Author: geoff

Building Control Fee Increase April 2021

Don’t be an April fool.

Did you know that Building Control Charges and Building Control Miscellaneous Fees will increase from April 2021. Most councils are increasing their fees on 1st April.

However, you can beat the price rises on Building Control fees by applying now.

We are pleased to confirm that applications received before midday on 6th April will continue to be charged at our current rates and beat the price rises.

If you are not ready to submit yet, then get a quote before 1st April and we will hold that price for 30 days.

 

Don’t slip up when designing bathrooms

Did you know that there are an estimated 35,000 falls a year, resulting in more than 6,000 people dying due to injuries sustained in the home alone. To put that in perspective, there are 234 hospital admissions due to falls for every single fire-related admission, and it’s the most vulnerable – under-fives and over-65s – who are most at risk.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has recently launched a new campaign to raise awareness of just how dangerous our homes can be and how architects can reduce that risk through careful design of surfaces.

The new campaign is called Safer by Design and concentrates on the mitigation of hazards that typically do not attract the same level of public scrutiny compared with other hazards, such as fire. It covers various hazards associated with the greatest likelihood of occurrence in new homes – eg falls, burns, carbon monoxide poisoning, entrapment and poisoning from household chemicals. These risks often go unnoticed publicly, because they happen behind closed doors, and yet they each affect many thousands of people every year, causing death and serious injury.

RoSPA’s Safer by Design framework provides a set of simple, low-cost home safety improvements, developed in consultation with industry experts, to be planned in at the design stage. While they go beyond current building regulatory requirements, the recommendations are, crucially, commercially and technically viable within both the private and social housing sectors.

Falls in bathrooms alone result in a staggering 54,000 visits to A&E and 80 deaths a year. Many of these occur when people are getting into or out of the bath or shower, or lose their balance when in a bath or shower or when standing up after using the toilet. As a designer, you could find yourself liable for a claim for compensation for failing to have taken the risk into account with your design. So, before you specify that lovely polished marble finish perhaps you should take a moment to think whether it’s appropriate in that location.

To find out more check out our column in Architects Journal

Gift

World Water Day 2021

March 22 is UN World Water Day, an annual celebration of the importance of freshwater.

The world is currently facing a global water crisis, with the combined pressures of climate change and population growth leading to drought and water shortages on a more widespread, frequent and severe scale than previously experienced.

Tackling water security and climate change, are two of the most critical crises the world will continue facing over the next several decades, according to ­the 2020 UN World Water Development Report, compiled by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

 

One of the most effective ways to end the cycle of poverty is to empower a community to care for itself including providing access to clean productive water and decent sanitation. Wilkinson Construction Consultants are proud to have joined forces with Aquaid Water Coolers and the Africa Trust to sponsor a water pump, known as an Elephant Pump, in a village in Africa, bringing life-giving water to the villagers every day.

Our Water Coolers are from AquAid

Valentine’s Day – The Juliet Balcony

It is perhaps the most romantic scene in all of English literature: Juliet stands on her balcony with Romeo in the garden below, star-crossed lovers meeting by moonlight. Colloquially known as “the balcony scene, it contains Shakespeare’s most famous romantic line “O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?”.

There is nothing that says romance quite like a Juliet balcony, but what exactly is a “Juliet Balcony”?

A Juliet balcony is traditionally defined as “a very narrow structure with vertical metal bars, fitted to the outside of a building in front of an upstairs full-length window in two parts that can be opened like doors.” However, a modern Juliet balcony can take many forms, and these days we see a lot of people opting for a glass structure fixed back to the wall, especially popular in loft conversions.

A Juliet balcony is not usually designed to be stood on, but essentially acts as guarding to prevent you falling from the open doors, especially if you are leaning over, in search of your lover.

As such it’s important that it complies with current building regulations so here are some tips to make sure that you keep your loved ones safe this Valentine’s Day.

• Juliette balcony guarding must be no lower than 1100mm from finished floor level.
• There should be no gaps in the guarding larger than 100mm, as a child could slip through a wider gap, or get their head stuck between the railings.
• If you are using glass, then the glass needs to remain in place even if it shatters, so specify toughened & laminated glass for maximum safety, not monolithic glass.
• Make sure the fixings are into solid structure, and are deep enough to resist the imposed loadings, of someone leaning against the guarding.
• Clipped panels with no bolts through the glass, should be supported on all 4 sides not just clipped on the vertical edges.
• Make sure you specify the correct type of fixings, and keep an eye out for corrosion, which can occur if two different metals come into contact.
• We would avoid the use of timber as this can rot with time and can also create a route for external fire spread.
• Keep a gap in the base of the balcony to prevent rainwater collecting, as collected rainwater can lead to damp ingress, and in winter this can freeze, and cause the glass to shatter.

If you are planning on installing a Juliet balcony as part of your next building project then contact us for more information and to make your Building Regs application. Then watch out next year for the ultimate in romantic gestures as you propose to your partner from the safety of a correctly installed Juliet Balcony.


Future Homes Standard

The Government has just announced its response to the Future Homes Standard consultation which brings much-needed clarity to our industry.

The new requirements will mean new homes will need to de designed to produce carbon dioxide emissions 75-80% lower than those built to current Building Regulations by 2025. There is also interim 31% threshold that will be implemented later this year.

It also sets out proposals for a Future Buildings Standard, which provides a pathway to highly efficient non-domestic buildings which are zero carbon ready, better for the environment and fit for the future.

The changes are far reaching and will have significant impact on developers planning projects that will not be built out for the next few years. This will need to be taken into account when sourcing new deals and identifying sites, to ensure that the additional costs of compliance are factored in.

The new rules will also impact domestic extensions, and there is a completely new rule on overheating that will impact highly glazed buildings/extensions.

To download a copy of the latest proposals see this link

We ran a series of Future Building Standard webinar’s when the consultation was first released in 2019. We will be updating this training and running it again in the next few weeks. To make sure you dont miss out, sign up now to be first on the invite list.

3rd National Lockdown

Following the announcement on Monday 4th Jan 2021, Boris Johnson has placed England into a national lockdown until at least mid-February, and possibly beyond.

However, we can confirm that the Construction Industry is exempt and that we remain open for business enabling your project to continue and be checked for conformity with the Building Regulations. Wherever possible we will continue to offer physical inspections rather than remote inspection techniques in line with the requirements of the Building Control Performance Standards which explain that remote techniques are not to be relied upon.

We will of course be adhering to all government guidelines and ensuring that we continue to adapt to any changes in the future. For construction clients we will expect that you also follow the CLC Construction Sector Site Operating Procedures .

For domestic clients where we are visiting peoples homes we have adopted the following policy.

Things to check with residents in advance

Communicate with residents before going to do any inspection, to discuss how face-to-face contact can be minimised. Discussing the home environment and practices in advance helps to reduce the risks for everyone and prevent mishaps.

Find out who is resident in a home:

  • In a household where one or more family member has COVID-19 symptoms, we would not be able to undertake an inspection, and will request an extension of time as necessary from the Local Authority. Please note that any work in such a household should only be carried out if it is to address a direct risk to the safety of the household (such as emergency plumbing).
  • In a household where no one has been diagnosed with Coronavirus we will check before every visit whether anyone in the house has developed any Coronavirus symptoms.
  • Please advise if anyone else might be visiting the household, for example tradespeople or carers so we can time the visit to avoid them, where appropriate.

Discuss how you can do the job whilst keeping them and you safe:

  • We will request that householders stay away from the work area as much as possible and keep their distance; generally 2 m away from workers, and wear a mask when in the same room. In particular, we will ask that any children or pets are kept in other rooms while the inspection is carried out.
  • Social distancing applies to all aspects of work, for example when answering the door, accessing facilities and using washrooms.
  • We will bring our own hand sanitiser and mask.
  • Ask that any possessions are moved before you arrive, so we don’t have to touch them. We also ask that internal doors are left open, so our inspectors don’t need to touch door handles, and that the area is ventilated before arrival – eg a window is opened.

Once the inspection is complete, we ask clients to let us know if anyone develops any symptoms of Coronavirus within 7 days. That way our inspectors can take appropriate precautions for themselves; anyone they’ve since been in contact with, and arrange Coronavirus testing as required. Likewise we will contact you in the event that any inspector is diagnosed with Coronavirus so that you can take action as appropriate.

We believe that by adopting these measures we can keep both our staff and clients safe, and continue to offer the 1st class service that our clients have come to expect.

 

Best Approved Inspector Logo

Best Approved Inspector 2020

We are please to announce that we are winners of the Best Approved Inspector award in the Global 100 Awards 2020.

At a time when trust and competency in Building Control is under scrutiny in the Grenfell Inquiry its great to be recognised as the Best Approved Inspector.

The purpose of the awards is to provide a comprehensive understanding of which companies are truly leaders within their chosen areas of specialisation.

The Awards do not follow the usual process followed by many others It follows  a very specific, very comprehensive process, not commonly used elsewhere in the industry.

Following the closure of the voting process, which follows a very strict format of self-submission and third party nomination, firms are shortlisted and selected as winners;

For each category awarded a proprietary method of analysis ranks winners based on their domestic and international work. This ranking method produces a list of shortlisted firms, based on a very comprehensive set of criteria.

Once all votes have been received, an independent panel of judges review the votes within each category. The judging process assesses the following considerations:

  • The strategic nature of work conducted.
  • The complexity of work conducted.
  • The scale of work conducted.
  • Whether the work conducted was done so in a timely manner, and within budget.
  • Any ground-breaking or innovative processes used during completion of conducted work.

The above criteria underlines the importance of the recognition each award winning firm is receiving as a Global 100 winning organisation, firm or individual.

In summary, in the current incredibly challenging times, the Global 100  program provides a benchmark of the very best of the best industry leaders, exemplary teams and distinguished organisations.

Christmas Opening Hours

In order to give our hard working staff a much needed break over the Christmas period, our office’s will be closing early this year at 5.00pm on the 23rd December and will reopen again from 8.00am on the 4th January.

We wish everyone a safe and Merry Christmas an look forward to working with you again in 2021.

PS We have donated to the Charity CRASH instead of sending cards this year. Check out this link for a special Christmas message.

Consumer protection questions.

The role of Building Control is often assumed to cover consumer protection, especially on small domestic projects, where the Building Inspector is often the only professional involved in the project.

In fact Building Control do not offer consumer protection, and are there only to ensure certain minimum statutory rules are adhered to. Its easiest to think of Building Control in terms of the buying a car – Building Control would be the equivalent of an MOT test, rather than a 7 year manufacturer’s warranty. Therefore, you could rightly expect the brakes, seat belts and emissions to be correct, but would have no recourse if the Radio, Sat Nav or paintwork were faulty.

The role of the various parties has been set out in the Future of Building Control report published by the Government

The report states that the building control service will:

  • provide a checking service to help achieve compliance with building standards
  • support and advise customers on how to end up with the result they want, but will not be a substitute for professional design and construction advice
  • help with aspects of quality (workmanship and materials) where these affect compliance with building standards, but not where they do not affect compliance
  • ensure that all building standards which are set in the interests of the wider public good have been complied with at completion.

However the building control service will not:

  • be responsible for compliance – that is the duty of the person carrying out the work. If work is found not to comply with building standards the person responsible could be prosecuted and the owner of the building may be required to put the work right
  • manage every stage of the construction process on-site – that is a matter for the contracts and arrangements between the client and builder
  • address issues such as the finish and aesthetics of the final project where these are not relevant to compliance with building standards – these are a matter for designers, developers, builders and, to some extent, new home warranty providers
  • deal with contractual problems between client and builder – this is a matter of contract law.

Roles and responsibilities of those involved in the building control system:

Building owners (householder, landowner, property owner) – are ultimately responsible for compliance of any building work undertaken, and should understand the aims of the building control system (to meet the needs of current and future users of the building, not just their own expectations).

Construction industry (architects, engineers, designers, surveyors, builders, construction companies, developers, etc) – design and build to meet the required standard, and have a clear understanding of the building control system and its role (eg to notify the building control service at agreed stages).

Approved inspectors – provide an independent third-party check on compliance with Building Regulations through plans checking and inspections; carry out informal enforcement, advise customers at design stage and on-site, collect and act on performance management information. Authorised by the Construction Industry Council on behalf of the Secretary of State. Approved Inspectors can also often offer other services beyond the building control system itself, (such as carrying out fire risk assessments and health and safety services), but may not undertake design or have a financial interest in the project.

When you use an approved inspector, they will take on responsibility for plan checking and inspection of your building work. The procedure requires you and the approved inspector jointly to notify your local authority of your intended building work on what is called an initial notice. Subject to any arrangements you have agreed with your approved inspector, you may start work as soon as the initial notice is accepted by your local authority. Work cannot start for a period of 5 days to enable the local authority time to process the Initial Notice.

Once this notice has been accepted by your local authority the responsibility for plan checking and site inspection will be formally placed on the approved inspector. The approved inspector will tell you what plans and information they need in order to check that the proposed work will comply with the Building Regulations. If you ask for one, the approved inspector will issue a plans certificate which will confirm that the plans of your proposed building work show compliance with the Building Regulations. When the work is complete the approved inspector must issue a final certificate to the local authority to say that the work referred to in the initial notice is complete, and that the inspector has carried out their inspection responsibilities.

If the approved inspector is not satisfied with work in progress on site, and you cannot resolve the disagreement by discussion, the inspector will have to cancel the initial notice by a notice to the local authority. This will terminate the inspectors building control responsibility for your project. In these circumstances the Building Control Service function is likely to have to return to your local authority

Important Hints & Tips

  • Get at least three written, itemised quotes for your building work. Prices can vary enormously, but don’t automatically go for the cheapest quote and ensure your quotes are “like for like” i.e. does one quote allow for all fixtures and fittings to a new bathroom but another builds in a nominal sum of £1,000 with you paying the extra.
  • Use a reputable builder – Check out sites such as Checkatrade, Trust mark or similar or use one who is recommended to you and whose work you can go and look at and whose customers would use again.
  • Have your plans properly drawn up by an experienced architect and ensure that they are submitted to us as early as possible so they can be checked and any problems resolved. That way when a builder is pricing they have an Approved Scheme to price. Spending time and money early on planning and designing your project is money well spent, as defects or changes made at a later stage can be costly in time lost and reworking.
  • Use a contract even if it’s a simple project there are a number of simple homeowner building contracts available to buy off the internet, or if the Builder is a member of FMB you can download this one www.home-extension.co.uk/fmbcontract.pdf

    For larger projects such as a new house insist on an insurance backed warranty. Although no longer a legal requirement there are 6 warranty schemes still in operation that were approved by the CIC under the designated warranty criteria, these being

  • Building Life Plans www.blpinsurance.com
  • Build Zone www.build-zone.com
  • Checkmate www.checkmate.uk.com
  • NHBC www.nhbc.co.uk
  • Premier Guarantee www.premierguarantee.co.uk
  • CRL www.structuralinsurance.com

In addition you can also now choose cover under a non-designated warranty such as the Architects Certificate scheme if you prefer.

  • Professional Consultants Certificate Ltd www.architectscertificate.co.uk
  • Advantage Structural Defects Policy www.ahci.co.uk

Lastly don’t forget you may need other permissions such as Planning, Party Wall Awards, Highways etc. CDM regulations also require that the contractor has at least a basic Health and Safety Plan. Ask to see a copy of the plan and a copy of their insurance policy. Don’t be tempted to employ a Builder that will cut costs by working from a ladder when they should have been using a scaffold; as you could find yourself un-insured or even liable if something goes wrong.

Disclaimer: The information provided through this website is for general information only and does not constitute professional or legal advice. No liability is accepted for reliance on the information contained within this web site. Users should seek the appropriate legal advice before taking or refraining from taking any action based upon the materials contained within this web site.

Cold Weather Working

Its that time of year again when we get asked if its OK to concrete or lay bricks during during the cold and snowy weather. As general advice we would not recommend working when temperatures are below 5 degrees and falling unless additional precautions are taken.

Concrete

Cemex have issued some excellent guidance about the need to protect concrete in cold weather. If young concrete is allowed to cool much below freezing point it will be damaged to such an extent that it will be unfit for use. It should also be noted that even if temperatures do not drop below zero the concrete will develop strength much more slowly than during the warmer months.

Brickwork

Setting in mortar usually occurs at temperatures above 4 degrees C. If mortar is used below this temperature it may not set properly and if water is retained in the joint, frost damage can result.

Fortunately there are relatively few periods in the UK when the daytime air temperature remains below 4 degrees C and if it is below freezing it may be impractical to continue with masonry work in any case; not least because the outdoor water supply will freeze.

However, during the winter months all stocks of bricks and blocks should be covered to provide protection against rain, frost and snow. Bricks or blocks that become saturated should not be used until they have dried out and in cold weather they risk damage if they freeze.

Mortar likewise needs protection during very cold weather. If mortar freezes during storage any frozen material must be discarded. Neither should mortar be laid on frozen surfaces. Anti freeze agents for mortar are not recognised in British or European Standards.

As mortar hardens and develops strength more slowly in cold weather, new masonry, or areas under construction, should be covered and protected from the elements. This is likely to require two layers – thermal protection such as hessian or some form of quilting and a waterproof sheet to stop the under layer getting wet.

Protective covers should not be in contact with the face of the wall to avoid ‘sweating’ and consequent staining. The covers should be secure and kept in place until the mortar dries.

Workforce

Also dont forget to look after yourself when working outside in cold weather. In many cases its best to postpone the work until the weather improves to avoid the risk of falls due to slippery surfaces on scaffolding, ladders, and work platforms.

Remember to wrap up warm as the body loses up to 30 times more heat in cold wet weather and about 10 per cent of this is lost through the head. Hooded jackets and coats, which keep the head and body warm and dry, and offer multiple layers of insulation which can be added or removed to suit outdoor conditions. When using a hood or hat ensure that this does not affect the fit of any head protection (hardhat).

Gloves should be worn if working in temperatures below 4C and offer thermal and water-resistant protection as well as good grip and flexibility. Good options include insulated gloves with a coating of nitrile material.

Safety footwear should provide warmth, waterproofing, traction and grip to prevent slips and falls on site. The Health and Safety Executive recommends grooved non-slip rubber or neoprene The thermal lining is waterproof to keep the feet warm while enabling them to breathe to prevent overheating.

Lastly be prepared to take more frequent rest breaks and drink warm fluids such as soup or hot drinks