BIM4Housing: Operations Working Group Meeting 22-04-2024

DAVE WILLIAMS At the last meeting we were talking about data that gets collected as part of Regulation 38 requirements with new developments. So what we thought we'd do for this meeting is George will do a brief recap of what we talked about last meeting and also show us some progress made in looking further into Regulation 38 requirements. And then we were going to segue way into talking about general golden thread information requirements and opening the floor to people to talk about what they’ve done in order to address the golden thread.

BEX GIBSON Today it’s sort of like a roundtable discussion of what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and how we’re doing it as well.

GEORGE I think the other question is if people could give some thought, what we’d like to do is to get from people their view on how they’re deploying things at the moment. (shares screen). There are two aspects that it’s clear we need to be considering. Regulation 38 is the handover information from a project, and it’s not just a new build project, it can be also just a refurbishment, for example. Anywhere where more than one contractor is involved now requires that information. This isn’t new, this has been in place for 20 years, but it’s been there’s more of a focus on it now, so that’s the Regulation 38 bit. The other is Regulation 7, Paul McSoley drew my attention to this, which is materials and workmanship. This is beyond fire, this is one of the aspects that needs to be considered.

So given that’s required for building regs, from an operations point of view I believe this is also required and we need to work out how, for example, you’re collecting the required information to satisfy Regulation 7. But what’s happened with Regulation 38 in August, there was an amendment where basically they tightened up with the fact that on most projects, in many cases people didn’t scrutinise the fact that the information had actually been handed over. Most of the client organisations that we’ve engaged in this process, they’ve got checklists for having stuff handed over, but it still isn’t necessarily being complied with by supply chains in a vigorous way. But what’s now happened is that it’s now a requirement for the client organisations to actually state explicitly that they’ve got all of the information that’s needed.

They must acknowledge receipt of the fire safety information, and also building safety. And on the other side they confirm that they’ve provided the information and they’ve got a confirmation that it’s been delivered. So one of the questions that I’ve got at the moment is how operations teams are continuing with this because any work that you ask anybody to carry out on your buildings, you have to provide them with all of that information and then you’ve got to ensure that you’ve received back from them the completed data. And Regulation 38 is probably one of the more explicit parts of building regs and it basically says that you need to have these things in place. And those are the things that we’ve extracted from Regulation 38 which are mentioned so we think are something that should be scrutinised.

One of the things that we’ve been doing separately as Active Plan, we’ve been working with Dave and his team at Origin on a new build handover and identifying what was handed over. And then enabling Origin to see what was handed over in the O&M information, so, for example, what had gone through building control, but then starting to drill into some of the detail. This is at handover last year that was missing, and what this has done is enabled Origin to go back to the contractor and the supply chain to get what’s needed and also recording in here the notes from Building Control. Bit this is the shocking one, the Regulation 38 information and you can see there is an enormous amount that wasn’t provided. These are basically placeholders that Origin have been using to actually then go and collect the rest of the information. Martin, I know that Balfour Beatty are hot on this. I imagine it would be interesting to know how you’re following that through within Balfour Beatty.

MARTIN ADIE Firstly we don’t do a lot of residential build, most of our operations in the build sector are non-residential. But of those that we do we are following it through, but we do see an awful lot of lack of discipline within the supply chain and within other contractors. So the red slide you showed, George, whilst a shock wasn’t a shock, in effect. a lot of it comes down to the way that the contracts are set out or the tender inquiries are set out in terms of we all can write an inquiry along the lines of you’re going to comply with all of the building regs, aren’t you? And you get the standard response back, yeah, yeah. But I think it’s helpful to say, and in particular Regulation 38, we’re going to need this as an inquiry, both from principal contractors and also from customers. So, an interesting slide George, we should be more specific in our requirements rather than general.

GEORGE One of the interesting things as well, you’ve just said something that I hear a lot, that there is a perception that this is about residential. But Regulation 38, my understanding is that it applies to all buildings.

MARTIN ADIE Any building regulations approved contract, yes. Any project needing building regulations, you have to follow 38 as well.

GEORGE So for which projects do you not having to follow building regs?

MARTIN ADIE Civil engineering projects, nuclear projects, different sectors.

GEORGE But for buildings?

MARTIN ADIE Any building regulation project, you’ve got to follow the building regs, which is coming as a shock to most people in the industry at the moment.

GEORGE So schools and universities and hospitals and things like that…

MARTIN ADIE Building regs, yeah. People are relearning that.

GEORGE Bex, have you got any observations about how you’re doing it at Live West?

BEX GIBSON Nothing solid, I’m afraid. I was just going to ask Martin, you say that what George was sharing was very reflective of what you see as well. What would you see as best practice if there was a perfect world? How would you see this be driven?

MARTIN ADIE I think it all comes down the procurement. You get what you buy and if, like we were talking about the general sort of requirements and specific requirements. if you’re reliant on contracts that are just general to say that you’re going to comply with the law of the land and the building regs you’re going to get people’s interpretations, rather than if you’re specific. If you’re specific you get back what you have specifically asked for. You get what you buy, we are what we are procured to buy, the means we’re procured by. It’s no secret, most people want the cheapest price and that’s what they get, they get the cheapest price. If they set out and say I want the cheapest price, but here’s a list of things that I need with it, that’s a step forward, I think.

BEX GIBSON Just because of compliance with building regs, would the cheapest price not include this anyway? Or is it just the mechanism of giving the information?

MARTIN ADIE It should, it’s just people know that they can and they pass they have got away with it.

GEORGE I think part of the challenge is that because client organisations haven’t really been active in chasing it in some ways, or it’s perhaps too overwhelming. Some have, some have been very good. At the moment I’m looking to get the ones that Westminster are doing and also Origin are doing. The Origin one is very rigorous, if I can just show you that. This is Origins’s checklist and it’s 30-odd pages and it goes down into considerable detail in terms of the checklist and we’ve been using this to inform our thinking. What we think we need to get to is something that’s more standardised because it seems crazy that different client organisations…so that’s their checklist. This one here is the Westminster Council one which is a single page.

Now, if contractors like Balfour Beatty, they’re working for lots of different clients and they’re not asking for things in a consistent way, then that becomes a bit of a challenge. We’ve been doing this work to look at what’s required in Regulation 38, but also what’s required in BS 9999 which is the operational stage. Regulation 38 is for new project handover, and 9999 is for the work in use, as it were, so what’s required and what isn’t and all the rest of it. But then what we’ve also looked at is what’s under BSRIA’s statutory compliance recommendations and how services should be described, so that there is a standardised way of viewing that. And what certificates are needed.

So I think it’s helpful if we could, as a working group, actually come together with something that is clearer so that that can be issued to contractors like Martin, and also tie it back to the regulations. So these are the regulations themselves so that we’ve got something that makes it easier for principal designers and principal contractors to check that everything is compliant.

LEE REEVELL I think my role today is with a keen interest and an observer in this. What I’ve just seen you demonstrate there, have you ever considered putting a large language model over the top of it so you can make a bit more sense of that information? And to just share it out with people a lot more easily than having it in a spreadsheet like that.

GEORGE That’s a good suggestion, it is something that we’re considering. The fundamental thing is actually getting the source data together to go into a large language model.

ALEX NORMAND Predominantly we manage a residential building and we manage when it’s finished rather than within the building, we’re not involved in the build side of it so we get a completed development. So the handover information that we get is nigh on impossible to get hold of and what we actually receive is garbage half of the time, to be honest. So most of our developments are now 20+ years old and we’re finding it extremely difficult to obtain any of the plans and everyone of the developers that have gone into administration, it’s now becoming quite difficult to explain to people why they’ve now got to pay for these new plans and bits and pieces. I don’t have any comments on what’s already been, I’m looking at those spreadsheets thinking this is exactly what we’re looking at, with 99.9% of our portfolio everything is missing, there is nothing available.

LEE REEVELL It definitely needs an aligned approach, I see exactly the same with some of ours and embarrassingly have to send out surveyors to new builds recently to understand what was actually inside them. That golden thread of information that comes through all of the RIBA stages just kind of gets lost when it comes to the operational management. I’m a huge advocate of pushing that we can bring data through from development pipeline into the use and the lifecycle of the building itself.

ALEX NORMAND Most of the questions that are being asked at the moment because ultimately we use the funds that the residents pay into a pot and it’s all their money. And they’ve bought these properties in good faith and most of them have bought from the original developers or other leaseholders that have sold them on in the meantime, but most of them are asking why on earth have the council not got a register of all of this information? So surely there should be somewhere on file where the fire strategies have been registered, somebody has gone through a process at some point in time to understand this is what building we have, this should be the strategy, this is how it’s been built. All of the considerations right from the outset, surely all of this has already been considered, where is this information? And we’re not able to answer it.

LEE REEVELL I think that’s why the Regulator is advocating for professional qualifications now because maybe some of that has been lost between our disassociation from the councils and where we are today.

ALEX NORMAND Yeah, it’s so difficult to explain to people why they’ve got to pay for all of this and it’s not cheap. It’s a good industry, certainly, to be in at the moment.

GEORGE I think the thing is, Alex, that it’s always somebody else’s responsibility and people have been passing the parcel around for a long time and often the responsibility is passed down to the person that’s least able to address it. One of the encouraging things for me is, I’ve been on this journey that’s now called the golden thread for about 40 years and part of it is that there’s always been a desire by the more progressive people in the industry to try and make the improvements that are needed. But it’s not been coordinated and there’s never really been a driver other than let’s do things better for the common good. So what the Fire Safety Act and the Building Safety Act has done, it’s actually underpinned a lot of the things that the more progressive people have been trying to do for a long time and now it’s a statutory thing.

And of course everybody is now saying hang on a minute, you’re asking us to do things that are unreasonable, but actually the Regulation 38 stuff has been statutory for 20 years. There’s two aspects to it: one is that people aren’t following it, and also people aren’t policing it. The other aspect of that is that from a strict point of view…all too often when we were going through the golden thread asset information stuff that a lot of us have been working on for the last three years, people have said, well, it must have been provided because it’s gone through Building Control, all of that will be in the Regulation 38 pack. And it’s only when we’ve started to really drill into it that we’ve realised how bad it is.

And I think that is certainly the responsibility of the supply chains to have provided it, that’s part of complying with building regs, but I have to say that it’s also down to the clients, not just to check for it, chase for it and demand it, but it’s also to keep it up-to-date. Because OK, it’s no longer Regulation 38 after the project is finished, but the data is the same, you still need to be maintaining information about fire compartmentation and where the fire dampers are. Most organisations I come across, the asset management teams have no idea where the fire dampers are. It sounds incredible, but it’s not easy for them to find it out unless it was actually recorded in the installation period. It’s very difficult to get all of the information about fire dampers in an existing building, and cavity barriers, you don’t stand a chance.

ALEX NORMAND This is one of the big things, cavity barriers, fire strategies, and residents are arguing with us to say why are we going to spend nearly £20,000 looking at fire evacuation plans and fire strategies when that should have been the fundamental starting point for the building regulations to tick all of the boxes and actually allow occupation in this residential building. Surely all of this is already in place and we cannot find it, we’ve got files from floor to ceiling of plans and everything else, but they’re all on a plan and some of them say as-built, some of them don’t, but we know for a fact that the ones that do say as-built are actually incorrect.

GEORGE Rather than looking at this from a point of view of the glass half empty, which is natural for us to feel that, especially the more you dig into these things you realise how much is missing. I think we need to look at what can we do about it because the government can’t do anything about it, that’s not what they’re there for. They can impose and they can put legislation in place, but they can’t actually fix the problem of getting the information together. All that they can do is create the environment so that the industry can do it.

ALEX NORMAND Yeah, at the resident’s cost, unfortunately. It is what it is and we have to follow the procedures now, but ultimately the residents are unhappy that they’re having to pay when so many releases by Michael Gove are suggesting that they’re not going to pay for any fire improvements, well this in reality is creating brand new documentation that should they be funding? It's a question on the table. They don’t believe that they should be, now that they’re the responsible parties in a lot of these residential buildings, they’re voluntary directors and they’re now the PAP. And they’re responsible to put all of these documents that don’t exist into place for the first time. It’s all right maintaining it, it’s just obtaining it for the first time.

GEORGE Absolutely. Our role as BIM4Housing is trying to look at simplifying things and standardising them because there are things that we can do to make that job easier. Rather than it being reinvented on every single project, we’ve got ways of standardising that so that work can be done once and then applied many times. For example, one of the things that we’ve done recently, we’ve had a team of over 100 people working on standardising fire door inspections. Now, why is that necessary? Well, the amount of money that’s being spent on fire door inspections is significant. And there are fire doors that are being condemned and having to be replaced when actually there is no practical reason why they should be. Conversely there are ones that haven’t been replaced that probably should be. So, we’ve produced guidance that can standardise all of that and that’s going to make it a lot easier.

DAVE WILLIAMS I think one of the things that this highlights, interestingly we’re looking at how we do this at the moment, it’s part of the reason why this stuff gets overlooked and all of a sudden you’ll find years later that stuff has been missing, it’s that no one really resourced that checking. Ourselves, we’ve been pushing for over a year saying, look, we need a specific resource whose job it is to check that all of this information has been delivered and its correct because often this gets left to the project manager who hasn’t got time because they’re already busy doing other stuff. Or the fire surveyor will go and he’’ll start looking at the sections that he’s interested in. The compliance people tend to think that they just want everything handed over on a plate and they don’t want to do anything.

When it comes to the new builds or refurbs they’re thinking, no, that’s the development team’s job, so stuff starts falling through the gaps. I think unless that is recognised as a role in an organisation to do that checking the same situation will persist in a lot of these organisations. The thing is that for that role you need some sort of technical knowledge in order to know what you’re looking at in order to see if anything is missing.

And the problem with that obviously is trying to find someone that’s got that knowledge, but at the same time is quite happy to go and do essentially grunt work, chasing down documentation and certificates and data, when they’ve got the technical knowledge to perhaps go into project management or something like that which obviously pays a lot better that someone going around and looking for information. So I think people have got to recognise that there is a role there that needs to be resourced, or even a team that needs to be resourced depending on how much data and documents that you’re dealing with, and then putting that in place. Otherwise everyone will do exactly what they’ve done for years, talk about it but never actually have anyone available to spend the time checking to make sure that the information is correct and in place.

GEORGE Caroline, you’re from Sodexo, what’s your experience been of this?

CAROLINE HAYHOE From a Sodexo point of view, we’re quite a little bit further down the line on this kind of thing, but yeah, very similar. So the slide that we saw at the beginning where we saw lots and lots of reds, whilst shocking, it’s not surprising. We find it very difficult when we take on a new contract to be able to get that information so we can start afresh from a new contract point of view to make sure that we have everything we should have. So we’re maintaining things going forward, we have a really good library of certification and understanding of where things are. The thing is we’ve got to think of worst case scenarios sometimes to make sure that if something goes wrong we can prove everything we did was right. Accidents do happen, but to make sure that you maintain everything in the right way and when you should have done it, you know where everything is.

The maintaining of the data is probably the most difficult thing. An example for me personally is I was involved in a contract 10-12 years ago and we lost that contract to another supplier. I know that the data that we handed off to them was as good as it could be, we’d done surveys, we had all of the information, we knew the lifecycle and we handed that back to the client to give to their new supplier. A year or so ago we won that contract back, and the data difference between what I know we sent to them and what we received back is worlds apart. We had full details of make, model, location, everything. so we had full details of a boiler and now we just have, yeah, there is a boiler down there and that’s it.

So we’ve gone from a really full data set to a really, really basic data set and I think that goes back to a comment about you get what you pay for. People just didn’t have the resource to maintain that to the same level and over the last 10 years it’s just got diluted and diluted so you don’t actually know what is anywhere. I’ve seen the data and I know what I sent them and what we’ve got back now is just ridiculous.

GEORGE I think the thing is that it’s a digital asset. There is a physical asset which obviously is relatively straightforward for people to look at say that the condition of that is poor, you can see it physically. But I don’t think we’ve yet got to the situation where we’re adequately considering the digital asset. And actually the digital asset increasingly is going to be more important that the physical asset because that’s where the evidence is that you’ve done it properly. In financial services if you don’t have the digital transactions the digital records, then you’ve got real problems.

CAROLINE HAYHOE Absolutely. Obviously you have some contracts where you’ve got engineering teams that are actually sat onsite, so they know it a lot more intimately than if we have a contract where we’ve got properties all over a district or indeed all over the country. So yeah, from an asset management point of view you do literally just see that the lines and lines of data, but it’s being able to make that good enough that somebody can go onto site and find those assets and make sure that things are there. I think it does date back to the clients, I don’t think clients have a full understanding of what they should have and what they should be demanding right at the very beginning in order for it to move to the next stage of a project. So, right at the very beginning we should have A to Z of all of this information.

And then it moves on to your maintenance teams and it’s almost like a handover, the O&M manuals for individual assets. You don’t want to be taking something on if you don’t have all of the information to make sure that you’re maintaining it to keep the warranty of the asset, you’re maintaining it to keep it safe within manufacturer’s recommendations. And I think it’s the same for a much larger thing in terms of taking on a building, we shouldn’t be taking it on until we’ve got everything to make sure we can maintain it safely for whether it’s office residents or people that live there. Whoever those residents are and what the building is used for, it is clients’ understanding yes, you can go for the cheapest option, but the cheapest option doesn’t necessarily mean maintaining that data. And it seems very airy fairy, perhaps, for some clients, but it is critical.

DAVE WILLIAMS There’s one thing I was going to mention, it’s very early days for us at the moment, is that we’re looking at using Microsoft Copilot, so AI basically, to when we get the digital data and the digital certificates, particularly for compliance related tasks. So, where we’ve got a certificate for a fire door, we’ll be able to just dump those into the system for then Copilot to go and interrogate the information on the actual document, be it a PDF or whatever, and then pull out the relevant information, like installation dates and servicing dates and things like that and which company service it. So it’s going to be an interesting pilot this, when we start using it, just to see how accurate it ends up being. But if it works if will definitely be a big timesaver, but we’ll have to see what the rate of success is in it learning how to interrogate these documents and pull out the right data and not the wrong data.

GEORGE Who’s doing that, Dave?

DAVE WILLIAMS We basically have built an asset management system in dynamics and that’s one of the ones we’re thinking of doing for the start. We’re building an asset management system in dynamics which has been a very slow burning project, but they’re basically looking to get all of the compliance components into the system around September this year. With a view that once they’ve got all of that built into the system they’ll then start trialling Copilot to see if they can then pick up the information that the contractors are sending us and dealing with it in an automatic way rather than having to use an actual person to go and check all of the information. That’s our dynamics team that are doing that at the moment.

GEORGE Is anybody else using any AI?

CAROLINE HAYHOE Not so much AI, but we have something a little similar, it’s called Promoni? docs 42mijns 54secs. What that does is when documents are uploaded against either an asset or a planned maintenance task it will check the PDF in the same sort of way, it will check for certain parameters. So, if it’s a gas boiler it will check and make sure that the certificate is signed where it should be, that the engineer has put in their gas safe number and it’s dated and everything it should be. So it just reduces the amount of physical auditing that we need to do from a desktop point of view, so it spits out the things where there’s question marks on that kind of data so we can go and look and go, right, you’ve not actually signed this document. Your engineer needs to sign it because it’s not actually valid and things like that.

So very similar, it’s looking for certain parameters to make sure that the documents that we upload against either the site or the planned maintenance is valid. When you’ve got a contract with 1600 sites you’re not going to be able to look at every single gas boiler inspection to make sure that it’s as it should be, but this way it can be done automatically and it would just spit you out the ones where you have question marks where it doesn’t look quite right.

BEX GIBSON That’s really interesting, and the whole AI approach is obviously a very new technology. It would be interesting to hear further on down the projects if they involve AI and things like that the level of risk appetite from the organisation in terms of it as well. Because obviously it’s an unknown and I can just imagine putting he business case forward and just seeing how that’s received in terms of risk and also, obviously, in terms of output. I think it’s a great use of tools for something that can be easily machine-led.

GEORGE One of the things that anybody that’s been involved in what we’ve been doing. (shares screen). Basically what I’ve been promoting for years has been making sure that things are machine-readable and you’ll see here that PDFs aren’t really what I would call machine-readable because at the moment, even with AI, you need to in some way train it to find things. So, for example, data sheets, if you want to know was the fire rating provided with a product. Here I’ve got one example of a data sheet where fire rating is visibly there, but that’s not machine-readable. And then on the next one you’ve got another way of describing fire rating, so that’s completely different than that one. And then this one here is another one. So, I do think that there’s a lot that we can do with machine learning and with AI, but we need to recognise that some of that, we are actually going to need some machine-readable information.

DAVE WILLIAMS Did you see the comment that Lee has put in the chat?

GEORGE Yeah, definitely, that would be great. If we can take the PDFs…I do agree, those slides that I showed you there are probably two or three years old and obviously there is a huge amount, particularly with the latest ChatGPT is already making a big difference. And to some extent that’s where our little community could help with that because we could actually be trying some of these things out. You know the machine learning, Lee, is there a way of that machine learning being shared?

LEE REEVELL Yeah, there’s been quite a few changes. I won’t bore everybody with the ChatGPT back end, but there’s been some huge strides made in the past couple of weeks that allow you to update PDFs directly into the vector base and allow you to learn from it. When you start them off, sometimes they’re a bit daft, but you can put your own expert knowledge to it to train it even better and obviously it’s an iterative process. We’ve been getting some fantastic results out of it, you want to just have a chat with somebody to kind of check your thinking or check whether this is in the realms of possibility then it’s a really great tool to get you off of a blank page, I suppose.

GEORGE So, who’s doing that within…where are you from, Lee?

LEE REEVELL I’m Halton Housing, but I’m kind of doing this as an aside to my role. My role is head of innovation and architecture so I’ve been looking to the future for the past couple of years to understand how we can manage our asset data better. And as I put in that post in the Teams chat we’ve got a fair amount of technical depth from the first digital transformation. It makes it difficult to move things forward, but I’m in a position now where I’ve been asked to review our asset data down to the data architecture which has given me a really good way in to understand. I’ve been a lurker in this group for a number of years because I’ve had a vested interest in all of the systems that pull together how housing is actually delivered to people.

And I feel that some of the changes in technology and some of the updates in these AIs now really gives us an opportunity to do things differently and maybe overcome some of these issues that we haven’t got the resource to do, the physical hours to do. We can take that away from people and give them the information to make the decisions more readily without having to do some of that work. Obviously you need to do your due diligence on the outputs of it because it’s not going to be 100% correct all of the time, I would never give it to anybody who didn’t have any of that base knowledge. But in terms of the people who are sat here today who are experts that possibly question what comes out of it and understand what it’s getting at, I think it’s really useful for us.

GEORGE With ChatGPT, there is obviously the free one, but then there is the one that’s the updated version which I think is $20 a month. But when, for example, you use it to do your own suggestions and the training, this is really what it’s all about is being able to train the model, would the suggestions that you make or the choices that you make get fed back into the main ChatGPT?

LEE REEVELL You can have it so they go directly back into it. You can have it going into an inference model as well which then allows yourself or me to look at what people have actually asked and to see what some of the results are. And you can almost go through and rate them yourself to say which is better and that’s how you have that human aspect into the training over time. It’s all very new, but it’s very exciting, the possibilities of it.

GEORGE What I’m thinking is that’s something we could really use to great effect within our community. If we’ve got people that are experimenting with it, like Dave is using Copilot, but whatever. As Active Plan, we’ve been experimenting with AI for about 8 years so we’ve been building that type of, trying things out and learning from them. And as you say, the large language models. If people are experimenting with it and actually using it, if we could encourage people to enable what they’re learning to share then that could help the community.

LEE REEVELL Yeah, it’s almost like the democratisation of data. So, if you guys have been gathering 10-years-worth of information and it’s locked in a silo behind your business, how could you democratise that for the greater good of the sector. You’ve got to think about it, I suppose put a framework around it that at its simplest level that’s what you can get from it. But you might want, for purposes of data sharing and all that sort of stuff we need to think about governance around it as well.

DAVE WILLIAMS The interesting thing, Lee, is in actual fact George is an avatar, he doesn’t actually exist! The words are being spoken by AI and then they’ve transferred that to his face to make it look like he’s doing the actual speaking.

LEE REEVEL But you know, Dave, that’s not too far from the truth. I saw some scary stuff from Microsoft the other day whereby you can put that information into somebody who’s just talking. I don’t know if you can see if I turn my camera off it looks like I’m a Viking, but that’s not actually me, it’s an AI generated image of me as a Viking.

GEORGE I think if we were doing that, Dave, if had something to do with it I would change it significantly in terms of the image. So, that’s an interesting thing. What we tend to do, Lee, the working group meetings happen every two months, but what we do from those working group meetings, we pick up on ideas and things that people want to explore and we have specific workstreams and the workstreams take on a particular topic. This seems an obvious one that we ought to have a bit of a workstream on because it also cuts across the other working groups. Is that something that you’d be willing to help with?

LEE REEVELL Yeah, absolutely, I’d love to get more involved in pushing this across the sector, I think it will really benefit us.

GEORGE On that point, we’ve had a workstream underway for about a year now that a number of you have been involved with, but some of you may not have been, so it’s worth me just showing that. About a year ago we looked at what the impact was of what we need to address that is causing a problem as far as the golden thread is concerned and these are four topics that we drew from quite a few that people suggested. This was one, how do we prevent the wrong product from being installed. How do we deal with that fact that often building services is done after the rest of the construction is already started, which has a massive impact on compartmentation.

This one specifically on asset information, how do we make sure that the information that was started with then gets carried on during the asset lifetime so that we don’t have situations where, as Caroline was saying earlier, the information then, because it has not been maintained properly, you end up with very poor quality information at the end. And you’re probably spending more money on inspections than you need to. And then the last one is how do we ensure that building safety data is kept up-to-date. I think certainly the last two are very relevant as far as operations is concerned. We’ve been running workshops, the first of these was last May at Excel where we had in-person sessions trying to address these particular topics. In fact, we’ve got another one coming up at Digital Construction Week in June, again looking at different aspects of things.

This is something that you may be aware of, but if you’re not I think it’s worth us sharing. We’ve currently got 4 publications, we’ve had about 150 people engaged in each of these topics, which I think is fantastic feedback from the industry. And what we’re now doing is producing that, this is a draft version of the document that we’ve produced. So, it goes through what the feedback was, the recommendations of the teams, to say how we should be dealing with things. Richard is trying to frantically put together all of the information that’s been updating on this.

RICHARD The document George has just shown was the first, after the first meeting we’ve had two more plus extra input, so it’s going to be something like four or five times longer than that. The last meeting was a couple of weeks ago, so I’m busy collating and writing for the four of them, but it’s going to take a little bit of time.

GEORGE You’ve been using some AI on some of the stuff as well, haven’t you, Richard?

RICHARD Yeah, some of it we have. Some of it has been very successful, some of it not so successful. We get highpoint notes written up after each meeting which we put on the website and send out to attendees and those who said they were coming but weren’t able to make it. We applied AI to put the high point notes for these meetings on the four questions into bullet points to make it more manageable in terms of chopping it out or spotting duplications and that’s helped a lot. It’s far from perfect, obviously, but it’s helped a lot. We tried something similar with the meeting recording script which is what our writer uses when she’s doing the high points. But, voice picking up and converting to text is not that great and we found that it just didn’t work, so we found that it has to go through the human stage of her writing up properly before we can actually apply the Ai for it to be of any value. But at that point it has saved a lot of time.

GEORGE I’m thinking that, as Lee’s saying there, there might be some new stuff that’s coming through…

RICHARD Absolutely, the thing is that it’s coming out so quickly. We try and keep vaguely abreast of it, Jiss does it, I just tell him what I need. But it’s just impossible, it’s a full time job just assessing which platform to use, which application to use and obviously we just don’t have the time to do that. I think if we could have a workstream on this it would be really valuable because then we’ve got maybe 10-15 people who are bringing their new learning all together and saying this works, this doesn’t work, don’t waste your time looking at that one, this one’s amazing, but not for this. It would be very valuable because we’re having so many meetings now and we’ve got so many publications in the pipeline that anything that gives us any help with that would be much appreciated.

Especially as George said, with BIM and AM? 1hr 2mins 34 secs coming online, the first meeting is on the 20th of May, I won’t say that we’ll be doubling the number of meetings, but probably not far off. To make the outputs manageable, any help that we can get in any direction is absolutely invaluable. Talking about the Ai group, would your Tim come on that? Because he is very knowledgeable.

GEORGE Yeah, definitely. Alex, who do you work for?

ALEX NORMAND Scanlans Property Management. We’re a firm of Chartered Surveyors as well as property management, but predominantly we do property management these days because surveying kind of went quiet during the lockdown and everything else.

GEORGE Does this Ai stuff interest you?

ALEX NORMAND It does. I think quite a lot of people are more frightened of it than are going to welcome it, but I actually think that the amount of human input that it’s going to need to get to the position of actually putting people out of jobs, it will be years and years away. But some of the stuff, when you go into Microsoft itself and you can type in a question it comes back with some of the information and it’s really quite detailed. It’s quite impressive really. It could put a lot of typists out of business, that’s for sure. We’ve not started using it on any documentation recoding in any way, shape or form, we’re not there yet.

GEORGE I think one of the big challenges that we’ve all got at the moment is that the industry has worked on the basis or risk transfer and that’s no longer really a defence. You’ve got to be able to manage risk and if you’re passing the risk onto somebody else you’re still responsible for it and you’ve got to check that the person that you’ve passed it on to is competent in being able to deliver it. So it’s a very interesting situation where the more help we can get to make sense of all of the variables is going to be really important.

ALEX NORMAND Yeah, but it still needs human input, definitely.

GEORGE So, in terms of being able to pull this together, the Regulation 38 stuff, I think we’re agreed that there is work to be done to get a high degree of standardisation.  So therefore it may be worth us having a workstream that’s just looking at that because thinking it through, the operations group needs that information to be able to continue to maintain it. So I suppose the question is then…how is that being done at the moment and how is that recognised within your organisations as being important.

DAVE WILLIAMS Funnily enough, I think this is one of the issues with standardisation in that organisations themselves tend to call a spade a shovel or vice versa. And then their IT systems, being a combined system or an asset management system or a housing system, invariably that space is called a shovel, or a spade. It could be a shovel in one system and a spade in the other system and a fork in the other system. And the problem you’ve got there, coming back to risk, is the appetite for people to go, right, we’re going to go take this standardisation and go through all of our systems and change everything there to say we’er going to change all of this data that we’ve had for years and the system that we’ve had for years, and now you use this new definitive data dictionary. Because people don’t really have the luxury of saying, well, let’s start from scratch, let’s build a new system based on this standardisation.

So I think where it will be a good thing to have a standardised data dictionary of terms, because obviously we see that coming from Regulation 38 anyway from the work that we’ve done there. To then offer that out to people with a view that they then have to do their own translation tables to say in this data dictionary it’s called this, but in this data dictionary it’s called something else. And then building those translations per organisation, rather than you being able to dictate a standardised list and expect them to go and ditch all of their systems, even their way of working basically, just to accommodate a new standard.

GEORGE Yes, I think the data dictionary is a way of doing it in that if the data dictionary can have synonyms and the ability to do those translations, that’s a way that that can be done. And you could even use AI to support that as well.

DAVE WILLIAMS Funnily enough, that’s what I was thinking as well. That would be a good use of AI to be able to say according to this document it’s called a fire alarm, where over in the system it’s just called alarm. It’s how you then teach it to do that translation.

GEORGE The other thing is by including AI in that you’d be able to look more at the context of the word that’s being used which can then vary which alternative you use. But that’s serious software engineering stuff, so we need to think about that. I agree with what you are saying, Lee, in the chat. The only thing I’d say about graph databases though, we’ve looked at those as well and we’ve used some graph database structures on certain things. But actually using it…in academia it’s used quite extensively, but that’s partially because the way that the licensing costs works. Whereas graph databases for commercial use, they can be very expensive in my experience, I don’t know enough detail about it, but i think that’s something that needs to be a consideration as to how that would be covered.

LEE REEVELL Yeah, you’re right George, and all of this stuff, we just need to have a conversation to let people know about what some of the advantages of it are because unless people know then they’re going to carry on the same as they always have. I really do think there’s some advantages in these new disciplines that have come out in the past couple of years which allow people to understand the business, how certain elements interact with each other. Because one of my bugbears of the last couple of years is that this kind of does slightly in silos so they’re not seeing how by changing a kitchen in a property they could actually be in there doing something else at the same time in terms of retrofit work and net zero. So it’s almost like doubling, tripling up on some of this stuff because they haven’t got the data available to them at the time or it’s too complicated to be able to mix and match a number of different jobs that are going on at the same time.

And maybe we do need to think about our data differently, but what I’ve found is no one seems to move in social housing unless it’s mandated by the Regulator. And the Regulator has only put in at the moment that people should be using central knowledge information management, they haven’t mandated what that is. And I go back a couple of years again to when HACT did the data standards, I still don’t know anybody who’s actually implemented them. I know people who use them as best practice, but as Dave was saying you can’t strip back an asset management system that’s working on a day-to-day basis, it’s helping you with that demand, you can’t strip it back just on a whim, it’s got to be more of a business-wide transformation. I think helping people understand, from CEO down to maintenance technician, not only what we do but why we’re doing it and how it impacts all of those different levels is really important to work better together in a systematic kind of way, rather than doing everything individualised.

Providing welfare support when we need to, providing building fabric support, providing repeat demand over here. If you add all of that information together it paints a better picture than just whacking a mole left, right and centre. I’m a huge advocate for data making social landlords lives easier, allowing us to do essentially more with less, because we are doing more with less. We’ve not been allowed to put rents up, service charges up, our commercial contracts are costing us more because of inflation. But we’re kind of stuck in the middle with having to do a lot more with a lot less so we need to be much more clever with some of these technologies and sone of our base systems to allow is to do that in the future. Otherwise I think some of the smaller housing associations will just get steamrollered up into larger housing associations that have got the numbers, the economies of scale on the supply side.

DAVE WILLIAMS Yeah, that was me last week because we’re now officially part of Places For People. So Origin is going to be the London regional office, basically.

LEE REEVELL Yeah, it’s happening all round. On a personal level I think that social landlords should be quite local to their stock, but that’s another conversation entirely.

DAVE WILLIAMS Yeah, funnily enough, that’s part of the reason why the merger happened s because they’d sold all of their stock in London and so didn’t have anything in London. And then when the possibility of merging came up they thought, oh, we can have stuff in London but we’ve now got all of the staff in place whereas they didn’t before because most of their people were in Scotland and Manchester. So it will be good from our perspective that we’ll have more resources that we can throw at specific things, but it will be interesting because this work that we’ve already been doing with asset management in dynamics and looking at Copilot and AI and all of that sort of thing.

And also the thing that we found that Power BI and Power apps have been really useful to us because we’ve been able to pull data out of different systems and queue it and pull all of the stuff out, particularly for compliance, in order for them to have a really good picture of what stuff has been done and hasn’t been done that they didn’t have before because the systems that we’re using have really basic reports. It wasn’t intelligent, it wasn’t flagging up warning signs when stuff had been done. So there’s a lot of really good work going on, but like you said with the HACT stuff, the people that have been building the data dictionary for the asset management system had already discussed with various teams what we deal with, these are compliance components that we deal with, and using the language that they refer to them by.

And I actually sent the HACT standards over to them and said you need to double check to make sure we’re not building something out of nothing that doesn’t match what everyone else is doing. But they were quite dismissive of it because they were going no, we’ve asked the stakeholders and that’s what they want to call it, which is always a bit of a worry from my perspective.

LEE REEVELL That’s why I wanted from way back to use BIM, even though we haven’t got any particularly complex buildings, there’s a lot of residential, I saw BIM as a framework that had been ratified by ISO and all of that. All of the builders and developers know it because they have to deliver it on government-backed projects and why would they not push that in to social housing as well, it seemed like a no brainer. I think we’re not set up to receive that type of information so the developer will hand over a 600 page PDF document and a lever arch file at the end. And it will be like, well, you want the information, go and look in that book there and that’s not how I want it to be in the future because you’re imprisoning that data in the PDF. I want that data to move out.

GEORGE Lee, you’re going to get me on my hobby horse now. BIM is about information, it’s not about 3D modelling. So you can comply with the BIM protocols: ISO 19650, all the different variants of that; BS8536 and 6644. It’s about the information and the exchange mechanism for that is COBie and as a result of that because it’s structured data it can go into everything. So you don’t have to be able to conceive a 3D model to get the benefits of BIM and I absolutely agree with you, we should be using the BIM protocols, Uniclass and the like, to be able to make sure that data is exchanged properly.

DAVE WILLIAMS And that’s the thing where you then have to look at how you then translate that data in that format in to what sits in your back office systems.

GEORGE Correct, but at least you’ve got a standardised way for the industry delivering it. Every client organisation seems to set up, even something like Keystone, differently. That’s understandable because often it’s been historic, but the key thing is to make sure that the information that’s been delivered, and also sent out to people, is in a standardised format. I know Bex has done a lot of work on that.

DAVE WILLIAMS I’m just conscious of the time, going around the table is there any comments that you’d like to make that you haven’t had a chance to say?

BEX GIBSON It’s been a really interesting talk about something that’s quite new and quite exciting. I was thinking earlier about does housing asset management software even talk to AI. Can we actually get…because there’s so many cross-functional things that feed in to Keystone or whatever you use as your asset management. It would be interesting to see the capabilities of AI in that or whether it only works Microsoft One Drive, the online stat stuff. I guess there’s a lot of things to go away and think about and how we can use it to make sure that it’s accounting for everything because even if you just get a slice you’re still missing the rest of the pie.

RICHARD George, you can probably give us a steer, what Bex is saying about the asset management system feeding in to AI, Is your Tim doing something like that now?

GEORGE Yes, he is. In particular, being able to use it for help desk to be ave to prompt answers and questions and things like that. So we could give an example of that, but the key thing with that is the user engagement and the different types of roles. Part of the thing, as Dave was saying earlier, the data architects that are putting together their new system, they’ll say we’ll talk to the stakeholders. And there’s lots of different stakeholders in any housing association and they all want very different information. Or the same information, but being presented in a different way. Often, you’ll find that the people that are most vocal are the ones that drive it, whereas that may not be the best for the community .

RICHARD It would be quite interesting to actually see, is that demonstrable, George? To see it in action.

GEORGE Yeah, definitely, we can show that and also we could ask Alex Oldman from Civica, I imagine that they’re experimenting with things as well. I think it would be good to get a few people involved in that.

RICHARD Yeah, to actually see it, this is what’s happening already because if you don’t know you don’t know.

GEORGE Yeah, Risk Base who do a lot of inspections and things like that, I think they’re also experimenting with it as well. I can ask them.

RICHARD It would be good to have a meeting on that just to see not just what is coming, but what is actually there already that nobody knows about.

DAVE WILLIAMS Yeah, the other thing is that there is a difference between the use of AI and the use of intelligent character recognition, ICR has been around for years, but it’s not intelligent per se. You can basically set it up with a template and say, right, this bit of this invoice template, that’s going to have that number and therefore just look in this area of the document so you can find VAT and then you’ll know that the 15 numbers after it are the VAT number. So, it was very limited training and the success rate with ICR was normally around 90% if you’re lucky and it didn’t recognise handwriting which was always a problem. I put in a big ICR system for everybody’s favourite, the TV Licensing Authority, because they were getting all of the TV licence stuff documents coming through and being able to read those and drop those in to the database so they could tell who’d paid their licence and who hadn’t. But once again, it was intelligent but intelligent in a very loose way.

RICHARD We had something the other week, Sharon McClure sent her notes on the 4 questions hand written as photographs. But Jiss got her handwritten notes converted into text.

GEORGE There’s a company that I’ve been talking to that do compliance checking of gas certificates. It isn’t True Compliance but I do know True Compliance, it’s TCW.

LEE REEVELL Yeah, it’s Ryan at TCW that’s doing it. To be honest, Propellor have it now as well.

DAVE WILLIAMS Propellor is the one we’re looking at as an interim solution till all of our systems built.

LEE REEVELL What you were mentioning before, Dave, when you go into Power apps, it’s actually a module just to pull off the OCR stuff and then you put it into a flow and then you can pick off things like the EICR. What we used it for, a lot of the chat had to go through like 150 ICRs just to make sure that they were filled out correctly. What it does is it puts them through the system and it will spit out like five that you have to double check, rather than having to double check all of them. It cut down hugely on time. Do you have your own DLO, Dave, or are you outsourced?

DAVE WILLIAMS No, we have contractors so we don’t have DLO.

LEE REEVELL Because that’s the one that we’re looking at, the RIT asked the question why are you scanning in these certificates when essentially they’re an output from a database already. Because surely the certificate is just a human readable format of the data in the background. So I can understand why people who don’t have their own DLO and they have contractors bringing certificates in would need to do this, but from my perspective we’re trying to flip it round and go why are you producing certificates in the first place when all it is a human readable view of data that we’ve got on the backend. And that’s just quite naturally developed over the years without anybody actually asking the reason why.

DAVE WILLIAMS Thanks for that everybody.

GEORGE We’ll set up a workstream session on this, or a couple actually, probably.


Lee Reevell

George Stevenson, this may be of interest to the group regarding your earlier point on BIM in asset management. Few years ago now but co-authored this paper. I'm a huge advocate for data standards / frameworks for asset management and digital twins in all building types.

ManagementOfAssetsAndComplianceThroughTheApplicationOfBIMAndDigitalTwinsAM-GORSE.pdf (

Technical debt from the 1st digital transformation is huge blocker for us still and for others in the sector.

New software/solutions tend to add complexity rather than value as a result of the technical debt - so it requires a systematic approach all the way back to data architecture.

Happy to pick up in more detail!

We've done a similar thing with EICR's - and CP12'sa

LLMs can read PDFs and interpret them now. I've been training this one for a while and have great results.

Let’s try it out on these PDFs

Take it back to the data architecture - what is an asset - what is a component - how do they all relate and interact.

What capabilities does the data support.

Perhaps building a graph database over traditional relational databases