Category: News

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Following the Grenfell Tower Fire several insurers have withdrawn from the market, and as a result MHCLG agreed to amend the insurance criteria, and the new criteria were published in November 2019.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

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.