Building Safety Bill ─ Residents’ Voice

Accountable Persons MUST ensure the effective assessment and management of their building’s safety

Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review found that residents did not have a strong enough voice in the management of their buildings. They often:

► did not have the chance to offer views and participate in the decision-making process about the management of safety in their building;

► lacked access to key building safety information

► struggled to get their complaints addressed

The current draft Bill provides clear routes to resolve issues raised by residents about the assessment and management of building safety risks. ...

Download Link to Government Guidance ─ Updated 14 October 2021: 

Residents’ Voice: factsheet

As the Grenfell Inquiry rumbles on we hear more and more unfolding evidence under oath just how badly the body of residents were so poorly treated and their voices disregarded! ─ David Jones, Director of Education and Training at The Institute Of Construction Management reminds that Grenfell Tower residents actually told the council landlord three months before the disaster they were “seriously concerned that people might die in a fire", but their fears were not properly addressed and they were treated as “sub-citizens” ...

... by spring of 2017 leaseholders had escalated their worries that gas main installation work in the single evacuation staircase posed a serious fire risk ─ that group of residents warned the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC): “If we cannot get out people will die or at best suffer serious injury.” ...

... "it was a life and death issue that just wasn’t being dealt with by RBKC and its tenant management organisation" ─ the Inquiry was told by Lee Chapman, the secretary of the Grenfell leaseholders’ association ... and he reported "their responses were totally uninformative and generic and there was an us and them relationship between the landlord and residents" ...

“It is very long way down … in the event that after 30 minutes of fire our house is engulfed.” ─ said Lee Chapman, who lived on the 22nd floor, in a prophetic warning to the council ─ then, barely some few weeks later, exactly that happened when fire spread from the fourth to the 24th storey in less than half an hour, killing 72 people ─ at the time of the fire Lee Chapman was away on work and away from his wife, Naomi Li, who was at home ─ she only escaped after 3am, by which time the tower was fully ablaze ...

the chair of the leaseholders’ association Tunde Awoderu also warned the landlord that "the pipes put our life in danger and we don’t feel secure in the building any more” ...

These warnings emerged into the light at the judge led Inquiry during the very first day of evidence from the tower residents about their relationship with the council and the TMO ...

David Jones, Director of Education and Training at The Institute Of Construction Management was invited to meet with a group of survivors who had come together to share and reflect at the amazing Latymer Centre that had been newly provided for them by the fantastic Big-Build-Team of Nick Knowles and his great team ... it was there at that meeting that David Jones met David Collins, a resident who became chairman of a residents’ group set up in response to “extreme dissatisfaction” with how people in the tower were being treated, told the inquiry the TMO viewed residents as “a distraction to be minimised, sidelined or ignored” ─ and where David Jones is so proud and elated to have first met with Gill Kernick too who is an internationally experienced strategic consultant specializing in safety, culture and leadership and who has recently authored perhaps her defining book of our generation on the Catastrophe of the Grenfell Tower Fire and Other Disasters ... a really recommended 'special insight' volume that is a 'must-be read' says David Jones as Gill actually lived for a time prior to the fire on the 21st floor of Grenfell between 2011 to 2014 ...

Residents were experiencing threats, lies, bullying and harassment from TMO and Rydon [the main contractor],” David Collins reported to the Inquiry ~ a survey of 58 households by the Grenfell Residents group found two-thirds had felt pressured, harassed, lied to or threatened. A similar proportion “felt they had to fight TMO” to solve problems

In 2015, amid widespread concerns about standards of workmanship and the safety of design decisions, the residents really struggled to secure meetings with the leaders of RBKC and the TMO, which considered the group to be “a showcase for Mr Daffarn” [an email later released to the inquiry showed that to be absolutely true!] Edward Daffarn, a 16th-floor resident, wrote the Grenfell Action Group blog, which in 2016 predicted a major fire ... it was that blog that triggered ICM's David Jones to become focused upon the enormity of the task ahead to provide robust interfacing between residents and the eventual Building Safety Manager in some way of providing the residents with a reliably trusted communication channel.

David Collins said the suggestion of threats, lies, bullying and harassment was “a disgrace” and said 100 people from the tower had been involved in the group. Among its concerns was that "a decision to renumber the tower’s floors could prove dangerous in an emergency” ─ Indeed the inquiry has now found “firefighters were unable to identify floors clearly when carrying out firefighting or search and rescue operations within the building”.

Lee Chapman represented a small number of residents who actually had purchased and owned their flats under leasehold entitlement told the inquiry: “ultimately we were people who wanted to feel safe in our homes, and this should not have been perceived by the TMO as something which was annoying or bothersome. I also believe that as residents in a so-called ‘social housing block’, we were treated as sub-citizens or sub-class.”

The inquiry heard that on 23 March 2017 the leaseholders’ association emailed RBKC’s director of housing, Laura Johnson, saying: “There are many people in this building who are immobile, very young or suffer from mental health issues, I would ask for your undivided help in getting this matter resolved for all interested parties”

Lee Chapman told the inquiry he “did not feel that these concerns were ever taken seriously, gas pipes were drilled through walls and boxed in in the cheapest possible way, and the residents wanted an independent expert to urgently check the safety of the works ─ one fear was that the pipes could easily be vandalised, potentially causing a catastrophic explosion" ...

Although it was the combustible Aluminium Composite Cladding with its hydrocarbon solid fuel between the metal skins that melted and combusted rather than gas pipes was the main cause of fire spread, the residents reported they were able to smell the gas while evacuating the building and, when the gas main was finally switched off, the raging flames died down relatively rapidly as the fuel load in the tower had been exhausted

Lee Chapman said “I was incredibly confused by the TMO’s reluctance to engage with this as an issue, - it didn’t make sense to me that the landlord would not be interested in this issue, especially as it was one which could damage their own asset if the works were unsafe”

In late March the TMO’s executive director of operations, Sacha Jevans, replied that the TMO employed “a competent and experienced health and safety adviser who is supported by … a competent independent consultant who undertakes fire risk assessments ─ as a result, no independent adjudicator – requested by the leaseholders – was needed"

 Lee Chapman also detailed to the Inquiry how multiple complaints about shoddy workmanship with new windows and extractor fans went unresolved. In March, April and May 2017 he complained to the contractor Rydon and the TMO about wind coming through gaps in the new windows, which had been “shoved on quickly”.

In April the TMO flagged the issue for handling “within 24 hours” ─ but, more than six weeks later, and by the time of the fire, it still had not been fixed.

A “ridiculous noise” with the new extractor fan the previous September should have been fixed within days but again was unresolved more than eight months later ...

ICM's David Jones is an experienced senior manager of property divisions within social housing, housing associations over many decades extending from the early days when the Housing Corporation was its government's body ─ experienced with several local authorities in the capital including hands on with the professional management of direct labour organisations [DLOs] over some of the most difficult times for social housing in modern history; experiencing some bizarre political decisions causing the demise of the robust controls eg. ALMOs [where the councils decide to transfer whole divisions to external Arms Length Management Organisations], TUPE [and eventual TUPE back when the first grand idea essentially proved to fail!]; then selling off those essentially competent in-house teams of professionals to external commercial organisations who then raced them to the bottom with fractured supply chains motivated on profit with lessening focus on safety, quality and listening to residents and users!

David Jones has been closely involved professionally with CDM since its original enactment in 1994 when the UK govt enacted EU Directive 92/57/EEC onto the statute books after a couple of years (and under threat from EU to take the UK to the EU Court of Justice for the delay!) and difficult consultation with some of the UK professional bodies which eventually forced 'a fix' by separating the project pre-construction stage from the construction phase [maybe an early blunder?] to bring some of the professions onboard!   David reminds us the original Directive has never changed but the UK has had a number of major iterations over the years 'to get CDM right' ... Between 2007 to 2011 David visioned and led the first UK e-learning / accreditation platform for in-house local authority teams across the whole UK, eventually training >12.5k officers including >1.5k highways officers of the x33 highway authorities of London through x30 modules of courses he co-authored with the late Tony Baker [author of CDM2007 - a guide for clients and their advisers - RICS Books] ~ winning Constructing Excellence national awards twice [2007 & 2011] on the way, and receiving a personal Champion Award [one of only three] from the HSE in 2008 ~ now from his position with The ICM gives some personal insight to:

The 'new' statutorily appointed professional role of the Building Safety Manager [BSM]

Those in control of certain high-risk multi-occupied residential buildings will in future have to appoint a Building Safety Manager [BSM] to oversee the fire and structural safety of the building ─ this concept first featured in Dame Judith Hackitt’s report 'Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety' in which her vision was that the BSM would be responsible for the day-to-day management of the building while also acting as the point of contact for residents.

Hackitt stipulates BSMs will need to have the right set of skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours [SKEB] to take on the new role, which would need to contribute to holistic, whole building safety for higher-risk buildings.

The BSM will have three functions:

► to manage the building in accordance with the safety case report;

► to establish and operate a mandatory occurrence reporting system; and

► to implement a resident engagement strategy.

The BSM function is a statutory role with some choice as to the appointment by the AP ─ that it could be taken up by an individual or organisation ─ in the case of organisations there would need to be an appropriated nominated leading individual with appropriate SKEB to manage the BSM functions within the organisation. 

The BSM’s principal role is:

► to support the Accountable Person [AP] in the day-to-day management of fire and structural safety for buildings in scope 

It is worth noting the AP does not have any competence requirements attached to their dutyholding role ─ so they need professional support when managing their buildings ─ unless, of course, they would meet the BSM competence requirements themselves!  "Now, that would indeed mark a true cultural change if Building Owners [APs] themselves realised the benefits of upskilling to truly safely manage the buildings they own!" says David Jones ... 

BSMs are highly likely to (initially at least) be drawn from across the whole spectrum of professionals currently working in the occupation phase of the built environment.   The most likely profile fit would seem to be a facilities management professional with health and safety experience ─ many other professionals are declaring an interest too eg. managing agents, fire safety professionals, housing professionals, health and safety specialists, engineers and many more ...

Some are actually querying as to whether there will be sufficient supply for the demand of the role, but, given the broad-spectrum interest, it is unlikely there will be problems.   What is more likely to happen is that many professionals will need to upskill in a particular area for the role, as the role does have a broad remit and each functional component requires appropriate levels of appropriate skills, knowledge and expertise [SKE].

The BSM will need to have an appropriate depth of understanding of:

► structures and building operations,

► life safety (including fire safety) and how to maintain it in buildings,

► risk assessment and management, and understanding the limits of their competence

At all times the BSM will be required to provide clear leadership, taking the lead on the resident engagement who are the ultimate stakeholders in these buildings!   Without the residents' co-operation it will be impossible to achieve holistic building safety.

Benefits and challenges:

The most obvious benefit of the role is that there would be a single competent and dedicated person who should have a holistic overview of a building’s safety status.  While the number of buildings a BSM will manage will not be prescribed, the expectation is that the BSM will be familiar with the building and its safety case. This means that the number of buildings in a BSM’s portfolio should remain manageable. The Regulator will be registering BSMs as part of the safety assurance certificate, so they should know how many buildings an individual BSM will manage.

It is possible by considering using a single person should close any gaps that would arise if there were multiple people responsible for fire safety perhaps and, where there are mixed-use buildings, such issues would most certainly arise ─ but this will be an area to be effectively and appropriately managed by the new duty to cooperate with any Responsible Persons under the Fire Safety Order 2005.

It most certainly isn’t just the competence linked to a single individual that is important; running alongside and embedded into the new BSM role are the wider requirements for competent people throughout the lifecycle of the building and the golden thread of information duties.   It is only through robust information, validated through competent people, that better and safer decision making during the occupation phase will be enabled.

As the BSM is a regulated statutory role that is expected to be helpful in an area that is often dominated by risk management where perhaps too much focus on compliance with minimum standards has been the norm.   The prime focus on inappropriate and insufficient financial budgets and resources causing focus on minimum standards has often undermined the ability to achieve the right outcomes.

A huge challenge to achieving the Hackitt vision is where the AP will have no competence requirements.   The roles will be locked essentially into a contractual relationship between the AP ─ with the BSM setting terms and conditions.  

In reality, the bulk of APs are unlikely to understand the requirements and demands of the BSM role.  This likely scenario where an intended BSM will likely need to guide the AP in the pre-appointment stage will be a source of relationship pressure that will clearly challenge to the expected ultimate independence of the BSM.   Interestingly, the draft Building Safety Bill has strengthened the appointment process by making it a statutory absolute for the AP to certify exactly how the AP has ascertained the BSM is indeed appropriate to be duly appointed and the evidence recorded all in written form.

It is important for the new legislation to clearly and unequivocally set what the legal duties of the BSM are ─ without complete clarity, there is huge scope for varying interpretation of what the role should really do, which would only be mitigated by the competence requirements of the PAS 8673 and any consequent certification scheme that would ensure people are genuinely competent for the role.  How this link between the PAS and the statutory guidance for the AP (to meet their due diligence requirements) is enshrined in legislation will be crucial, not just for the raising of competence standards, but also for achieving the ultimate aim of safer homes.   Anticipating this sector challenge, the Trademark protection for the Registration of CDM Competence The Institute of Construction Management was awarded by the Intellectual Property Office in 2018 is specifically intended to address this under licence.

Another challenge for the role is to ensure that any nominated individual within a BSM organisation does not just meet the competence standards of PAS 8673, but that they also have sufficient support in terms of resources and funding to manage the BSM functions.

Robust and well resourced regulator support is a crucial element to delivering building and life safety.  The regulator’s role as an enforcer is vitally important to the success of the new process delivering the objectives.   The regulator needs to be given the tools to deter non-compliance.

The BSM’s function to operate a mandatory occurrence reporting system is a great help towards better enforcement of the system.   The Health and Safety Executive, who will lead the Building Safety Regulator.

Language and Communication between BSMs and the Residents in their remit:

So far little or no industry consideration has been given to the means of communication and the direct new interface between the BSM function and the Residents.   The UK's social housing estate stock comprises many nationalities and many languages and effective communication of safety concerns and issues presents huge challenges.    The Grenfell Inquiry has also confirmed there are vulnerability and physical ability yet to be properly and robustly considered in the management of Residents and the Inquiry has ascertained the Residents' Voice went unheard!

The BSM faces a huge challenge to effectively implement a Resident Engagement Strategy ─ it is the view of the ICM this essential strategic pillar will be almost impossible by normal means where any BSM might have hundreds if not more family units to properly manage and effective processes will need to be achieved through the development of interactive technology incorporating Artificial Intelligence [AI] and digital engineering to develop the means for all and any Resident to be able to reach the appointed BSM for their residence and receive responsive timely safety.   A Working Group at the ICM are currently exploring solutions going forward ... the initial aim is to trial a pilot project providing a Graphic User Interface [GUI] in collaboration with the universities, industry experts, and funded through a suitable grant ...  

Ed.

17 October 2021

building safety bill, cdm, CDM Competence, cdm2015, communication, competence, compliance, construction, construction (design and management) regulations, construction management, HRRB, resident

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