8 February 2022

As we come into the new year, I’m looking ahead at what 2022 will have in store for building safety in an environment which seems to change daily. An anticipated highlight will be sharing my thoughts with you on the golden thread of information at the NHF Building and Fire Safety in Housing 2022 in February.

Data-driven decisions are a key focus for us at Notting Hill Genesis, reflected in our objectives and by the recent appointment of our Chief Information Officer to our Executive Board. We recognise that data is our lifeblood, we need a strategy for managing it, and we need to invest in systems to support the strategy and manage it properly.

Historically, the sector has under-invested in data infrastructure and, over time, changing data standards, governance and expectations from ourselves and our stakeholders mean the demands we put on our data have increased. For example, residents expect us to have and use data in increasingly smart and efficient ways like other sectors are able to do, such as retail and online commerce.

An example of this in recent times has been requests for external wall information from leaseholders, which should in theory be basic information to obtain - EWS1 assessments aside. Particularly for existing buildings, this is often impeded by previous records being held on paper or CD which are prone to getting lost due to changes in personnel or office clear outs. Similarly, silo working within organisations over time can enforce a lack of data uniformity and transparency that may lead to a scenario where, frustratingly, data and documents exist in the organisation but the people who need it can’t locate it. All of these things can be compounded further as a result of mergers and acquisitions.

The combination of these data inconsistencies and increasing stakeholder data expectations, is, I believe, fuelling the increased focus and investment in data in the housing sector. Building safety, particularly since the Grenfell Tower fire, has added further weight to this. We as an industry are recognising that without good data, how can we give our residents and stakeholders confidence that we are managing a building competently, let alone safely?

Our approach to the golden thread will be the critical infrastructure that supports how we manage our buildings, how we engage with our residents about building safety, the work of our Building Safety Managers and the evidence within a building safety case. It will be intrinsic to everything that we do.

We recently started an organisation-wide golden thread programme, making it clear that this wasn’t just a building safety project. We’re using it to improve data flow through the organisation, with people in different teams taking responsibility in the way that they use and update the information. In this way, we have a single version of the truth and talk with confidence to customers and colleagues and maintain the accuracy of the data throughout a building’s lifecycle.

There’s also been a lot of work carried out in our development team, seeking to clarify the data and documents we need at handover. As an organisation, we need to further consider the best place for these. That will be helped by linking our projects as we move to cloud-based systems and a use a data lake*, which pulls together information from our different systems in one place. This allows us to understand issues and linkages as we are looking at data in one place rather than scratching around diverse systems that don’t talk to each other, so enhances our reporting and understanding. We’re ensuring that we have ‘gatekeepers’ at each of the gateways to provide additional governance and assurance, and to ensure deep-rooted engagement between development and operational parts of NHG, with safety and data at its core.

It will be essential for us to use technology in the best ways to build and maintain the golden thread and we haven’t made any decisions on exactly how to do that yet. We contribute to conversations about BIM and believe in those data standards. We need to look further into the extent we can and want to use 3D scans, as there must be a meaningful application of those models in the ongoing management of the building (for us, our residents and authorities such as the fire service) to support the cost. This can’t be a style over substance exercise.

Looking forward into 2022 more generally on the related topics of building and fire safety, we need to continue to get clear and prompt guidance and requirements from the government and the Building Safety Regulator. While many of us are busy planning and implementing infrastructure such as the golden thread, we do need that continuing feed of practical detail on subjects like Building Safety Managers and Building Safety Cases. Following the completion of the Building Safety Bill, we’ll need enough notice on what will be happening when, so that we’re ready for the first regulator request.

So there is lots going on, and lots more to achieve in 2022. I look forward to seeing you at the conference on 22 February to talk more about this.

The Building and Fire Safety in Housing Conference takes place virtually 22 February 2022. Find out more and register your places today.

*A centralised repository that allows you to store all your structured and unstructured data at any scale.

Andy Mackay

Director of Building Safety, Notting Hill Genesis, Vice Chair, G15 Building Safety Forum

Andy has been in housing for nearly 30 years, and has senior experience in many areas of the business.

Over the last 14 years he has focussed on Asset Management, Compliance and Health and Safety. Since the terrible events at Grenfell, it was a natural progression to use his knowledge and experience to support meeting the emerging requirements of the RRO and the Building Safety Act.

Andy is currently Director of Building Safety at Notting Hill Genesis and is vice chair of the G15 Building Safety group. Notting Hill Genesis, part of the G15, are still an active developer and have around 100 existing buildings over 18m tall plus around 2,500 buildings between 11m and 18m, so the challenges arising from the new legislative and regulatory environment are extensive. Andy is responsible for investigating and remediating existing buildings, ensuring the accuracy of data, and developing and maintaining systems so that data on assets and buildings is visible and accessible across the business. The work will lead to a situation where there is only one version of the truth, building safety cases can be produced for buildings in scope, and building safety managers (also under Andy’s remit) are able to manage building safety effectively.

As for most, this is a journey but using his experience and expertise, Andy believes NHG are moving forward to meet all requirements in an effective way.

How can we go from principles to the practical implementation of data