Author: geoff

Newsnight

Changing the Culture of Construction – As seen on TV

Managing Director Geoff Wilkinson appeared on last week’s Newsnight special investigation into the fire safety crisis gripping the UK.

The investigation found that there are numerous fire safety defects in buildings and that the culture within construction is to look to cut costs by driving compliance down to the minimum standard that complies with the regulations or even lower.

Decades of “light touch” regulation from central Government have meant that leaseholders find themselves with huge bills to rectify these defects. In response to the growing public outcry Government are looking to change the law and require that contractors go back and put these defects right.

Increasingly we are being approached by contractors who are finding that their buildings have been signed off by others with this light touch approach and that they are now having to go back and rectify the defects.

As one client recently said “We have previously worked with you … and found your practice to be somewhat more detailed than other Inspectors……”

They went on to say that while “…a poor Inspector won’t pick things up, if an issue arises later on, it’s us the contractor who will carry the risk. I would like to ensure we don’t leave site thinking we are ok, but in reality face a time bomb waiting to happen. The contrast between a detailed inspector like yourselves and others is huge!”

As liability rests with the person carrying out the work, not the Building Control Body, it’s worth considering what value your chosen Building Inspector brings to the table. Whilst a light touch and low cost may initially appeal, a more thorough service may help save costs in the long run and ensure that we change the culture of construction. Whilst we can’t guarantee that we will catch everything,  you can rest assured that you are in the safest hands possible.

Now is the time to stop looking to the minimum and instead drive up standards of compliance. As it says in our tag line we are all about “Building Standards in the UK” which is why we were voted Best Approved Inspector 2020.

If you value service over price, then get in touch now to find out more about how we can help to defuse those ticking time bombs.
Best Approved Inspector Logo

Hand shake

Gateway 1 Now Open

The first of Dame Hackitts key recommendations comes into force this month as from 1 August 2021 Gateway One now applies. As a result buildings which are either 18m or over or have seven or more storeys, and contain two or more dwellings, must now submit a fire statement setting out fire safety considerations specific to the development, as part of the planning process.

Therefore it is even more important to appoint us early in the project (prior to planning) to make sure that your proposed statement will meet Building Regulation requirements.

Afternoon tea

Free prize draw – Closes midnight on 30th September

Take our survey and enter a prize draw to win an Afternoon Tea experience at Patisserie Valerie.

We are looking to learn more about what you want from Building Control, so we are running a survey throughout September.

One lucky winner will receive a voucher for Afternoon Tea for two at Patisserie Valerie

 

It will only take a few minutes and will help us to help you, so please don’t delay.

Enter the prize draw now and complete the survey at BUILDING CONTROL SURVEY

Free Prize Draw Terms and Conditions

  1. By entering the prize draw you are agreeing to these prize draw terms and conditions.
  2. The prize draw is being run by Wilkinson Construction Consultants Ltd 111 Buckingham Palace Road London SW1W 5SR (The Company)

Eligibility to enter

  1. The prize draw is open to entrants over 18 years of age only.
  2. In entering the prize draw, you confirm that you are eligible to do so and eligible to claim any prize you may win.
  3. A maximum of one entry per individual is permitted.
  4. The prize draw is free to enter.

How to enter

  1. The prize draw opens at 00:01 on 01 09 2021 and closes at 23:59 on 30 09 2021. Late entries will not be accepted.
  2. To enter the prize draw complete the survey at https://lp.constantcontactpages.com/sv/VVpytQs/BUILDINGCONTROLSURVEY
  3. The company will not accept responsibility if contact details provided are incomplete or inaccurate; or for prize draw entries that are lost, mislaid, damaged or delayed in transit.

The prizes

  1. The prize will be as follows:
    • One singe prize of a voucher for afternoon tea for two at Patisserie Valerie and is subject to availability.
  2. The use of particular brands as prizes does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement of such brands.
  3. The winner will be drawn at random and the draw will be broadcast live on our Facebook page
  4. The prizes are non-exchangeable, non-transferable and no cash alternatives will be offered.
  5. We reserve the right to substitute prizes with another prize of equal (£25:00) or higher value if circumstances beyond our control make it necessary to do so.
  6. The decision of the company regarding any aspect of the prize draw is final and binding and no correspondence will be entered into about it.
  7. The will attempt to contact winners by email up to two times. If contact is not made, the Company  reserves the right to choose and notify a new winner.

Claiming the prize

  1. Please allow 7 days for delivery of the prize.
  2. If a winner does not claim their prize within 14 days, they will lose their right to the prize.
  3. If the winner cannot be contacted or has not claimed their prize within the required time limit, the Company reserves the right to choose and notify a new winner.

Data protection and publicity

  1. You consent to any personal information you provide in entering the prize draw being used by the Company for the purposes of administering the prize draw.
  2. Winners agree to participate in any reasonable publicity related to the prize draw which may include the publication of their name and photograph in any media.
  3. All personal information shall be used in accordance with the Company’s Data Protection Policy, accessible here https://www.thebuildinginspector.org/privacy-policy/

Limitation of Liability

  1. The Company does not accept any liability for any damage, loss, injury or disappointment suffered by any entrants as a result of either participating in the prize draw or being selected for a prize, save that the Company does not exclude its liability for death or personal injury as a result of its own negligence.

General

  1. The Company reserves the right to cancel the prize draw or amend these terms and conditions at any time, without prior notice.
  2. The prize draw and these terms and conditions will be governed by English law and any disputes will be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Offices

The Regs: Take safety into account when designing partition’s

One of the questions we regularly get asked is whether or not Building Regulations apply to minor works to fit out offices, shops, and so on. In most cases the answer is ‘yes’ and there are quite a few regulations that you can fall foul of if you are not careful.

It will come as a surprise to many that even a simple project to subdivide an office can require building control approval. This is because the regulations apply to any alteration that affects the means of escape in case of fire, even if it there is no structural work proposed. Conversely, taking down partitions to make an open plan office can also require permission, as the partitions may have formed a means-of-escape corridor or other form of protected escape route.

A typical scheme might involve creating a new office or meeting room within an existing open plan layout. This is known as an inner room, and specific rules apply, as the only escape route is through another room and a fire in the outer room could trap someone inside. Therefore, Building Regulations require that:

  • the capacity of the inner room does not exceed 60 people (which could rule out meeting and conference rooms)
  • the escape route from the inner room should not pass through more than one outer room
  • the travel distance from the inner room to the exit(s) from the outer room should be limited (usually to 18m in total)
  • the outer room should not be a place of special fire hazard
  • the outer room should be in the control of the same occupier; and
  • in order to give early warning of a problem, either
  1. the partitions of the inner room should be stopped at least 500mm below the ceiling, or
  2. a vision panel not less than 0.1m2 should be located in the door or walls of the inner room, or
  3. the outer room should be fitted with automatic fire detection which is audible within the inner room.

Other considerations include:

  • changes to the emergency lighting and fire exit signage may be required
  • changes to sprinklers or fire detector locations may be required
  • wall and ceiling linings should be controlled and the surface spread of flame rating limited.

Note that if you are dividing a floor into separate occupancies, the means of escape from each occupancy should not pass through any other occupancy. If the means of escape will then include a common corridor or circulation space, then either it should be a protected corridor or a suitable automatic fire detection system should be installed throughout the whole of the storey.

Therefore plans should always be prepared for building control approval which show the following: proposed uses of each space; fire escape routes; fire compartmentation; cavity barriers to floors and ceilings; fire rating of doors and partitions; proposed ironmongery; fire alarm layouts; exit signage; emergency lighting; and sprinkler layouts (these are often best shown on a reflected ceiling plan).

This article originally appeared in AJ Specification

Clean Air Day

Its Clean Air Day today (17th June 2021) and the Worlds’ focus is on the quality of air that we breathe. Unsurprisingly a lot of attention is being given to outdoor air pollution, with people being asked to reduce emissions by walking, cycling or using electric vehicles. However, less attention is being given to the quality of indoor air in buildings, yet this potentially has a far greater effect on the health of the nation.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is a critical issue given that people living in developed countries can spend as much as 90% of their time indoors. This has been exacerbated by the measures put in place to combat Covid with the most susceptible individuals – such as the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions – spending almost all their time inside. Greater provision of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO’s) have also seen an increase in this issue with people living in cramped single aspect rooms, and undertaking cooking, living and sleeping functions all within the same multifunction space.
When the energy efficiency standards in Part L of the Building Regulations were strengthened in 2006, 2010 and again in 2013, new buildings were required to be more airtight by reducing heat losses through unwanted gaps and cracks in the fabric. However, by reducing this uncontrolled ‘infiltration’ it means that far more care must be taken with the ‘purpose-provided ventilation’ from devices such as trickle ventilators and fans designed into the building. These are controlled under Part F of the Building Regulations with guidance being contained in Approved Document F (ADF).

There is still clearly a lack of understanding of the health risks associated with IAQ, and its rare that a week goes by where we are not asked by an Architect if they can omit trickle vents because they are not aesthetically pleasing, or a contractor asking if a workplace can omit mechanical ventilation as the client doesn’t want to pay for it.

In 2019 the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) published a study into the quality of air in mew homes. In total, 80 homes had been studied in the period from November 2015 to February 2016, across seven developments within England, and the results were shocking as nearly all homes did not meet the recommended ventilation provisions – some by very significant levels.

Only 2 of the 55 naturally ventilated homes met the guidance in ADF with respect both to trickle ventilator provision and local extract fan air flow rates. Homes with whole house mechanical ventilation systems faired no better with just one of the 25 homes in the study meeting the guidance published in ADF with the cause being that the extract fan flow rates were below those recommended, in some cases by as much as 85% below the recommended flow rate.

These results are especially disappointing given that one of the key changes in the Part F 2010 revision was the introduction of a legal requirement for testing and commissioning of installed fans, and for the installer to notify the building control body of the commissioning and the air flow rates. This is again an area where we see huge resistance from contractors to supply the necessary certification prior to occupation.

There is also currently a lack of awareness amongst the occupiers of buildings, of the vital role that ventilation plays and how and when to operate that ventilation. Nor are people aware that certain activities such as cooking or even using scented candles are polluting the indoor environment. It is likely that if occupants were more aware of this, they would try to keep such activities to a minimum or ensure that appropriate measures (such as purge ventilation) are used as mitigation.

In 2006 ADF sought to introduce a complementary strategy of ‘source control’ by reducing the release of volatile pollutants into the indoor air. Sources include formaldehyde and VOCs from plastic-based building components, fabrics and furnishings. In 2012 the Zero Carbon Hub recommended that such products or components be banned from use indoors and recommended the greater use of natural products with low or zero emission of pollutants.

The Government have responded to these finding and in January of this year published a consultation on revisions to ADF. This included a recognition that Mechanical ventilation has the potential to be the most proficient means of ventilating a modern property, although this provides a conflict with the need to reduce carbon emissions and energy use. The revised guidance proposes an increase the minimum airflow through these systems to each bedroom by 6 l/s. This has been introduced as there are concerns especially in bedrooms overnight when doors are kept shut – this is especially true in HMO type accommodation. The other expected change here is an increase in the background ventilation from 2500 mm2 to 5000 mm2 in extract-only systems.

Its not just new building’s either that need to be addressed, as the overall drive to improve thermal efficiency and the increased demand for home extensions are also having a negative effect on IAQ. For example, simply replacing existing windows is likely to increase the airtightness of the building. If ventilation is not provided via a mechanical extract and supply ventilation system, then increasing the airtightness of the building will reduce useful ventilation in the building. In these circumstances, it should be ensured that the ventilation provision is considered, and additional measures introduced to prevent IAQ reaching unacceptable levels.

Good Luck England

As the Euro’s start today we are sending our support out to the England team and wishing them good luck in the tournament.

As former Wembley Winners ourselves we know just how thrilling it is to come away from the famous stadium with a trophy.

Whilst we cant guarantee Gareth and the boys will have similar success  we can make sure that you have your plans in place for a successful tournament. Thats why we have decided to produce this Euro Wallchart so you can plan when the key games are and when not to book  your concrete pour!

 

Building a Safer Future Charter

We are pleased to announce that on World Earth Day we have become a Registered Signatory of the Building a Safer Future Charter.
For more details on the Charter check out https://buildingasaferfuture.org.uk/ 
At Wilkinson Construction Consultants we recognise that becoming a Registered Signatory is an important first step towards achieving the culture and behavioural change required in relation to the Charter’s objectives around building safety.
In confirming our support as a Registered Signatory, we will now be working to ensure that we embed the principles of the Charter into our organisation’s activities.

New Insurance Schemes Approved by MHCLG

The background to the new schemes and their approval is lengthy and complex, but put as simply as we can, Approved Inspector insurance has to meet the minimum criteria set by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG)

Following the Grenfell Tower Fire several insurers have withdrawn from the market, and as a result MHCLG agreed to amend the insurance criteria, and the new criteria were published in November 2019. The new schemes which have now been approved, will apply to all AIs with renewals from 1st May 2021 onwards.

Although we renewed our insurance in March the new policy wording agreed by MHCLG contain some fixed dates in terms of changes to cover and how it operates, that will affect our clients from July 2021 regardless of the date of renewal.

The key changes to coverage of our insurance policies are as follows:

Revision to definition of ‘The Business’:

The Insurance Criteria only relates to the statutory obligations of an Approved Inspector. Therefore, the PI policy is structured to specifically cover only the liabilities arising from the statutory obligations of an Approved Inspector. The definition of ‘the Business’ now refers to the role of an Approved Inspector, as defined in the Building Act 1984.

Fire Safety Notifications (FSNs):

Going forward, the following amount of cover will apply for Fire Safety Notifications (FSN) will be £1m each & every claim basis, subject to a minimum of £3m aggregate – this will be an improvement on existing cover.

The definition of FSN will be:

‘Any Claim(s), losses, liability, costs, expenses or Other Costs directly or indirectly arising out of or connected to the fire resistant and/or fire-retardant characteristics of external cladding systems.’

Contractual Liabilities:

The new approved policy wording contains a new exclusion in respect of ‘any Claim arising from a contract, agreement or appointment signed, entered into or concluded on or after the 1st July 2021, which contains provisions more onerous than the ACAI/CIC approved ‘Contract for the Appointment of an Approved Inspector…’

It has long been contended by insurers and AIs alike that given the nature of an AI’s role and the fact that the duties and obligations of an AI are clearly set out in statute, it is inappropriate for additional contractual obligations to be accepted.

Third Party Contracts and Collateral Warranties:

An exclusion is included in the policy in relation to Claims arising from Collateral Warranties or other Third-Party contracts signed after 1st July 2021.

The fact that Collateral Warranties and Novation Agreements are not appropriate for a firm carrying out a statutory role has been accepted for several years. Again, this is a fixed date detailed in the policy wording itself and will apply to all AIs regardless of renewal date.

Total Aggregate liability of £15m:

One of the criteria requirements of the MHCLG schme is an overall cap on exposure per AI per year of £15m in the aggregate. This is written into the policy wording going forward.

Run-Off Cover:

The length of run-off cover reduces from 10-years to 6-years, for any Initial Notice signed after 1st July 2021. This is a technicality dating back to the inception of Approved Inspectors in the 1980’s – reducing it to six years brings AIs in line with RICS members among others.

Public Liability Policy:

There have been changes to the wording and structure of the Public Liability Policy which generally mean that clients will benefit from additional or greater extent of cover going forward (compared to their expiring policy).

 

 

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.