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Tackling record-keeping challenges in the construction industry with technology

The event brought experts together to develop new, commercially viable solutions that would radically change the face of fire safety within buildings in the UK and around the world.

One of the teams that formed during the event has continued to develop their idea to ‘solve the golden thread problem’. Find out more below from Imanuel Steele, Founder of Prin-D LTD.

How can technology help the construction industry tackle the challenges posed by poor record-keeping?

By: Imanuel Steele, Founder of Prin-D LTD

In the wake of the Grenfell tragedy and the publication of the Hackitt report, the construction industry is actively searching for ways to get better at change control, information sharing, and data retention.  So what should the industry be doing with this information and how can we monitor compliance?

Buildings are complex objects which require several documents to be iterated many times throughout the design, construction, occupation, and refurbishment phases of their lifecycle.  Add in the tens or hundreds of parties involved in the average construction project and this huge collection of documents and their multiple versions becomes an unwieldy mess that no one party has full visibility or control of.

Going from Designer to Principal Designer

To solve part of this crisis, the Construction Design and Management (CDM) regulations were updated in 2015 to introduce the role of the Principal Designer as a new CDM Duty-holder.  CDM now requires that the project Client appoints 'a designer with control over the pre-construction phase as Principal Designer'. This role would give the Client a single entity that is legally appointed to manage Health and Safety risks and compliance with the CDM regulation.

This role might still have more changes to come with the publication of the ‘Building a Safer Future’ (BSF) review.  The BSF independent review cited the CDM2015 regulations as particularly relevant as they oversee all key aspects of construction site health and safety for workers and the general public1.  The BSF review suggests that duty holders should have clearer responsibilities throughout the entire lifecycle of a building to avoid tasks without owners.

It would be in the best interests of the project to have the Designers also offer the role of Principal Designer because they are perfectly positioned to perform the role given their skills, knowledge, and experience.

However, a recent RIBA benchmarking report shows that only 60% of Chartered Practices are offering Principal Designer services2.  Further research with Architects and Engineers has shown there is genuine reluctance to add legal duties to their current responsibilities as a project designer.  The role of the Principal Designer is not seen as a design function and many Designers have confirmed their preference to outsource the role to a 3rd party.

So, why are 40% of Architectural practices not offering Principal Designer CDM services?

Supporting Principal Designers

It’s my opinion that there is a lack of understanding of the role of Principal Designer, coupled with the fact that there are no tools or standard methodologies to deliver the role leading Designers to shy away from being a Principal Designer.  Training is obviously part of the solution but technology will also play a part.

What is needed is a technology built for the role of Principal Designer.  This system should provide a template for any competent Designer to provide the role of Principal Designer on their projects through guided processes.  An extremely useful feature would be to give project members the information they need and prompt them to provide information in the correct format.  This tool would then act as a single location where documents can be stored, viewed, signed off, and recovered by anyone who needs them.

Alongside all the functionality this proposed system must be able to store information in a way that it can be downloaded and verified for refurbishment projects happening many years after construction has finished and all parties have moved on.

With a technology like this in place, Designers would feel supported to perform the legal duties of the Principal Designers and Clients would feel safe in the knowledge that their built asset would come with all the documentation stored securely and accessible in one place.

The Prin-D Platform

To address the need for a Principal Designer tool, we have developed the Prin-D Platform.  The platform guides everyone in a project team to the documents and information they need to perform their role under CDM while storing the information securely and with permission access.

The platform has the ability to verify document versions, individual competencies, and signatures many years after a project is completed through the use of Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), better known as Blockchain.

Designers who use the Prin-D platform will find themselves to be more confident delivering the Principal Designer role and will be more efficient in their delivery with features such as visual gap analysis and automated reporting replace manual tasks and meetings.

Prin-D has successfully digitised the workflow of the Principal Designer, which offers possibilities beyond anything a Principal Designer can do manually.  If you would like to find out more please visit our website or contact us for a free demonstration and trial.