Category: News

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

Join the team

We are looking for a part time site inspector to join our team within the next few weeks.

The role will involve undertaking inspections of Building Projects and filing Inspection reports. The role is home based and requires travel by car/motorcycle to various building sites within the Hampshire, Surrey and West Sussex area and a driving licence and vehicle are essential.

Initially we anticipate that the role will require 15 hours of work a week. We are able to be highly flexible and as a part time variable hours contract this means that we can accommodate a choice of working patterns and hours – for example the hours could be worked as 5 hours over 3 days, or 7.5 hours over 2 days etc to fit around childcare or other responsibilities and offer the option of long weekends. If neither of these options fits then please contact us as we may still be able to accommodate alternative patterns

Salary will be £25K – £40K pro rata based on qualifications and experience. A working knowledge of the Building Regulations and construction methods is required but additional training and support is available.

In addition to the salary we offer paid holiday, employee perks, medical insurance, car user allowance and mileage payment in line with HMRC for work travel.

We are a small family business that has been established for over 10 years and has won multiple awards for our service and employment practices.

Perhaps you are looking to cut down your current hours and are fed up with the bureaucracy of Local Authority Building Control? Alternatively you may be looking to step back into work following furlough or as the children are growing up? If so then this could be the ideal role for you. It may also suit an experienced tradesperson who is finding site work too demanding.

Important – whilst we are an equal opportunity employer and positively encourage applications from under-represented groups the ability to climb ladders, and drive your own vehicle is essential to this post. Additionally the role requires basic IT skills such as the ability to use Word and email to complete and submit inspection reports.

Please send CV’s to office@thebuildinginspector.org

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.

 

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