Q4 – How do we ensure that the Building Safety data is live – not an outdated snapshot in time? (Intro Meeting)

BIM4Housing Follow-Up to Levelling Up Committee Meetings - Q4- How do we ensure that the Building Safety data is live - not an outdated snapshot in time?

GEORGE We’ve got fire risk assessments, we’ve got the External Wall Survey assessments and we’ve got now the safety case reports. All of those are things that have got to be done that can then be checked to see if you’ve done them or not. The challenge with that is that the day after they’ve been done, they can no longer be valid because circumstances can have changed. This is a common problem that we come across with fire risk assessments because they will be referencing information about a particular condition or a particular asset or system. That may be corrected the following day, following week, because of actions and therefore the fire risk assessment arguably should be redone. But the fire management system is what the fire risk assessment actually comes from, and exactly the same with the building safety case.

I think the requirement for the Regulator is that you’ve got in place a safety management system that is then ongoing and then the safety case report is really there to illustrate that you’ve got something that’s compliant. But then if something changes, like an asset coming out of commission or a space becoming at risk, then that needs to be reported, that’s broadly the concept. To do that there is a whole range of things that we need to know about the building, the systems that are protecting the people and the spaces and what components and elements go into that. That feeds into what we’re trying to do within BIM4Housing.

RICHARD before we get on to the individual questions, we’ve got some comments that are quite interesting. Answer 13, Alan has suggested that we add along with define boundaries, timeframes and events that trigger mandatory updates for different assets or project development, i suggest we put responsibilities in there as well. I don’t think anybody would disagree with that. Also, Paul White suggests answers 5, 11 and 15 are all around competence which is pretty much covered under no.8 which is maintain a live record of building safety data with auditable changes and retention of historic information.  I think he’s probably right, we could just make that answer a little bit longer and cover everything in the other three.

GEORGE Yeah, definitely. The thing is what we’ve got here is a brain dump of people who are experts in different areas and obviously we’re going to get a degree of repetition that needs refining. It’s always a good idea to try and come up with three or four things, at a push maybe five, rather than twenty.

RICHARD A number of people have given us their top 3 priorities on this list of answers, so I’m going to pick the most popular ones. Number 1, a robust change management process should be followed throughout the entire project. That’s the most popular priority that we’ve got.

VICTORIA FINN I picked this one as well, it’s quite important that from the start from the development, we capture everything. What’s usually happened is if it’s had to go back through planning then its been captured, and again it will happen the same with the gateways, I guess. When it has to go through gateway 1 they’re going to capture anything from gateway 1 to gateway 2 that changes and that will have to go back through the gateways. But it’s not always those major structural bits that we need to capture, it’s a material change, especially if it’s a product material that’s gone from non-combustible to combustible. I think it’s really important that we get something that’s standardised to say what those items might be that we might need to pick up on the change management process to make sure that it goes through to the safety case, and therefore we can update the Regulator with it. I’m thinking the gateways will capture the big things, but the other things that are quite important to maintain in compartmentation etc that goes to the safety case won’t be picked up still through the gateways. So we need something that is going to make sure that any changes reflect both in the safety case and on as-built drawings as well, to update drawings to see what materials have changed as well. It’s quite important that we’re picking up those smaller items as well.

PAUL WHITE I think we probably can standardise this, some people who are as old as me who were brought up in engineering, you did change management all of the time. You get it signed off by somebody more senior, i think we’ve drifted into a peer now rather than somebody more senior, but you just need that peer responsibility for somebody who actually knows what’s going on because they know what all of the changes have been.

BEN BLACKWOOD I find that a number of consultants will refuse to provide as-built drawings. It's very common because they have not been directly involved in the work, they flat out refuse to produce as-built drawings.

PAUL WHITE Surely that’s a) contractual and b) a requirement of the Regulator, so I don’t think they can refuse for much longer.

BEN BLACKWOOD It seems to be the prevailing position of architects. it’s not a cost thing, obviously we need to pay them to do that and that’s not really the issue, it’s that they believe it contravenes their insurance requirements, which potentially I’d take with a pinch of salt. But nevertheless they refuse. And this is a number of big name architects.

GEORGE Should it be down to the architect to do it?

BEN BLACKWOOD The architect’s drawings define what’s supposed to be done and then you have trade contractors who may make some minor amendments in accordance with their materials and what not. But the architect should then update their details in accordance with the trade contractors information. They’re not really taking on any additional liability because the trade contractor has implemented in line with the architect’s specification and then any changes that were necessary, the architect should incorporate those. Otherwise in 10 years-time someone could open that architect’s drawing and think that’s what was built, and it’s not.

PAUL WHITE The point, which I’ve made in other meetings, is that the information presented at gateway 3 must match what’s in gateway 2 (for HRBs) and if it doesn’t then all of the change control has to be in place. So this should end up being a basis where the drawings are updated all of the time because that’s what’s required because if you get to gateway 3 and they don’t match then you ain’t opening you building.

BEN BLACKWOOD This is the thing, someone needs to tell the RIBA this and get their members to comply with the regulations.

PAUL WHITE I think it comes down to who’s actually responsible for these drawings. Is it one of the contractors, is it one of the consultants? The point is whatever you have at gateway 2, whatever those drawings are, that’s what you're building and if you don’t build that then you’ve got to have proper change control. And it doesn’t matter who it is, you’re in that process now so it depends on who is responsible for keeping those up-to-date. And that’s the whole key to this whole system, you build what you’ve been told and if you don’t build what you’ve been told you’ve got the change route.

JONATHAN FURLONG On this particular question that we’re looking at around keeping data alive, is this throughout the whole life cycle? Or are we more focused on the design and construction phase? Or are we talking about the asset owner phase?

GEORGE The asset owner phase. But the point that ben’s making quite correctly is that for that to be manageable you’ve got to have the right quality of information at handover anyway.

BEN BLACKWOOD yeah, there is no point in having drawings in your golden thread that don’t show what you’ve built.

JONATHAN FURLONG I completely agree, but in theory buildings shouldn’t get signed off at gateway 3 unless that information is correct. A separate question, is all of the information that’s signed off at gateway 3 the information that somebody needs to operate a building? For instance, some of the people were talking about here information being out of date, I think that’s a different question because you can have enough design information to pass gateway 3 handover a building, but if you take a lift, back to George’s point that if something changes at the start.

So for instance if we programme the lift to instead of dropping to ground floor when the alarm goes off, it goes to the fifth floor, that’s never going to be information that’s particularly captured. So I think it’s back to the original question. I think the starting point for this should be information that’s given over at gateway 3 is correct, but it may not be all of what you need and then it’s up to the owner to decide what v they do need.

BEN BLACKWOOD I’d say that an alternate grounding level on a lift should absolutely be captured in your cause and effect matrix.

JONATHAN FURLONG Absolutely, but that’s what I mean, it’s only right at handover so how or what it does at grounding should be captured in the fire strategy and in your cause and effect. Then the question is when that changes, how do you know it changes? So back to George’s point that you keep your information correct and up-to-date.

GEORGE Ben, one of the things I’m questioning at the moment is whether the architect would be the right person to do that because a lot of things that you’d need to record would be M&E. We’ve gone through an exercise of looking at Regulation 38 in terms of the fire assets. If you look at this, obviously compartmentation and cavity barriers and fire doors, they’d be under the remit of the architect, but the dampers and a lot of these items here would be from specialists. So I guess it depends on the scope of what you’re asking the architect to do.

BEN BLACKWOOD I think what I mean, I’m using the architects as an example because they’re the main protagonist of this issue, but all consultants should update their information and all disciplines, respectively. The architects are the ones that are refusing to do so. ? 15 mins 31 secs consultants, not an issue. They will actively encourage and crosscheck and ensure that their specification is continuously updated, we have no issue with that. M&E consultants, again we don’t tend to have an issue with that because the discipline has a lot more sub-disciplines within it. They’re quite good at navigating that and ensuring that they provide an overarching specification which refers you to trade contractors and specialist information within it, such that it hangs together as a complete set of information.

GEORGE But updating the location, for example, invariably what the designer would put in their design as to where the ductwork dampers go etc, and also fire stopping and things like that, that will invariably change because the trade contractor will have slightly different products or slightly different routes. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, but that’s perhaps…

COLIN WHITE Start off with what Paul White mentioned at the beginning, surely it is a contractual issue. I thought it’s incumbent upon the main contractors before they hand their buildings over to the owners that they have to provide all of this information. I’m older than Paul, but back in the late 60s when I started I spent most of my early apprenticeship compiling as-fixed details, down to the last nut and bolt that went in on systems. To a certain degree we still do that with the products that I’m involved with at the moment, they’re part of a system and somebody else mentioned the systems, it is, it’s not just about how the architect has drawn his building with his block-work or his dry lining walls. There are all of these systems in there that are important and I’m not sure how you can control change management.

Even this week I have a situation where we’ve supplied 86 smoke vent control panels to a particular project in London that’s just getting to commissioning stage. We produced all of the as-fixed panel drawings that show what’s connected to what. I’ve been asked by the commissioning engineer (nothing to do with us, a totally separate thing), the commissioning engineer has told me that some of our as-fixed drawings are wrong because the services contractor, the electrician M&E contractor, has decided it’s easier to connect certain ventilators and windows being acted as fresh air windows, to different panels. I’ve got a conundrum that I don’t know what to do. Do I ring up my client and say somebody has told me something is going on on-site. How do you control that?

GEORGE I absolutely agree and that’s a really important point. I guess that’s what I’m saying as well, the workflow at the moment, you’re able to control your supply chain and I imagine that you would build into your contract that somebody has to create an updated model. I have to say that we’re very fortunate, as Active Plan we get involved in a lot of handover information and you’re lucky if you’ve got a set of drawings that are named as-built.

BEN BLACKWOOD IN engineering it would be a completely alien concept, you would not tolerate it, but in construction it seems to be normal.

PAUL WHITE The engineering point is you don’t change a pattern for a valve unless it’s been signed off in triplicate because if you do you’ve got no control about what happens to it and you don’t know what you did. But in terms of what we’re looking at here, with the HRBs we’ve got this gateway 3 which is the audit of, in theory, as it been built, but actually that audit goes one step further in the fact that somebody has actually got to go around and physically check it. And then potentially what we’re talking about here is the handover information, all of these drawings are going to have to go over to the client, the owner, but then they need to audit it again for all of the reasons that we’ve just discussed. They’ve got to understand it and then they’ve got to introduce that into a system where they are then able to change the drawings. So there’s potentially a whole new industry turning up here which is somebody who can support a building owner to a) hold the drawings, hold the BIM information, and update it as necessary. Because the appointed person is not going to be capable, they’ve probably never seen a CAD station of a BIM station or a model station that they could even interrogate or change. These are one of the things that we need to make very obvious to people is that they need drawings that they can manage change with.

GEORGE Yes, and rather than just a series of PDFs that you can’t edit.

RENE ZAN ZWIJNDRECHT I agree with the conclusion that we just got to that what people don’t understand is it’s not just changing information, it’s going to be drawings, potentially models that need to be changed. And the operations teams do not understand that, so you need to build a complete approach for that structure and strategy. And that architect might not be around anymore, or any of those consultants might not be around, so you might have to have a vehicle to pass on to someone else that they can then do an update. So I think platforms is a key player in this.

The whole thing about live information, i don’t think the Regulator is going to expect you every five-seconds, every change, to immediately show that. They’ll come to you and say…your status at the moment, but you should have something in place to say I’m in the process of doing a review of my fire equipment or fire doors, but I’m aware of it and it will be done at that point. That can only be done with operations software or a platform that becomes a funnel that keeps track of this, that links all of the information together.

GEORGE Just to clarify, the regulations require that if something changes that impacts on safety, for example somebody reconfigures a lift or an AOV goes out, those are notifiable changes.

RENE ZAN ZWIJNDRECHT That is during construction.

GEORGE No, during operations.

JONATHAN FURLONG There is no need, once the building is complete, to notify the Regulator of a change to building designs and operations unless the change is big enough that you’re having to go back in and getting building control again.

GEORGE Sorry to contradict you, but if a system or an asset that is part of the safety management system of that building fails then there is a duty on the responsible person to act on that and ensure that the building…

JONATHAN FURLONG But they don’t need to inform the Regulator.

GEORGE Not the Regulator perhaps, but if it’s the fire safety side of things and an AOV goes out, my understanding is that they’re supposed to let the local fire brigade know, if it’s impacting on safety.

JONATHAN FURLONG Yeah, potentially, it depends on the extent. Say that you have an AOV that breaks in the building, depending on what happens…if inside your safety management plan for the building and inside your building safety case and all of the other information, you may have a backup plan for that. You ideally should have…so the consideration might be that it needs to be repaired but in the system there’s one AOV and the building is still in operation. It may be that if there is only one AOV in the building and if that breaks the backup might be that you have to have waking watch in the building or perhaps some other measure. In some of those instances you're right that to say to the fire brigade that yes I would notify the fire brigade that the building is now not operating how it should. It all comes back down to your plan and a big part of it is are you doing what you’re saying you’re doing in your building safety case, your building safety management plans.

In the operation phase it’s very much how you do that, but the big question is how do you, for instance, know when that happens. How does the right people know when an AOV fails so that the measures are put in place to take the appropriate action and inform the appropriate people. How do you keep your information up-to-date, so for instance if the AOV failed you may go from a stay-put policy to a simultaneous evacuation policy, and if that is the case obviously people need to be notified, primarily the people living in the building. How do you make sure that that happens in a live environment? From my point of view people need to look at doing it with the critical information, your major life safety systems, and the major bits of equipment inside it and not look at every single little piece of information.

So if one door mag lock breaks, yes the door is part of the life safety system for smoke control, but it doesn’t make any difference because if it fails it should be failing open and therefore you might have a security issue in the building, but you certainly don’t have a safety issue in the building. So it’s about people understanding what it is that really makes up their golden thread of the critical building safety information and how do you get that live, rather than trying to get everything live. There should be nothing that ever changes on a drawing in day-to-day operations that you should every have to have live. For instance, you're not on a live basis moving an AOV, that’s a big change, that can go through a change management process. The live bit really comes into data points.

VICTORIA FINN There was a couple of old issues there. When we’re talking about notifying fire services, and it’s right that it’s when it’s in occupation as well, we’re talking about essential firefighting equipment. So if essential firefighting equipment goes down, it’s going to be down more than 24 hours, that’s when we’ve got to notify the fire service. That was one, and again, when we say when we’re going to pick these up and when we’re going to know about that we’re also obliged to make sure that we inspect those items. So all firefighting equipment has got to be inspected on a monthly basis now. So hopefully the provision that we already had in, people have either extended that or they’ve got somebody else in place to do that - we’ve extended our provision to make sure it covers that.

So we’re collecting that information quicker and that can change on a monthly basis, like you say you wouldn’t change the drawings. We'd need a central area that people can go to make sure that that’s updated, or a central person or however that’s going to be done. I know that some people have gone to digital twinning where you’ve got your digital representation of the building. It’s a bit like reverse BIM, it’s already built and then you’ve deconstructed it and put it together as a design, and then each area that you click on in that building you can actually attach the information behind that, so that’s going to be live information. And that can be auditable, so you’re putting new information on top of the old, but you can still get to the old information.

So there is that way of doing it, but again, then you’ve got to make sure you’ve got the right people doing that. And everybody that’s doing those monthly inspections of your firefighting equipment is going to be the people that can feed into that so that it’s always live. That’s the only way at the minute I can think that’s going to keep it as live as you’re going to get it. You’re never going to have it as live as we’d like.

RICHARD We’re straying on to question 8 quite a bit which includes, as Paul pointed out, three other questions. Question 8: maintain a live record of building safety data with auditable changes and retention of historic information.

COLIN WHITE Jonathan mentioned AOVs, surely it’s about the servicing and maintenance of the systems, if you’ve got the right people doing it they would be able to advise the building owners of anything that needs doing if there is something wrong. I’m not exaggerating if I say at least five times a month I get phone calls from inexperienced (mostly fire alarm) contractors asking me about how to maintain and service a particular smoke control damper for a system that has been installed for a few years and they’ve been going along once every 12 or 6 months, flick a switch and see that it operates and then closes it.

When it doesn’t operate they think oh Christ, what have we got to do about this. It’s about the competency, experience, of the service and maintenance people because if an AOV system is commissioned at handover it’s fairly passive, you’ve got to check it and maintain it. But you’ve got to know that the people who are checking and maintaining know what they’re looking at, and more importantly know what to do if something is not right.

GEORGE I agree with Jonny that we need to make sure that what we’re not doing is overcooking it and not considering the specific information that is probably referenced in the fire risk assessment or the safety case. Therefore it needs to be proportionate from a point of view of what’s critical. The ones that I just showed on that Regulation 38 examples are probably quite good ones to actually build out from.

PAUL WHITE The key point, the as-built drawings, yes, you maintain, the issue is (and this is part of the BIM record that you’re looking at) is if for some reason an AOV has to be changed because it’s broken and you take it out and you put a new one in, then that’s when you need to be keeping your change information. You may have not put it through building control because it’s a simple change, but you need to keep who did it, are they competent and what they have they done, what have they replaced it with and where’s all of the information that goes with it. And then that has to go into the file with the AOV control system etc because you’ve done it.

The issue that we’ve got in the short term, and I think Colin was alluding to it, is Colin and I know how many awful systems there are out there that have not been maintained and I’m assuming that in all of these safety cases somebody has got their most recent inspection which says it doesn’t work. Now that’s an assumption in the first case because they may not even know that they need to put it in the safety case. Then they’ve got to write down what is their corrective action, so just like any quality system, I’ve been advised this system is not working. Right, what’s your corrective action? And hopefully what’s you action to prevent recurrence because if you realise how expensive it’s going to be to have to fix it the first time, don’t let it happen again.

This is what I mean by change management and record keeping is if you physically change something you’ve got to have that route, but also in terms of this system of your live safety building data…you’ve got a fire alarm inspection, you’ve got to keep all of the records, you’re now starting to realise you’re going to have fire door inspections, you’ve got to keep all of the records. And in keeping all of these records you’re building up a whole record of if you do nothing exactly how long you’ve been doing nothing for. And then we add into that smoke control systems, ventilation systems with resisting ducts, and we add fire dampers.

This is all of the information, they’re going to have to have this report for all of these different things going into this management system, and that’s the key point. Because having got all of that information you can’t just go oh, I’ve got the information, I’ve done the inspection. No, because there’s actions that need to be completed from that and you’ve now kept potentially a record of all of the stuff that needs to be done that you haven’t done.

RICHARD This is the thing, it’s all right having loads of information, we’ve got loads of information in a lot of cases, it’s just you’ve got to find it and use it otherwise it’s useless.

PAUL WHITE But don’t forget it is to protect yourself because if you do nothing in all of these instances you’re leaving yourself open hugely to the safety of the building. Less is not more in this case because you're then a criticism for not keeping it and not doing it.

JONATHAN FURLONG I just had a question on whether the word live is actually a good word to have here. Live to me would make me think that it’s always right or it’s up-to-date, I think that’s not a possibility. If an AOV breaks most of them are done and they do not have sensors on them in the sense that they are not calling a call centre to say that they’re broken. Because they’re also not used by people, like a lift - when a lift breaks you know about it straight away because everyone phones up and complains and most lifts do have sensors calling their call centres. Lots of the other equipment doesn’t, so if a pump fails on a sprinkler system how do you know about it? I think this language of you have to have everything 100% live is, a bit like Victoria was talking about going towards a digital twin world, it’s not a possibility with existing buildings, most of these things it’s not possible. So I’m cautious of the word live. I don’t know what the correct language should be there.

GEORGE I agree with you, Jonny. The point is what we’re trying to differentiate there, and these questions have come out of the community, so it may be that we replace live with up-to-date.

JONATHAN FURLONG I don’t know the correct phrasing, I suppose what we don’t want to be doing is saying to people you have to have stuff live and people thinking they have to go and replace it. That’s where we want to get to, but I don’t think as an industry we are anywhere near close to that.

GEORGE I agree. What we’re trying to do here is also educate the clients that having a safety case report done, ticking the box like a fire risk assessment, and it only has to be done every five years perhaps, that they’ve satisfied the requirements simply by having a report done. So if things that are in that report that are relevant as far as safety is concerned, if they change then that needs to be recorded, it needs to be updated.

JONATHAN FURLONG Going back to what Paul was saying, with some of this stuff you need a lot of information. I agree there’s a lot of information that makes up some of these systems, but I think from a day-to-day operational point of view, it needs to be simplified enough that people going out there and maintaining these and who are going to pick up faults can understand it. A good example is you may have a pressurised ventilation system in the building, how do you train people to be able to spot when that doesn’t work. So for instance you could go and test that system at the flick of a switch and people can say the motor is running, it’s operational. But if the door doesn’t swing open when its meant to then the system isn’t actually working. Instead of trying to train people…I sometimes how you can train people on these systems can be very simplified.

I think if you get the big ticket items right then your building is going to be a lot safer. Just from experience, things like that, you can teach anybody with a little bit of technical background how a lift should operate in a fire scenario, and it’s fairly simple to test that stuff. It doesn’t mean they are in anyway qualified to service a lift or to do any of the more complicated items on a lift. It should be very easy on a weekly basis for caretakers in the building to test is the lift is operational from a fire perspective point of view because it is turning on the fire alarm.

So although there is a huge amount of information in here in making sure that a safety case is up-to-date, I think there is the two parts: really simple information which is in the up-to-date stuff, and then there is the more in-depth testing which is of the next stage and the third higher of stages if you were replacing a system. So obviously if you were replacing one AOV for another AOV, then you have to get really into the specification and the technical details. It’s the levels of it and the biggest risk is at the bottom of the simple level: is your lift operating? Is your AOV operating? Is your smoke control operating?

It’s those ones in existing buildings where the failures happen, we see it time and time again where you go in and people are saying the system is operational and they are in no way operational. And a lot of that falls back into how we do fire risk assessments which in my opinion is completely inadequate? 45mins 39secs.

PAUL WHITE Just coming back to this live thing, I take Johnny’s point, but the point is that the reason we’re using live is that if you actually read BS9999, if you look at what you’re supposed to be doing every day, every week etc. You’ve got to keep records of that because positive records are just as good as negative records. The point is you need something to say, when somebody goes in on week 7 and finds something wrong then they don’t ignore it for 4 weeks and another 4 weeks because it’s gone in the pile of reports. It’s not as such, but it’s not far out-of-date, if that makes sense.

For instance, if you’ve got an AOV system and tow of them have failed, you have no smoke control. These things are not as simple as we want them to be and the worst thing is if you start to look at things like fire dampers, they’re completely hidden and it’s a real pain in the bum job to go above a celling to make sure that a powered fire damper is open and closed every week. So you’ve got to put into place systems that make this live, and the live part of it comes after the problem that’s been found because if a problem has been found it’s live because it’s a problem for the people in the building at that point. They don’t know, they’re relying on you and one of the things I always say is…

JONATHAN FURLONG Things like those mechanical smoke dampers are never going to be checked every week, let’s be realistic, there is not enough capacity in the industry, in housing associations etc., to do that. It’s impossible that they’re going to be checked on a weekly basis. Those types of levels of checks are never happening, even in the next 5 or 10 years, because even from a financial cost perspective it’s not possible to do that.

GEORGE How frequently would you say that they should be done?

JONATHAN FURLONG They’ll be done on the level that they’re set out in things like SFG20, so probably 6-monthly or yearly, no more than that.

VICTORIA FINN It has to be monthly under the legislation.

JONATHAN FURLONG It depends on how you interpret it, it doesn’t get into all what equipment is covered in that, so I don’t think…

VICTORIA FINN It does give you an indication of what equipment is covered, for essential fire fighting equipment and it says monthly, that’s what you have to do.

JONATHAN FURLONG Essential fire fighting equipment is not mechanical smoke dampener, if fire fighting equipment is the stuff they use which is lifts, dry risers, wet risers. Even a fire alarm and smoke alarm system doesn’t get covered.

VICTORIA FINN Suppression systems do.

JONATHAN FURLONG They would consider that potentially part of it, but what we’re talking about here is its those items: dry risers, wet risers, lifts.

VICTORIA FINN You have to check the dry risers as well.

JONATHAN FURLONG That’s what I mean, but things like smoke control doesn’t get covered, nor AOVs, even alarm panels won’t get covered. And an evac system will get covered because that’s firefighting system for fire fighters only. Door control and other stuff like that, none of that has to get checked, so people need to be realistic on what is required and where we’re going. And even the cost of doing those checks is a huge uplift on current situations.

VICTORIA FINN I think most of us do the alarms monthly anyway. If your AOVs are attached to it, you’d be checking them as well.

PAUL WHITE What are you saying these things aren’t covered? Which document? Smoke control, fire alarm systems etc are all covered in 9999 which is referenced from 9991 which is the management of apartment blocks. And it’s very very clearly, look at annex I, it tells you what you have to do daily, monthly, weekly. One of the other issues with smoke control systems particularly is they’re passive, so unless you go and test them by setting an alarm off they don’ work because they’re sitting there waiting for an alarm. So you don’t know if any of the parts in it move or do anything else. One of the things you said earlier, these things don’t message somebody. They can, but you have to pay for it at the start and this is the problem: everything is available and relatively cheap, but people don’t want it.

But what they’re doing is, certainly from fire and smoke safety, you keep ignoring these things which is what everybody has been doing. Somebody said they’d just been on a Level 4 risk assessment course and they didn’t mention smoke control and ventilation fire dampers. I’m thinking, well, what’s the point? These are the things that are there to protect you actually in the fire, they’re hidden but if they don’t work you’re in trouble, and they’re not in a risk assessment requirement.

JONATHAN FURLONG There is a difference between what’s required under the Building Safety Act and the supplementary legislation and other things. BS9999 is a code of practice, it’s not a legislative requirement, and there is where the industry needs to ultimately get to. And when you say some of these things are easily done and are relatively affordable…

PAUL WHITE I said they’re expensive, but they have to be done. Just take the Grenfell enquiry, why did you not follow this code of practice when your building burnt down? Answer that question. And you’ve got to bear this in mind, these things can wreck companies, they can wreck people and they can wreck the people who work for you because unfortunately this is now a fact of life. I’m talking with contractors all the time where they won’t do anything because they’re so risk averse. And you cannot keep relying on it doesn’t tell me in the law not to do this because you will be found at fault.

JONATHAN FURLONG I’m not disagreeing, but `I’m just saying the reality of where we are and where we need to get to. Going back to Victoria, you test your fire alarms every month, I know lots of other housing associations who definitely do not test every month, there is no requirement to test them every month. And when they do get tested, most of these get tested individually. They don’t get tested as a whole in a cause and effect point of view. The lifts will get tested, but they get tested to make sure that they’re operational, it doesn’t actually mean they’re operating correctly, and in a huge number of instances…I’ve never been to a building where all of the main fire safety systems have been tested that they have all worked as per their design as per cause and effect. Now, some fo them have been rally minor, tiny issues, but I’ve yet to come across a building where everything works exactly how it should as it was designed.

So for me a lot of this is just the idea of where the industry should get to, let’s focus on using data and BIM and best practices, focus on the stuff that’s going to make the residents the safest. Because if some of the advice goes to clients, even the word live for me brings up fears that if you go too far organisations will just go I’m ignoring it because there is no way we can do it. While if you get to a point of view where you’re focusing on the absolute critical stuff that’s going to make the most major difference that’s realistic and proportionate. If you get to that stage then people adopt it and they’ll do it and therefore people are safer. If you go too far with some of this stuff it gets ignored.

RICHARD What we were talking about just now, if you look at number 22, this is about addressing compliance holistically. So considering the building as a system with interconnected components, which a couple of you have touched on in the last few minutes.

VICTORIA FINN Under the RRO it was my belief that the fire alarm needed to have a weekly test, so that’s not an in-depth one, that’s to test that the system is working, and that’s why we do it weekly. If we’re talking about maintenance or if we’re talking about testing, there is two different things there, which Jonny did allude to as well. I don’t want to get that confused.

RICHARD Holistic compliance, looking at the building as a whole and complete system.

GLENN BRAWN I think some of these guidelines and regulations, listening to what Jonny has been saying, are so ambiguous. What does holistic compliance mean? You’re either compliant, or you’re not. And every element that is required to be checked, we’re building our platform on that basis to make it easier…for local authorities or developers. What does holistic compliance mean? Yes, the building is an interconnected system of relative components, but I just wondered what that actually means.

GEORGE What it’s intended to mean is that simply going and doing a fire door check in itself doesn’t really address it. It’s a matter of looking at compartmentation, for example.

GLENN BRAWN All of these elements are interconnected, which i understand, but each element has to be checked weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, and that all pulls together to provide this holistic…some stuff is quite obvious and some less, in terms of the stuff I’ve read particularly over the last six months from people who are supposed to be giving the diktat as to what you’re supposed to do. so no wonder people are confused.

GEORGE What we can contribute it the information side of things and therefore having a relationship between what the individual assets are, what systems they’re part of and how those systems then interact with other systems to be able to address the particular risk. Unless we actually have the information about the assets and how they’re connected to systems, which quite frankly generally the asset information that we have doesn’t give that type of interconnection, then it means that doing the overall compliance and therefore relating that back to the safety management system that you’ve got some broken links there.

GLENN BRAWN I agree, and what we’re trying to do, obviously we’re a commercial outfit, but for the good of the sector we’re trying to work with, because every housing association, for example, haas got a different system that does a different thing. A lot of this is about interoperability between systems that can speak to each other. So, things like Dwellant, for example, who a lot of people use, just build an API so we can talk to those systems and we can provide that holistic compliance view of that particular building. It’s about doing that more often than not and working with those in our sector, which is a new thing to a certain extent.

SIMON COLLERY I agree that holistic and even systemic and viewing things as a system can be a little bit vague, but there is a sentence in the 1971 version of the CP3 go-to practice and it says the difficulty of making comprehensive recommendations capable of covering every possible risk should be appreciated and an intelligent application of the principles and the recommendations that follow is therefore essential. I think they’re saying that you can’t list every single hazard and every risk and every area of compliance individually, but you would expect somebody with the competence to maintain a building safety case or to write a building safety case report, that they have the intelligence to know what is important, what needs to be added, and how words should be interpreted. Like, for example, live as opposed to up-to-date because I do agree that live could be interpreted in a way that makes it impossible to comply with.

DANIEL O’DOWD I think there is a kind of challenge here. Often I’m brought back to thinking about the whole making tax digital thing, which I think went fairly well because you could build standard APIs to make calls of those systems. And actually a lot of people have made a lot of money building digital tools to for you to manage your finances. In fact the thought of getting a bunch of papers through your door to or having a bunch of papers in your house to manage all of that stuff would just be absolutely ridiculous now. The challenge that is brought on with buildings is that it’s almost like you have to design the system every single time because the buildings are designed differently every single time. I think that if we’re going to get anywhere close to it we have to start to think about a standardised system for digitising any component.

And off of the back of that you have a sort of plug and play approach where you can link up an application to any building, and that should really be the ideal that we’re striving for if we want to understand. I guess that word holistic is a bit of a buzz word, but if we want to understand a building as a data model and then be able to gap analysis or fill that in or continue that throughout, we really need to start thinking about how we standardise the digital aspect of it across all buildings. There needs to be a system at the very least in the UK, that does it for every single building that we have, otherwise it’s an impossible task.

As someone who is quite involved in automation I find that that’s the biggest tripping point for any automation is that you get someone who does a great automation on a project and it only works for that project. And then you have to run the entire start-up cost again for the next project, so you want a kind of framework. And I think that building SMART and IFC are trying to do this in some regard, basically to make that framework that with each new building you can take the application, you might even end up with micro-applications, like OK, this is the application that checks the fire alarms, this is the application that does that.

And you have different vendors that provide those micro-applications, just like you have different vendors that provide you all sorts of financial tools. But the point is they all need to be able to plug in to your building every single time, and I think without that the task is really, really hard. Our fire teams, it surprised me coming from architecture to the fire safety team, I’d see a lot more documentation about existing buildings in the fire team. And it surprised me all the time how badly managed that information is. It’s like even if we did want to completely digitise it into a system there’s missing things all over the place, and then it’s like OK, even if we have all of the information structuring that information is kind of difficult.

RICHARD It’s about information management and also that word again, standardised, that keeps popping up. Which brings me with a great segue onto Alan. Because Alan is working very hard at the moment on our publication for standardising fire door inspections. Alan, what are your feelings on holistic building management?

ALAN OLIVER I am aware that there is a number of people in today’s group meeting that haven’t been involved in the creation of this document. Under a BIM4housing working group over the last year (and it has taken all year) we’ve adapted a health care reference document on how to inspect fire doors. The original reference document said that you should inspect them three ways; you should have a Type 1 inspection for band new doors; a Type 2 inspection for existing doors; and a Type 3 existing ongoing PPM inspection for doors that have previously been either Type 1 or type 2 inspected. The type 1 inspection is very prescriptive and it’s examining the golden thread of information compared to what’s actually been installed, so you should ensure that it’s very robust.

The Type 2 inspection, however, allows you to be more pragmatic because quite clearly you can’t rip out every single fire door in the country where you haven’t got a perfect golden thread of information and where it’s not 100% perfect as tested. So this allows you to take a pragmatic view on the doors, depending on the location of the doors and their criticality. I believe we’ve successfully adapted the healthcare version into a residential version, and for anybody who hasn’t been in the working group I’d be very happy to send you what is just about the final draft ready for sign off and issue in January.

Taking that background aside, what we’re saying is that with existing doors that are unlikely to be perfect and where you have got a golden thread of information, some of them might be more than 30 years old, you’ve got to take a pragmatic risk management view.

And one of the things you have got to do is look at the fire doors in the context of everything else in that building, and the size of the building and the complexity of the building and the level of risk of that building. So bearing in mind this came from a healthcare background, if you imaging a healthcare estate they might have a number of buildings. Some might be like a one-storey training room, another one might be a maternity unit on the 8th floor or a tower block. So you’re looking at the location of the doors and looking at everything holistically, looking at all of the fire safety measures in place. So I believe that you can look at a building holistically and you don’t have to have every fire safety measure in that building that’s perfect because some things can be counteracting and compensating for others.

VICTORIA FINN We’re being asked to renew doors that have not got bidirectional testing. Just thinking about the comments there about having doors that are 30 years old, probably most of us won’t be able to have doors that are 30 years old because they ’re not bidirectional tested and we’ve been asked to renew them. It makes me think, that’s not being holistic, is it? In one way we’re being asked to look at things holistically, and we should be looking at things holistically, but then we’re being asked (especially on FRAs) that we need to be renewing those doors because they’re not bidirectional tested. But we have got full alarms, compartmentation is completely intact and we’ve got sprinklers in. So holistically we should be able to do what you’ve just said and look at the door from that view point, but…

GEORGE Who’s asking you?

VICTORIAN FINN It was legislation that we had to have bidirectional tested doors on blocks of flats over 18 metres.

GEORGE It’s legislation. Is that right, Alan?

ALAN OLIVER No, the fire door industry (I’m going to be fairly cynical here) is driven by test houses and fire door manufacturers who would love you to replace every door in every one of your buildings. But some of your doors are probably fit for purpose and could probably be risk managed and some of them could probably be certified under BRE LPCB LPS1197 as being suitable and sufficient for their location, providing the client understands the limitations of that certification and is happy that they understand the limitations and they’ve had them expertly assessed.

GEORGE I’d be surprised if the legislation actually explicitly says that you’ve got to…is that right, Vic?

VICTORIA FINN Yeah, that’s how I’m interpreting it, and again, obviously the legislation as always is subjective. It’s also coming through on the FRAs, can you show that that’s bidirectionally tested. No we can’t, and while it’s in situ you never can. So if that’s the requirement of the FRAs the only way we can do that is by renewing the door. But then it’s a snapshot in time again, because as soon as you leave that property anything can happen to that door. That’s what I’m saying, it’s not holistic, we should be able to look at what else is there. We know we’ve got very good compartmentation and we know it’s regularly reviewed, we know that we’ve got sprinklers in place etc, so realistically we should be able to leave that door in place.

And then of course once we’ve replaced it anyway, when we’re going and having a look on an annual basis at those front entrance fire doors, we’re looking against the Trada questions as a base of what to look at. Looking at the door, it's got this, it’s got that, it’s fine. But obviously again it’s subjective to the person who’s looking at it, even if you’ve got a set of questions it’s subjective. So, I agree with the holistic view, to look at what else is there, but this is what we’re being asked to do and this is what’s also being picked up on the FRAs to replace these doors.

ALAN OLIVER Who is asking you to do it?

VICTORIA FINN I interpret the legislation as that anyway, but our fire risk assessors, external assessors are asking for them to be done and asking if they’ve got bidirectional testing. We’ve even been asked by the fire service that they’ve got bidirectional testing, and I know a lot of other RPs are doing the same.

ALAN OLIVER So how many doors will you be potentially replacing in the next 12 months?

VICTORIA FINN we’ve nearly done them all. 1200.

JONATHAN FURLONG …organisations I’ve seen are taking a different view. This is part of the problem though in the industry, some stuff sometimes just isn’t clear and what some people think…some people will go that’s best practice, but not a legislative absolute requirement, and other people will be I see it as a requirement, and some of this is tough. As I say, just simply on the weekly testing organisations I’ve been involved with in the past or organisations I know of say absolutely no weekly testing, no requirement, so we won’t do weekly testing, we’ll do monthly testing. Because it’s a fourfold increase and if you have 300 blocks that’s a huge amount.

RICHARD That’s a very expensive interpretation that you have to make, that’s extraordinary. We know Bex, they’ve ripped all of theirs out.

GLENN BRAWN I was at London Build a few weeks ago and there was a really good fire safety stage, I was absolutely astounded that Neville Tomblin from Southampton City Council, they didn’t check any of their doors and they just ripped them all out and replaced them all. And is it any wonder, as Alan said, there’s cowboy fire door firms out there where perfectly good doors that don’t need work are being replaced at high cost. It’s absolute insanity.

ALAN OLIVER Clearly what Vic is doing is the best scenario, if you’ve got the money and you can afford to replace all of your doors. One of my concerns is that people are not getting robust fire door protocols in place and they’re going to manage and maintain them so that they keep to that standard because the concern is that in 5 years-time it could be that other organisations, they’ve got the same scenario in 5 years-time because maybe they’ve not been installed under third-party certification. Maybe not all of the components are as-tested, maybe they’re not going to be managed and maintained. And if people are going to replace all of their doors the one thing they need to have for sure is a robust set of fire door protocols where everything joins up and you’re going to make sure that you don’t have to do the same thing in 5-10 years-time.

PAUL WHITE The first point is on the fire doors, if they’re very old then have a look and see what legislation or guidance was in place at the time because you only have to meet the legislation of when the building was constructed. So if the legislation was in place at the time that said you could do this then you’re absolutely fine. There might be other reasons why they might be unsound, but if they met the requirements at the time the building was built then you don’t have to change anything.

The other thing is that if you think fire doors are bad you haven’t even thought about fire dampers yet, because I bet I can go into any of the buildings that any of you are related to and they’ve got fire dampers in, that there is a high proportion of those that weren’t installed properly and it will be obvious. And hopefully when you have your next fire damper inspection that people are doing it more competently now, rather than just checking that they open and close, and you’re potentially going to have a completely different issue there.

DANIEL O’DOWD Hearing the conversation I’m wondering in the scenario that was noted there of the doors being completely replaced, how much is it to commission an inspection of that door? Get the person inspecting the door to add a certificate or dig up the certificate you’ve already got which may or may not be there and then digitise that, versus someone who may come along and say if I install a new door I’m going to provide you with every piece of information that is required under the current legislation.

And I wonder then it that scenario, OK, it’s definitely better for the environment to keep the door that you’ve already got, but in terms of you won business operation security, in terms of legal security, in terms of having all of the information that you need and so on, I do wonder (though I feel it may be in one direction) that’s why it makes more sense a lot of the time to replace…

RICHARD It’s cheaper to replace it than go through all of the rigmarole.

DANIEL O’DOWD I don’t know, I’ve not got experience of doing that process, but it’s something that I wonder about.

GEORGE One observation on that is that I’s spoken to several councils who have done that. I know one that’s replaced 4000 doors and the new doors that they’ve had installed, over 70% of them have failed inspection. So you’re replacing a door that probably was working…there’s no excuse for that, that’s down to the competence of the people that are installing it. but that’s a common complaint that I’ve heard of.

ALAN OLIVER Three things: the first one is that i take issue with what Paul said about the fact that all you have to do is see when the door was installed and whether it met the standards at the time because that’s overridden by the fire safety order that says that a door has now got to be suitable and sufficient for its location. The second thing is you're absolutely right that a brand new door might not be installed correctly. You’ve got to look at the complete golden thread of information and just because you’ve got a brand new fully certified manufactured fire door you can make a complete horlicks of installing it. It’s out there in the public domain where that’s been happening on numerous occasions going back a long time. And what was your last point, George?

GEORGE That the installation may not actually address the problem and you end up with a door that probably was working OK but you didn’t have the right certification against it. Or it hadn’t been tested for that and you’re replacing it with one that doesn’t do the job.

ALAN OLIVER Yes, you’re coming back to this golden thread of information. The point I was going to make is the test houses and the fire door manufacturers will love you to go out and buy a brand new door. If you’re going to be really cynical you’d say they’d also love you to install that door really badly, so that you’ve then got to replace it again in a few years time. And this is where the whole system is flawed. The other point I was picking up is it’s not just the fire door installers who have to be competent, it’s the client who has to fully understand how a brand new fire door has got to be signed off competently and it’s the got to be managed and maintained competently.

RICHARD We’ve covered a lot of ground today. We’re obviously going to take onboard this meeting, all of our meetings are recorded and highpoint notes written up which are sent out to you. We’ll be taking onboard all the comments we’ve had by email and obviously today and rejigging, rewriting those questions which will then be put out, published in January as recommendations from BIM4Housing. You’ll all receive a copy and a draft to actually input into that.

GEORGE Basically the work-streams and the working groups, we have them all published on the website https://bim4housing.com/ so that you can actually see, for example, what we’ve been doing n the fire safety workstream and you see the questions that we had from last week. We’ve got the recording of the session itself, so you can actually replay and go back and see. What i tend to do with this is set it on a faster speed and then just go through and you can pick up quite a lot from that. We also put the highpoints into a document so that we’ve got that all recorded.

CHAT

[11:06] Rene Van Zwijndrecht

I Believe “live” will not be as live as we want. In the interim, there should be a procedure/platform in place to keep accurate change records so that at any point the latest changes can be pinpointed. It might be that a change is in progress so there won’t be updates however a way of showing it is in progress and will be updated via process.

[11:12] Victoria Finn

perhaps there needs to be a more robust engagement of architects and requirements set out for changes

[11:31] Ben Blackwood

Agree

[11:34] Rene Van Zwijndrecht

Yes, Agree, and it requires constant maintenance of the information. We put into our proposals the maintenance aspect.

[11:37] Jonathan Furlong

Agree proportionate.

[11:44] Colin White  smoke control dampers ltd (Guest)

Up to date a much better word

[11:51] Glenn Brawn

Essential Fire Fighting equipment is monthly. The problem that remains is the guidance and ambiguity still from HSE.

[11:56] Ben Blackwood

Fire alarms are required to be tested weekly

[11:58] Victoria Finn

that is my belief under RRO

[12:11] Ben Blackwood

YES PLEASE!

[12:12] Colin White  smoke control dampers ltd (Guest)

Yes please for me as well.

[12:13] Glenn Brawn

And Me

[12:13] Daniel O'Dowd

yes please

[12:13] Victoria Finn

but as we are being asked to renew doors that don’t have bi directional testing that isnt holistic

[12:13] Jonathan Furlong

yes for advanced copy please

[12:13] Simon Collery (Guest)

Excellent response, Alan.

[12:15] Glenn Brawn

This is very true!!

[12:16] Jonathan Furlong

Ben in residential under RFO i do not believe there are weekly checks required only monthly

but i could be wrong https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fire-safety-england-regulations-2022/fact-sheet-overview

[12:23] Ben Blackwood

BS9999 and BS5839-1 states weekly.  I would say that the FSER is an absolute minimum.   In a complex building, is the absolute minimum adequate?

[12:23] Jonathan Furlong

Residential is rarely classed as complex

[12:24] Glenn Brawn

Very true. Perfectly good FD's being chucked

[12:27] Ben Blackwood

A higher risk building with multiple systems and tenures I would personally test weekly.  Especially with the experience of how often they break.

But agree that a proportionate risk based judgement is appropriate.

[12:29] Jonathan Furlong

Ben agree weekly is best practice, but a difference between best practice, legal requirement and proportionate