got several manufacturers who’ve said that they are willing to put their data sheets up. Roy, would that be something that you'd be willing to do? I mean, basically it's just a matter of having a library of data sheets.

ROY BUCKINGHAM Yeah, I mean, certainly we'd be happy to provide data sheets for the library. I'm not quite sure how easy that can allow substitution of certain solutions, but I guess it gives someone a reference point for the information and the compliance and the standards that it might meet the product.

GEORGE At the moment the way the O&Ms are compiled, on every single project somebody will come on and download, for example a data sheet from Swegon for a product. And the people who are often compiling that information may not be industry specialists, so they may pick the wrong product. So, it's a massive overhead to the industry that we don't have…the principle idea that we've come up with is just to have a single place - I say a single place, a place, it doesn't have to be the single place because people will be putting stuff up on MBS and various other things. But that's a charged for service, this is free. We're going to run it for about six months and see how it goes and then look at how that information can be sustainably managed.

ROY BUCKINGHAM Yeah, I mean, it could be a challenge to manage, because how do you manage how accurate and up to date the information is, because obviously products constantly change. So, a data sheet that’s correct as of now may be out of date in a year’s time.

GEORGE Well, if it's a data sheet for a product model, if the data sheet is different, surely that’s a variant on the product.

ROY BUCKINGHAM Well, if a product changes, sometimes you can get variations in that product, but it’s still called the same thing.

ALAN BRINSON Maybe that should change. I can tell you that’s not the case for us.

JIM CREAK I have real bad experiences with the product selector that's currently done by the Royal British Architects  in terms of being not only out of date but certainly incorrect in individual specifications for products where they quote specification for product, but not correct application information. So it is a bit of a nightmare, but that is down to manufacturers, obviously. But the other thing that I'm deeply concerned about is that we've spent most of the time talking about application errors, installation errors, wrong specifications regarding specialist subcontractors, rather than individual products. There's been nothing wrong with the individual product in terms of specification, it's just how it's applied and fire doors is a key example. So, I'm not convinced that just having a massive directory of products is helpful because it’s only to check upon a system.

ROY BUCKINGHAM That's quite a valid point because if you think about the data sheets. Yeah, a data sheet for a product doesn't necessarily, it might be suitable for use on a fire door, but that doesn't necessarily mean it suitable for use on all permutations of a fire door. So, again, because it’s a component of a system that can be misleading to swap that product around.

ALAN BRINSON But at least if you have the data sheet, you know what you've got. That's going to be the first thing, you know what you've got. And then if you want to change it, you know how to change it.

JIM CREAK That’s not necessarily so.

ALAN BRINSON Otherwise you’ve no idea what you’ve bought. If you’ve bought something you’ve got to have it specified somewhere what it is that you’ve bought. And then things change, knowledge evolves, but at least you know what you had to start with.

JIM CREAK But the person who’s doing the data sheet has got to know what’s being asked. I'll just give you one example. I've been involved in a huge debate on LinkedIn at the moment about whether arrow up or arrow down is the convention for evacuation. And yet it's so clear in guidance, but you can have a product with arrow up or arrow down, but you don't know how to use it. Now, if nobody asks a question, you just buy it because you think it's right. And that’s where I have a problem with product selectors.
GEORGE But that’s the application, though, isn’t it?

JIM CREAK Obviously, it’s the application.

ROY BUCKINGHAM But George, you were referring to the fact between Gateway 2 and Gateway 3, if a product is substituted or changed. Now, somebody looking at the data sheet might believe that they can change that product, but actually there may be an element of that product that actually means it's not suitable. So, if you think about a fire door, yeah, if you got a a mortise lock of a certain size and you substitute it for a mortise lock of a slightly different size, well, that may not be within the fire test scope and certification.

GEORGE I entirely agree. We're not trying to solve all of the problems at the moment in this particular regard. For example, the change control system within the contractors organisation in principle should be robust enough to pick up that process. We're just trying to fix one little component in this and that's having a data sheet of the product that was actually installed. That’s not going to solve all of the problems, but it’s a big start.

ROY BUCKINGHAM The CCPI and what’s coming through from the code of practice for construction products information should also help to make sure the information is accurate, unambiguous and up to date, because you should have version numbers of your data sheets. So if you do have a new data sheet because you've made a slight change to the product, then you should have a version number on there which will identify it.

GEORGE Yeah with also talking with Lloyds Register, they’re going to provide a service of verification that the manufacturer’s data is coming through correctly, but that’s an added service that they can offer (nothing to do with us, per se). But that would be a way of making sure that the data is initially as it should be from the manufacturer.
JIM CREAK Coming back to the data sheet, I agree with you, George, that the fitted item should have a data sheet which should go onto the asset register. I’ve experienced in the last 2 months data sheets of similar products being used on asset registers because they don’t actually have the data sheet for the in situ product. So they’ve actually taken a data sheet from another database and placed it on their asset register. So, it has to be something totally original from design right the way through the system that comes along that system, not one that’s just been picked off of a database.

ALAN BRINSON I’m just surprised you get stuff delivered without a data sheet. In our industry, data sheets are all public, they’re on the internet, you can find them. Obviously there’s something fundamentally different here, but `i can tell you for sprinklers you can go and look up every manufacturer on the internet and you can get their data sheets.

GEORGE Yeah, what I’m trying to do though is the task of actually matching the data sheet. I’ve looked at this, and I’ve been onto manufacturers websites to find the data sheets and it isn’t that easy. There is a barrier there. For everybody to always go and download it on every occasion just seems a bit crazy. If we’ve got a simpler way…and manufacturers can keep their data sheets up to date as well, they can provide the most current ones, and also historic ones.

CHRIS HALL I think we’re focusing on what it’s not and what it is, in the absence of anything else. Absence of Lexicon, or anything like that. It’s a start, so let’s stop telling what’s wrong with it and let’s work out what’s right with it. And what’s right with it is it is quite difficult depending on the business sometimes to access data sheets. There’s multiple clickings, log-ins, it puts people off, so to have a readily accessible data sheet repository, what’s not to like? It’s not going to hurt anything and it might actually have some minor improvements. So, I can put holes in it all day long, that’s not going to help anybody. I do take Roy’s point, the CCPI will help improve the quality.

My only advice to you guys would be make sure make sure you put a bi liability exclusion clause on it because data sheets come in various sizes and qualities, some data sheets are glossy brochures, others have actually got physical, meaningful data that you need to make a judgement about whether a product is suitable or not, but you shouldn’t be responsible for the change control, George, that’s up to the manufacturers. And if the manufacturers don’t want to deposit the data sheets there, fair enough, but you’ve got nothing to lose by asking them to join in the endeavour. Let’s just get on with it and stop carping about it, that’s all I wanted to say.

NICK HAUGHTON I think Chris has just summed it up quite well, from my point of view as well. I understand some people look at this and the lack fo information and so on is bizarre. I come from an industry which is full of customised products and a lack of a defined way of doing it. We can be competing with products that are nothing like ours and are actually made of concrete, and there isn’t that there. So certainly I agree with Chris about the first step, let’s give something a try and keep the parameters in there because particularly industries like cars will massively benefit from having a standardised templates and there's not a path we can really look at, if you like. It’s not It’s like EPD's and so on for a product where you've got a set category and that's the way you approaching it.

GEORGE That’s a really good point. What we’re hoping to do is hold, at a very basic level, a data sheet, that’s one level. But if you've got EPD information or declaration of performance information, either as a document or as data, then the system is designed to be able to hold that information as well. And, we've got discussions going on with other people that are providing carbon data, for example.

RICHARD So the baseline minimum to participate would be the data sheet, but if people want to get involved and give more information that’s possible to be done.
GEORGE Absolutely. And also, if we can do this properly, there’s an opportunity for manufacturers to know where their products are being used which could be a very beneficial thing.
ROY BUCKINGHAM I worked with the GAI, one of the working groups, to develop product data sheets for BIM which effectively have all of the relevant data that applies to a product. It makes me wonder whether there should be a standardised way of producing these data sheets which is then accessible. And perhaps then the use of the product data sheet which could feed into COBie is the right solution.

GEORGE Absolutely. I spent 7 years on this to try and effect that, that’s what Lexicon is and the Templater that we put together. One of the biggest challenges, you were involved in that, weren’t you?

ROY BUCKINGHAM As I said, I worked with the Guild of Architecture and Ironmongery on their working group to develop the hardware product data sheets, the templates for all of their various types of door hardware.

GEORGE Absolutely, and you guys did a brilliant job on that. So, if those are available then they can be used. The challenge is getting people to agree what data and properties are needed for a smoke damper or a cavity barrier, there are many different views, and it depends really how people are going to use the information. I’m passionately keen to have all of this machine-readable and standardised, but our attempts to do that mean that 7 years from starting the Lexicon initiative, we still don’t have it. There’;s some people that have done it, like the Guild of Architects and Ironmongery, but there are very few. So, the principle of just doing something with data sheets is just a starting point.

ALAN BRINSON I just represent an association, so it's up to each individual company if they want to be involved in this or not. Sometimes we get messages on the internet, we need to replace this sprinkler it’s 30 years old, does anybody know who’s it is and what sort of replacement is suitable for it. So, that kind of question would be, with this kind of information, useful if for a project we’d be able to say…because right now, 30 years ago, nobody is quite sure what was used, you might actually now know. So, that would be useful. I had one from Sweden this week where they tested some sprinklers and they weren’t actually sure who’d made them. That sort of thing would be much tighter if you actually had a digital record from all of these manufacturers that produce BIM objects for the different software that’s out there, and there aren’t many, there’s only 5 manufacturers of sprinklers in the UK. There’s 100’s of installers, but there’s only 5 manufacturers. Some of these sprinklers cost a couple of million to develop it, so you need to be a reasonable sized company to even try that. Some of them will be at Firex, so I can ask them.

GEORGE I think we’ve actually approached several of them, Alan, so I’ll share with you the people that we’ve approached. I went to the NEC during the week. So, in terms of preparing for the event, as manufacturers do you see that you are ready for what’s going to be asked of you from now, whilst rolling into the whole Building Safety Act.

CHRIS HALL Yes and no. It comes back to the thing: we don’t know what the question is, so how am I supposed to give the answer. But, we’ve got our own version and understanding of what we think is pertinent and required and in what format it’s acceptable, how we’re going to transact and pass the information on. But it’s going to be a work in progress and I think any manufacturer that says they’ve got this licked is either very lucky or very wrong. I think we’re all full of good intentions to go in the right direction. The lack of a template or the lack of…the only thing I’ve seen, George, is the CIRB came out with a safety critical systems document recently and it actually referenced cavity barriers and I thought hallelujah! So, we’re gonna just kind of follow that and just get all of the documents in digital format ready for that and build on that as a starter for ten. I mentioned earlier that lack of coherence among some trade associations. Very disappointed in our prime trade association who haven’t done a very good job at all of getting us together.

Agreeing a product data template for a cavity barrier should be really easy, a couple of hours work, but it seems to defeat us, politics gets in the way. Some manufacturers have got certain data that others haven’t, and of course they want that in the template so it makes other people look bad. So I said let’s have an enhanced data, two data sets, you can have a basic one and an advanced one, but we just went round and round in circles. I think the industry is partially ready and various pockets are more prepared than others. I’m interested in Nick’s view on this as well because I know I bump into him at quite a lot of similar events. Nick, how well do you think you guys are ready?

NICK HAUGHTON I don’t feel very prepared, I’m always a little bit skeptical at conferences I go to as we’re further away from the goal than we actually are. I don’t know what the question really is, really. I get the impression as an industry…take CE marking which came in back in 2017, it was a massive thing that was left until the last minute. I suspect generally the metal work industry is very backward on that. We’ve done quite a bit of work getting ready for templates and stuff, but I suspect we’re probably quite far behind, is the honest answer.

JIM CREAK I don’t want to keep being negative Nelly, and you sounded a bit negative Nelly then, Chris, but the thing about my particular disciplines is that when the legislators missed out emergency lighting off of a fundamental arrangement for the Fire Safety Bill, and my products absolutely and utterly depend on illumination. So, in terms of putting data sheets together that are meaningful, and I take your point, we try to do our best on a technical basis, but put in more technical costs in manufacturing these days because whilst you probably burn the midnight oil putting the technical notes together. And I’m always being asked about AI, why don’t you put your brain, Jim, into a computer and people…well, it’s hours and hours of technical work and at the moment I concur with everybody, we don’t seem to get much help for conformance or compliance because this whole wishy washy area of suitable and sufficient and risk-based solutions, the arguments are abating on forums regarding fire doors and people wanting to replace fire doors because of singular tests rather than looking at it in context.

So, I concur with you, Chris, it’s very difficult to make that investment decision to go around and go down the route of making a specification sheet, in our case, for 4,000 individual products and their application. We’ve got 5 sizes of everything specifically to meet British standards and international standards for viewing distance. The context really matters, for me to write one data sheet about a single escape route sign is at least 3-4 hours work. And it’s an investment decision, because nobody is doing it if it’s going to be used properly, but when I see some of the stuff that I’ve actually written as framework agreements being used to describe somebody else’s product because it happens to look similar or the same, it erks me immensely. I’ve got people using descriptions that I’ve written against signs that don’t actually illuminate. And so in terms of the digital world I am a bit negative nelly, unfortunately, but I think that also means that there are traps and problems around this being fitted in buildings. But that’s where I am at the moment.

ALAN BRINSON I don’t know how others see this, but I also sit in BS9991 on the panel that’s revising that standard, and that is a code of practice for fire safety in residential buildings. I would have thought that something like that would be the starting point for this, that you could say, right, we’ll comply with that. Then all of the different disciplines we’re talking about today would be how to show that the escape sing is compliant, how to show doors comply with it or the compartmentation in general or the cavity barriers or, in my case, the sprinkler system. How do you show for each of those that they’ve complied with it, but the way they fit together is something like BS9991 or ADB, or if you don’t want to use either of those then you have a fire engineer design. That’s got to be the umbrella part, and then everything else hangs under it.

So, I’ve no idea, Jim, if we refer to an appropriate standard for escape signs in BS9991, if we should, but I assume there is one out there and it’s very probable we do refer to it. Presumably within that standard there’s some way of deciding if something complies or not, and for sprinklers the actual component itself is just a component of a system which is unique to every building, obviously. We way we’d say that’s done is you actually send an expert to come along and look at it and say, yeah, this is good, or no, the pumps got a problem, or this valve, each little bit. we wouldn’t actually be working off any kind of online thing because they’re never going to tell you what you need to know, you actually need to go and look at the system. Every product and discipline will have a different way of doing this.

I guess this is what we’re trying to do here, find for each one how do you show that that bits complied. You can’t know, Jim, if your sign is fine, the lighting is another thing, so someone else has to sort out the lighting and how that’s OK. I appreciate that if it’s pitch black it doesn’t help, the sign is not going to work.
JIM CREAK What I’m saying is from the procurement side, because bear in mind the data is for design purposes as well, you cannot separate one from the other because the whole decision around a strategy for escape is about viewing distances.

ALAN BRINSON It’s also the width of the stairway and the width of the staircase and how many of them there are and how far apart they are.

JIM CREAK Yeah, and there is a standard for it, but industry does not want to follow British standards as a compliance. They don’t mind following as a conformance, but they don’t want to do it as a compliance issue, they want to do it their own way. There are standards there, but they maintain manufacturers have made standards more onerous, maintenance and supply of products, than is necessary, and I actually sometimes believe that that is the case. I am concerned, and I have been responsible for the writing the application standards for safety way guidance systems and that’s what I argue about on a daily basis, but it’s not followed as a general rule. I was in a hotel this morning to find a mixture of different types of signs all over the place. And I’m sure if you look around all your buildings you will see that signs are in one big mess. Unfortunately in a forum like this where I’m asked to talk on my specialist subject I carp about what the problem is in my own backyard, and I’m sorry about that.

RICHARD No, not at all, that’s why you're here, because you’re a specialist, Jim.

ALAN BRINSON I don’t even know what the standards are for signs, I just hope we refer to it BS9991. I can tell you all of this came out of Grenfell and I’ve been on that committee for quite a while, we never talked about facades, we just copied across what was in ADB without really thinking about it. And this is possibly what we’ve done with signs, if there is something in ADB I wouldn’t be surprised if we copied that across because it isn’t perceived as a problem.

JIM CREAK Well ADB, I did the writing in Scotland first for the signing regarding fire and rescue deployment which is nothing to do with escape signs, nothing to do with safety signs. But it was out of Grenfell, out of Lacanal, as a function of fire and rescue deployment in tall buildings, trying to locate people and man power, and also to set up their own fire fighting activities. But having said that ADB is not clear, so there are problems in the guidance and in the standards arena that some people find easy to say, ohh, thats a load of rubbish, don’t follow that, don’t do that maintenance regime, that’s too onerous, let’s draw up a variation. As I say, sorry Chris, for being a negative nelly. Yeah, we should get on with it, but I have seen this, and I did a lot of work with the architects, with the panel of experts, theoretically looked over Product Selector. Bearing in mind they wanted £12,000 from even a smaller manufacturer to go on Product Selector so, George, you’ve got to put a price on your database if you’re going to maintain it, but as I say rubbish in and rubbish out, as far as I’m concerned.

ROY BUCKINGHAM The point I was gonna make, coming to back to something we said earlier in this meeting, is the regulator leaving it up to industry to decide and taking a risk-based approach. The reality is that industry will do what is commercially beneficial for industry, they won’t do any more than that. And if you leave it as a risk-based approach we’ve already seen with Approved Document B and the way that’s written often it is a risk-based approach and people will always take the cheapest option which may not be the best or the best practice option. That’s why the regulator really does need to understand the applications and actually apply regulations.

GEORGE As far as we’re concerned, as a group we’re just trying to do the best that we can. Where I’m coming at this from a BIM perspective, or better information management, is being able to provide clearer information about the products that are being installed so that they can be recorded more easily. And also make it so that, one of the things we’re looking at is how can we tie the specification into that same context so we’ve got the product and the specification tied together. One of the approaches that we’re taking as well is to see how we can align using standardised naming a product against an object in, let’s say, a Revit model, so that we can tie together information so that the connection between the specified product and the manufactured product that is going to satisfy it. So, that is a say forward to be able to record the two things. By doing that it means that we'll be able to automatically produce COBie which I think would be a big step forward.

But I suppose the question really is as far as the manufacturer’s role in this, you are the experts in terms of the product that satisfies the generic requirements and therefore what we want to try and do is make it so that the client organisations got more visibility of what products are available so that we can encourage developers to start having an approved list of products that suit their requirements, at least as a baseline so there is a degree of consistency across it. Because everything being open is commercially, maybe, viable, but from a practical point of view it probably doesn’t make so much sense.

RICHARD What, you mean like a preferred supplier list, sort of thing?

GEORGE Yeah, some owners are already starting down that route so that they can have things that they know work and therefore they’ve got a degree of standardisation across their projects. And certainly for the fire critical items that would make sense to do. I’m not saying that that would be prescriptive, but certainly it would give a good steer to people. What would you feel about that, Roy?

ASIF MIRZA That is quite common practice. We do have preferred products and we certainly have preferred suppliers. So, yeah, absolutely, I think it’s great.

JIM CREAK That’s where we would spend our time as a manufacturer with individual customers that share all of the values and that’s where we actually share the information. But, this forum is to make it in a wider perspective and that unfortunately is where I do have problems because it needs to be managed.

ASIF MIRZA The issue we have is that we’re not necessarily always the decision maker. So, obviously, yes, we have the final sign-off or the approval, but we are heavily reliant on a fire strategy developed by fire engineers etc. Our decisions are heavily based on contractors, consultants, etc as we go through and they need to source information to provide us with that information so that we can then review, approve, however we want to look at it. All of this is still very, very useful, we’re developing the end product, so to speak, and we’ve got our own potential customers lined up to purchase our properties, but ultimately we are reliant on quite a big network of people and everybody in that network needs access to the right information.

GEORGE So, as manufacturers what would make it easier for you to be able to deliver what you believe is going to be needed? i guess it’s an involvement in early engagement, peer specifications, what would you suggest?

ROY BUCKINGHAM I guess as a manufacturer our responsibility is to make sure the product information is accurate, up-to-date and in a form that can be understood.
GEORGE Yeah, you also want to know where it’s going to be installed though, don’t you?

ROY BUCKINGHAM Yeah, but often we won’t be the specifier that actually specifies it into the application. We will be on occasion, but the majority of the time we don’t actively specify the product into the application. It’s a door supplier, because obviously from a door hardware perspective we’re only a component of the door set that’s being supplied. So, it’s a question of making sure that information is readily available to people so they can make informed choices.

GEORGE Do you each have recommended maintenance or inspection methods that you would want to see followed?

ROY BUCKINGHAM As an industry for fire doors and escape doors there’s plenty of information available from the trade organisation, as well as from the manufacturer’s own information as well, yes.

ALAN BRINSON I can tell you for sprinklers we have pages and pages about this in our standards.

GEORGE But would they vary according to different manufacturers?

ALAN BRINSON It’s a European standard, so it’s a British standard. No. But it’s for the system, it’s not for the sprinkler, which itself has no moving parts, it’s for the system as a whole.

GEORGE I appreciate that. So, would that be similar to what’s in SFG20? Or is ti more detailed than that?

ALAN BRINSON I’m not familiar with SFG20.

GEORGE It’s BESA, the Building Environmental Services Association. It’s the standard that all maintenance for mechanical M&E items.

ALAN BRINSON I don’t know. This standard is written by people in the sprinkler industry, it’s one of the BSI committees. There’s nobody from BESA in the meeting.

GEORGE OK. So dies it give a step by step set of instructions as to…

ALAN BRINSON It says this is what you should do everyday, this is what you should do every week and every month, every quarter, every year, and all the different things you should do. There’s some check sheets, you run tests, basically. The idea is that you you can be fairly sure a sprinkler system is going to work if you open a valve at the end of the pipe and water comes out and the pump starts. You’re testing that kind of thing and you don’t want to do that too often, so doing things less often to be fairly sure that when you do do that it will work.

JIM CREAK Well, the other thing I can say, George, in respect to signs is that everything that we're discussing is actually in a British standard, but we came into this discussion with trying to short form having to read all the standards cause there's seven quite extensive standards to do with signs. And I'm talking about fire signs and safety signs and they deal with the maintenance regime and the review of the applications and everything. But I doubt if British Standards are going to put that on a public forum, they’re hugely expensive items. It’s another problem that needs addressing because I agree with Alan, the standards are there, the standards for continual improvement, the standards for application, context, maintenance, everything is there, but nobody wants to hold those as prescriptive. If I were to write one for BIM it would be exactly the same as British Standards

NICK HAUGHTON Certainly from our industry perspective there isn’t any standards ready, but we have our own published documents about that.Basically it depends how good the cleaning regime on the outside of the ? 1hr 07mins 07secs is.

STEPHEN GORE We have a similar thing, so our O&Ms will have a maintenance regime in, but that's linked back to harmonised product standards and they're also referred to in things like BSI991 and 9999. So it goes all the way through, the only challenge we ever have is sometimes they conflict with each other, which can always make it a challenge to which one takes precedence.

GEORGE So, the information that you might need to be able to provide the data that you’re expected to…I’m coming back to the question, what would you need from designers, what would you need from clients to deliver the information that you need? The impression I get is that we’ve got product data, fantastic, that’s what we want to move forward with, but you also want the context that the product is going to be used, don’t you?

JIM CREAK Certainly so.

GEORGE So, maybe that’s the focus of it, what we are doing with the Digital Construction Week. What questions would you be asking of Asif, for example, as a developer, or from PRP as architects or whatever. How could they improve the way in which the golden thread is put together?

RICHARD With one hand we’re trying to make everything standardised so that it’s more straightforward, with the other hand we’ve got to consider context which bey definition is unique. That’s the cruz of the difficulty, isn’t it?

JIM CREAK In terms of repeating what I’ve said in the design forums, there’s got to be somebody that actually understands the discipline within the design because whether we’re making space for ventilation or whether we’ve got a specific strategy for escape, and I’ve said this again in the purpose group of the construction, sometimes because they’re speculative, these things are unknown. So then you ask the stakeholders the questions that are required in order to work a decision tree and there’s no one that knows at that end of the project.
GEORGE If that’s the case, Jim, I absolutely agree with you, at that’s what we’ve also been talking about in the construction group, the whole idea of moving the involvement of specialists into Workstage 4 before you go into construction is something that is being talked about a lot. So, how can we do that in such a way that you’re compensated for the time that’s put in there.

JIM CREAK I made the suggestion that that has to be paid for as consultancy. If somebody, and of course I’m doing that most of the time these days because it’s so funny that somebody would say, well, you know what statutory signs are needed. I’m saying hang on a minute, who’s discussed this with the enforcement authority, because that’s what’s required right up front. Nobody, see our fire engineer, nothing to do with signs and the whole runaround goes because everybody believes, oh, it’s just signs, that’s an easy number, yeah, just stick anything up you like by fire alarm call points telling them what to do in case of fire, How many single storey buildings do I see where it says do not use the lifts on it. It’s crazy, because there is not any regard for it in the design of the construction because everybody believes that these things are just off the shelf and you can buy them and you can stick your light up there and it will be perfectly OK because nobody will need it. I’ve actually said if the signs don’t make sense, take them down, it’s better to have none than to have stuff that’s meaningless.

GEORGE Asif, you’ve been in the conversations with the other Tier 1s with regard to trying to take decisions earlier in terms of product selection. How are you thinking that that might happen?

ASIF MIRZA I can only say at the moment that it isn’t happening because we have no end of procurement issues. Everything at the moment is procured late, all the decisions are being made very late. I think this is an industry wide problem not just us. From our own experience at the moment building is quite painful. Obviously there is a lot of change, but because of the economic situation it’s all very, very late. So, it’s a hard conversation, at the moment. I think everyone in the industry wants decisions to be made earlier. We made a big push for that 2 1/2 years ago, but at the moment it’s a very difficult question to answer.

GEORGE What about contractor’s design portion and the discussions you’ve been having around that? That’s part of this same issue, isn’t it?

ASIF MIRZA It is, and again that is, at this moment in time, very, very late. We have a rule that we don’t allow our contractors to start without all the appropriate paper work in place with the right approvals and unfortunately it’s having a knock-on effect. This is across the board with all our projects, we are very, very late with everything at this moment. I know where we’d like to be, but at this moment in time we’re not.

GEORGE OK. So, from manufacturers’ point of view for Swegon, for example, if you were to be involved earlier in the process, Stephen, what…the risk is that you’re sharing your knowledge and the time and then they may pick a different product.

STEPHEN GORE There is, I suppose I’m a bit more pragmatic with it because if I’ve educated someone to the point that they don’t end up buying my product, they buy a competitors, at least there is a chance that it’s going to be done right even if we haven’t got the sale out of it. we always want early engagement upfront, one of our single biggest headaches at the minute is walls, because they will put all of the walls up and then they’ll decide whose damper they’re going to fit in, and when there are 47 types of flexible wall and only 4 of them meet the standard requirements effectively everything else becomes a test. And it’s because someone in procurement thinks they’ve changed 2% by changing supply, but what they’ve done is written out all of supporting test data that anyone who is breaching that compartment has got because they’ve now gone through a system where no one’s got any data. So, the earlier we can get involved and have an influence on that and explain what data it is that we have, what systems they can install and what systems they can’t install it in, what they then choose to do is then down to them, not us.

So, we won’t select the application for them, we’ll tell them what we’ve got, how we’ve tested, what we tested in, what the performance criteria is, it’s down to them or our customer to choose what product he’s gonna have and how he’s gonna go forward with it. it becomes very difficult when you get a phone call saying the walls have gone up and they’ve all got holes in and all the holes are the wrong size and they’ve now got to find a way of putting product into it.

GEORGE Absolutely, OK. We’re planning to run something with the finishers and interior specialists group (FIS), Iain McIlwee. The idea is we’ll also have BG and Knauf and people like that involved. We’re gonna try and look at that from a system perspective to see the relationship between those and also relate it to smoke control and things.

ELLIOTT DAWSON To your point, Stephen, about people specifying and putting thing sin first, it would be immensely useful if we had almost a database that when you’ve selected one product it whittled down what you could then choose as a result of choosing that product. For example, starting with your footings, once you put your footings in what products then go on top of that. So, when you then choose a wall you’ve got 20 different substrates from paper through to concrete it will then whittle down the products that you can link.

STEPHEN GORE Some of it is the flexibility because standards talk around what they call standard supporting constructions, these are walls that have got known behaviour under fire conditions. And all the time that which is what most manufacturers would test and people are building walls that meet those requirements everything is easier from an interchangeability perspective. Aside from potentially the opening, if you’ve already got your opening made in the wall, being a bit of a headache, at least the actual structure of the wall is potentially suitable. When people deviate away from that, and the one that causes no end of havoc at the minute is shaft walls. These are kind of asymmetrical walls that are built from one side, under standards they’re all considered specific supporting constructions. So, it’s a fire test and if you change supplier your test data is not valid, so you’re re-testing. So, it becomes a bit of a monster to try and manage and that along with the cost of testing in itself, and it’s 2 tests at least, and it’s timing.

You’ll have one customer that wants to do that and then you’ve got another customer that’s decided they’re going to use Knauf system rather than BG system, you go through that exercise again and then they still want 40% discount and want it 2 weeks ago. From a business case perspective it doesn’t stack up half the time so it does make a bit of a headache. But yeah, something that would ultimately whittle down based on your wall type what penetration seal options it now gives you for everything else. Of course, this information relates to anything your going to put through that wall that requires a penetration seal, so a duct, a damper, a cable tray, a pipe, they all kind of lead back to the standards, the same requirements, we just all have slight variations in our sort of specific standards.

So, something that could that could whittle it down for someone that they could look at the potential impact of a decision to save 5% on your wall construction, if it's gonna put your component cost up of your dampers and your ductwork and your penetration seals, you might not end up saving any money.

ELLIOTT DAWSON Absolutely. Especially if you look at some of the wall constructions. So, we’ve tested in many different wall structures, but the one thing we haven't tested in is nofines, and not many people have, but you'd be amazed how many people will still put a door in there and you have no idea how that door is gonna distort and react because the substructure is completely different and untested. Nofines is the composite of where the substructure is like a solid and there is either fines or nofines, I don’t know the exact terminology, but it’s quite common in high-rise flats and certainly in maisonettes and 4-storey buildings, especially anything built between the 60’s and the 80’s. And obviously they’re heavily being retrospectively fitted out and people are just putting doors in against them and when there is an actual fire the door could virtually fall out because of the way your fixing materials go into them they won’t hold under the heat.

GEORGE In terms of the information that you’ve got, Jim, would you have declarations of performance for your products, or not?

JIM CREAK We conform to recognised standards 17398 durability characteristics and performance, that’s the way we’ve always operated to take best guidance, because it’s international and British it should be understood, but it isn’t by the rest of industry, they don’t care.

GEORGE I know that on certain types of products there is a declaration of performance that’s been assessed against a harmonised standard. Is that something that…

JIM CREAK It’s something we do, yeah. But it’s not on every single product that J-light manufacture because it’s only on the branded products of J-light that it’s recognised conformance because, believe it or not, we do have customers that insist on having things manufactured not to standard.

NICK HAUGHTON There’s certain standards ??? 1hr 24mins 10secs there’s others got the error codes, there’s quite a mix of different ones that we have, we’ve got our own forms of testing and so on because in a lot of cases we pull some of the components apart so the system actually fall between standards or between testing standards.

GEORGE So, it’s not as straightforward as I’m asking, that if there is a product, I was thinking of it simplistically that if you’ve got a product with the product data sheet and there is a declaration of performance would there be, literally, it’s a binary thing, do we have a document?

STEPHEN GORE I think it will probably depend on the product.

NICK HAUGTHON In our context I think it probably is, there is probably one for structural performance and so on, for different parts of what it is, really

JIM CREAK It has to be taken into context as well, people do at least have to read the foreword of each individual standard to understand the context. For instance, there’s the colour of safety signs, which is one standard and there is a conformance to that. But if you were talking about specifically fire and the behaviour in fire then that is in 17398. I think you have to be very clear about what specification you’re actually asking for otherwise people say, oh well, I’ve seen all the standards, it all conforms. It doesn’t, because I know one manufacturer that are making escape route signs out of flammable material (polyurethane) and that’s because nobody asks.

GEORGE Alan, you would have declarations of performance on your products, would you?

ALAN BRINSON Yeah, the basic components, some of them are covered by harmonised European standards and the UK equivalent, so they have to have CA or UKCA markings on them. Those standards are actually about 20 years old, so anything that’s been invented in the last couple of decades doesn’t have a harmonised standard, but nevertheless there would always be data sheets for them. And the application of them is covered then…many of these things have standards for the component itself, then there is an installation standard for how you use it too. We haven’t quite got everything nailed down as much at the moment , but in a year or 2 we pretty much will.

STEPHEN GORE They are harmonised products under the CPR so there is a requirement that we have to have a declaration of performance. It makes it very easy from that respect because there is no grey area with it, we have to have it.

GEORGE There’s nowhere there is a database to say which products would or wouldn’t have declarations of performance, is there?

STEPHEN GORE I think the declaration of performance is very much linked to construction product regulation and probably European technical assessments. Paul White is probably the font of all knowledge on those kind of things. It could well be that everything under CPR needs to have a DOP, I’m not sure whether it’s everything, or it depends on its AVCP level or not. Ours are system 1, so it’s kind of a no-brainer because you’re at the top so you have to.

ELLIOTT DAWSON We do have declarations of performance on doors. Upside down, sideways, but there’s a million different DOPS, we also exapps, we have restrictions in place as to how you can’t test. Some doors you can test mins and maxes, so if it was a standard door you can test your smallest size, your biggest size, and then that will allow you to manufacture anything in between. However, if you add a side light or a top light under the DOP you can only reduce it by 25% at a time and you have to test in increments of 25% which is ludicrous because it means you can never tests to your smallest possible opening, but they’re the current rules. So a longwinded answer, yess, we do have, hundreds of them.

GEORGE And, last question, environmental product declarations?

STEPHEN GORE yeah, we are working on them.

JIM CREAK We’ve done an overall statement as a manufacturer under 14001 and that does take into account the products that are being manufactured as well. But I have some great skepticism around how the carbon numbers are allowed to be calculated when you can ignore so much stuff up front. I buy in PVC, for example, so I’m not allowed to ask what the credentials are from the people that we actually get the PVC from, I can only take the details from the fact that it’s PVC. I find it more academic that actually real, and I’m not a supporter of this carbon neutral, the whole basis of how it’s sorted out.

GEORGE Yeah, I think there is a lot of work going on in that area. I tend to agree with you that it’s too wooly.

ELLIOTT DAWSON OK, Jim, the boat that our stock comes over from Taiwan, we’ve put a sail on it, just to make it carbon neutral.

RICHARD George, have you got everything you need now for DCW from the manufacturing group?

GEORGE I think so, yeah, and it will be good to know who’s actually going to come along.

ASIF MIRZA I was with you last year, I’m trying to rally the troops as well, so I’m hoping I can bring along somebody from Group IT as well as one of my colleagues from Southern.

NICK HAUGHTON We’ve got a stand, we’re exhibiting, I’ll be there Tuesday and Wednesday, personally. I might be able to shift that around and shift the Wednesday to the Thursday.

STEPHEN GORE I’ll be there.

JIM CREAK I’ll be there, helping with the tall buildings group conference.