Category: News

Its our turn to extend.

We are pleased to announce that we will be opening a new office in Loughton, Essex, in November 2020.

This will help to extend our coverage for domestic scale projects out beyond the M25 and into Essex.

We look forward to bringing our award winning services out to a wider audience.

For more info check out our contact page.


Lockdown Latest

Following Prime Minster Boris Johnson’s announcement on Saturday, England will be going back into lockdown on Thursday 5 November.

During his announcement, he reiterated that the construction industry was to remain open, and government ministers has since confirmed that any construction or property support company should continue to operate if it is safe to do so.

Accordingly we can confirm that we will be continuing to operate during the Lockdown period and that site inspections should be booked as normal, using the inspection request page, email or via telephone.  Please rest assured that  we will be following the latest Construction Industry Council Site Operating Procedures to ensure that we keep our clients, our staff and the public as safe as possible.

In the event that you are self isolating, or are experiencing any of the symptoms of coronavirus, we would ask that you cancel any site visits and let us know in writing. We can then request any necessary extensions to statutory deadlines on your behalf to ensure that you do not breach rules on occupation prior to completion.


Proposed changes to accessible housing standards

The government have announced a consultation on proposed change to Part M of the Building Regulations, and the requirements for disabled access to new dwellings.

The current standards used in the Building Regulations are set at 3 variable levels, these are –

•M4(1): Visitable dwellings
•M4(2): Accessible and adaptable dwellings
•M4(3): Wheelchair user dwellings

At present requirement M4(1) is the default standard and applies as a mandatory requirement when no higher standard is applied locally. M4(2) and M4(3) are optional requirements for dwellings which local authorities can apply through planning policies.

The Government are looking at how they can best improve these requirements and have set out 5 potential ways forward. The options in the consultation are –

Option 1: Using recently revised planning policy to implement the use of optional technical standards.
Option 2: To mandate the current M4(2) requirement in Building Regulations as a minimum standard for all new homes, with M4(1) applying by exception (e.g a new build flat above a garage).
Option 3: Remove M4(1) altogether, so that all new homes will have to at least have the accessible and adaptable features of an M4(2) home.
Option 4: To mandate the current M4(2) requirement in Building Regulations as a minimum standard for all new homes with M4(1) applying by exception only, a set percentage of M4(3) homes would also need to be applied in all areas.
Option 5: Change the content to create a revised M4(1) minimum standard.

How would this affect your developments?

Well M4(1) only sets minimum standards – covering level access, level thresholds, door and corridor widths, entrance level WCs and accessible heights for controls. A move to M4(2) would require larger circulation spaces and sanitary provision (bathrooms) and features to make homes more easily adaptable over time. M4(3): Sets a standard for wheelchair accessible homes. This requirement can be for either a wheelchair adaptable home or a wheelchair accessible home.

To find out more about the different standards and what this could mean to your development get in touch and stay tuned for a future webinar.

New rules will makes Changing Place Toilets mandatory.

New rules will make “Changing Place Toilets” mandatory

The government have announced changes to Approved Document M: Access to and use of buildings, Volume 2 – Buildings other than dwellings.
It details which new, large buildings, or those subject to a material change of use, commonly used by the public will be mandated to provide changing places.
The changes will take effect on 1 January 2021, with applications received prior to that date which commence within 2 months being exempt. Hopefully no one will look to exploit the exemption, and grants will be available.
The new rules will require 4m x 3m changing places (not standard part M toilets) to be provided to meet the needs of people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, as well as people with other physical disabilities such as spinal injuries, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis.
These toilets provide a dignified place and the right equipment for a disabled person & their career. Equipment includes a height adjustable adult-sized changing table, a tracking hoist system, adequate space, a peninsular WC with room either side and a safe and clean environment including tear off paper to cover the bench, a large waste bin and a non-slip floor.
The government estimates it will add the toilets to more than 150 new buildings a year and mean that around 250,000 severely Disabled people and their carers can enjoy shops, theatres, sports events, etc that the rest of us take for granted.
Contact us for more details.
covid workspace

Covid Secure Workspace

As businesses now look to return to work you may be thinking of making alterations to your workspace.

When carrying out any proposed alterations it is important to remember that you may require permission to make those alterations from the freeholder. Additionally in most cases Building Regulations require that you apply for consent in advance for any alterations.

The Building Regulations define a material alteration as work which will temporarily or permanently affect the ongoing compliance of the building, service or fitting with the requirements relating to structure, fire or access to and use of buildings; and also the energy efficiency of the building.

We have teamed up with our friends at Sagal Group and produed a guide to some of the key challenges in altering your workspace, to make sure that you don’t fall foul of the regulations.

The first thing to remember is that you must make an application in advance of carrying out the work and submit drawings of the existing and proposed layouts for assessment. Using the Local Authority Inspectors typically takes 5-8 weeks for a decision so if you are in a hurry you can use an Approved Inspector to speed up the process, as they can check the plans within 5-10 working days and in some cases you could even make a start a week after appointing them.

In most cases the key issues you will face relate to Fire Safety, Toilets and Disabled Access so we will quickly pick up on those issues in this guide, but always speak to the Building Inspector to make sure on your specific scheme.

Fire Safety

Changing the layout of the workspace will almost certaintly affect the means of escape in case of fire. This could simply be things like holding open or automating a fire door to improve circulation without the need to touch handles. You might be considering removing or installing partitions which mean that escape signs, emergency lighting or fire alarms also need to be moved.

Perhaps the most important thing to consider at this stage is the effect on escape distances of changing the layout of desks or operating a one way system for the stairs etc. Most workspaces will be designed on the principal of 2 directional escape. As a result you are allowed to be 45m away from a fire exit, if you reduce this to a single direction then the maximum distance reduces down to just 18m. Creating a one way system can significantly increase this distance.

When complete also remember to update your fire risk assessment and ensure that you still have the correct number of fire wardens and first aiders.


In order to maintain safe distancing you may need to reduce the number of toilets or restrict access to them. The regulations set out the minimum number of toilets for the proposed occupancy and simply reducing the number of toilets in proportion to the number of workers doesn’t always result in sufficient numbers.

The guidance for toilet provision is set out in the table below.

Female toilets

Number of persons at work Number of WCs Number of washbasins
1 to 5 1 1
6 to 15 2 2
16 to 30 3 3
31 to 45 4 4
46 to 60 5 5
61 to 75 6 6
76 to 90 7 7
91 to 100 8 8

Above 100 persons require: 8, plus 1 WC and washbasin for every unit or fraction of a unit of 25 persons.

Male toilets

Every male toilet should have at least one WC. Considerations should be give to the provision of privacy screens between urinals.

Number of persons at work Number of WCs Number of urinals Number of washbasins
1 to 15 1 1 1
16 to 30 2 1 2
31 to 45 2 2 2
46 to 60 3 2 3
61 to 75 3 3 3
76 to 90 4 3 4
91 to 100 4 4 4

Above 100 persons require: 4, plus 1 WC, urinal and washbasin for every unit or fraction of a unit of 50 persons.

We have also created a complete guide to office and workplace washrooms.


When altering the workspace don’t forget that you must still ensure that the revised layouts are accessible to all, and that you don’t discriminate against people with disabilities. The use of a one way system using a lift up and a stair down for example could be discriminatory against a wheelchair user.

Installing a wrap around or continuous perspex screen at receptions could discriminate against people with hearing impairment unless you install an induction loop, and would still need a lower section for a wheelchair user. Also bear in mind that the use of temporary signage could be an issue for the visually impaired and that braille creates another surface that would need cleaning.

Child at window

Child Safety Week

For #childsafetyweek here’s a reminder that Approved Document K (England) provides recommendations for the minimum height of windows (800mm) above floor level and guarding for windows where they fall below these levels.

Architectural trends are for deeper windows or french windows with low level cills into their designs. The cills to these windows can provide platforms to aid climbability by children.

As such, the recommendations for guarding height to windows may not be appropriate to afford the required protection and to ensure the safety of the occupants and hence achieve compliance with the functional requirements.

According to Childata, 50% of four year old children can step up 410mm, and 3% can step up 550mm. Any cill height lower than 600mm may therefore be considered readily climbable by children. The same source shows only 5% of four year old children are taller than 1200mm so most would be fairly stable standing on an upstand if a minimum guard height of 700mm were to be maintained.

Worth remembering when you are sat designing this week.

For more info download the BCA Guidance notes or ring and speak with one of our technical staff.


Airspace Development

New rules for blocks over 11m will affect Airspace development.

The Government have today (26th May 2020) published new guidance that will require Sprinklers and Way finding signage in blocks of flats over 11m in height.

Critically this will also apply to airspace development where stories are added to an existing block.

The new rules require that blocks of flats with a top storey more than 11m above ground level  should be fitted with a sprinkler system throughout the building. Sprinklers should be provided within the individual flats, they do not need to be provided in the common areas such as stairs, corridors or landings when these areas are fire sterile.

Applicants and building control bodies are reminded of the need to consider these new provisions in relation to extensions as required by Regulation 4(1).

New accommodation, formed by building work, should meet the relevant requirements having considered the guidance in the approved document. This means ensuring that the standard of fire protection for the occupants of the new accommodation is as would be provided for a new building under the approved document.

In the majority of cases, therefore, sprinkler protection and wayfinding signage will be necessary in any newly formed accommodation that falls above the new 11m trigger height.

It may also be necessary to consider additional protection for the existing parts of the building where needed to ensure that the extension is compliant with the applicable requirements of Schedule 1.

Equally, it will be necessary to satisfy regulation 4(3) by ensuring that the level of fire protection in the building as a whole is made no worse.


The 2019 edition will continue to apply where a building notice or an initial notice has been given to, or full plans deposited with, a local authority before 26 November 2020 and either the building work to which it relates:
a. has started before that day; or
b. is started before 29 January 2021.

The changes focus on the following fire safety provisions in blocks of flats:

a. Sprinklers:A reduction in the trigger height from 30m to 11m.
b. Wayfinding signage for the fire service: A new recommendation for floor identification and flat indication signage within blocks of flats with storeys over 11m

The full guidance can be found here


Material changes

The construction industry is rapidly returning to work following the Prime Ministers announcement last night (10th May 2020).

This raises a number of issues regarding the health and safety of workers on the construction sites which are quite rightly being discussed on social media today.

However, one aspect that doesn’t seem to have been considered is the problem of “material substitution”, where one product is changed for another.

With builders merchants and manufacturers still closed in full or part contractors will struggle to get the materials they need to undertake the work that’s required. If they cant complete the work they will often have penalty clauses for late completion or simply not get paid for the work that they have partially competed. This places them under great pressure to “get building work done” and it becomes increasingly tempting to substitute one product or material for another.

Whilst changing the colour of a kitchen worktop has little effect on health and safety other material swaps can have major life safety implications. This was evidenced dramatically at Grenfell Tower where cladding and insulation materials were swapped from the original product specifications, resulting in multiple deaths. To many contractors (and builders merchants alike) one product may seem very much like another, and the temptation to swap from PIR (polyisocyanate) insulation to PUR (polyurethane) insulation if that’s all that in stock will be great. However, if that product hasn’t been tested in the same combination as the original it may simply not be safe to use.

In some cases the products being substituted may look visually the same but have significantly different properties. Just last month CROSS (the whistleblowing scheme for construction safety) carried a warning that concrete lintels in a domestic extension had been wrongly substituted. The report explained that the engineers designed lintel was swapped with an alternative from the same supplier. The geometry of the two lintels were identical, but the replacement lintel was only designed to take 3/4 of the load of the original, risking future structural collapse.

In recent days we have seen builders intending to render directly onto OSB rather than a cement particle carrier board (risking warping and damp ingress), another who “sealed up” a manhole with a sheet of insulation and tape (risking the entry of raw sewage) into the building and one who installed of a domestic smoke detection system where a commercial system was required to ensure fire safety. Other examples include swapping fire or moisture rated plasterboard for standard plasterboard or using standard concrete instead of sulphate resisting concrete.

There is a real risk that this is common place, and likely to increase with hidden defects not becoming apparent for several years in some cases. Now more than ever it is important that works are fully inspected and that you look to appoint a clerk of works to check that the correctly specified materials are in place. Reliance on Building Control inspections alone will not deliver quality or safety as many of these items may not be identifiable and are often not “statutory” inspection stages in any case.

The issue of materials substitution was raised in Dame Hackitts report where she recommend that firstly a detailed specification must be approved prior to works commencing (known as Gateway 2). To avoid substitution she also recommended a statutory change managment system whereby changes of materials legally had to be notified to Building Control and works are not allowed to continue until that change had been approved. Lastly prior to occupation the contractor is required to evidence that the correct products had been installed by competent people.

To avoid the risks of material substitution the Government needs to ensure urgently that stocks of products are back to pre-COVID levels in order to safeguard lives. We would also call on Government to bring forward Dame Hackitts recommendations and legislate that


  • that work cannot start until approval is in place,
  • that material substitutions must be notified to Building Control and
  • that materials are clearly marked to help identification
We would also ask that this applies to all projects (including domestic extensions) and not just to buildings in the scope of Dame Hackitts report (eg those over 18m in height). Whilst this might seem a draconian measure pre approved specifications could be published to speed up the approval process – indeed a similar website already exists at which enables even a small builder to produce a compliant specification in minutes.

Pending that legislation we need an urgent national campaign to educate contractors, surveyors and clients of the risks and what to look out on site to prevent incorrect material use.



Building A Safer Future – Draft Reply

As promised here is our draft response for you to use and amend as you wish.

Building safer future



Time is of the essence as the consultation officially closes on 31st July but I’m sure they will accept responses at least until Friday and may even announce an extension of time.

When you are ready add your name and sign the last page (electronic signature is fine) then Email to and Copy to

Want to know more check out our video