Grenfell Tower – Shaping the future of asset management and delivery.

Terry Stocks
Dame Judith Hackett issued the interim report of the Independent Building Regulations Review on Monday 18th December. The review was commissioned in response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy. The report has the potential to move the current ‘nudge’ strategy approach for improvement of UK construction industry and asset management, into more of a ‘Shove’ approach.

The Dame Judith Hackett review is in response to the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy. It has highlighted that a change in practice is required across the whole asset operation and delivery life cycle. There are a number of interim recommendations covering competency benchmarks, increased collaboration between key parties and streamlined process. There is however a key theme that runs through the report around provenance. This leads to a big question.

Do asset owners, asset operators, designers and constructors know what their assets actually comprise of? Has the intent of the outcome and design and operation been delivered?

It appears everyone is too busy, or important, to ‘do detail’! However, detail is where the big risk lies. Knowing the detail is knowing your risk and liabilities. Knowing that enables better risk mitigation planning, but also has multiple additional benefits of increased efficiency in asset operation, asset management, capital delivery and planning. Having the detailed asset data in a structured, accessible form, saves money in answering questions about the asset, and provides data to help plan the asset / asset portfolio more effectively. Dame Judith Hackett has stated in the report she is going to further consider the roles of ‘Responsible Persons.’ Perhaps this role will have the same effect on construction that the CDM regulations and the Health and Safety agenda achieved.

UK Central Government has been supporting improved efficiency within the construction industry through both capital delivery and operation, with the Building Information Modelling (Level 2) programme and wider digital initiatives. This has been given a further boost with the recently launched joint Government, Academia and Industry programme, led through the new Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB.) This will see an even greater push for digital innovation in asset delivery, operation and planning. It also provides a renewed focus on supporting the role out of BIM (Level 2) across the industry both public and private sector clients and supply chains. This initiative further sets the foundations for Central Governments support of ‘Modern Methods of Construction’ – off site and component manufacture of assets. This initiative has the aspiration of bringing manufacturing levels of efficiency and quality control to main stream construction.

Manufacturing is often looked at as the blue print for efficiency, automotive, aerospace etc. products we use and trust. One thing good manufacturing process relies on is knowing what is in every product they make and use. They have absolute provenance in every product released. If something goes wrong or a question is asked of their product, they are able to answer it quickly. They can do this because they have digital systems in place from batch monitoring, component records and inspection regimes. This is similarly the case in the food industry. Following the ‘foot and mouth’ tragedy,   animal digital passports were put in place, These are digital records spanning the whole life span of an animal from breeding genetics, geographic movement to end of life processing. A total record providing an accountable provenance of our food. We are living in the digital age. We have the answers to drive the same level of asset provenance into our built estate and infrastructure.

The financial markets crash in 2007 / 2008 was exacerbated by the batching of loan portfolios. Some loans were well scrutinised before approval, others less so. The effect was that banks did not understand their held risk, and confidence was lost in the market. They had to painstakingly review their loan books separating the good and bad to build up their risk position. Is this the point constructors, designers, asset owners and asset managers are at in the UK? Are they sitting with unknown asset risk?

Whatever the answer we must take the awful events of Grenfell Tower and use them as a catalyst for change in the way we specify, design, deliver, operate and manage our assets. Grenfell has taken the importance of asset delivery and operation beyond efficiency and economics and into effective risk management and awareness. Not only to provide safe buildings but also provide assets where people feel safe using them.

The final report from Dame Judith Hackett will be issued in the spring. However, for asset owners, operators, designers and contractors the answer, in a large part, is here. Through the adoption of digital approaches including BIM (Level 2) in both the capital and operational phases, across new and existing assets, we will start the journey in delivering better asset out comes for all, socially and monitory. In doing so we will also deliver on many of the aspirations set out in Dame Judith’s Hackett’s review.



Written by