In this episode of the Smarter Building podcast, we caught up with Dr. Stephen Hamil, Innovation Director at NBS, to gain insights into the future landscape of the construction industry and the upcoming trends in 2024.
Changes around Fire Regulations and what it may mean for our industry
2020 was certainly very busy for many reasons, but something happened in the fire safety sector which largely went unnoticed.
In July 2020, the government published a new draft bill which is titled the Building Safety Bill. In this bill the government proposed regulatory reform on the back of the report produced by Dame Judith Hackitt. The bill introduces new requirements in the building fire safety sector, potentially affecting owner operators, contractors, architects, and specialists in fire engineering. The bill ensures the safety of people who occupy our buildings by improving transparency of information. It introduces accountability, making responsibility for managing safety risk throughout in the design, construction, and occupation process of buildings clear. This includes responsibility to provide information in a manner that can be reviewed and understood consistently. This of course is the basis of good Information Management.
And so, given my focus is Information Management, this bill is certainly of real interest to me and how it will impact day to day processes deployed currently in the construction industry. The bill requires a “golden thread” of building information to be digitally created, stored, and updated, and critically this needs to occur throughout the building life-cycle process, not just on completion. It is not the role of the bill to provide us with the configuration to meet this requirement and we expect we will see the development of British standards over the next year or two to provide this key missing piece of the jigsaw. Indeed, there is a notable standard in development, BS 8644, which is titled “Digital Management of Fire Safety Information for Design, Construction, Handover and Emergency Response. Code of practice”. We have not seen this standard yet and we expect it to be agnostic of formats and solutions but outline the way digital information should be collated and handled. We also expect it to reference the information management and exchange standards we’ve got used to with “BIM Level 2” as defined within ISO 19650. I am expecting the standard to become available to us in the latter part of 2021, so it is a good one to keep an eye on.
ISO 19650 already provides us with a structured business framework for digital information management, and a lot of organisations have already changed their internal configuration. This includes quality management procedures to meet the requirements that are now regularly deployed on projects that utilise this standard to form the information handover requirements. Symetri can assist with this through gap analysis services allowing organisations to put task plans together with the aim of improving their business practices to meet ISO 19650 needs. Organisations have also started to look at technologies to deliver the information digitally including using Building Information Models (BIM) as their source of data for production of fire protection systems drawings, specification and performance analysis. We’ve been working closely with solution providers such Briab over in Sweden, who provide very innovative tools which allow architects and fire safety engineers to start producing their documentation in this way and we are running several exciting proof of concepts with our customer base at the moment.
While of course we can’t make a statement to say this will make organisations compliant without fully documented future requirements, improving business processes and technical solutions in this way can only be a step in the right direction in my opinion. While the Building Safety Bill may well be the push that is needed, there is plenty of opportunity for organisations to improve beyond simply meeting regulatory requirements. By producing information within the BIM process, a well-established and understood technique elsewhere in the construction industry, we can of course take advantage of the capability to coordinate and analyse much more efficiently using connected data than we have been able to previously. This makes us more competitive in our marketplace.
I personally believe that the fire safety sector is one to keep an eye on in 2021 as we expect to see some significant movement in this area. We certainly will be, and we expect to be working with many organisations to help them to get ready. It promises to be another busy year!