07 - 09 March 2023 | ExCeL, London

07 - 09 March 2023
ExCeL, London

Opinion piece

Without Competence, can we deliver the Future?

An opinion piece by Simon Forrester, CEO, Guild of Architectural Ironmongers (GAI)

At the Guild of Architectural Ironmongers, our vision for the next 10 years is to provide a safe and secure built environment for all our stakeholders through a holistic approach to how we think about door hardware products, their design characteristics, and the life cycle of the components. At the heart of this vision is to develop the competence of our members and those they work alongside.

The next 10 years will probably be one of the most exciting, yet chaotic landscapes that we have seen in construction. We are going to be bombarded with new legislation, new rules, new guidance, that our sector are going to very quickly need to adopt in order to keep moving forward. Because to be frank, the ironmongery industry, or pockets of it at least, is a place where our stakeholders are at risk. There are some parts of the industry where specification is being eroded. It’s being diluted, and sometimes fundamentally broken to achieve short term gain over long term benefit. One question the whole value chain needs to answer is, am I competent to change this design? Sadly, all too often this is not the case.

The potential introduction of a Change Control Plan and ensuring that even the smallest specification change is documented is something that will be welcomed by not just architectural ironmongers, but the whole building products industry. In the context of the Grenfell Tower inquiry the failure of a single piece of ironmongery, something which is seemingly quite insignificant, could actually be responsible for dismantling the entire fire safety strategy of a building. Documentation of product selection and longevity is key.

And it’s not just the safety of the building and its occupants that are at risk from poor design decisions by those lacking competence. We run the risk of short-termism if we shun products that deliver timeless design constructed to superb quality standards. These are products with strong roots and proven integrity in their craftsmanship. We’re seeing more specifiers select UK-made products too – perhaps one of those elusive Brexit benefits?

Good ironmongery stands the test of time – it is built to last, and many suppliers give 20 or more years’ guarantee on their products. Anything that’s less than superb in its design and craftsmanship is simply a waste not just of money but also of resources.

The Golden Thread envisions a future that is data driven. A door set is a system and the ironmongery is fundamental; it always fails at its weakest point. So every part of that chain, every part of that system, we expect to be able to deliver the performance requirements of the whole system not only at installation but for many years hence. Data collection will allow us to see the products that actually stand the test of time. The Facilities Management team are going to become more important because they’ll be able to say whether the door closers, hinges, locks or actuators are fit for purpose. And it’s going to come back to three C’s: Compliance; does the product actually do what it is supposed to do – specify to particular British Standards to achieve performance requirements. Then, of course, there’s Cost, is this the cheapest yet still compliant. That’s where the life cycle data comes in handy – will it last, and what maintenance does it need? A product guarantee of 20 years is certainly more sustainable than something that’s going to last for one or two years, so lifecycle analysis becomes ever more important. Finally there is Carbon, because just as important as cost is the carbon and water budget of the products. Once we’ve got that bedrock in place, we start to really deliver.

 

Through competent sourcing, competent design, and competent maintenance, we can deliver buildings to last and delight.

At the Guild of Architectural Ironmongers, our vision for the next 10 years is to provide a safe and secure built environment for all our stakeholders through a holistic approach to how we think about door hardware products, their design characteristics, and the life cycle of the components. At the heart of this vision is to develop the competence of our members and those they work alongside.

The next 10 years will probably be one of the most exciting, yet chaotic landscapes that we have seen in construction. We are going to be bombarded with new legislation, new rules, new guidance, that our sector are going to very quickly need to adopt in order to keep moving forward. Because to be frank, the ironmongery industry, or pockets of it at least, is a place where our stakeholders are at risk. There are some parts of the industry where specification is being eroded. It’s being diluted, and sometimes fundamentally broken to achieve short term gain over long term benefit. One question the whole value chain needs to answer is, am I competent to change this design? Sadly, all too often this is not the case.

The potential introduction of a Change Control Plan and ensuring that even the smallest specification change is documented is something that will be welcomed by not just architectural ironmongers, but the whole building products industry. In the context of the Grenfell Tower inquiry the failure of a single piece of ironmongery, something which is seemingly quite insignificant, could actually be responsible for dismantling the entire fire safety strategy of a building. Documentation of product selection and longevity is key.

And it’s not just the safety of the building and its occupants that are at risk from poor design decisions by those lacking competence. We run the risk of short-termism if we shun products that deliver timeless design constructed to superb quality standards. These are products with strong roots and proven integrity in their craftsmanship. We’re seeing more specifiers select UK-made products too – perhaps one of those elusive Brexit benefits?

Good ironmongery stands the test of time – it is built to last, and many suppliers give 20 or more years’ guarantee on their products. Anything that’s less than superb in its design and craftsmanship is simply a waste not just of money but also of resources.

The Golden Thread envisions a future that is data driven. A door set is a system and the ironmongery is fundamental; it always fails at its weakest point. So every part of that chain, every part of that system, we expect to be able to deliver the performance requirements of the whole system not only at installation but for many years hence. Data collection will allow us to see the products that actually stand the test of time. The Facilities Management team are going to become more important because they’ll be able to say whether the door closers, hinges, locks or actuators are fit for purpose. And it’s going to come back to three C’s: Compliance; does the product actually do what it is supposed to do – specify to particular British Standards to achieve performance requirements. Then, of course, there’s Cost, is this the cheapest yet still compliant. That’s where the life cycle data comes in handy – will it last, and what maintenance does it need? A product guarantee of 20 years is certainly more sustainable than something that’s going to last for one or two years, so lifecycle analysis becomes ever more important. Finally there is Carbon, because just as important as cost is the carbon and water budget of the products. Once we’ve got that bedrock in place, we start to really deliver.

Through competent sourcing, competent design, and competent maintenance, we can deliver buildings to last and delight.

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