We cannot forget the lessons of Grenfell

The golden thread of information must improve transparency and drive collaboration between project partners to make our buildings safer

Grenfell Tower

This week marks the second anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire – a tragedy which led to 72 people losing their lives while doing nothing more than being in the place they called home.

Worryingly, Grenfell is not alone in being an unsafe building.

A report released by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government last year showed that 470 buildings were covered in the same unsafe Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding as Grenfell.

Affected buildings included hotels, hospitals and schools as well as high rise residential.

In addition to this we have seen the collapse of a car park in Nottingham and school roofs subsiding across the country.

Dame Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety was correct to identify that major changes and improvements to the building safety system are needed.

Last week the Government released its Building a Safer Future proposals setting out new rules and clearer responsibilities for those constructing or managing buildings which are six or more storeys high.

The document proposes new duties of care that apply during the entire lifecycle of a building from design to construction, management and occupation including evidence gained through regular inspection, reviews and maintenance of the building

The Government is right to determine that the key to this is the creation of a golden thread of accurate and up-to-date information about the design, construction and ongoing maintenance of buildings.

The consultation will determine whether the Government will choose to mandate that the golden thread of building information complies with Building Information Modelling (BIM) standards.

While the Government has quite rightly focussed its initial efforts for this on multi-occupancy higher risk residential buildings it is not difficult to see the direction of travel for this.

All of us have the right to be safe in the buildings in which we live and work.

RIBA has already called on the Government to extend these regulations to other high risk buildings such as schools, hospitals, care homes and prisons.

The reality is that one day the golden thread of information will need to apply to all significant commercial, residential and leisure buildings.

The insurance industry is already beginning to drive this.

Many questions are asked of facilities managers and asset owners when a property is being bought or sold, such as; location, local environment, condition, energy efficiency and running costs.

However, over the past 12 months insurers have begun asking more detailed questions about a building’s fixtures and fittings.

  • What materials are they made of?
  • When they were last checked?
  • Do you know the make and specification of the fire doors and fire extinguishers fitted?
  • Are these items checked, maintained and the maintenance details logged regularly?
  • Do you have digital data and digital evidence to prove this?

A golden thread of high-quality digital information will enable FMs to better manage building safety, through effective and efficient maintenance.

Of course, many buildings change hands during their lifetimes and for this to be effective FMs need to help asset owners maintain a robust golden thread of key information to pass on to future building owners to maintain effective safety and management throughout the building’s life-cycle.

Those unable to comply with this will face higher insurance premiums, an inability to get cover and a less safe, less valuable building.

As Mitie CTIO David Cooper has highlighted data can help transform facilities management from a commodity supplier to a valued partner.

The golden thread of information can also transform FMs into guardians and custodians of both the building’s safety and data which underpins this safety.

The golden thread will improve transparency and help to drive collaboration between FMs, designers, developers, contractors, asset owners.

As dutyholders these parties will not only have individual responsibilities, but we all have a duty to work together more closely to improve building safety for occupiers.

Technology is the solution to this.

Technology can empower facilities managers, asset owners and other partners to improve the safety of buildings by identifying which materials are on the interior and exterior of our buildings, which elements have been inspected and maintained, and which elements still require inspection and repair.

It is vitally important that the lessons of Grenfell are never forgotten and new ways of working become embedded across the supply chain to make our buildings safer.

By James Connolly, Head of Partnerships at eviFile

 

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