BIM4Housing Operations Working Group Meeting 14-02-2024

RICHARD This is the first meeting of 2024 of the Operations Group where we’ll be looking at what we’re going to be doing over the next 12 months. Along with that we’ll be discussing some points on Section 38. The first and most important thing of this meeting is to introduce our new leaders. In the last couple of years we’ve had very sterling leadership from Alex Oldman from Civica, but form today Bex Gibson and Dave Williams will be taking over.

BEX GIBSON I work for Live West which is a housing association in South-West England, I’m currently in the building safety team and I’ve got quite a lot of knowledge and expertise in that area. I’m also hugely involved in better information management, this is really close to my heart so I’m looking forward to being more involved.

DAVE WILLIAMS I’m the programme manager for Building A Safer Future programme at Origin Housing which as of last week became part of Places for People. I’ve been involved with leading on various workstreams including BIM etc.

GEORGE Alex Oldman isn’t leaving the group, quite the opposite. Alex is still very keen, he couldn’t make it today, it’s just from a work point of view he’s got a lot on. Civica has just been taken over by Blackstone who are the biggest private equity firm in the world, so it will be quite interesting to see….there’s already been massive changes.

The thing that’s been exercising me over the last few months is that a lot of the things we’ve been talking about in terms of what information is needed, the fire specialists in our group have said all of that is in Regulation 38 so we should be getting it anyway. Over this last year I kept hearing Regulation 38 and therefore I started to dig into it a bit more. (shares screen). The key thing is that although Regulation 38 has been in place for almost 20 years, the fact is that there is a lot of information that it is sup[posed to be being handed over that hasn’t been. But there’s some big changes taking place as a result of the Building Safety Act and I don’t know whether people have fully appreciated the change. A lot of this came in in the August amendments to Regulation 38, but this is from the Building Safety Act itself.

An accountable person must keep prescribed information in accordance with prescribed standards and also keep it up to date. So this is now a legal requirement and it’s therefore a legal requirement that you’ve got to be able to demonstrate that you’ve been doing that as well. So, if you don’t have it you must obtain it, except where it’s not practically possible to do so. This is from the Health & Safety Executive presentation that Bex and I attended, it was actually the ASFP, but the HSE were very prominent there. One of the things that came out of it was not knowing a risk, in other words if there’s some information missing you’ve got to record that in to your safety case. And just to reiterate what was in that thing before, you’ve got to demonstrate what you’ve done to find it, so just saying that this is a 1960’s block, we don’t have any O&Ms for them, no longer is acceptable. It might be that it takes you a couple of years to find the information or to create it from scratch, but it’s no longer acceptable to not know it.

The secondary legislation that came in August, it actually said that the responsible person needs to confirm that they’ve got the information that’s sufficient for them to understand, operate and maintain the building and its fire safety systems effectively after building works. So this isn’t just about new build, this is anything that’s gone through any change. I think this is really significant because in my experience of many years of working with client organisations they get what they get from the construction team and really the operations team often don’t have the resource or the funding to be able to check that it’s fit for purpose. And therefore invariably the O&M information is incomplete and you only find out what’s missing when you go and look for it. This now is a legal requirement that the client organisation has got to explicitly state that they’ve got the information that’s needed. The corresponding part of it is that the construction team, in the guise of the principal designer and principal contractor, must make a declaration that they’ve provided all of that information and also that they’ve received notice from the responsible person saying that they’ve received it all.

I think that’s pretty strong in terms of the process and therefore from an operations point of view it gives the operations teams, who are invariably not well resourced in the organisation, with some reason to say to their colleagues in development, or even in other areas of the organisation, that this is something that needs to be collected. One of the things that we’ve been doing is going through and identifying what are the key assets that are identified in Regulation 38. These are things principally that most of you that know what we’ve been doing over the last couple of years, we’ve dug into most of these in significant detail. Paul McSoley went through with me and he’s identified the other thing that is critical from a building regs point of view, and that’s the other elements that aren’t necessarily fire related (some of them are), but these are all safety critical assets. So this is again something else that needs to be considered in the safety case.

One of the things that we’ve been doing is speaking with some of the people on this call, about if this information is required who is actually telling the construction teams what it is that they’ve got to deliver? And who’s actually checking it? So, I asked several client organisations what they’ve got in terms of checklists. This is one from Westminster that they kindly shared which is quite brief, but it quite explicit and it clearly recognises here that they’ve actually read the new legislation and they know what they’ve got to do. If we look at the other end of the scale, so that’s a single page, this is the one that Origin have kindly share with us which is a tremendous piece of work. They’ve gone through and they’ve actually checked the requirement and then looked at the documents and information that’s going to be needed to satisfy that. Paul Bray has given us some feedback from what the information that he uses as a guide.

This is one from Ealing, again it follows that same sort of methodology that the Origin one does, but again it’s asking different questions. We think it would make a lot more sense if we have a common process and a common checklist to be able to work against so that we’ve got a degree of consistency. I think it’s also going to make it a lot easier for supply chain members, like Sharon, for example, the information that Sharon may be required to provide could be standardised. What we’d like to do is set up a dedicated workstream to actually explore that and see if we can get something. I’d like to open it out now for anybody to make comments or ideas.

PAUL WHITE I think that’s really good and yes, I’ll happily work out with that checklist, but do get that in to the public domain I think would be absolutely fantastic. I’ve just been and looked at some buildings, they’re 4/5 storeys because they’ve got duplexes on the tops, so they’re probably around 15 metres. They obviously at the moment miss the HRB register, I would assume, but I’ve been and looked at them and I’m very concerned that they may not even have been compliant when they were completed. And of course I’ve passed this on in a report, but of course we’re then down to there’s no money, we’re gonna have to hit all of the residents with this, that and the other, and as far as I can see they haven’t got any information whatsoever. It would have been building Regulation 16, the precursor to building Regulation 38 which I think probably goes back even further that this information was required to be passed over. But the requirement for it to be kept, as everybody is probably fully aware, has been overlooked. But what do we do in that situation? Now, I’m assuming that there’s probably lots of housing people on here with blocks and they’re probably putting their whole house in order because they’re aware of the HRB requirement, but what do we do when we come across this? Because I’d love to pass that checklist over, but it will just be laughed at.

GEORGE One of the things I’m coming across quite a lot is this confusion over HRBs. Regulation 38 relates to all buildings.

PAUL WHITE I understand that, but the issue that I’ve got is that I’ve got these quite old buildings that I don’t think were compliant in the first place, but there is no information. So when i ask things like what’s the fire strategy, where’s the design document, they don’t exist. And the other point is it’s not my place to go looking further in to this, but I’ve made recommendations that if you can find this, but I know it’s not going to be there. And as it’s not an HRB, what’s the driver for anybody to go looking for it? I’ve said the normal things, that if you replace on a like for like basis you’re not changing it, but if you want to change all of these actuators and this bit is missing and this, that and the other, you’re now falling into a redesign. But what’s the driver for them to actually say we need to look at this?

PAUL BRAY First of all, if you haven’t got the information I think the starting point is a measured survey of that building to understand what the building has actually got and how it is compartmentalised.

PAUL WHITE That’s essentially what I’ve done and I’ve said I don’t think this is right and you haven’t got this.

PAUL BRAY And then you have to look at how you put that right and obviously that’s where the costs come in. I think there is a moral obligation, if not a statutory obligation, to ensure that the people that are staying in those buildings are safe, so the landlord has got an obligation to put it right. And whether or not they go back under the polluter pays legislation to ensure what’s not been completed correctly is done correctly. I agree with you around strategy documents, back in the day it was all in paper, when I worked in the Fire Service we had filing rooms full of it and it would be piles and piles of boxes and you’d search through, and you could find the strategy documents, sometimes going back 20 years or more, into the 50s, 60s. But then everybody wanted to get rid of it, they wanted to clear out their filing cabinets and they digitalised it if you were lucky, but they did a lot of file pruning and it’s gone, so you're back to square one.

I think the Building Safety Act talks about drawing a line about where you are, but you need to know what that line really means i.e. with regards to how well is the building structured, put together, what holes have developed over time, breaches in compartmentation and other fire safety measures.

PAUL WHITE I haven’t even looked at that and I haven’t been specific about what I’ve looked at, but the point is…I’ve told them and I’ve made a suggestion that you need somebody to look at the design and underwrite it going forward because I can’t suggest anything else.

PAUL BRAY No, and I think that’s the right point, the responsibility ultimately lies with the owner of the building, but then they’ve got to look at where the due diligence lies that got them to that point. Developers start going out of business, they’re no longer responsible, I think there’s a fund now to cover that because the leaseholders or the owners if they are dwellings, they’re going to stuck with this massive bill to put it right because you can’t leave people staying in buildings that are classed as unsafe. Whether they’re high-rise, medium-rise or low-rise, potential for collapsing and any kind of explosion or event is there. So my starting point would be that, you’ve got to start trying to gather the information what you already know and take it from there. The reason why its really important, Regulation 38 information going forward needs to be there going forward, it’s an important element of the Building Safety Act. Both parties have got to agree that they’ve got and given the right information, so that’s a step forward.

Coming up with an industry template like you suggested, that would be helpful. Maybe a version of PAS 71 for fire risk assessments, you’d have a PAS version for Regulation 38 information.

BEX GIBSON So what you’re both saying is basically an in-use template. So Reg 38, that’s for handover of new buildings, which is obviously a lot easier than going back and looking at a 30 year old building and trying to find out what’s important, how to do it at process for that. It would be good to expand on how that would look.

JOHN FIELD When I was at Imperial College London I oversaw several new builds and it was evident that the responsible people within the construction company weren’t possibly overfamiliar with the documents that were required, or maybe they were being obstructive because it meant work, because they had to dig information out. They clearly had to provide this to the local authority, but it did seem that there was this struggle to actually provide me with the required information. So I did do that cut and paste from Regulation 38, this is what I need, this is a rough idea of what’s required. Now obviously in the Building Safety Act with regards to the high-risk buildings we’ve got Section 8 etc which does give a bit more detail as to you must have this information, you won’t get your certificate unless you provide this information and you must provide it to the principal or accountable people etc.

So I feel this adds a belt and braces that hopefully ensure that this information is handed over. In the past it’s been buried in a five million page document, to some extent, so the safety document will come across and you’d struggle to find it. Whereas again the government guidance on how it should be provided and what format etc makes it a lot clearer, but I think for this group to work on making this clearer, more succinct, so the different industries are aware of what is required and how it should be presented, that’s a fantastic idea. It’s very shrewd of you guys to be working at it over the past year and actually, there you go, this is what we’ve been working on everyone.

GEORGE To flag up, we don’t have all of the answers yet, John. What we’re trying to do is to clarify it and make it easier for people to understand and also, as Paul was saying earlier, nobody’s got any money (in many cases) so therefore this needs to be done progressively. Alex has made a comment…do you want to ask that question about

whether the fire strategy is with local authorities?

ALEX NORMAND I work for predominantly resident management companies and ultimately everything that we produce is based on the service charges and ultimately people pay into that fund and as far as these residents are concerned they’ve bought in good faith and everything should have been signed off and appropriately built as it should have been when they bought their property and now we’re asking them to do fire strategy documents, various different surveys. Now, we appreciate things have evolved over time, but there’s a lot of people out there who are trying to understand how has the development been built, because surely the fire strategy was in place at the time, and where are those documents? Who signed them off in terms of this is the development that we want to build, we’ve asked for planning, the fire brigade have been in, everybody has done all of their checks and we’ve now bought this property in good faith and now we’re asking them to fund potentially tens of thousands of pounds worth of surveys that people just don’t want to pay for. Why should then pay? Why is it for us and why are the landlords not going to get involved? It’s a really difficult battle at the moment with these people and I just don’t know if everybody else is experiencing the same thing.

BEX GIBSON That’s a really great perspective, Alex, from the other side of the pond, as it were. I don’t know if there is a process for that, people don’t know about the buildings and so we need to find that info.

PAUL BRAY In answer to Alex’s question, when a building is being planned to be built (this is my experience from working with the Fire Service) you get involved from the Fire Service point of view at planning stage. When it comes through the build time, you get involved with the consultation if it comes under the fire safety legislation, and at that stage you would be presented with the fire strategy documents. So the Fire Service would have copies of the fire strategy documents and all of the other supporting documentation that’s required, and the local authority would have that from the planning stage, they’d also have the building at control body stage. Now, if it’s approved inspector it’s slightly different, but that local authority would have those documents for a set period of time.

This is my experience with the local authority where I work in Plymouth. They did all of the file pruning and back in about 2000 they basically got rid of everything that was more that seven years old. They may have digital copies, but I’m not sure whether it’s to do with the Data Protection Act because it’s not really personal information kept there, but file pruning was quite brutal, they got rid of a lot of it. So if you ask a local authority for any background information about a building, they’ve very rarely got it. So the next step that I went to, I’m dealing with a building safety case at the moment…and I said to the person I’m working for: let’s go and speak to the local authority to see if they’ve got anything. Nothing, nothing at all anymore, whereas as I said earlier we used to have boxes of the stuff, I had fire strategy stashed away everywhere in the building that I worked in, because they’re useful documents, you’ll never get them again, the level of detail in there, and they’d bin it.

You may be lucky that you’d come across a digital version. So, when we started moving towards the digital in the mid-2000s there was a lot more digital information being passed around, so there might be something stashed away there. You’d need the reference documents, the original reference numbers to find it. It takes somebody with a forensic brain to track this down, and that’s the problem that you’ve got. So, anything older than 10-20 years, you’re unlikely…

ALEX NORMAND Most of them are 20 years, where we’re facing these problems.

PAUL BRAY I’ll go back to the point we were talking about with Paul earlier. Even if it is 20 years old and you’ve got the strategy documents, there is no guarantee the building hasn’t been altered a lot since that period, so you still probably need to do a measured survey. They talk about a time period, it might be 5 or 10 years, and if you haven’t had control of the contractors coming into the site in that period of time then you can’t confirm that they followed it to the letter, the CDM regs, they’ve done their method statements, they’ve done it in accordance with the construction…plan. You’ve got no guarantee that everything that has been installed meets the requirements and hasn’t breached compartmentation or changed an essential system, so that measured survey is probably something you need to do if you haven’t got that information That’s your starting point, that’s your line in the sand, go forward and put in a massive control process to stop it from getting worse going forward. That’s what I’d do, in answer to your question. You’d be lucky if you’ve got it, I would still make the inquiry, but your local fire authority is probably the one to go to, they may still have it somewhere.

ALEX NORMAND The other problem that we’ve got is the CDM files, O&M files, whatever the builders have referred them as, quite a lot of the information is supposedly as-built, but it’s not always as-built because when you start looking at the plans things are different and even though they’ve got a big stamp to say as-built they’re actually not. That’s our experience.

PAUL WHITE Unfortunately you’ve had a lot of people, you’ve got electrical contractors working on fire alarm systems, you’ve got fire alarms systems people working on smoke control systems, and they’re making assumptions that they no what they’re doing. The key one I quite often see is if you go in and you see a smoke control system and when the alarm goes all the vents open, it’s probably because - they’re not supposed to do that, they’re only supposed to open on the fire floor at the top of the stairs - but what’s happened is that somebody’s gone in, they’re able to get into the system if it’s a fire alarm system and they’ve thought this can’t be right, surely all of the vents should open. And they’ve changed it and they’ve made a design decision that they weren’t even aware of knowing that it was there.

The specific buildings that I was talking about, they’re 30-odd years old and I actually had to go back and look at documents from 1971, which might have been relevant at the time of the builds because I wasn’t sure that what had been built was wrong. But then I determined that actually some of the fundamentals were what they were then and now we’re getting into, one of the things that we’re talking about is smoke control systems being inspected annually, that’s another cost that you’d never have had before, and you’ve got to budget for that now because you should be having it done. If you have ventilation systems the fire dampers should be inspected every year, if you have ductwork and shafts they should be being cleaned every year, and the point is that’s never been an expense because nobody has ever done it.

And now people are going that we probably should have been doing it, or we should have been inspecting these, or we should have at least done one of these big inspections maybe when we took over the building as an FM contractor. But actually, because people didn’t know, they’ve not been doing it and therefore that’s where all of these sudden costs are coming from. And then to determine where you are, I can’t afford insurance to do design work, but I go and give an opinion on a building, so what I’ve said is somebody’s got to come round and actually underwrite this design for you because if they won’t do that then there is probably something wrong with it and therefore you’ve got to put it right, and it snowballs. Residential is one thing, the worst places I go to, which is probably concerning to everybody, is hospitals. They have absolutely no money and they’ve not looked at anything for 20 years, it’s really scary.

Whereas hopefully now going ahead, how we deal with the legacy stock is the difficult bit. George and Richard know that I keep saying this is all brilliant going forward, but legacy stock, where are we with it? And how do we risk assess it out? Well, most of the stuff I talk about, risk assessors don’t even know it’s in the building, and that’s wrong as well. If you have risk assessments done, have a look and see whether the smoke control systems are in your risk assessments, they probably aren’t. Is there any ventilation there, is that in your risk assessment? The answer is no because you don’t even get taught it at Level 4 risk assessment training and yet in the actual case of a fire, potentially it’s the one thing that’s there to protect people that nobody looks at. So I’m sorry about the cost, but I don’t know how to mitigate them.

BEX GIBSON No, and it’s a huge piece of work for new builds and existing, so that’s kind of why we’re starting these conversations and if we all talk then we can all come up with ideas to address it.

JONATHAN FURLONG With existing buildings, there is no requirement to meet the regs of what it was built to rectify, there is no requirement for that. I also don’t see it particularly helpful in going back and trying to find out what building regs a building was built to, particularly in residential buildings. I think people sometimes go way too complicated on this, from a risk perspective, particularly from a fire perspective, your fire cause and effect: do you have a fire cause and affect matrix for your systems? If not, get one done, they’re not overly expensive. And then it’s about testing them, every bit of equipment inside of there, plus fire doors, plus signage need to be inspected monthly because that’s inside the new fire regs. I appreciate that’s a cost that no one ever had, but you don’t need a fire engineer to go around and check if your signage is still on the wall…and even in a very basis one you can do that in a paper-based system, though I recommend some kind of digital system.

Even then, the testing of your fire cause and affect matrix, once you actually have it up and operational and done by a fire engineer, they shouldn’t be doing your up do date fire cause and affect matrix on old building regs, they should be doing them on best practice. For instance, very simple stuff, the legislation and what used to happen with a lift is now considered wrong and shouldn’t be followed. So  lift shouldn’t always default to ground floor because if your fire is on the ground floor in the lobby it’s absolutely stupid telling a lift to stop and open up into the active fire and smoke areas. So, looking at old building regs in someways is absolutely pointless, you should be doing it on best practice and then once that’s designed…with a bit of training, you can train relatively simply most people to be able to do a lot of this, 6-monthly, quarterly and annual testing of the system because it should be flick the button and then check on the 4th floor does the vent open, does one on the top floor open, and just go through a sequence of testing.

So I think sometimes people go ho, I don’t have all of the drawings, you don’t need the drawings. In most buildings they’re not that complicated, I’m talking about residential here because that’s what the whole Building Safety Act is about, you don’t need to have the operation manuals or the AOVs. You don’t need to have all the level of detail that people say that you need to have because ultimately it’s a physical test that you’re doing and the digital aspect should be helping that. Too many times we get caught up on a paper and paperwork, having paper on your systems is absolutely pointless, you flick the switch and something just doesn’t happen. Too often we rely paper into digital, but when it comes to the critical systems a physical test has to happen. A good one is…I have records going back for 6 years since it was built that the lift operates perfectly every time. And I get in there and they do all of the tests and it all works perfect, I went I don’t believe you. They said the computer says it’s all working, I went OK, stick the key in and do the physical test. They stuck the key into the switch, turned it and nothing happened. Take the panel off, it’s never been wired up, so it could never have worked, yet in testing and the paperwork all says it works.

And this is where I think we need to be realistic with existing buildings, just assume all of your paperwork is out of date and doesn’t work and go back from first principles, what is it that makes this building safe? What makes the building safe if your fire cause and effect operating in the manner it should and start from best practice principles, draw it out and map it out, and then build in a new regime of checking it to keep it up to date. I think at times we scare…Alex, you were talking about it costing so much, it doesn’t have to be. It’s about focusing, and the building safety legislation and the building safety cases and reports are built on that proportionality. Do start with what is going to absolutely make a building the most safe for the quickest, and then build on top of that: if you have money, build on the next layer and the next layer, survey it and scan it and get drones out to fly around it and spend as much money as you want, but start with the basics and get them right. And don’t assume your initial information is…of any benefit in an existing building.

BEX GIBSON It’s a very good point you raised with the proportionality, that’s a huge thing that the Building Safety Regulator makes a reference to.

GEORGE I agree with Johnny and the purpose of what I’m trying to get to with this is to understand what that baseline best practice is, so that we’ve got something that isn’t just an opinion, it’s something that people can work to. Because what I think is also the case, we’ve obviously got concerns about budgets and money and the like, but the fact is that most organisations are continuously investing in activities that are being carried out on their buildings, but perhaps for different purposes. So it might be that there is work in terms of decarbonisation or remedial works or decent homes or things like that, which are actually being carried out by different departments within the organisation and if we’re smart about this then the information that they are collecting could actually inform the missing information that we may have from a fire safety perspective. So it’s a matter of ending up with a set of information requirements that everybody can coalesce around.

JONATHAN FURLONG For existing buildings that exists because in the legislation there are the minimum requirements of the pieces of equipment. So the legislation lists some of the information directly and then quotes the other Acts, through the FSO, and they actually get into naming the bits of things that you need to do on your monthly checks. I’m not saying that organisations should be trying to hit the minimum, but if people are trying to get a list together I think that is a starting point. Take what the government have already written down in the Building Safety Act and linked through the FSO and the FCO and they then specify specific items, and that gives you your core list (I have some of that somewhere that I can pull out). The legislation does get into these actual things. For existing buildings that’s somewhat easier, for the new builds it’s a lot harder because it’s much broader saying all of the information, and that becomes really hard. But for existing buildings there actually is a relatively clearly defined list.

GEORGE Johnny, would you be OK joining a brief workstream?

JONATHAN FURLONG Yes, and I’ll try to post into this chat when I pull it up from my computer.

PAUL BRAY I understand a lot of the things that Johnny said, but there are a couple of bits that I probably would challenge or ask for further clarity because you tend to emphasise the need to do the checking and the matrix of checks, whereas I think the starting point is the compartmentation of the building, and that does require a level of surveying. If you don’t understand how a building is going to react because of a fire, the safety systems that you’ve got in place….I’m talking about blocks of flats.

JONATHAN FURLONG The compartmentation is generally very straightforward. Each apartment itself should be compartmentated from the next and each communal area should be compartmentated from the individual residential flat. And then does the compartmentation work? Most likely not, but that is the reality, most compartmentation of any building of over a few years old has been compromised, if it was even built correctly in the first place. It’s very hard to do full testing on that without doing deconstructive testing in between each flats.

The reality is, purely from a risk-based perspective, if all of your other systems work and you control the spread of the smoke the fire will probably spread but it’s a much lesser degree. That’s what I’m trying to get at, I’m not saying that it’s not important, but on my list of stuff I would do compartmentation way after i’d do my active systems work because to do full compartmentation you have to strip…if doing compartmentation between two apartments it’s very hard to do that without doing deconstructive testing.

PAUL BRAY So, I think there is a way forward: you do a sample and you check voids when you get a void flat. I’ve had experience at blocks of flats where there’s a linked service duct between the whole flats that you could climb in and there was a 2-hour panel in between that never got removed.

JONATHAN FURLONG That’s in most buildings, I’ve never found a building where the compartmentation has been as designed. In some buildings it’s quite good, but I’ve never seen a building where I haven’t found a compartmentation issue.

PAUL BRAY I still think that you need to have an idea about what the level of compartmentation is in that building and what historically has gone on. Whether or not expanding foam has been used and whether it’s appropriate, if expanding foam is used at all. There’s a few things that need to be done and it’s a simultaneous activity as you get to know what the nature of the building is and what’s historically gone on within that building. So I’m not saying I disagree with you, but I’d challenge some of the processing of the understanding a building. I’d not just be happy with a building report if it was just based on the active measures, I’d still be interested in understanding the consequences of some of the passive measures failing.

The piece of legislation you were referring to, was it the Fire Safety England regulations that talks about the testing and has got the 9 or so provisions that you need to take account of depending on the height of the building. I think that’s an interesting debate and we all have our own experiences around how that works in real time and where we draw the line, but I agree that we’re not going to manage to survey the whole building, you sample parts of the building which are strategic to its fire strategy and where you find fault you survey further.

BEX GIBSON It’s interesting to feed into this both active and passive and then maybe a prioritisation in terms of funding, working out the route to best practice.

JACK WHITE Paul, what you said is spot on in many cases and George, I applaud looking at the reg 38 stuff. I do think we need to take things from the operations perspective rather than just looking at what is required in new builds and applying that to operations. I want to put a point forward about the legislation, secondary legislation is out there, Schedule 1 of Part 4 says that any document created for the purpose of fire or structural safety must be retained. You can’t just say we’re just gong to keep it for these little bits and pieces, so I encourage people to go and look at the secondary legislation, there’s four main bits of secondary legislation that effect the golden thread and BIM as a knock-on. It says a number of different things and there aren’t short cuts, it is everything that effects fire and structural safety, if it’s created for the purpose of fire and structural safety you have to keep it. If something comes up in a report that isn’t for the purpose of that then you don’t need to keep it because you’re not going to be aware that it’s there, but otherwise you do.

PAUL WHITE I want to clarify the point about going back to regulations that were in place at the time. What I was trying to do, I’m struggling a bit with if you then start to replace kit, does that constitute refurbishment? And if it constitutes refurbishment, do you have to bring it up to the latest standards? I’m looking at this from lots of different points of view: firstly, the safety of the people in the building, but also any liability that my clients might accidentally take on by making decisions. And also looking at you guys who are running this and not leaving yourselves open in court to something you may or may have not done. And the reason I look back to what was in place in the building regulations at the time was relevant because at that point in time certain bits of kit didn’t have tests and they didn’t need to be CE marked, but the problem is now is if you then start to replace them they do need to be tested and CE marked and therefore that involves you in even more cost.

Your point, Johnny, about the lift is perfect because the same thing goes for smoke control systems that, although active, they are essentially passive: they don’t do anything unless they get an alarm. You can go and flick the switches and open and close things as much as you want, but if you don’t actually trigger an alarm you don’t know whether it works. So that’s a rally good point and it’s a point that I often make as well because I go to site and you can make this open and close, brilliant, but you can’t touch the alarms at the moment because we’ve got a simultaneous alarm in place at the moment and we don’t want to evacuate the building, and you’re stuck. The other point is that with smoke control it also has compartmentation issues and if you’ve used the wrong products potentially you’re breaching compartmentation which was allowed before, but is not allowed now. And if you’re saying follow best practice, you’re saying you’ve got to rip everything out and start again and I don’t think that’s necessarily correct either.

There’s a lot of different nuances here. I don’t want you guys to leave yourselves at risk by not doing all of the stuff that you should do. Just as an example, in the Grenfell Tower enquiry on smoke control, when Barbara Lane was presenting a final report, the actual final report wasn’t available to the general public until the day that she gave her final testimony. I went on there to download it and just beneath her report was an email and attachment from me that I’d written in 2009 and had been put into the evidence pack. I didn’t know anything about it, I don’t know how they got it, but the point is there is a digital record of everything and all of this is sitting there as evidence which I’m gonna say can be used to support your case if it’s correct, but the worst case is it could be used against you if you’ve drawn the wrong conclusions. There is so little experience with regard to ventilation and smoke control out there that so many things have been done wrongly that it’s very difficult to bring them up to date.

BEX GIBSON Thanks Paul, and you note quite rightly about competency there and hopefully the new regulations will address that side of things going forward. For the time being bring it back to what we need for Reg 38, you also mentioned replacing items in existing buildings. I’m of the understanding that forms part of the new secondary legislation in terms of applying for building control, so you need to always report something, Category A work is things that effect the active fire safety measures in a building, and generally Category B would be passive, but you still need to apply for that building control. So hopefully there’ll be oversight and sign-off in terms of the fire strategy and all of the associated documents hopefully bring any replacements in line with what’s required to current regulations.

PAUL WHITE Again, that’s actually a very interesting point because where the things change from maintenance to a change in you changing product. If you replace like-for-like that’s OK, but a lot of people will go and replace something with something that’s nearly like, but not realise that in doing that they’re actually destroying anything that went with the product. The place where I’m sitting at the moment is since there were no requirements for the product, but there are now. So, what do you declare? When do you declare? And do you have to declare it? And if you’re changing everything then you’ve got to go through the whole design and everything else. I think that’s the area that concerned me because I just didn’t know quite where to go with this. I’ve told them that I suggest they get checked by somebody who…it’s not that I can’t design something, it’s the fact that I can’t do it because of insurance. So I’ve said go and get a reputable designer to check this and underwrite the design, and if they won’t without replacing everything, then you’ve got to replace everything. And I understand how expensive that is.

PAUL BRAY It’s really interesting, Paul, that you should raise this because it matters at all levels, it matters at high-rise, low-rise buildings. I had a couple of occasions in the past in my previous role with a housing provider where a principal designer or contractor was suggesting that we enhance the buildings existing measures by installing Automatic opening Vents because that’s what the building regulations required for that height of building. They even talked about putting in private hydrants because the distance from the building was more than 18 metres, 45 metres to the whole of the room etc. I argued against this, it’s not that I didn’t want the fire safety measures, it was not required at the tome of the build, if it was a brand new building you would have had that. And it wasn’t a material alteration, it’s about the definition of a material alteration of the building. The building was basically the same, it was just a refurb so you need to look at the definition of material alteration to the building, there’s a proportion of the cost as well that comes into it.

But then it’s the letter that I got back from the Fire & Rescue Service that said this is not a material alteration to the building so therefore…and the fire safety order will apply when the building is occupied. But there was no need to do it, and they actually took…to put the AOVs in and then they were going to put a dry riser in as well, it’s a 3 or 4-storey building, it’s ridiculous, and the cost. Use that money somewhere else, put a sprinkler system in another building. So, I was successfully able to get that changed and taken n out of the spec, even though it was late in design, so this is why it’s always very important to be in discussion with your fire teams at all levels in your housing associations at the early stages. Because at the other part where the improvement does come into play sometimes is perhaps on fire-fighting lifts in high-rise buildings. The older stock will have what’s called a firemen’s lift, if you’re lucky, it might not even be classed as a firemen’s lift. There’s 3 different standards: firemen’s lift, firefighting lift, firefighter’s lift. When you look at the standards for new lifts, if you put a new lift in you’ve got to put it into the new standard, but you cannot achieve the new standard in the existing hole that you’ve got to put a lift in.

So you’ve got to look for deviations and then you therefore have got to talk to the fire service because they want a rescue hatch, they want a ladder, protected water supplies, there’s a whole load of stuff that needs to come with it. You only get a rescue hatch and a ladder to take you out of the building because the hole’s not big enough, so you need to have a variation that needs to be agreed with the fire service because they may not use that lift in the event of a fire etc. So that conversation is important with regards to lifts when you’re doing that level of upgrade. So, I think it’s about what’s going on in the building, the criteria of the building, but is it a material alteration? Can it be justified, the changes that you're going to make?

PAUL WHITE Mine’s very specific really in the fact that basically you’ve got an actuator on a standard window that’s being used as an AOV which definitely isn’t allowed now. But what they want to do is put a new actuator on, a chain actuator rather than these mag lock releases, which is a brilliant idea, but then you’ve got to change the cause and effect in the panel because its got to drive it open and drive it closed. It’s a very good idea because these windows are person height and you have to lean out of the window to pull it in, to the extent that they put gates on them to stop you falling out and they put holes in the floor with hooks so you can link yourself on, but of course nobody does. So they’re all good reasons, but the issue is now because there’s standards for these products are you just able to change that actuator and change the way that the panel functions? To me, I just don’t quite know what to say because logically it seems to be fine, but in actuality where do you fall foul if somebody calls your bluff on it.

PAUL BRAY I would call it non-worsening, if it’s non-worsening you are not necessarily having to make it better, but you might look at the health & safety issues as well, if there is the potential for fall then that’s not just into fire. But if you are looking at an AOV then you also may be looking at control panels at access level for fire services which then you’ve got loads of cabling which wasn’t a requirement a while ago. So the costs just seem to escalate for no perceived benefit, that’s the bit, you need to put that balance in.

PAUL WHITE I suppose I’m more worried about the head of stair 1hr 1min 55secs vent missing as well, which is slightly more…

BEX GIBSON On Paul’s note, just to say that would still probably on an HRB still be needed t be approved by Building Control and follow that process, which is a new process.

MARTIN OATES Just to add to Paul’s comment, not specifically about AOVs, but from our perspective what’s not been mentioned thus far from a compliance perspective is we very much see a trigger pointed within the market under the construction product regulations. The CPR, when we adopted that in 2013, is very much where we do see a lot of sites, as Paul does, as our network of licensed installers do who survey these sites, and very often that trigger point is if it’s pre-2013 they really struggle to upgrade a system to European norms, actuators on windows is a classic case. Post 2013 that’s a great trigger because they can say it should have complied at that point because we adopted a European norm. So really just to add to the conversation that the CPR, from our perspective, is something that really does influence the decision on what you can recommend and what you can’t, as opposed to upgrading it to how it was initially installed, and the CPR adds to that conversation.

PAUL WHITE Martin, what I’m talking about is even pre-2003, so…stuck on the standards.

GEORGE Am I right that one of the starting points for a building, let’s say for example you don’t have very good quality information. Am I right to say that all buildings legally need a fire strategy plan?

JONATHAN FURLONG They’ll need an evacuation strategy, so stay put in place, but a fire strategy…I don’t think legally any of the legislation says that in an existing building…you would find it very hard if it’s a residential HRB to have any type of a safety case without some form of  fire strategy for your building because how else are you managing the strategy around your fire. But legally I don’t think…

PAUL WHITE I think everything generally does because I’ve even seen 2-storey office blocks and all the ADB information and the ‘fire strategy’ is all on those drawings. So it may not be a separate document, but it could easily be just included down in the margins in a bigger AO drawing of the floor, because you need to now where the compartment walls are, you’ve got to show that your stairwells are compartmented etc. So you can’t really build a building without that information, or if you do you’re taking a big risk.

GEORGE When i’ve been shown a fire, I was with a fire engineer recently and when he was talking with the client he said I need the fire strategy plan and they said we’ve give you them. What they’re actually talking about was the fire evacuation plan, so they were showing the drawings on compartmentation, but he showed us a fire strategy plan and it was about 50 pages where it was  full fire strategy plan and he was differentiating between the two.

JACK WHITE You’ve no obligation to have one for existing buildings.

PAUL WHITE For an existing building, no, but you can’t construct without it and I don’t think you’ve been able to construct without it for some considerable time. But if its got lost there’s no requirement that you have to have a new one.

GEORGE But you’d have to declare in your safety case that you don’t have one. I think what Johnny’s saying is that it would be odd for you not to have one.

JONATHAN FURLONG No, it’s not odd, lots of buildings will not have any at all. I think to just be clear on what the different documents are. if you have a building safety case, a HRB 7-storeys residential, you have to have a safety case, it would be very hard to write a safety case without having some form of a fire strategy document. A fire strategy document, if you have the original one from a building from the design, that should be used and checked to see if it’s up to date. if you don’t, you’d get a new one produced. The level of detail they want for an existing building, say a 20 year old building where you’ve lost it, would be a very different level of detail than one that you’d get done in a new build which as you said would be a 50-page document quoting all of the relevant legislation, getting into all detail which is needed to design and operate the building.

But ultimately if you’re doing one for an existing building where you’ve lost one and you want to get a new one created, you’d be doing it differently because you’d be looking at just the stuff that you can know about the building and the strategy and essentially a lot of that gets based on your fire cause and effect. So, what are you doing to your active and your passive systems, and what do you know? For instance, your fire strategy in a building where you don’t know the information, you don’t know compartmentation would be good, we have a low level of trust in our fire compartmentation and therefore we’re going to go to a phased evacuation strategy and that’s going to be ran by the EVAC system linked to the fire alarm, and somebody would write all of that. But dong that for an existing building is definitely different to doing it on a new build. It’s not a requirement, but I think the Regulator would look and go well, you’ve given me a safety case and you have no strategy.

So straight away…they’re not idiots, they’re going to look at stuff and say you’ve given me a safety case, do you have your safety management system, a fire strategy, a structural strategy, an evacuation strategy. At a minimum if they looked at that and you said we don’t have any of that but our buildings are safe, I think they’d probably laugh at you. But, the question of is it legal, I don’t think there is a legal requirement to have one.

BEX GIBSON I think on that it’s just determining the fire strategy is a document that justifies the decisions on why the systems in that building are appropriate. And on that note I wanted to mention the requirements in the Secure Information Boxes, we’ve got to provide drawings of key fire safety systems for the fire service. Ultimately that can be one…we’ve had retrospective fire strategies done for all of our HRBs just so we can bottom this out so we’re telling the fire services the right thing when they’re there. So, they’re all very much interlinked really.

JOHN FIELD From experience in general fire strategy the plans, the design of the building, should be in regard to the fire strategy. So it might be that the designer will design something, then it goes to the fire engineer and they have a look at the concept and it might be the travel distances are too far or you need compartmentation here because you’ve got to separate two means of escape from an upper level etc, so then you have to start putting in compartmentation and doors and so on. This will normally be about Stage 4, at the design stage. When then should happen, when it’s occupied at Stage 6 for example, you then get another fire strategy written because as we’ve discussed what’s actually designed isn’t always as built and what’s completed. HRBs, obviously it’s slightly different when there’s changes to the plans as you go along, in essence all the documents should be updated and the Building Safety Regulator should be notified so they can make sure actually the paperwork you’ve got at the end when people are just about to go in actually matches what it looks like in real terms.

PAUL BRAY I’m probably just going to reiterate a few things that have been said, but the fire strategy can be quite a simple document because it depends on the size of the building, but it should also include the codes of practice that its being built to. So it might be based on Approved Document B, it might be 9999, 9999-1 or the fire engineering, you need to base it on that. So you could design a fire strategy for an existing building based on what’s already there because you’re going to be looking at what’s a fire action, is it simultaneous or is it stay-put, how are your means of escape protected, what are the means for raising the fire alarm. That’s all part of that and how do you maintain that. For a newer build or a major refurb the fire strategy document is quite important because I’ve had in the past, the fire strategy document being presented and looking at that during the build or the refurbishment stage something wanted to get changed.

That’s the time when you refer back to the fire strategy document, and you have to make it a formal change to the fire strategy document, you can’t just make a change on site. We were talking about this earlier where you’ve got the designer, the builder and then the end user, it’s three different types of building because it’s not come out as it should be. But maybe that’s part of not following the fire strategy document as well, that’s key because to a certain extent that is your underlying, your foundation to the rest of the building. So there are times when I think it’s a key and very important document, especially on the more complicated buildings. On the smaller, simpler buildings it’s been covered in the plan, but there’s a nod to that fire strategy been put in within the document. And sometimes it’s been built in accordance with this code of practice and it will just outline what that might be, but there are probably several different answers.

BEX GIBSON It’s very clear this is a bigger beast than just simply talking about Regulation 38, but let’s bring it back to what we started this session talking about. Let George know if you want to be involved in the workstream in particular and if there is anything else that anyone has got experience on with Reg, handover or operation, how are people dealing with existing buildings. For us at Live West we’re doing retrospective fire strategies, we are carrying out compartmentation surveys, we are doing all of those things to make sure ultimately the buildings are safe. And that’s my bottom line in everything, if it’s the right thing to do we generally do it. We've got a few messages in the chat. Matthew Raynsford, you mention about your level of details 1-3 pages instead of 50, again I think it’s a proportionate thing in the use, how is the document being used and what the building is.

MATTHEW RAYNSFORD Yes, totally, Jonathan had mentioned it already, so I didn’t want to dwell on it and I just left it in the chat, but we’ve got 1-3 pages on buildings that are 50 years old, we’ve got 50 pages for a new build. So it always comes down to this proportionality, it’s really difficult not to spend money, but you’ve got to be very targeted in what you spend and I still think there is a lot to learn about what is it that the Regulator is looking for. Otherwise we could produce lots and lots of information and it’s trying to make sure that that information is useful to someone somewhere.

BEX GIBSON Chris makes a good point in the chat about data, so let’s bring it back to the golden thread. The reason why we’re all involved in this sort of thing is good data creates good results, bad data exactly the opposite. So yeah, I think focusing on what elements are important, which are priorities and how best to incorporate those into a data…

MATTHEW RAYNSFORD As you mention data, this is something I really struggle with is ‘m going down the route of capturing the location of every single smoke, heat sprinkler so then I know I’ll have 3 sprinklers or 3 smoke detectors in a communal corridor on the first floor. I don’t know about anybody else, but are they taking it to that level of granularity where I will know that at building X I’ve got 57 and I’ll know exactly where they are. I sometimes work out am I going too deep, or am I not.

JOHN FIELD From a personal perspective, it was essential to be able to budget each year for a period of time at Imperial without knowing pretty much to the point how many detectors you had i.e. how many you might have to replace after the life span of that actual product. It becomes hard not to be able to budget, you’ve got to make sure that each one does get tested, the engineer that comes in to test them knows where they are. On your as-wired drawings for fire alarms it should all be note on there, the Drax system which was a visual display, it would indicate each head and identify which head was going off. So in essence it’s important to have it down to that granular level, most definitely.

PAUL WHITE I agree with that because if you’re looking at things like fire dampers you can’t see them, and in worst instances somebody’s put them above a solid ceiling that somebody’s put in because it looked nice and you’ve got to get access to it. So yes, you’ve got to find everything and know where it is.

GEORGE From an asset management point of view it’s not so much what the Regulator needs, although that’s clearly important, it’s also important from an operational perspective to make sure that you know what assets you’ve got and whether they’ve been inspected. And in many cases asset management systems are really managing the activity of doing an inspection rather than recording it against the individual assets that have been inspected. Which may sound odd, but that’s why what you’re doing, Matthew, I’d say is the right because from an operational point of view how else do you know whether that particular fire damper has actually been inspected.

RICHARD Chris Milling, who you mentioned earlier, she’s actually a data specialist, so while we’re talking about the data, would it be a good idea to actually have a data specialist…she says in her comment what data you need and put it in a suitable place, and we’re all talking about data management.

CHRIS MILLING It’s just listening to the comment where you’ve had lots of information, it’s got throw away. You listed at the beginning, George, all of your fire critical elements as well as the requirements. I’ve worked in automated as well, so they had a safety critical system where they know what all of those elements were, so it might be that if those are the things that you’ve got to capture you might not have a system yet, but if things change constantly in a building what are those critical systems? Which elements might you need to check or get eyes on? So that perhaps if things are swapped out that you know what’s been put in. As you say, if it hasn’t been swapped out with like-for-like what is new that’s come in.

Creating all of the information all the time, then you’ve got all the paper, you don’t know where to look and it doesn’t necessarily help people, but it’s how you identify the things you need to keep track of so that if there is an inspection of that item you can say I’ve checked it. It’s recorded once, but then when you need to generate the information on this date this is the specific situation. It’s not an easy task, but again if you’ve got all of the pieces of information that’s not easy to try and draw the pieces together when those pieces of information could be created at any point in time and it doesn’t give you the current situation either.

BEX GIBSON Thanks Chris, and I think that feeds into what we’re aiming to do here as an education piece for all of us, it’s a sharing of information, sharing of knowledge, and to feed ultimately into an information requirements piece that we all know what we’re asking for and we all know what we’re tracking, we all know how we go about it. George, am I on the right lines with all of that?

GEORGE Definitely. If we can get out of this particular group an action for us to have a deep dive on it that would be really beneficial. We’ve had a really good session today. The design group has been going through looking at their responsibilities for the Building Safety Act and identifying, interpreting things from that and they’d like to share that with the other groups. So, if I just show you what they’ve done. They’ve done a Miro board as well which we’d like you to contribute to. (shares screen). This is their interpretation of the key elements from their perspective and going through looking at what they’ve got to do for each of the gateways and the like. They've called this a crib sheet that they can then use and build on. That was an interesting one because there’s quite a lot of talk about what the cut-off points are and things like that. So, if i could share this with people and you could perhaps contribute your knowledge. We don’t have the answers, this is just a collective approach.

BEX GIBSON Thank you George, linking in with the other groups is always a benefit.


[11:06] Sharon McClure

Reg 38 only applies in England.

we have new buildings - within 10 years - that don’t have CDM / O&M =- completely agree Paul!

[11:23] Alex Normand

Do the Fire Strategy documents not get filed with the Local Authority?  Surely this is the LA responsibility ? Anything that is now obtained is at the residents cost (when its private not Local Authority)  We have resistance from the residents to pay and why they should have to pay..  for a building that they have purchased in ''good faith'' ...

[11:44] Chris Milling

Go Jonny. It definitely helps that any safety critical items/products/systems (which need testing) are in a BIM system so any changes to them can be captured to give you the current state. You can then generate the information you need based on the current state.

[11:49] Sharon McClure

Passive Fire Protection and the relevant compartmentation should be more critical in the build to allow the post occupancy risk review such as Johnny refers to.

[11:49] Martin Oates (SE Controls UK)

WRT compartmentation and Paul's comment, the smoke vent controls should provide compartmentation and lock out rather than rely on the detection system.

[11:50] Johnny Furlong

Base list for info for existing HRBs.

  1. All Building Control information for scheme work.
  2. The most up to date registration information for that building.
  3. The key building information
  4. The building assessment certificate and related information.
  5. A list identifying each fire safety management measure, and a record of where each of those measures is located.
  6. The evacuation strategy and evacuation information, which means information for a person in a higher-risk building about the steps to take to prevent and mitigate risks to themselves and other persons in relation to the spread of fire or structural failure in any part of that building.
  7. Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (regulation 4). - Secure information box.
  8. A list identifying each structural safety measure in the building.
  9. Management of building safety risks - the schedule of any maintenance and repairs that are planned in relation to any equipment, device or materials.
  10. Management of building safety inspection a report of the outcomes.
  11. Building design - Any information recorded as part of the planning, design or construction of the higher-risk building.
  12. Building design - any design code applied, any British or International building standard applied and any description as to the intention of the design used in its construction.
  13. Mandatory reporting reports and a description in summary of any steps taken by the AP in response to that report. And the documents which describes the detailed arrangements for such reporting.
  14. Any information which an AP is required to give to a resident.
  15. In relation to a relevant complaint - the information contained in the complaint, any steps taken in response, any involvement of the regulator and the outcome of the complaint.
  16. Completion and partial completion of works certificate and any document which accompanied the application.
  17. Registration certificate and any document which accompanied the application.
  18. Building assessment certification certificate and any document which accompanied the application.
  19. Fire safety management - Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (article 9) - any document for the assessment of the fire risks and managing the risk of fire spread in any part of the higher-risk building.
  20. Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (article 5). EWS information.
  21. Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (article 6). Up to date plans with fire service.
  22. Structural risks - any statement or report to identify, assess or manage risks.
  23. Building safety risk assessment - Any report containing up-to-date assessment of risks.
  24. Management of building safety risks - safety case report.
  25. Management of building safety risks any document for effective planning, organisation, monitoring, control, and review of steps taken to managing risks.
  26. Plans of the current construction of the building and the building when it was first constructed.

[12:10] Matthew Raynsford

In case the topic passes - I'm having a fire safety document written and as JF says the level of detail is more 1-3 pages, rather than a new build of 50 pages.  JF hits it spot on

[12:17] Paul White

Happy to be in the R38 workstream.

[12:17] Johnny Furlong

And bringing it back to Reg38 the fire strategy is a re-equipment of that.

[12:18] Chris Milling

I think you need to decide on what data you need to capture in a suitable place. Up to date data on items can be used to generate the information you might need. Or you can generate reams of paperless paper.

[12:20] Brockett, Alastair

Detail is needed as these active components have to be maintained.

[12:21] Paul Bray  (Guest)

Asset tagging is ideal for keeping track of the inspection and maintenance routine for fire safety equipment.

[12:25] Johnny Furlong

At a minimum you need all equipment at an individual asset level as required to be inspected by the Fire Safety Order & Fire Safety Regulations. If you don't know what you have how can you evidence that you are inspecting them. there is then lots of other legalisation such as loler.

[12:26] Sharon McClure

Could I also share a traditional building workshop being held by Scot Gov: