Richard Robertson, business development director at Cadline, developer of DynamicAIM, looks at the Grenfell tragedy four years on and why building owners still do not know basic asset details
As of last month, only one-fifth of applications to the fund for cladding removal had been accepted and almost 900 were rejected on the grounds that no information had been provided to assess a building’s eligibility.
This begs the question of why some building owners, who are responsible for ensuring that buildings are safe for users, are unaware of and unable to share an asset’s height and the type of cladding used – simple details that should be recorded and readily accessible.
The issue is particularly prevalent in social housing, where just 31 out of 172 applications were approved (a value of £58.2m), while 23 were ineligible and four were withdrawn.
While processing the scale of danger that thousands are still living in tower blocks with potentially unsafe buildings, this lack of clarity has unveiled a wider issue at hand which is holding back essential, lifesaving work.
A staggering impact
As building safety minister Lord Greenhalgh has already admitted, the government may not be on track to have all buildings with ACM cladding fully remediated by the end of this year and instead will be closer to 95% by quarter one next year.
A more recent loan scheme for leaseholders in medium and low-rise blocks has even been branded “a mess” over uncertainty on who is responsible for paying back funds.
Cladding and fire safety has severely impacted trust within the industry, especially for those now trying to buy and sell properties within high rise buildings.
While the government is trying to remediate this crucial issue, building owners must step up and play their part to help speed up the process.
The Hackitt report states that asset information may be requested at any time, so building owners should be prepared and have these details to hand. Fortunately, we are already seeing local authorities, housing developers and manufacturing sites, such as Peabody and Wolverhampton Council, be on the front foot by utilising digital solutions for build details.
Where drawings, measurements, certifications and manuals would traditionally be produced manually and stored separately, meaning firms would physically have to locate information when required to hand it over, all these details can be stored, viewed and shared in one secure cloud-based platform.
Asset managers can maintain buildings and facilities more effectively while also utilising technology to make them safer too.
Digital solutions not only provide access to BIM and survey information, detailing a building’s exact height, interior measurements and the cladding and materials used, they can also identify the type of fire alarm systems and store instruction and safety manuals, which can then be shared instantly among architects, stakeholders, fire engineers and safety managers instantly.
Ultimately, building owners and property managers will no longer have to struggle to search for historical data that may now be lost, outdated or inaccurate.
Many firms are setting out their own plans on how they can support and move forward from the cladding crisis, calling for further government funding, easier access to funds, and an overhaul of safety certification, however, this doesn’t get to the root of the problem.
All parties involved in planning and building projects must work in tandem and regularly review and update all safety regulations, not just aesthetic build progress, using digital oversight.
Some BIM standards developed in the UK have now been adopted across the world and we are starting to see firms adopt a more rigorous approach to safety enforcement, making digitised records compulsory rather than an optional benefit.
The Grenfell Tower disaster has been marked in history as the worst UK residential fire since WW2.
Having learnt vital lessons on what could have been done better, let alone how the tragedy could have been prevented, the industry is well overdue a new approach to building standards and safety.
Business development director