Legislation Set to Digitise High-rise Housing
A change is coming.
New legislation, expected in the coming months, will force the owners of high-rise residential buildings (HRRBs) to hold robust digital information about their assets. For many building owners, this presents significant challenges. We need a culture change in how we design, build and operate HRRBs.
Building a Safer Future
In May 2018, following the Grenfell disaster, the ‘Building a Safer Future’ report, led by Dame Judith Hackitt was published. This report was commissioned to independently investigate the issues surrounding the current Building and Fire Safety Regulations. As expected, the findings of the report were damning.
Dame Judith found several areas of concern:
– the roles and responsibilities of those procuring, designing, constructing and maintaining buildings are unclear
– building regulations are ambiguous
– competence in the industry is patchy
– product testing, labelling and marketing are insufficient
– residents’ voices are not heard.
One example of her findings was of doors marketed as fire resistant for 30 minutes that failed subsequent re-testing.
The key recommendations of the report were the introduction of a new regulatory framework and the creation of a new Joint Competent Authority (JCA). The JCA will be formed from existing bodies including LABC, the HSE, and the Fire and Rescue Service. The regulatory framework will focus on the design, and construction of all multi-occupancy HRRBs. A digital record of the building will be used in regular ‘safety case reviews’, ensuring that these buildings are safe for their residents. Proposals in the ‘Building a Safer Future’ consultation incorporated recommendations from the Hackitt Report. A strong theme in these proposals, was for structured digital information to be the ‘golden thread’ throughout the life-cycle of a HRRB.
Access to Information
Collating digital information on new-build HRRBs should be achievable for all owners with little effort. The supply chain in the construction industry has had several years transitioning to working in the age of information, providing this sort of data.
The challenge for many building owners will be two-fold:
– assessing what information is available for existing HRRB stock
– adapting business systems and processes to hold and maintain digital asset information.
Structured digital information has become commonplace in other sectors. Market pressures and the financial crash compelled retail and industrial property owners to innovate their business processes. Sadly, it took a tragedy for wholescale action to occur in the residential sector.
However, the move towards trusted structured information presents opportunities for building owners. The JCA will use the structured information as a basis for safety case reviews, but the main beneficiaries of this process are those concerned with governance, and of course, the occupants of the building. From a governance perspective, business processes based on secure access to a dataset will drive compliance. Building systems that need regular maintenance can be programmed into automated events. Responsibilities, statuses and reporting can be built into a transparent asset management system. Currently, asset management is often exceptionally fragmented, with compliance largely being achieved despite disparate knowledge across an organisation. A truly digital system can change this, offering dashboard-style management of not only an asset, but also a whole estate.
Finally, we must appreciate the resident. Anyone living in a HRRB should be able to instantly access information about the safety of their home. For example, when the sprinkler was last tested, the emergency escape strategy, what the building is made from… Most importantly, the resident should have a voice.
The new legislation is eagerly awaited by many.
Are you ready?
Get in touch to discover how we can help you and your estate meet the needs with our BIM Manager Mark Turner.