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Thinking outside the secure information box


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Rupert Parker, Founder and CEO of Building Passport, sheds light on the company’s digitised Secure Information Box solution

Where did the idea for Building Passport come from?

Building Passport is an idea that surfaced when I was a commercial real estate agent – I was advising on the buying, selling, leasing and letting office space in the city. Most of the time it was very difficult to come across the information we needed to lease or sell that space. There was a constant recommissioning of all the things that are needed when you lease or sell a building, for example floorplan surveys.

Sometimes I would have to rummage through archives or ask around different business units to try and find this information. I just thought: ‘Surely there’s somewhere I can go to find that information on a digital, building-by-building basis’. After years of attending industry shows and working at the coalface of proptech innovation I still could not find the appropriate solution.

The penny dropped just after the Grenfell Tower Disaster – I realised that the benefit of the Building Passport concept could extend further than the real estate market. Imagine the power of all the latest building information, from fire door surveys to live data on temperature and air quality, accessible remotely for desktop studies or even en-route to an incident.

What exactly does it offer Fire and Rescue services?

What we would like to help achieve is the possibility of enhanced response to incidents. We have developed an app and are working with Heathrow Airport to test the response to an incident using the status quo response methodology versus using the information contained in a Building Passport and accessing it remotely prior to arrival at the emergency location.

The app we have developed essentially contains the emergency response pack information (as outlined in the FIA’s Code of Practice for the Provision of Premises Information Boxes in Residential Buildings) in a digital format. This can be accessed and updated by anyone who has been granted access to the Building Passport, such as any pre-vetted fire service personnel. We are working with have still got a bit of work to do on the access privileges and ensuring the security of the access to that information because obviously a Building Passport can contain extremely sensitive information on a building. That is why we are working with a company like Heathrow Airport to make sure this is as secure as it possibly can be.

What information will be accessible on the app?

The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 will, from 23 January 2023, make it a legal requirement for existing high-rise residential buildings to have an SIB (Secure Information Box). This is the red box that can be found on some large and multi-let buildings which can contain physical information such as an orientation plan, vertical and horizontal layout plans showing dry risers, fire doors etc, ‘on arrival information’, significant fire safety issues such asbestos, fire risk assessments etc.  At present, the fire and rescue service will search for and identify the box when they arrive at a building. The Incident Commander will ingest whatever information is available to them and use it to inform the response to the incident.  

The Building Passport app enables this information to also be accessed remotely and via mobile devices and is therefore essentially a digital SIB.  What sets this apart from the static physical information is that more eyes can see it and data from sensors can be overlayed to show live conditions in the building.

Because the information is digital and quickly, easily but securely accessible, multiple personnel will be able to view it. Furthermore they will be able to see its contents en-route to a building. It is our hope that, even with a few seconds glancing at a layout plan, this opens up the opportunity for firefighters to become more familiar with a building and the conditions within it before arriving on site and therefore aiding their own safety during the response, as well as potentially aiding the exercise itself.

What stage are you at with Building Passport at the moment?

It is built and ready to go. There are a plethora of additional functions we want to implement, but the crucial aspect at present, due to working with sensitive information, is the security aspect. This is a time consuming and expensive exercise which includes penetration tests and constant improvement of our systems.

We are currently a UK based and UK focussed company but there is literally no limit to the feasibility of this product across the globe. In terms of worldwide fire safety, the UK is among the leaders and, if we can prove that our product is useful in this market, we can cut and paste to other geographies pretty quickly.

What will Building Passport look like in the future?

We understand that there is an effective methodology in place for fire safety information dissemination via an SIB at present, but we think there’s an opportunity to bolster this with digital information. We want to link the SIB to our digital information and be able to provide to the right people at the right time.

We have a lot of ideas for future developments. For example, it would save a lot of admin for the fire and rescue service to be able to carry out a Section 7(2)(d) inspection digitally on the app and the report automatically populate the Building Passport. This would then obviously be available in the event of an incident, but also easily accessible in the event of needing to carry out a desktop study on fire prevention at the building. 

In order to achieve our goal we need as many Building Passports as possible. To remove hurdles to adoption of Building Passport, access is, and will remain, free for emergency services, landlord representatives (agents, fire risk assessors, solicitors, measurement companies, electricians etc) and building occupants. Only the building owner pays, and they are responsible for providing access to other parties.

Our aim is to keep this price as low as possible so that we can support our vision of creating a safer built environment and we will do anything we can do to make that happen.

This article was originally published in the August edition of IFSJ. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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