New London Architecture

Further clarity needed on responsibilities and accountability for fire safety, expert panel finds

Tuesday 12 October 2021

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Arita Morris

Child Graddon Lewis

The Expert Technical group will aim to evolve the NLA’s Expert Panel collaboration and to continue to inform the programme of events with the collective goal of a New London Agenda. The plan is to contribute to key objectives that will see London resilient and sustainable in the future.

Whilst being London focussed, the Technical EP’s discussion topics are of course about how any building – in any part of the country - can be built better.  

The first meeting of the second round picked up the key themes from the past 12 months, but with a fresh group of panel members.

Digital capability and MMC: the basics alongside emerging roles and professional capabilities needed. 

Retrofitting for the future: how should buildings designed today embed circular economy principles so that they are capable of being effectively repurposed many years in the future.
Fire safety: a continuing focus topic with regular updates planned as part of the NLA programme. 
Legislation: emerging legislation in relation to building safety and construction
Teams and skills: what the future design team and new skills/professions that are likely to be needed. 
It will be enormously interesting to explore these themes with panel members informing topics with their specialisms and expertise in construction product manufacturing, Health & Safety, Building Regulations, Digital capability & DfMa, Construction, technical design, façade manufacturing & design and the future of intelligent buildings and homes.  

David Murray raised important points about the potential impacts as we move towards the future, and the risks of alienating people and cutting out site operatives and their skills. It is an area that needs some thought and connected with that how to overcome barriers to gaining new skills and innovation. In addition, the cost/value equation/clarity of regulatory frameworks as we evolve buildings towards a net zero future and how this works with MMC. 

Peter Cappelhorn’s overview of manufacturing and products raised the discussions around different approaches to how components are put together. This was explored further with Seya Tansill’s points regarding the recent focus on measuring for example Pre Manufactured Value (PMV) and the benefits of sharing research and experience. More transparent and robust ways to share information & expertise is key to a culture change in the way we approach design & construction. 

Fire safety updates focussed on fire testing. Neil Farrance and Kin Kay Lee both explained how practices are formulating material registers that are signed by the whole design team. Its clear specifiers need to regain trust in certification of products to avoid new products coming to market and designers avoiding them.  Simon He asked who will police the reliability of certification?

There is better guidance emerging as a result of the Building Safety Act for example in relation to evacuation and the stay put policy. However, further clarity is still needed on responsibilities and therefore accountability. It is hoped the new building safety regulator will bring clarity to this issue. 

Kin Kay Lee  commented on how technical competency should be embedded in higher education curriculums in a more meaningful way. Michael Morgan added that the building regulatory framework should also be an important part of design education. 
Nattasha Freeman explained the CDM Regs change in 2015 the HSE took out the reference to competency and replaced this with the need to have "skills knowledge experience and training". 
The Hackitt Report called for a culture change too. Training is the word that seems to be missing, but it is crucial that competence involves both training and experience. 
However, it is critical that behaviours also change (transparency, peer reviews, etc) if a culture change is to be achieved. 

In relation to technical design, David advocated the early involvement of contractors in the design process supporting the recommendation with the Construction Playbook. The benefits in planning site logistics – from deliveries to procurement of components and materials– would lead to a more efficient construction process. It is why MMC also requires early involvement from the supply chain which might lead to more staged appointment procurement or within a PCSA type of process. 

This will certainly be a feature of the future design team – data capture and monitoring, AI and the software to support this will require programming abilities so that more evidence based approach to design and construction can be formulated.   

Dale had the final word on the future design team – anthologists! With that he dropped the mike. Stay posted for the next episode. 

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Arita Morris

Child Graddon Lewis

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