The way UK construction companies approach quality and safety will change significantly with the Building Safety Bill (now known as the Building Safety Act). Digital construction will become more important than ever, as organisations from owners to subcontractors are required to record and maintain detailed information on every project.
While the changes will be positive for the industry, it’s not unusual to be concerned about the cost, time and complexity of meeting the new requirements.
Here we share a simple checklist to help with getting ready for the Building Safety Bill and putting the technology you need in place.
The Building Safety Bill will create new obligations for owners of existing high-rise residential buildings and every collaborator involved in new projects. At each stage from planning to construction and occupation, there are requirements that must be met before work continues, as part of the new Gateway system.
So, the first step in preparing for the bill is understanding your organisation’s obligations at each stage, whether that’s subcontractors providing evidence of competence or owners getting approvals for any design changes.
Overall, everyone will need to contribute to the golden thread of information – a digital record of all the information on a building, including its construction, making technology important.
Assessing how technology is already used in your organisation is a valuable next step. It’s common for digital tools to be used on an ad hoc basis – with different teams taking different approaches, or working project by project.
Getting the basics right is critical, and creating a simpler, more consistent approach, will pay dividends. Look at how information is collected and stored, right down to data standards and naming conventions used, and think about how you can establish more uniformity from team to team.
Part of the answer will be avoiding too many different standalone technologies, often referred to as point solutions. Consider consolidating what you have, and looking at your long-term goals. Working with a technology partner could help you to identify how you can simplify what you already have.
Data management will be central to meeting the requirements of the Building Safety Bill. All collaborators on a project, from designers to contractors, will need to maintain a local electronic audit trail, rather than relying on owners to hold the data. It will also be important to be able to easily access and share information whenever required.
Ensuring your information management is up to scratch will be key for every organisation. Building Information Modelling (BIM) based workflows are likely to be valuable, because this enables all stakeholders to access the same data in real-time.
A common data environment may also be worth considering, as a secure, accessible place to store building data, with approval controls and audit trails.
Organisations have a wide range of choice over the digital tools used, given that the legislation doesn’t specify a particular software or tool. But a key consideration is interoperability – between different teams and different companies.
Throughout projects, information from these stakeholders will need to be shared and collated into the golden thread of information. Using data platforms that easily integrate with others will be important to ensure that data records can be linked together.
Owners might specify open standards such as buildingSMART's IFC, to ensure all the information received is easy to access and use throughout a building’s lifespan.
Both digital tools and information can hold lots of advantages for organisations. Technology can improve outcomes like efficiency, quality and sustainability, as well as strengthening relationships with other stakeholders and clients.
With that in mind, it’s important to think about digital tools not only as a way to meet the requirements of the Building Safety Bill, but as a long-term resource for the organisation. There might be advantages that help to deliver return on your investment or even offset the initial costs.
With many digital platforms, it will also be possible to add higher value functions over time – which could be anything from automated take off tools to digital twins. Bear in mind how technology could serve your organisation’s broader ambitions, as well as your short-term compliance needs.
The success of any new technology or process depends on getting people onside, so it’s important to have a plan for bringing your team along for the journey. Encouraging everyone to understand the basics of digital construction and why it’s important can help.
Use champions to advocate for change around the business. Create a safe environment for people to learn and ask questions – and ensure you choose digital tools that are easy to understand and use, either from the office, home or on-site.
Ultimately, it can be reassuring to remember that virtually everyone uses technology a lot in their day-to-day life, without extensive training courses. In the right environment, people can adapt very quickly, and a more digitally confident workforce will set your organisation up for the future.
Even relative newcomers to digital transformation can take significant steps forward by looking at what other companies have done. Speak to your peers and collaborators; for example, subcontractors could reach out to main contractors to learn from their experiences. Technology partners can also help you to explore the options available.
You might worry you’re starting late – but there are plenty of tried and tested approaches out there. By learning from others, you can avoid pitfalls and mistakes, and gain the benefits of digital investments all the sooner.
We’ve partnered with experts at the Building Engineering Services Association, Cast Consulting, Mace and PointFuse to develop a full white paper on getting ready for the Building Safety Bill.