The impending legislation will require building operators to comply with challenging new regulations. They should be preparing for it now, says James Dickson
The Building Safety Bill, published in draft this summer, was described by Robert Jenrick, our previous secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, as “the most significant and fundamental change to building safety legislation in decades”.
Although it is not the first time we have seen demands for better building regulation and fire safety – the 2018 report by Dame Judith Hackitt was a watershed moment for better enforcement and reporting – now the industry must find future-proofed ways to ensure it meets expectations.
The bill, now at a review stage, provides building owners with sufficient guidance about what may or may not be included in the final draft, and provides clarity on the new standards of fire safety data. Thinking about its management needs to be made a priority.
Building operators will need to have fit-for-purpose handover documentation in digital formats so that fire safety can be appropriately managed throughout the building’s entire lifecycle
The bill’s “gateway” regime, requiring risks relating to building safety to be considered throughout the planning, design and construction phases of a project, means a legal requirement to responsibly collate correct and comprehensive fire and emergency information. Understandably this has led to some apprehension, with questions being raised as to how to efficiently and easily record and track the information required.
The task at hand is significant: building operators will now need to have fit-for-purpose handover documentation in digital formats so that fire safety can be appropriately managed throughout the building’s entire lifecycle. While parts of the property sector have moved to adopt smart data solutions to streamline the management of information, robust data management in fire safety presents challenges, particularly around responsibility for data collection and sign-off, availability of software, and around skills and training.
We have a large consultancy team dedicated to fire and life safety at AESG and so we have been at the forefront of conversations around the implications of the bill. It has quickly become apparent that there is a real need for a platform that provides a practical solution to host accurate, live and relevant information throughout the lifecycle of the development, and one which could be accessed by anyone with responsibility for a building, anywhere and at any time.
Fire+ directly responds to these requirements. The tool acts as a logbook, supporting owners of existing and new buildings to map life safety, compliance, efficiency, reliability, and sustainability performance from the outset. Design for the cloud-based tool was based on our existing commissioning and handover management tool, which at five years old, is a tried and tested platform.
The tool goes a long way to removing doubt or confusion surrounding data sources and accuracy and eliminating one of the biggest challenges in the acquisition of existing buildings
Usable by all parties involved in a building’s lifecycle, Fire+ hosts a wealth of information ranging from fire strategies, design and construction drawings, digital audit trails, contractor submissions and BIM validation tools, to health and safety files and other information deemed relevant to Hackitt’s critical golden thread.
The tool goes a long way to removing doubt or confusion surrounding data sources and accuracy and eliminating one of the biggest challenges in the acquisition of existing buildings: assessment of risk. It enables real confidence in building data, reducing commercial risk management and cost.
The concept of utilising data to create a digital logbook that belongs to the building has precedence. The recently launched Building Renovation Passport framework from the Green Finance Institute recommends a way to hold historical and contemporary information about a property to help owners to improve energy efficiency.
It is this kind of innovation in collating and hosting data using smart, cloud-based tools and the ability to present data in a standardised and transparent way that plays a key part in avoiding future tragedies.
As buildings become more automated and monitored, connecting cloud-based software into performance solutions (such as digital twin technology) gives us an opportunity to set the bar much higher in data collation and accountability, and support our industry in becoming more responsive to future challenges.
James Dickson is the global director of facades at AESG, an engineering and sustainability consultant