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Using technology to provide information required under the new Building Safety Act 2022 – which has been enforceable since October 1st – can help relieve the pressure on suppliers who are responsible for submitting the data, says Bob Glendenning, Fire Design Engineering Manager of Sherwin-Williams Protective & Marine Coatings
The Building Safety Act is designed to take forward a fundamental reform of the building safety system and address the issues identified by Dame Judith Hackitt in her independent review, Building a Safer Future.
The UK Government stated that the Act would deliver ‘the biggest changes to building safety for nearly 40 years and make residents safer in their homes’ and named the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as the new Building Safety Regulator to oversee the safety and standards of all buildings.
In doing so, the legislation has also brought challenges for those in the complex supply chain who are required to provide specific information at each key stage, which should be digitally stored and available for the lifetime of the building, described as The Golden Thread of information.
For the protection of structural steel with intumescent coatings, the different parts of the engineering community and the supply chain also need to understand more detail of certain stages or Gateways as they are described under the terms of the act.
Structural engineers, designers and specifiers will be more concerned with the requirements under gateways one covering the planning stage and parts of gateway two dealing with building control approval. Applicators will need to understand parts of gateway two on building control and gateway three covering safety information. Fabricators will need to understand the wider picture across all three gateways.
Overhaul in existing regulations
The intention is to ensure that the right people have the right information at the right time to ensure buildings are safe and building safety risks are managed throughout the building’s lifecycle.
For the construction industry and related specialisms such as Passive Fire Protection, this means an overhaul in existing regulations, with new guidance in how higher risk buildings should be designed, constructed and managed to ensure that those who use them are safe and feel safe. These buildings are defined as being a minimum of 18 metres or seven storeys in height and comprise of at least two domestic premises.
Resource is limited in many organisations, so how are suppliers to approach these challenging requirements without cutting corners?
At Sherwin-Williams, we use our years of expertise along with the appropriate technology. This technology allows us to understand what is required at the start of the process working in collaboration with our customers.
To this end, we have invested in Building Information Modelling (BIM) process and technology for many years and also partner with leading global software developers including Trimble. Such systems allow for data transfer and make storage much simpler. They are future-proofed and permanent. They also provide important information and documentation required under the new act in the digital format required.
Benefits to the process are apparent for main contractors, architects, structural engineers, steel fabricators and site inspectors. Accessing a BIM model collaboratively aids efficiency and versatility, particularly on projects with global players, where project team members may reside in different geographies around the world. All can access the model over the internet and collaborate using cloud-sharing technology.
We have been committed to this approach for some years and, to this end, we have developed our own proprietary software called the FIRETEX Design Estimator 2.0 (FDE). The software offers calculated solutions for the safe protection of structural steelwork framing elements, and embraces BIM with an integrated plugin tool allowing 3D modelling data to be directly linked into the software.
Manging the whole process
This offers the capability of providing calculations for coatings thicknesses of all shapes and sizes of steel sections, fire engineering, and in the case of cellular beams, allows for any configuration of web apertures to be seamlessly incorporated and the fire protection specification passed back into the model.
For the steelwork fabricator, the approach with BIM means they can manage the whole process from concept to design through to delivery of materials on site including the off-site applied fire protection. The same principle could also be adopted for use with on-site applied fire protection, offering advantages to the main contractor and eventually to the owner-operator. FIRETEX embodied carbon values, using our third-party certificated EPDs, are also stored within the 3D model.
Once the fire protection properties have been passed back into the BIM model, future interested stakeholders can access any of that information to manage many areas such as inspection and onward building fire maintenance. Even fire and rescue services could create strategies using this data.
There are real savings in efficiencies, time and cost here, with the added benefits for the users in the longer term. One example of these efficiencies can be seen in the huge time savings in a recent project where all the floor plates were unique. That in-turn made all the floor beams – which were cellular beams – unique designs in themselves so this was a huge design undertaking.
The BIM workflow is a ‘push-pull’ system. We added missing dry film thickness design properties to the steelwork 3D model using the FDE. All of the coatings properties were then stored on every piece in the model, including the EPD values, meaning we had access to this information to share with other parties for the lifetime of the building.
The newest development released very recently includes the ability to synchronise any optimised steel profiles back into the model. After synchronisation the end-user can then produce documents, drawings, labels, barcodes and any other relevant documentation. This is fast and accurate and provides certainty for the purposes of the new Building Safety Act.
New powers of enforcement
This information is critical and the technology enables us to be accurate from the outset for our customers in the interests of safety.
As a reminder as to why this information is so valuable, the BSR has new powers of enforcement in place and many officers are now at work conducting investigations where they become aware of potential breaches of the legislation.
Potential offences include knowingly or recklessly providing false or misleading information to the BSR; allowing occupation of a higher-risk building without a completion certificate; failure to register an occupied higher-risk building and failure to apply for a building assessment certificate without ‘reasonable excuse.’
At Sherwin-Williams, we are building a hub of information for the longer term around our software capabilities – the FDE Hub. This is in the development stages and will be an area of the website where customers will be able to share project data to help supply the information for the new legislation and any other reason.
We believe this new reform of fire safety legislation is for the right reasons. We now need to embrace it – including the optimum use of technology – as an industry and make it work for all good reasons.
To speak to Sherwin-Williams, tel +44 (0)1204 521 771 or visit the Sherwin-Williams Protective & Marine website.