Tackling the cladding challenge

Terry Stocks
Terry Stocks, Director and Head of Public Sector at Faithful+ Gould, outlines what it will take to deliver the government’s £1.6bn programme to remove and replace unsafe cladding on high rise buildings.

The task for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) team has been made difficult as many building owners lack good quality information about their buildings – be it around structure or the components that make up installed systems – not to mention the knowledge and experience to facilitate the cladding replacement process.

And – of course – the current impact of COVID-19 is complicating matters further by constraining normal working practices, site deliveries, travel and accommodation of workers.  

The Government has acknowledged this and has been supporting building owners, but it’s become clear that a step change is needed to remediate cladding for the in-scope buildings across the UK.

Central to this is an Information Management approach which is being put into place by Faithful+Gould, working alongside the MHCLG team, Homes England and the Greater London Authority. Offering a centralised ‘single version of the truth’, a data hub will allow information to be interrogated at speed allowing focussed support to be provided to building owners

This data led approach is described by Dame Judith Hackitt as the ‘Golden Thread’ – a validated and updated version of data, recording action and implementation of activities - in this case around the remediation of unsafe cladding.

Another pillar of our approach is to minimise and optimise concurrently. A detailed and collaborative working plan focusing on a critical activity path will mean the right action can be taken at the right time.  When extended to on site delivery it also ensures that the right material is ordered and scheduled for delivery at the right time and the right resources are available to fix it efficiently. In a COVID-19 world, this lean approach will help reduce time spent on site and also provide a much-needed clear line of sight for materials manufacturers and the wider supply chain.

I think it’s fair to say that there’s traditionally been a scrabble to start work on site too early – to get on with things right away without – perhaps – stepping back to think about a critical delivery path. In short, there would often be too many activities commencing concurrently and too many people on site. Certainly COVID-19 has made us think differently about site work and I do hope the industry embraces some of the lessons learnt as we gradually emerge from this very difficult situation. 

The delivery of this cladding programme will also require close collaboration between, the project team, building owners, contractors, industry bodies and government as we share insight and expertise to continue the replacement of cladding during these unprecedented times.

Yes, work may be disrupted and - in some cases stopped temporarily - but improved planning, logistics ordering, changes to statutory approaches to work sign off, and work licensing (at least in the immediacy of COVID-19) can make a difference. And, if a project does stop, we need a graduated approach to get us up to speed again quickly, and that’s not, in my opinion, a rush back to more traditional approaches.

Right now, we simply have to do things differently but we can also lay some foundations which will help the UK construction well beyond COVID-19.  Will the industry grasp this opportunity? 

This article was first published in Building. 

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