“We are now at the point where we have surpassed the period where we should all have had an interest in what is required of us all under the Building Safety Act (BSA) and where we all should be positioning ourselves with respect to the duty holder responsibilities, this point has arrived. It seems to me that there are still too many questions being asked, and misunderstanding, uncertainty, and confusion being created. The key to helping everyone come through this in my mind is to keep it simple, I believe the phrase ‘’it’s not rocket science’’ is being said in conversations, and I wholeheartedly agree with this statement”, says Ben Hufton, Design Director at FK Group.

In this article, Ben shares his thoughts on the task that lies ahead: how we make things simple and assist in easing confusion that ultimately assists in failure to deliver.

Early engagement

It has always been a frustration of mine that the façade subcontractor is brought into the discussions too late, usually in the later part of Stage 3. With the design consisting of many different specification restrictions that will ultimately find their way into our contract documents, it makes very little sense that the design responsibility of the duty holder under BR designer would be brought in any later than the start of Stage 3. However, our preference is to be involved at Stage 2 or earlier.

Historically, the Stage 3 design will be put together by the project architects and the façade consultant with no input from the specialist subcontractor. Neither of the two creators of this information will procure, fabricate, or install materials. Materials are also often specified as approved or equivalent. This cannot be the way forward and not what I would expect the Building Safety Regulator (BSR) to accept. Therefore, early engagement is imperative.

Subcontractor collaboration

As the building envelope designer, I sit here aware that our responsibility extends beyond just our business. MEP, and internal fit-out to name a couple all need to be included within our co-ordination. Lines of responsibility are naturally blurred due to appointments being made at different stages of the design, which leads to uncoordinated details.

Defects and or failures in systems will often be addressed by heading down the path of least resistance which may mean the subcontractor with the highest professional indemnity (PI) cover is chased down, again this should not be allowed to continue. A clear definition of scope and responsibility should be executed within the respected contracts. This can only be achieved by clear definition prior to the submission of the Stage 4 design.

Subcontractors must show a strong understanding of their scope of works and interface with others, in the knowledge that they are responsible for their work if anything is to be deemed untoward. This will enhance everyone’s appetite to drive competence and quality, it will also ensure that sub-contracts are robustly executed and delivered.

Potential additional appointment responsibility

As the BSR will have a milestone built within the programme for the submission, I believe that it wouldn’t be inconceivable to build in a requirement that the duty holders must be appointed X number of weeks before the BSR submission or at a specific RIBA Stage, this would have to be project specific with regards the timescales; however adding this as an action of the principle contractor makes sense to encourage early engagement and collaboration.

Concept to construction

By having all the above integrated into the design process, it would say to me that from the conception of the design to the project being built the involvement of the subcontractor throughout will enhance the execution of the design intent along with the requirements of any specifications and building regulation. I would like to think that developers, architects and main contractors will see this as a benefit to them as well as the likes of FK as the subcontractor.

Positives to all the above

  • Programme benefit
  • Cost certainty earlier
  • Buildability considerations
  • Agreed lines of responsibility
  • Early understanding of products
  • Going to test in good time if required
  • Right level of information being submitted to the BSR

To conclude, Ben stated, “I believe that the design can be made a simple process by early appointment and detailed discussions between trades, however, the emphasis then switches to the commercial and contractual side of proceedings and getting them all on board. As designers, we need to become salesmen and sell the advantages I have noted above. At FK, we are heading down this route. I have meetings planned with key clients and architects across the UK to discuss this, let’s hope they are open to these discussions and see the overall benefit”.