Wilkinson Construction Consultants                           
Approved Inspector Building Regulations
Fire Risk Assessment

Ring Now 01732 523466
Email - office@thebuildinginspector.org

As holders of the Work Place Wellbeing Award we are aware that keeping our staff members hydrated helps them to perform at their very best throughout the work day. As a result, we decided to invest in watercoolers from AquaAid.


Our unique relationship with AquAid has also given our company the opportunity to help those less fortunate than ourselves, because with each purchase an automatic donation is made to the Africa Trust. These funds are used to build ‘Elephant Pumps’ - a modified version of an age old Chinese rope pulley system. One such pump is currently being installed in Africa on our behalf and it will be a much needed source of clean and fresh drinking water for many.


Our company’s name will be proudly displayed on our well and we look forward to adding some photos and letters of thanks from the villagers to our site in the near future.


To date AquAid have built over 5,000 such Elephant Pumps across parts of Zimbabwe, Malawi and Liberia; and have donated in excess of £10 million to charity.

Heart and circulatory disease takes the lives of more than 400 people in the UK each day. To help beat it our staff raised £120 for British Heart Foundation by wearing red to work on Friday 5th Feb 2016.

To register for 2017 see https://wearitbeatit.bhf.org.uk/sign-up-2017

Expert feature on BBC TV Prime time

Managing Director Geoff Wilkinson with Angela Rippon on Holiday Hit Squad

Last week’s episode of the prime time TV show Holiday Hit Squad featured a guest appearance by Geoff Wilkinson. The BBC 1 programme, presented by newsreader veteran Angela Rippon and ex-Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton, looks at the problems and dangers that can befall unwary British holidaymakers abroad. In last Thursday’s episode, Rippon interviewed Wilkinson as part of an investigation into the perils of hotel balconies, focused on a young man whose fall from a balcony in Thailand left him with horrific head injuries.

Lee Charry had returned to his hotel from a night out on the island of Ko Tao. He is thought to have fallen 7m onto his head from the balcony, which was very low and provided insufficient protection as a guard. Thai doctors were forced to cut away a quarter of his skull to cope with the swelling in his brain. But Charry can consider himself lucky – last year seven Britons were killed as a result of falling from hotel balconies.

Geoff Wilkinson, told Rippon: “In the UK we have minimum standards covering balcony height, but unfortunately there is no EU-wide or worldwide standard. UK Building Regulations require a minimum guard height of 1.1m, which is determined by the tipping point of the human body. The human body is heavier on the top than the bottom, the centre of gravity is going to be above a metre in height so you’re not likely to tip over there.”

Wilkinson noted that the UK standard for balcony height also needs updating as it hasn’t changed since the 1970s and the population is growing taller and heavier, effectively raising their centre of gravity and making guarding less effective. The balcony in Thailand would not have met British building standards. He added its not just overseas hotels as “There’s also a trend to move away from the traditional vertical balustrades at 100mm centres, towards new products involving glass boxes or tensile wires, none of which perform with the same level of safety. It’s a worry as children have been proven to have a tendency to climb these types of structure.”

He also urged tour operators to take responsibility to ensure that safety standards are being applied in hotels they send British holiday makers to. Wilkinson was interviewed by Rippon on a balcony on the Oxo Tower development in London for a programme watched on the night by an audience of over 3 million of viewers. He said “Angela is an immense professional and really comes across with all of the expertise you would expect of someone with 50-odd years experience in prime time TV. I’ve done other TV interviews but she was a class apart in terms of how she conducted herself.” He also urged tour operators to take responsibility to ensure that safety standards were being applied in hotels they send British holidaymakers to.


The jury have delivered a damning verdict in the enquiry into the Lakanal House fire this afternoon (28th March 2013) .

6 people including three children died in the blaze in Camberwell in July 2009. The inquest has heard 10 weeks of evidence including recordings of 999 calls that were made by those trapped in the fire. The jury gave a narrative for each victim, commenting upon the relevant failings in each case, and how they contributed to the deaths.

The building had been renovated in the 1980's and again in 2007 just years before the fire broke out. The jury confirmed that fire safety failings should have been spotted by Southwark Council during the renovations, and afterwards as it was required to undertake a fire risk assessment which was not carried out. The jury highlighted the lack of fire stopping and fire compartmentation that should have been, but wasn’t, in place as a major factor in the spread of smoke and flames from one flat to another.

Blocks of flats are unlike most buildings and are not designed for full evacuation in the event of a fire. Instead the buildings are made up of a series of fire tight cells, in which residents can remain in safety, whilst the occupants of the flat where the fire originates can evacuate. Whilst this will surprise many readers, the thought of evacuating 100's of often elderly tenants from high rise blocks, every time a toaster sets off a fire alarm, helps explain the strategy. In fact the same concept works in high dependency situations such as hospitals. There are literally hundreds of fire in flats every year and it is extremely rare for the fire to spread beyond the room, or flat where it starts and almost unheard of for there to be a death beyond the flat.

In this case the fire cells had been compromised by the building works carried out allowing the fire to spread and resulting in tenants becoming trapped. The fire service had limited knowledge of the building and working under extreme conditions were unable to rescue the victims from their flats. The jury criticized the Fire Service for not having identified the building in advance for reconnaissance and for failing to listen responsively to the 999 calls and give appropriate advice.

The jury noted that efforts were hampered by flaming debris from the buildings cladding system fell from above causing the fire to spread to multiple locations. This should not have happened as Building Regulations set an expectation that cladding in tall buildings is non-combustible - EG that it will not catch fire and allow the fire to spread. 

In addition to the above and not mentioned by the jury, the building should have had a smoke ventilation system which from the photographic evidence does not appear to have been in place or operable. The jury criticized the Council and the contractor for not getting Building Control Approval and supervision/certification for the work. 

The Coroner will make 3 recommendations under rule 43 of the Coroners Rules and these will be sent in reports to DCLG (Department for Communities and Local Government), The London Fire Brigade, and Southwark Council. The recommendations are expected to have far reaching consequences for the property sector, Building Regulations and Fire Safety within the UK. The reports are expected to be posted on the coroners website along with the transcripts from each day 

In the meantime tenants and landlords should ensure that their Fire Risk Assessments are suitable, sufficient, and up to date and that any works carried out are supervised by a Building Control Body.


Remember to test your smoke detector when you change your clock, as you cant turn back time.

The Fire Kills Campaign is asking people to keep themselves and their loved ones as safe as possible by making sure their smoke alarms are working properly by testing their smoke alarms when they change their clocks over the Easter weekend.

Many people will already have a list of tasks and DIY duties to get done this long weekend, so it’s the perfect time to add this quick, simple and life saving test to the ‘to-do’ list.

“Last year there were more than 30,709 accidental house fires across the country, and 15 childrens’ lives were lost. Don’t take the chance on your family’s life. Promise to test your alarms this clock change weekend.” 


  • You’re more than four times more likely to die in a domestic fire if you don’t have a working smoke alarm;
  • Fifteen children died in accidental fires last year, among a total 7,256 injuries and 187 deaths from dwelling fires across the country. 
  • Over half the people who died in fires in the home last year were over 65 years old and often less able to test for themselves.

Anyone visiting older friends or relatives this Easter can also take the opportunity to check that the ones they love will be safe. This might well be the best Easter present you could possibly give.

Fire Minister Brandon Lewis said:

“The simple act of testing your alarm could save the lives of the ones you love. It is all too easy to forget to test – and an alarm that doesn’t work is something you don’t notice until you need it, when it might be too late. That’s why we’re reminding people that it’s time to test, linking the twice-yearly clock change with this simple life-saving step. “Last year, one in seven people tested their smoke alarms when they changed their clocks. Let’s make it a nationwide habit. “

Listen out for radio and press adverts supporting the ‘When you change your clocks, test your smoke alarms’ campaign and find out more on the Fire Kills Facebook page (www.facebook.com/firekills).


Nearly one in five construction sites visited across Britain have been subject to enforcement action after failing safety checks.

Between 18 February and 15 March, HSE inspectors visited 2363 sites where refurbishment or repair work was taking place and saw 2976 contractors.

631 enforcement notices were served across 433 sites for poor practices that could put workers at risk, with 451 notices ordering that work stop immediately until the situation was put right.

During inspections, HSE inspectors looked at 

Work at height

Good order


View the image gallery to see examples of what HSE inspectors found on their site visits.

Warranty Link Rule to be withdrawn  

The Warranty Link Rule was introduced in 2005 at the time that the new home building control market was opened up to approved inspectors to alleviate concerns that approved inspectors did not have sufficient experience of supervising work of new homes . ODPM Circular Letter dated 31 October 2005 detailed the introduction of the Warranty Link Rule which meant that when an Approved Inspector is carrying out the building control function in respect of new dwellings for private sale or renting, that those new dwellings had to be registered under a designated warranty scheme.

In January 2012 DCLG consulted on changes to the Building Regulations in England which included the proposal to remove the Warranty Link Rule. The majority of those who responded were in favour of the proposal. A copy of the summary of responses can be found on the Department’s website at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/building-regulations-the-building-control-system.

As a result DCLG have confirmed that the removal of the Warranty Link Rule will take effect from 6 April 2013 in respect of initial notices or combined initial notices and plans certificates given on or after 6 April 2013 and will apply to England only. From 6 April 2013 Approved Inspectors will no longer be required to check if new dwellings are registered with a designated warranty scheme provider before undertaking the building control function on building work involving the creation by new build or conversion of any new dwellings for sale or private renting. 

This extends the range of work we can now cover to include New Dwellings without warranty cover. 

New Approved Documents Released

RIBA has today published amendments to the following Approved Documents: A, B vol 1, B vol 2, C, D, E, F, G, H, J, L1A, L1B, L2A, L2B and M. Also Approved Documents K and P have been replaced with new editions and Approved Document N has been withdrawn.

The main purpose of these changes is to implement the results of a review of the Building Regulations to reduce unnecessary burdens on industry. Except for the changes to Approved Documents L and the introduction of a new Approved Document 7, the changes to the approved documents take effect on 6 April 2013 for use in England*. The previous editions will continue to apply to work started before 6 April 2013, or to work subject to a building notice, full plans application or initial notice submitted before 6 April 2013. 

The changes to Approved Documents L are made to take account of a recast of the European Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (Directive 2010/31/EU) with amended guidance for:

• Energy Performance Certificates that comes into force on 9 January 2013;

• the analysis of high efficiency alternative systems for new buildings occupied by public authorities on 9 January 2013 and for all other new buildings on 9 July 2013; and

• the major renovation of existing buildings that comes into force for buildings occupied by public authorities on 9 January 2013 and for all buildings on 9 July 2013.

Regulation 25B “Nearly zero-energy requirements for new buildings” will not come into force until 2019 at the earliest. Changes to the Approved Documents L will be provided nearer to the time that this regulation comes into force.

Buildings of statutory undertakers (exempted from compliance with the Building Regulations under section 4(1) of the Building Act 1984) and Crown buildings need to comply with the requirements of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (recast) unless exempt (i.e. exempted under Regulation 21 of the Building Regulations 2010). Where not exempt, buildings of statutory undertakers and Crown buildings in both England and Wales need to comply with the following regulations under the Building Regulations 2010: regulations 23(1)(a) (in respect of major renovations of existing buildings), 25A (high-efficiency alternative systems for new buildings), 25B (nearly zero-energy requirements for new buildings), 26 (CO2 emission rates for new buildings), 29 (apart from 29(10)) (energy performance certificates) and 29A (recommendation reports for buildings on construction).

The changes also take account of the introduction of a new Approved Document 7 that comes into effect on 1 July 2013, this has been updated to reflect the European Construction Products Regulation which will come fully into force on 1 July 2013.

To purchase a copy click http://www.ribabookshops.com/topic/building-regulations-approved-documents-and-guides/03/

To read a summary click here

DCLG Publish Consultation Responses on 2013 Regulation Changes

Alongside the announcemnt by Don Foster MP (see below) DCLG have published the responses to the recent consultation on Building Regulations 

This can be seen at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/building-regulations-access-statements-security-changing-places-toilets-and-regulation-7 

Statement By Don Foster MP on Changes to Building Regulations from January 2013

I am setting out today (18/12) changes that will be made to the building regulations regime in England to deliver an even better and more cost-effective way of ensuring our buildings remain safe and sustainable. The changes will deliver savings of around £50 million per year to business. In addition, legislation will also be laid before Parliament shortly to amend the energy performance of buildings regulations and to repeal unnecessary fire provisions of local Acts which overlap national provisions.

The consultation paper issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government on 31 January this year contained a range of proposals to improve the building regulations regime. I am setting out today decisions on the deregulatory changes. I am also publishing today a document providing a factual summary of the responses received. The changes have been developed after active engagement with external partners and demonstrate the Government’s ongoing commitment to ensuring that where regulation is necessary the impact on business is properly considered and the associated cost minimised. Decisions on the outstanding issues relating to the energy efficiency of buildings, on better targeting of radon protection measures and the referencing of British standards for structural design based on Eurocodes will be set out in a further statement next year. We will also set out next year the outcome of the review of the framework of building regulations and local housing standards which I announced in October.

Engagement with our external partners shows that they continue to value the national minimum standards provided by the building regulations. However, where any concerns do arise it is necessary to address them. That is why we listened to those that expressed concern with the costs associated with the electrical safety in the home provisions in part P of the building regulations. Some have even advocated that part P should be revoked as a burdensome requirement on competent electricians. We disagree—part P has been a success—but we do recognise that there is scope to streamline the requirements by removing the requirement to notify smaller-scale, lower-risk electrical work to a building control body. Currently homeowners can face building control fees of upwards of £240 to have simple electrical work, such as an additional plug socket in a kitchen, approved by a local authority. This change will see the notification requirements focused on higher-risk jobs like the installation of new circuits, or work in the vicinity of showers and

baths, which is the right approach. There will, of course, remain a duty for these non-notifiable works to comply with the safety provisions required by the regulations and which we have also updated.

The new part P seeks to achieve a reasonable balance of risk. We will continue to monitor indicators which can help identify the impact of the changes and keep this under review. But the key to ensuring electrical work is done properly is to employ competent electricians and so the Department will continue to work closely with external partners to identify what more can be done to promote the importance of complying with the provisions of part P through use of a suitably qualified electrician. In addition, I will be bringing forward further regulations later next year that will introduce an alternative route to demonstrating compliance with part P by allowing for third-party certification of electrical work. This will safeguard standards while providing a far cheaper way of verifying work is adequate—particularly for those carrying out DIY work. These changes will be accompanied by simpler, clearer and shorter guidance in a new approved document P that we will be publishing shortly.

In addition, we will be making a number of other changes to the building regulations. We will amend the technical guidance in approved document B (fire safety). In particular, we will update guidance in respect of lighting diffusers which has grown out of date as lighting technology has changed considerably. We will also, in relation to wall coverings, be taking forward changes to mitigate problems associated with how the European reaction to fire classifications work in practice. In effect, the changes will maintain the status quo, for example, allowing wallpapers that are currently used to continue to be so in the future. Both these changes have been supported by independent research which shows there are no adverse impacts on safety.

We will also be taking forward rationalisation of guidance supporting parts M, K and N (access, protection from falling, collision and impact and glazing respectively) to address areas of conflict and overlap, which again impose unnecessary costs. At the same time we will clarify the guidance on access statements in approved document M to promote a more proportionate, risk-based approach. These changes will be delivered by clearer guidance in a new approved document K and amendment of other approved documents which I will be publishing shortly. We intend that all of these deregulatory changes will come into force on 6 April 2013.

In addition to the changes to the “technical” provisions, we have also agreed a number of improvements to the building control system. These are relatively minor changes to benefit both local authorities and approved inspectors through changes to the procedures around completion certificates, statutory notifications and removal of the “Warranty Link Rule”.

The changes to regulations also extend the scope for existing competent person scheme operators. This will allow more work to be self-certified and thereby avoid the need to notify a building control body or pay a building control charge.

In relation to the building regulations, we will also be publishing shortly a new approved document 7 which provides updated guidance on adequate materials and workmanship for building work, in particular the implications of the full implementation of the European Construction Products Regulation on 1 July 2013.

Updated energy performance of buildings regulations will also be laid before the House shortly. These, in addition to consolidating the existing regulations, transpose the requirements of the recast energy performance of buildings directive 2010 and remove unnecessary “gold-plating”. The directive is an EU measure designed to tackle climate change by reducing the amount of carbon produced by buildings.

The new requirements will be introduced on 9 January 2013. The key measures include a requirement for property advertisements to include details of the energy performance certificate rating where available; removal of the requirement to attach the front page of the certificate to any written material; exempting listed buildings from the need to have a certificate on their sale or rent; extending the current requirement for a display energy certificate in large public buildings, to public buildings above 500m(2); and introducing a requirement for a certificate to be displayed in commercial premises larger than 500m(2) that are frequently visited by the public and where one has been previously issued.

Finally, given this statement relates to the regulation of buildings, I am informing the House that I will also shortly be laying regulations to repeal unnecessary fire provisions in 23 local Acts. The decision has been taken in the light of previous consultation which found no evidence to justify maintaining requirements which go beyond the necessary protection already afforded nationally through the building regulations, and lead to differing and inconsistent rules even within fire and rescue authority areas. Evidence does not establish any statistically significant impact on life safety. These changes are intended to come into force on 9 January 2013.

I will be placing the revised guidance in the approved documents referred to above, along with the impact assessments that accompany all of these changes, in the Library of the House when they are published shortly and alongside the summary of responses that I am placing there today.


A Cambridge landlord risked the health of his tenants by failing to ensure gas appliances were safe to use and then produced a fake certificate to give the impression they were, a court has heard

Emran Hussain, aged 43, knowingly attempted to deceive officials after shirking his legal responsibilities in relation to a house he rented to four tenants on Spalding Way.

Cambridge Magistrates’ Court was told today (22 November) that Cambridge City Council issued a notice in October 2009 requiring him to produce a valid Landlords Gas Safety Record for the property.

He failed to do so, so the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was notified and served an Improvement Notice that he also ignored. This flouted safety law so he was summoned to appear in court on 23 August this year.

On the day of the hearing he presented a copy of the required gas safety certificate as evidence, which purported to be valid for the dates on the Improvement Notice.

However, HSE checks revealed it was fake. The pad from which the certificate was taken wasn’t printed until August 2011 – some eight months after the record had allegedly been authorised.

Mr Hussain, of Beaumont Road, Cambridge, pleaded guilty to two charges under Section 33(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 for his legal failings and dishonesty. He was sentenced to spend a total of two months in jail for each offence, with the sentences to run concurrently but suspended for 12 months. He is also required to wear an electronic tag for two months and was ordered to pay full prosecution costs of £4,768.

After the hearing HSE Inspector Roxanne Barker said:

“Every year, around 20 people die from Carbon Monoxide poisoning caused by improperly installed or maintained gas appliances. Many others suffer ill health. There were four tenants at the property for which Mr Hussain was responsible, all of whom were put at unnecessary risk. Mr Hussain then attempted to deceive HSE and the Court by producing a document which he knew to be false."

“It is important that landlords fulfill their legal gas safety obligations to their tenants by ensuring that an annual gas safety check is carried out by a suitably qualified Gas Safe registered engineer, and that tenants are provided with a copy of these checks.”

Further information on the role and responsibilities of landlords in relation to gas safety can be found online at www.hse.gov.uk/gas/landlords

Concern over Roof Battens

In a report released last month the issue of incorrectly specified roofing battens has hit the news.

BS 5534 is the British Standard for Roofing Battens. Within BS 5534 there are the specific grade and identification requirements for battens. Most forms of contract require the roofing to meet a minimum standard of BS 5534 and thus implicitly the battens must meet the grade and identification requirements.


The use of BS5534 graded roofing battens is already mandatory for all NHBC sites and in light of an increase in the number of roofer falls and injuries on site the HSE has revised HSG33 Health and Safety in Roofwork. Now only recognised factory graded battens can be considered as providing a secure foothold when installing a pitched roof, if roof ladders are not used.

Concerns had been raised by batten manufacturers about importers selling poor quality, fraudulently marked product and requested site managers should undertake basic visual assessment to identify qualities which would immediately deem these battens as BS failures before accepting delivery. For example BS 5534 details the permissible limits for the size and inherent characteristics of battens. In respect of size it recommends that battens should fall within the tolerance of +/- 3mm on width and ? (minus) 0mm, +3mm on depth.

John Brash have released a benchmarking report (essentially a ?mystery shop? on battens from UK manufacturers) which highlights common failings which should have led to the rejection of product. In the study battens were sourced from five different suppliers, of these, only two were found to comply with the permissible dimensional requirements.  Furthermore, all of the parcels examined contained battens with excessive strength reducing characteristics, particularly knots which should have provided sufficient justification for the parcels as a whole to be rejected. Yet site surveys found that these battens were being accepted and installed on site. Common problems included oversized and full depth knots which have been demonstrated to cause the battens to break/fail under loading and which could be a cause of a fall for worker using the batten as a foothold.

In response to the report both NHBC and Local Authority building control officers have been advised to make random site checks for the issue.

CIC Release free appointment document for Approved Inspectors 

The CICAIR Management Board has decided to make this contract freely available for use by approved inspectors and their clients. 

The contract was developed by CIC in collaboration with ACAI specifically for Approved Inspectors (AI) and was drafted by Frances Patterson, former Chair of the CIC Liability Panel. Unlike most other professions the AI role is set out in Legislation and bespoke contracts often fail to reflect this. The CIC urge clients to adopt it for use on all AI projects.  Making it available without charge is done with the intention of raising standards and encouraging best practice in building control.

The contract document may be downloaded from the link which follows:


Landmark Determination On Fire Doors in Hotels

DCLG has recently published a landmark determination on the need for smoke seals and intumescent strips to be fitted in an existing hotel. A summary of the determination follows and the full report can be seen here


The premises is question a hotel, built in the 1980’s, which contains 215 guest bedrooms, eight staff bedrooms and associated accommodation over a ground and three upper floors. All bedrooms open onto protected corridors, providing means of escape in two directions. 167 of the bedroom doors are not fitted with intumescent strips and smoke seals. These doors complied with the appropriate standard for fire doors at the time of its construction. The hotel has a fire alarm system which includes smoke detectors in each bedroom.

The provision of smoke seals on fire resisting doors provides increased protection from the spread of smoke in the early stages of a fire and the provision of intumescent seals have been shown to improve the fire resistance of doors, hence their inclusion in modern fire door design. What needs to be considered in this case is whether it would be proportionate to upgrade the existing doors within a defined timescale or to wait until the doors are replaced when they come to the end of their useful life. This is a judgement that should be based an assessment of the risk from fire, the nature of the existing doors and any other preventative or protective measures in place.

The determination concludes that the measures currently in place and the assessment of their effectiveness, are sufficient to adequately protect occupants in the event of a fire and ensure that they are able to evacuate the premises as quickly and as safety as possible. There is no evidence to suggest that the margin of risk reduction that would be afforded by the installation of intumescent strips and smoke seals on the bedroom doors leading on to the escape corridors would be justified given the potential expense involved.

As a result, I can see no justification at present for the responsible person to commit, in an action plan, to the installation of intumescent strips and smoke seals on the existing bedroom doors. However, I consider that consideration should be given to specifying replacements that meet the recognised standard at that time as and when the doors are replaced

Green Deal Update

Today saw a major seminar on the Governments flagship Green Deal initiative as over 100 delegates attended SusCon in Dartford to hear Gregory Barker MP, Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change speak.

Greg Barker MP Speaking to Barry Nutley of Viridis Energy Consultants  

 The minister was keen to point out that the initiative was picking up momentum in advance of its official launch later this year and told delegates to expect some major announcements in August. The Green Deal was not a short term plan, but was a far reaching commitment for the next 20 years as the 'Greenest Government Ever' sought to reach out to 26 million households and 4 Million business during the initiative. "We have seen 4 million lofts insulated over the past 3 years, but that's not nearly going far enough' said Mr Barker, who added that 'many of the products and technologies required may not even have been invented yet.' 

To allay fears of yet another flash in the pan campaign Barker told delegates that 'the Green Deal would be based on TLC, not tender loving care, but Transparency, Longevity and Certainty'. He also spoke of the experiences from other countries such as Australia and the need for a strong consumer protection code to go alongside the deal itself, which may go some way to addressing the recent criticisms raised by consumer watchdog Which*

(*See http://www.which.co.uk/news/2012/04/can-the-green-deal-be-rescued-284380/).

Greg Barker addressing delegates at SusCon Dartford  

Its clear that one of the key elements to the success of the Green Deal will be the insulation of the majority of pre 1930's building stock which has solid wall construction. The minister explained that they expected to see a growth 'from 2000 solid wall insulation installers to 8-10,000, and the addition of up to 5x that number in the supply chain'. 

Other speakers included SusCon, BSI, E-On and Saint Gobain who explained more about various training initiatives and the PAS 2030* standard that has been launched to support those looking to become Green Deal installers and advisor's. See more here

*PAS 2030 can be bought at  http://shop.bsigroup.com/en/ProductDetail/?pid=000000000030248249


WCCL gain ISO 9001 award

Wilkinson Construction Consultants are pleased to announce that we have been awarded ISO 9001 certification. The certification which is backed by the UK Government and is recognised worldwide, has only been achieved by only about 5% of UK businesses.


Following an assessment of the companies procedures and operations by independent body QMS International, WCCL were awarded the prestigious certification for their high standard of business operations.


Managing Director Geoff Wilkinson collected the award on Friday, explained - ?We have always been proud of the service that we offer our clients and the way in which we conduct our business. Now with the award of ISO 9001 certification, this has been confirmed by outside experts who are used to judging standards on a daily basis?.



ISO 9001 is globally regarded as the most comprehensive body of standards on quality management systems and practices. It was established by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), an association of the national standards institutes of 175 countries and the foremost authority on quality standards, and is designed to provide companies with a set of principles that ensure a systematic approach to achieving customer satisfaction.


Registration requires that the company demonstrates and maintains a complete range of business qualities, including a structured approach to business, customer focus, and a continuous drive for improvement.


Geoff added ?This is an important milestone for WCCL in our objective of being the Building Control Body of choice. Our commitment to the ethical delivery of  quality regulatory services while maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction has been the cornerstone of the business since its inception. To earn ISO 9001:2008 certification with no non-conformances on the very first audit is a phenomenal achievement and one in which we can all be proud'.

 £210,000 fine in landmark fire safety case 

A  hotel owner has paid the price for ignoring fire safety laws and been hit with a  £210,000 fine following a successful prosecution by London Fire Brigade.

The case was a landmark hearing as it was the first time that a jury – rather than magistrates or an individual judge - has convicted a defendant under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Both the corporate owner Chumleigh Lodge Hotel Limited and the individual director Michael Wilson, had been prosecuted and pleaded not guilty to 12 offences under the order. Both defendants were found guilty and sentenced at Blackfriars Crown Court on 6 February 2012. The fine was apportioned between the corporate defendant, Chumleigh Lodge Hotel Limited (£30,000) and the individual defendant, Michael Wilson  (£180,000) In addition costs were awarded against them for a sum of £50,000 and victim compensation of £2,000.

The offences date back to 18 May 2008 when the Fire Brigade were called to a fire at the hotel on Nether Street, Finchley. The blaze had spread quickly from a first floor guest bedroom, up a staircase to the floor above and along a corridor. Three people escaped from the fire, two by using the stairs and a  third by climbing out of a second floor window.  


Following the fire, the Fire Brigade raised a number of serious fire safety concerns. These included defective fire doors, blocked escape routes and no smoke alarms in some of the hotel’s bedrooms. Mr Wilson was also unable to produce a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment and was found not to have provided staff with adequate fire safety training.

*Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, employers or those who have control over a premises (known as the ‘responsible person’) are required by law to carry out a fire risk assessment and act on its findings. 


Government is not for turning on consequential improvements says Stunell


Speaking at a recent conference at BRE in Watford Andrew Stunell MP delivered a warning that the Government were determined to make homeowners upgrading their properties carry out energy efficiency improvements at the same time. 

Despite previously appearing in proposals to amend Building Regulations in both 2006 and 2010 the proposal (known as consequential improvement) was dropped at the 11th hour in both cases. Stunell said that 'There is a certain amount of consumer inertia to [improving energy efficiency] and that's where consequential improvements provide an additional driver to success. Whilst it's the grand old Duke of York of building regulations policy, this time we're going to do it.'

Consequential improvements in a nutshell

Under the proposal home-owners undertaking extensions, loft or garage extensions would have to perform energy efficiency measures to upgrade the existing buildings energy performance. This would require measures of up to 10 per cent of the principal works, subject to a 15 year payback period. Homeowners installing new boilers and windows would also have to carry out upgrade work such as loft insulation, cavity wall insulation, hot water cylinder jacket and/or draught proofing

Full details can be found in Part L consultation

The Green Deal in a nutshell 

To help fund the cost of these improvements home-owners could apply for funding under the flagship Green Deal scheme. The Green Deal will enable proerties to have measures such as cavity wall insulation, loft insulation, solid wall insulation, A-rated condensing boilers, draught proofing, floor insulation, solar panels, PV panels, ground-source heat pumps, electric storage heaters installed at no upfront cost to the owner. 

The Green Deal Scheme will NOT be means tested and any adverse credit history should not be a problem. Green Deal finance will be supplied by a Green Deal Provider - expected to be private companies, utility companies, local councils and charities.  Green Deal finance is NOT like a personal loan and will be attached to the property's electricity bill and NOT a charge on the owner or on the property.

The concept is that the cost of the loan will then be repaid through the energy bill for the building and show as a surcharge on the bill until such time as the loan is repaid by the savings in energy use. The debt will remain with the building and not transfer if the home owner decides to move.

As the consumer can expect lower energy bills following the energy improvement works being completed it is expected that energy bills will fall by an equivalent amount effectively freezing the energy bill at current rates, eg net zero cost to the consumer. Indeed the Green Deal will incorporate a "Golden Rule" that there should be no net increase in the energy bill .

Full details can be found in Green Deal Guide 

However, home-owners planning very large extensions should be warned that the Green Deal is likely to be capped at £10K so projects with a cost of £100K or more would not be fully funded under the 10% criteria for consequential improvement. 

NB Consequential improvements already apply to non-domestic and buildings of more than 1000m2


Welsh  set to go their own way on Building Regs


From Midnight on 31 December 2011 all remaining functions under the Building Act 1984 passed from the UK Government to the Welsh Ministers. 

This includes powers to make Building Regulations. The functions transferred are limited under The Welsh Ministers (Transfer of Functions) (No. 2) Order 2009 (S.I. 2009/3019).

Documents and guidance that is current and in force up to 31 December and which had previously applied to England and Wales will continue to apply in Wales following transfer of powers.

This includes:

·         Building Regulations; 

·         the approved documents;

·         guidance published by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG); and 

·         approvals under competent persons provisions.

From 01 January 2012, any revisions to Building Regulations and related procedures, processes and guidance proposed or issued by DCLG will apply to England only.

The Welsh Assembly set out the first proposed changes to Building Regulations for Wales in its policy statement published in July 2010. These changes are intended to support Welsh Minister’s aspiration to achieve zero carbon new build faster than in England. The Welsh Assembly have indicated that this is likely to include a review of part L based on 55% rather than 44% improvement over 2006 figures proposed by DCLG.


Report shows less than 15% of Local Authorities reporting performance

The latest report on building control performance makes sorry reading as Local Authorities  continue to fail to report performance against National Benchmark standards.

Whilst the number of Approved Inspectors reporting has remained steady the number of public sector respondents has fallen from 107 in 2008 to just 45 in 2011. Even allowing for joint working arrangements that represents less than 15% in the public sector compared to nearly 70% reporting in the private sector

Full details of the report can be read at


Wrap up well this Christmas

HSE is reminding contractors to secure their sites to reduce the risks of accidents during the Christmas shut-down.

In past years, many members of the public have been killed and injured in construction-related incidents across Great Britain. These incidents have included material being blown off site, scaffolding collapsing or children gaining access to poorly protected sites.  Before closing sites for the holiday, contractors should carry out checks to ensure loose material is secure and scaffolding is properly supported. It should be checked particularly after bad weather.



Children often see poorly guarded sites as playgrounds, so contractors should do all they can to help prevent them gaining access in the first place. They should also ensure that potentially dangerous areas such as deep excavations are secure.



Should the site be closed for a significant period, it may be sensible to arrange for regular checks to take place to ensure that the site remains safe and secure.


Additional requirements apply for Timber Frame sites. 


STUNELL Anounces Building Regulation Consultation


Zero-Carbon Homes are a step closer today after new proposals were announced to cut carbon emissions in new and existing buildings by Communities Minister Andrew Stunell.  

Mr. Stunell said changes to the country's building regulations would make new homes, shops and offices warmer and cheaper to run, support growth and take England a step closer to meeting its bold low carbon commitments. 

Today’s ambitious measures, developed together with the construction industry, will help reduce the regulatory cost for businesses, and pave the way for the introduction of zero-carbon homes from 2016. 

The proposals will also help with the roll out of the Green Deal this Autumn, stimulating demand, whilst helping to cut both carbon emissions and energy bills for householders. 

The new set of Building Regulations published for consultation today will save over £63 million a year for businesses by cutting excessive red-tape and deliver safer and more sustainable buildings. 

When these amendments come into force next year, more energy efficient homes will typically save householders over £150 a year on energy bills compared with homes being built in May 2010. 

Homeowners will also save money with an extension to the range of simple, electrical DIY jobs that can be carried out without the need for a building inspector, reducing costs for both consumers and installers and the burden on local authorities who inspect work. 

Launching the consultation, Mr Stunell said: 

“A quarter of the carbon emissions produced each year come from our homes, so it is vital we get to grips with energy efficiency to tackle this problem. Making our homes more sustainable will also keep people warm, drive down bills and support jobs in the construction industry. 

“The Coalition is committed to being the greenest government ever, so improving the energy efficiency of our existing buildings through the Green Deal, and ensuring that all new homes are zero carbon by 2016 is a top priority. 

“But we need to do this in a way that doesn’t add to the regulatory burden on businesses. So I’m delighted that these much need changes will provide guidance that is both fit for purpose and will cut carbon emissions, whilst also saving money for householders and businesses alike.” 

The Department is now looking for views and evidence on the proposed regulations and will continue working with industry and other key partners before finalising proposals.



The consultation opens today and responses can be provided up until 27 April, other than the proposals related to the Green Deal where responses have been requested by 27 March.

The consultation document on the new proposed regulations has four sections:


  • changes to technical details;
  • increasing the energy efficiency of buildings;
  • electrical safety in homes; and
  • changes to the building control system

Here are the links to the main documents

1 http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/planningandbuilding/pdf/2077831.pdf 

2 http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/planningandbuilding/pdf/2077370.pdf

3 http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/planningandbuilding/pdf/2077834.pdf

4 http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/planningandbuilding/pdf/2077485.pdf

5 http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/planningandbuilding/pdf/2077837.pdf

6 http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/planningandbuilding/pdf/2077841.pdf

Plus link to paper on Civil Sanctions

7 http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/corporate/pdf/1832154.pdf

Keep coming back to our blog over the next few days for more updates and views as we digest the proposals. Also keep an eye out for our CPD training sessions which will launch mid February.


Home Fire Fire Safety Campaign Launched

As statistics reveal that one in six fire deaths last year occurred in December, the Fire Kills campaign is reminding people that some of their favourite festive traditions such as cooking Christmas dinner, decorating the home and drinking alcohol could have the potential to leave Yuletide celebrations in ruin.

The distractions of a crowded house and celebrations can often result in festive cooking being left unattended. And the added influence of alcohol means that it's even more important to stay alert while preparing the turkey dinner. Nearly 1,400 house fires were started by cooking appliances last December, resulting in more than 300 injuries.

And while no Christmas party would be complete without a few decorations, the fact is that dry Christmas trees, flammable decorations and stray wrapping paper can all act as extra fuel for a fire sparked by overheated sockets, faulty fairy lights, unattended candles or carelessly discarded cigarettes.

A recent survey by fire-safe insulation manufacturer Rockwool revealed that a surprising number of people admit to leaving their Christmas tree lights plugged in when they're out of the house and leaving candles unattended in their home.

A Christmas Video from the Fire Kills campaign shows in graphic detail just how fast a fire caused by faulty decorations can take hold and emphasises the vital importance of planning an escape route. Make sure your guests know how to get out, stay out and call 999.


The Government's Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser Sir Ken Knight said:

"Christmas is a time for celebrating with family and friends, and we want to keep it that way. By being aware of the risks and making a few simple checks you can ensure that you and your loved ones can celebrate in safety."

The Fire Kills Campaign have some top tips to help people celebrate in safety this festive season:

• Ensure you have a working smoke alarm installed on all levels of your home. A working alarm can give you the vital time needed to escape in a fire. Test your smoke alarms weekly and never remove batteries to power presents!

• Check on older relatives and neighbours this Christmas to ensure their safety as they are at greater risk from fire.

• Never leave cooking unattended. The majority of fires start in the kitchen so this is a high risk area. Avoid cooking whilst drunk and always turn off kitchen appliances when you have finished cooking.

• Never leave candles unattended. Keep candles out of the reach of children, and away from decorations, cards and wrapping paper, fires, lights and heaters.

• Put your cigarette out, right out. Make sure your cigarette is fully extinguished and take care when drunk or tired. It's very easy to fall asleep while your cigarette is still burning and set furniture alight.

• Don't overload sockets - ensure only one plug per socket. Always turn off plugs when they are not in use, except those that are designed to be left on, like freezers.

• Ensure you switch off fairy lights and unplug them before you go to bed, or leave the house. Check your Christmas tree lights conform to the British Standard (BS EN 60598).

• Always use an RCD (residual current device) on outdoor electrical equipment. This safety device - which works in a similar way to a circuit breaker - can save lives by instantly switching off the power if there is a fault and can be found in any DIY store.

• Make sure that everyone in your home knows what to do in a fire - in the event of fire: get out, stay out and call 999

Visit the Fire Kills campaign's Facebook page www.facebook.com/firekills

New guide to Timber Frame Fire Safety Published 

The UKTFA has launched the definitive guidance to building timber frame structures over 600m2enabling the safe building of timber frame, in any location, relative to the fire risk during construction. This Guidance is essential reading for architects, CDM co-ordinators, project managers, timber frame companies, builders, HSE inspectors, insurance inspectors and product suppliers.

To download the guidance click the following links





To watch a video of the guidance click here http://youtu.be/k6CkPnwp1Ig 

Beware dangers of basement extensions

There is high demand for basement extensions as home owners find that they need extra space but cannot afford to move. In fact the Evening Standard reported that over 500 planning applications were made to central London councils for new basement extensions in 2010. Planning registers for Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, and Camden alone has found more than 10 requests for the extensions are submitted every week. 

Basement projects present a series of challenges to even experienced contractors and there have been two deaths in the last year as a result of basement construction projects in London. as a result HSE carried out a two-day inspection initiative, on 15 and 16 November, 2011 aimed at improving working practices on basement construction projects in four London boroughs.

The work is technically-challenging and carries substantial risk. Key safety issues include:

• collapse of excavations; http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/safetytopics/excavations.htm?ebul=gd-cons/nov11&cr=2

• building collapse from structural alterations; http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/safetytopics/buildings.htm?ebul=gd-cons/nov11&cr=3

• injury from handling heavy steel beams; http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/healthtopics/msd.htm?ebul=gd-cons/nov11&cr=4

• poor access; http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/safetytopics/falls.htm?ebul=gd-cons/nov11&cr=5

• risk to public safety from accessible open excavations. http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/safetytopics/publicprotection.htm?ebul=gd-cons/nov11&cr=6

Whilst not all basement projects require planning consent almost all will definitely require building control approval and WCCL have staff who are experienced in dealing with the specific issues. These include


The existing walls may have to be underpinned and floor level reduced in order to achieve a satisfactory floor to ceiling height. We would therefore expect you to obtain a design from a suitably qualified Structural Engineer, including drawing up a method statement setting out how and in what sequence the proposed works are to be carried out.


If the basement is to be used for habitable purposes, an external door or window suitable for egress should be provided. Alternatively, a protected stairway leading from the basement to a final exit may be provided. Mains powered interlinked smoke detectors should also be provided and the basement ceiling and any beams will need to achieve at least ½ hours fire resistance. Works to basements in commercial property require consultation with the Fire Brigade.


The walls and floors below external ground level will be subject to water ingress under pressure and require a waterproofing system. There are several different ways in which basement walls and floors can be waterproofed. Whatever method is used, it should be should have British Board of Agreement (BBA) or similar independent technical accreditation for the relevant position of the water table; EG whether it is high, low or varies significantly throughout the year.


Basements used for habitable or workplace use should have adequate ventilation, if there are no windows then mechanical ventilation may be required.


Stairs to access the basement originally may not comply and ladders will definitely not . The stair should have a pitch of not more than 42 degrees and have a headroom of not less than 2.0 metres, with suitable handrails and vertical balustrading with gaps of less that 100mm.

Thermal insulation

Thermal Insulation is required to external walls, floors, doors and windows and care must be taken to ensure correct detailing and compatibility with the tanking material, to ensure there are no leaks.


Energy efficient lighting should be fitted to the room.

Electrical installations

New domestic electrical installations must comply with Part P and should be installed either by a competent person who can issue an electrical installation certificate under BS7671


Wilkinson Construction Consultants are delighted to announce that our Managing Director - Geoff Wilkinson has recently been acknowledged as the 2nd most influential chartered surveyor in the UK.

The poll published in Building Magazine was complied by construction social media company tCn and RICS themselves and uses the ranking system developed by PeerIndex, which considers the persons authority, activity and audience (followers).    


Starts:   Thursday 3rd November, 2011, 13:00 start             

Location: 70 Churchill Square Kings Hill ME19 4YUAgenda


1:00  Arrivals - Tea/Coffee

1.45  Planning update

2.05  Construction Act

2.25  Building Regs Update

2.45  Q&A Panel

3.00 Break - Tea/Coffee

3.15  Fire Risk Assessment

3.45  Fire Safety Technology Ultrafire Group

4.15  Questions

4.30  Networking over glass of wine

5.30  Finish

6.00  Informal Networking at Spitfire PH for those that want to stay

Planning Update (20 Mins)

Look at recent changes 

Building Regulations – Past Present & Future (20 Mins)

The talk will start by looking at recent changes to Building Regulations, a subject that affects almost every building project from small domestic extensions to the largest public or commercial buildings. Then focussing on the Future of Building Control report and the Governments drive towards deregulation, it will do its best predict what the future holds. Make sure you attend, as you might be surprised!

Construction Act (20 Mins)


Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (30 Mins)

Looking at recent case studies to explain how Fire Authorities and the HSE are enforcing Fire Risk Assessment both during construction and occupation. Geoff will draw on his experience to help explain what needs to be done and how to avoid a large fine or prison sentence.

Fire Safety Technology (30 Mins)

A look at the use of water mist systems


Geoff Wilkinson  www.thebuildinginspector.org/

Geoff is Managing Director of Approved Inspectors , Wilkinson Construction Consultants Ltd , but is best known the Regs columnist from Architects Journal. A qualified Building Inspector and Fire Engineer Geoff has over 25 years experience in both public and private sector Building control, and is always in demand as a speaker at these events.

Zoe Horton  www.gbadesigns.com

gba Designs Ltd are Architectural and Interior Designers for the hospitality industry, dealing with projects from feasibility schemes, through the Planning and Building Regs processes, dealing with licensing issues and supervising site works.

Jonathon Bowcott – http://www.mbmconsult.com/profilebowcott.htm

Jonathan set up MBM Consulting with Michael Mulvey in 2000 after a career that started with various PQS practices, but developed to helping principally contracting organisations whilst working for a major dispute resolution practice. Consequently he has experienced “both sides of the fence” and can provide objective advice to employer and contracting organisations alike.

Ultrafire Group – http://www.ultrafiregroup.co.uk/

Water Mist Suppression Systems - Intelligent fire fighting with water.  The history of water mist and the latest developments in water mist technology.

Wireless Fire Alarm Systems – Flexible fire protection.  Exploring wireless technology for fast and unobtrusive fire alarm protection to any building.

It’s Time to Test: Change your clock, test your smoke alarm


A new hard-hitting advertising campaign is urging people to make a potentially life-saving move when they change their clocks on the weekend of 29/30 October – by taking a moment to test their smoke alarm too.  The twice-yearly clock change is a task that everybody takes for granted. Turning the clocks back for an extra hour in bed will already be on the ‘to-do’ list for the majority of British households over the clock change weekend.

While timekeeping is a vital part of our lives and we all keep our clocks working to stay on track, it’s shocking to know that many people forget to ensure the safety of themselves and their loved ones by keeping their smoke alarm in the same working order. A working smoke alarm can buy you valuable time to get out, stay out and call 999.  But only half of all householders who own a smoke alarm say that they test it’s working on a regular basis.

You’re more than four times as likely to die in a fire if your smoke alarm is not working. So it’s clear that the simple act of testing your alarm is a vital part of any household routine.

In 2010-11, there were over 36,000 accidental fires in the home, resulting in 246 fatalities and more than 7,000 casualties. The Fire Kills Campaign hopes that by adding this simple smoke alarm check to people’s clock-change routine, many more lives will be saved.

Fire Minister Bob Neill said: 

“Everyone soon notices when a clock stops ticking, but it’s more difficult to be sure that your smoke alarm is still in working order. The only way to make sure is through regular testing. “When the campaign began in 1988 only 9 per cent of homes had a smoke alarm – now that figure is 86 per cent. But having a smoke alarm is not enough – it must be kept in working order to save your life. 

“The number of fire deaths in homes has halved since 1988 but if everyone takes time to test their alarm regularly we can make sure they don’t go up again. “We’re all looking forward to getting that extra hour’s sleep as British Summer Time comes to an end. Knowing that your smoke alarm is in working order will help you sleep that little bit better.” 

The Government’s Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser Sir Ken Knight said: 

“You’re more than four times as likely to die in a fire without a working smoke alarm. But despite the fact that nearly 250 people died in house fires last year, only half of the people who own an alarm say they take the time to check that it’s working. “A smoke alarm can give you the vital time you need to get out, stay out and call 999 in a house fire. As you put your clocks back on 29 or 30 October take an extra moment to push the button on your alarm to make sure it is working properly – it could save your life.”

Listen out for radio and press adverts supporting the ‘Change your clocks, Test your smoke alarm’ campaign and find out more on the Fire Kills Facebook page (www.facebook.com/firekills). 

An online video has also been released showing a mantelpiece clock melting in the heat of a house fire – bringing home the harsh reality of the consequences of a fire in the home. See it at http://bit.ly/firekillsclock

Help keep yourself and your loved ones safe in the home by following these simple steps:

●        A working smoke alarm can buy you valuable time to get out, stay out and call 999. Make sure you fit one on every level of your home and test them regularly.

●        Make testing your smoke alarm part of your household routine. Check the alarm by pressing the button regularly; change your battery once a year or invest in a 10-year alarm; and clean the alarm casing twice a year to ensure dust doesn’t block the sensor.

●        Whatever happens, never remove the battery in your smoke alarm.

●        Make sure that everyone in your home knows what to do in a fire and practise your escape route.

●        For more information visit the Fire Kills campaign’s Facebook page at facebook.com/firekills

If you want an extra nudge to test your smoke alarm regularly, try setting an automatic reminder. Safelincs, in partnership with the Fire Kills has created a free service that reminds you, by email or text, when it’s time to test your smoke alarm, change the battery or renew the unit. The service is completely free and can be cancelled at any time (www.safelincs.co.uk/reminders).


Exor Accreditation

Wilkinson Construction Consultants are pleased to announce that we have been successfully accredited by third party assessors Exor management services at their prestigious Silver supplier standard (Click here to view certificate).  This standard is widely recognised and utilised in both the public and private sectors and proves our business has been accredited to a standard where competency, viability and adherence with legal requirements have been achieved and pre-approved. Further reassurance that our services will meet your needs.

Exor uses a set of standards that have been developed over the past ten years in consultation with clients to become an accepted criteria for qualification for Public and Private sector Clients. Being Accredited to the Exor Qualified Standard is more than a Pre-Qualification check, traditionally used by the public sector. Exor offer a variety of awards for example 'Bronze', involves checks at Companies House and Experian whilst 'Bronze Plus', includes a full health and safety assessment. Wilkinson Construction Consultants have been awarded the higher 'Silver' standard which also uses criteria based on the latest codes of practice of the Commission for Racial Equality, Equal Opportunities Commission, and the Disability Rights Commission. Exor approval for equal opportunities shows that a  business is aware of current employment legislation, of their responsibilities as an employer, and of what they need to do to promote fair and equal treatment for all of their staff and potential employees. 'Silver' level is the appropriate level for consultants, and allows businesses to carry out a greater value of contract than those accredited at 'Bronze' level.

More on the Exor scheme can be found at http://www.exorms.com/

Rules on repair to flat roofs change

DCLG have recently announced they are back tracking on the rules relating to the repair of flat roofs.

Requirements which extended the need to upgrade insulation when repairing flat roofs were introduced less than a year ago, but have proved unenforceable so the Government has decided to withdraw them. 

As a result the repair of a flat roof by the addition of a layer to the existing layers of over 25% of the area will no longer fall within the definition of "building work" in regulation 3(1) of the Building Regulations and will not require an application.

Please note that this change does NOT affect the current position on pitched roofs or flat roof where a layer is removed or replaced (only where one is added). 

For full details of the announcement click here  

Important determination on Fire Safety in care homes

DCLG have published an important new determination that affects, Designers, Building Control Bodies and Fire Risk Assessors dealing with care homes. 

Previous guidance in  Health Technical Memorandum (HTM) 84: Fire Safety in Residential Care premises indicated that it was not necessary to fit self-closing devices to bedroom doors in care homes. This approach was adopted by the Approved Inspector dealing with the application when the premises was built in 2003, and the building was certified accordingly.

However, a subsequent an enforcement action by the Fire Authority led to the case being referred for determination. The enforcing authority’s view was that self-closing devices were needed to keep the means of escape free form the smoke and heat. They pointed out that the same point was made by Fire and Rescue Authority during the consultation with the  Approved Inspectors during the building control consultation process.

Concern was also raised that the responsible person was cherry picking from the various codes and was not assessing the risk consistently. The Fire Service view is that each guidance document should be used as a whole and that isolated sections from differing documents should not be picked to suit a particular situation. For example other requirements in the Health Technical Memorandum series are not complied with,  such as the requirement to control ignitability of bed linen, the lack of 60 minute fire separation of the laundry room and the sighting of electrical hoists with the means of escape corridors.

The responsible person contended that the building was approved for the purpose is of complying with the Building Regulations in 2003 without self-closing fire doors, and that this is sufficient justification for not requiring self closers to be fitted now.

However, the Regulatory Reform Order requires that the responsible person assess risk regularly and ensure, in the light of technological advances, the ongoing adequacy of the protective and preventative measures in appropriately mitigating risk. As a result building owners are no longer allowed to assume that the protection measures applied when the building was constructed are adequate now. Instead the determination suggests that a current assessment methodology should be used to assess the risk and define what protective measures are required, for example British Standard 9999.

As a result anyone undertaking fire risk assessments would be advised that they should be familiar with the relevant codes and that the owners of care homes in particular should  urgently review their existing fire risk assessments to ensure that they are suitable and sufficient. The determination also creates precedent that is likely to affect future enforcement action by the Fire Service and designers and relevant persons should check that the Building Control body have taken on the points raised by the fire authority during the consultation, and passed these on to the Risk Assessor.

To download a copy of the full determination click here 

Once occupied, the Building Regulations consultation process does not preclude subsequent enforcement action under the Order. This premises was approved in 2003 by the relevant Building Control body. This approval cannot be relied upon to mean that the fire precaution measures installed at that time will remain appropriate over the lifetime of that building. Although the building was handed over to the responsible person with building control approval, it is for the responsible person to satisfy themselves that they have met the requirements of the Order. In all cases it would be recommended that where there may be a disagreement over the fire safety measures required in a particular building following the building regulation approval process, that the person responsible for carrying out the work passes such details, along with the general fire safety information for the building to the responsible person. This would then make the responsible person aware of the risks of potential action by an enforcing authority, subsequent to occupation.


Security and Fire Safety for 2012 Events

It cant have failed to have caught your attention that the 2012 Games are just a year away and with that the Hospitality and events sector are turning thier minds to events and oppertunities during the Games.

At the same time events in Norway have focussed attention on the Security issues that we all face especially with the worlds media focussed on London. With this in mind NaCTSO have produced some excellent guides to help event organiser plan in advance.

These can be downloaded from this site by clicking on the links below 

Hotels and Restaurants.pdf

Pubs and Clubs.pdf

Outdoor Events (World Cup & Olympics).pdf

There is also an excellent guide to Fire Safety

Fire Safety Risk Assessment - Places of Assembly.pdf

If you need any more help with temporary events and fire safety, or would like us to review your current property to see if you could accommodate additional covers - please get in touch using our enquiry page. We recently helped one client who had been served an enforcement notice to increase their occupancy levels from 60 to 220.  

HSE Announce plans for cost recovery

Gordon MacDonald, HSE programme director, recently announced HSE’s plans to extend their cost recovery proposals, which included fee for intervention, at £133 p/h. The consultation for this will be opening soon and will run until October. HSE will then go through a ‘dry run’ of the processes and procedures until the end of the year and formally launch the scheme in April 2012.

For more details see


Competent Person Scheme extended

Communities Minister Andrew Stunell has today taken steps to make it easier and cheaper for businesses and building owners to comply with important building regulations. 

The Minister laid regulations in Parliament which come into force today and extend existing competent person schemes to new types of work and authorise, for the first time, schemes for the replacement of glazing in commercial buildings. This move to cut red tape could potentially save businesses up to £180 on each job they complete.

Competent person schemes enable registered organisations and individual traders to complete building work, and then self-certify it as complying with required building standards without the need to notify a building control body in advance or pay a building control charge. 

Businesses not registered with a scheme are instead required to pay a building control charge in advance to a Building Control Body such as a local authority or private sector approved inspector , who then assess and certify the work. The charge would typically be in the range of £60 to £180.

This not only costs the small businesses more, but can also cause delays to completion of the work. The existing competent person schemes for the replacement of windows and doors in domestic premises have proved very successful in improving compliance with the Regulations, in particular making sure that the windows meet the required energy efficiency standards.

Communities Minister Andrew Stunell said:

“I am determined that as we look to build the homes this country needs, our building regulations remain fit for purpose and don’t become a barrier to projects getting off the ground. That’s why I’m today extending the Competent Person Schemes, to make it easier and much cheaper to comply with the Building Regulations. The organisations operating schemes are recognised as competent in their fields and this move will free up building control bodies to focus their efforts on those that fail to meet the required standards.

“I will continue to work with those at the frontline of the construction industry to make sure we continue to cut unnecessary red tape and ensure building regulations become easier to follow and apply.”

Today’s changes come as part of a wider programme of work to improve the system of building regulation in England.

Last chance to register projects under BREEAM 2008!

Urgent Reminder - BREEAM 2008 is about to be superseded by the new BREEAM 2011. The new scheme goes live Friday 1st July 2011 and any projects registered with BRE after this date will need to be assessed under the new scheme and will be subject to a new £120 + VAT registeration fee (although this will be taken off the final certification fee, if the post construction assessment is completed within 3 years of registration).

Therefore, if you have any projects which are likely to require a BREEAM assessment, it is worth registering them under the 2008 scheme now to avoid additional costs associated with both registration and potentially more onerous requirements of the new scheme. For more details and FAQs about the 2011 standard check out http://www.breeam.org/filelibrary/BREEAM%202011/BREEAM_2011_FAQs.pdf



The Minister of State for Housing and Local Government  Grant Shapps reaffirmed the Governments commitment to zero carbon. 

He said 'We need to deliver carbon savings in order to meet the Carbon Budgets to which we are committed, and this means that the carbon footprint of new homes cannot be allowed to add to our overall carbon reduction targets.  But this needs to be done in ways which are cost effective and which protects the viability of house building. This statement sets out more details of our policy.


A fundamental principle of environmental regulation is that the ‘polluter pays’.  Previous approaches to zero carbon homes policy have sought to hold house builders responsible for abating the carbon emissions from household appliances. But occupants’ use of appliances, such as computers or televisions, is not influenced by the design or structure of their home and is therefore beyond the control of the house builder. 


Asking house builders to put in place measures to reduce the emissions from appliances is unfair; we have decided therefore that the regulatory threshold for zero carbon should be set to cover only those emissions which are within the scope of the Building Regulations, such as those from heating, ventilation, hot water, fixed lighting and building services.


There are already a number of existing policies which deal with emissions from appliances, including the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (which caps emissions from electricity generation) and product energy efficiency measures.  Moreover, if house builders, working with local planning authorities, still wish to go further in abating emissions from appliances then they are of course free to do so.   In order to prevent excessive burdens on industry and protect the viability of development, the Government will work with local authorities and developers to ensure that the cumulative impact of regulation and other costs can be assessed, without adding complex and unwieldy bureaucracy to plans.


As part of meeting the overall requirement, zero carbon homes must be energy efficient homes. We have already made clear our intention to introduce the Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard as based on the work of the Zero Carbon Hub. This will ensure that homes are warmer, and cheaper and easier to heat.


We also said we would look again at the right level for carbon reductions on the site of the home itself – ‘carbon compliance’.  The Zero Carbon Hub has led a large-scale review of evidence, working with industry, green groups and other experts.  The Government has considered with care the findings from this work, and we intend to use the Hub’s recommendations on where to set the maximum levels of on site carbon dioxide emissions as a starting point for consultation as part of future revisions to the Building Regulations. 


We are also keen to build on industry’s commitment to move to an approach based on real world carbon savings, rather than modelled reductions in emissions.  This is a bold step forward, and will strengthen focus on innovation delivering new and better technologies and construction methods. We will work with industry to ensure both that this commitment becomes a reality, and that effective assurance is put in place to guarantee the zero carbon standard and that real world carbon savings are achieved.  The end result will be better homes and better protection for the environment.


The Hub’s report (Carbon Compliance: Setting An Appropriate Limit For Zero Carbon New Homes - Findings and Recommendations, February 2011) includes a number of detailed recommendations on technical matters which we will consider as part of the further work on the Building Regulations. It can be found at: http://www.zerocarbonhub.org/definition.aspx?page=8 .


Where house builders can deliver more ambitious carbon reductions on the site of the home than these minimum requirements, they will have the option to do so.  Where it is not possible for house builders to do this cost effectively, we will ensure that a mechanism is available that allows house builders to meet their commitments at a cost no higher than the Government’s long-term value of carbon. This ensures that the offsite requirement of the policy will be delivered cost effectively. This will give industry a benchmark against which to target innovation in carbon reduction technologies which will drive down costs over time.


We intend to work with industry on options for a mechanism to deliver these offsite measures, which will


·               be made available to all developers operating in England;

·               be cost effective by ensuring offsite measures are no higher than the Governments’ long term value of carbon; and

·               ensure that any funds raised will be dedicated to carbon abatement.


We will also review the measures which can be supported under these approaches and will consult further with industry, local government and other partners on these. 


Taken together, these proposals deliver a realistic and effective approach to zero carbon, on a par with the most ambitious international efforts to cut domestic carbon and build better, more sustainable homes, whilst at a greatly reduced cost to industry.  However, we are keen to look at innovative ways for house builders to meet the additional costs associated with building zero carbon homes.  In particular, we are ready to explore with industry the potential of a Green Deal type financing approach for new homes, as a way of offsetting some of the up front costs of zero carbon.  We are aware that industry is already forming its thinking on how this can work, and we will continue to work with partners on how best to take this forward.

ENDS - Copyright DCLG

ACA Annual Conference


We are pleased to announce that we will be sponsoring the prestigious ACA Annual Conference this year.


 The one-day conference will looking at issues in practice, both technical and administrative for all architects, architectural technicians, interior designers, planners, specifiers and others interested in building design. The sessions will highlight current trends in legal and contractural matters, insurance, building regulations, town planning, sustainability and energy and project management through a mixture lectures and panel discussions.


The event will be followed by a dinner with an address from keynote speaker Paul Morrell, the Governments Chief Construction Adviser on Wednesday 25 May 2011at The Pewterers Hall Oat Lane London



For a booking form and more detail – click here


Guilty Plea in Landmark Case

The company that owned the Penhallow Hotel where three people died in a fire in August 2007 has admitted breaches of fire safety legislation.


O & C Holdsworth plc pleaded guilty to two offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005: failing to carry out a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment; and failing to ensure the hotel was properly equipped with detectors and alarms. The company pleaded not guilty to a third charge of failing to ensure the safety of relevant persons.


John McMillan, a director of the company, and administration manager Nicola Burfitt, were formally found not guilty of the same three charges. Their not guilty pleas were accepted by the prosecution, on the basis that the company accepted responsibility.


A spokesperson for Cornwall County Council explained: “The company accepted responsibility by way of the failure of their systems rather than the failings of particular individuals. This was acceptable to the prosecution. Following this, it was considered no longer in the public interest to pursue John McMillan and Nicola Burfitt.”.

However, consideration is still being given to representations on behalf of another defendant, Martin Tricker, of Hawthorne Safety Consultants.   

In welcoming the guilty pleas, a statement from Cornwall County Council said: “The decision by Cornwall Council and the fire and rescue service to proceed with prosecution under this legislation was taken after a comprehensive investigation into the fire precautions at the hotel and reflects the seriousness of this case. “The investigation revealed a number of breaches of the fire precautions, the most serious of which related to the fire risk assessment.

“The success of this prosecution will send out a very clear message to the hotel and leisure industry, where sleeping accommodation is provided, of the importance of adhering to fire safety legislation and ensuring the management of fire precautions is a high priority.

The case has been adjourned to 4 May when O & C Holdsworth plc is due be sentenced.

Budget promises planning reform

Today’s (23/3/2011)  Budget and Growth Review update sets out ambitious proposals to ensure the planning system does everything possible to support economic growth and sustainable development, helping to re-build Britain’s economy. These measures complement wider reforms underway to the planning system, including removing ineffective top-down central targets and encouraging local councils to bring forward more homes through incentives to share in the benefits of growth. Below is a summary of the proposals announced by the Chancellor. A new presumption in favour of sustainable development


This is a powerful new principle underpinning the planning system that will help to ensure that the default answer to development and growth is "yes" rather than "no", except where this would clearly compromise the key sustainable development principles in national planning policy, including protecting the Green Belt and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The presumption will give developers, communities and investors greater certainty about the types of applications that are likely to be approved, and will help to speed up the planning process and encourage growth. A draft wording of the presumption will be published for consultation in May 2011.A pro-growth national policy planning policy statement


Vast amounts of paperwork and bureaucracy have made the planning system too cumbersome and complicated for councils, developers and local people to use properly. This has acted as a brake on growth and development. The Government intends to bring clarity to the system by combining all national planning policies into one concise, easy to use document called the National Planning Policy Framework. It will contain the Government’s key economic, social and environmental objectives and planning policies to deliver them. At the heart of the framework will be the presumption in favour of sustainable development. The framework will be published for consultation later this year with the aim of finalising it by the end of 2011, if that is possible. Changes to permitted development rights to cut red tape


At the moment any developer wishing to change vacant and derelict offices into new homes has to apply for planning permission to change the use of the land. The Government believes this bureaucracy makes no sense when plenty of empty office blocks, warehouses and business parks are lying needlessly empty, waiting to be turned into much needed new housing. Ministers are proposing to scrap the requirement to get permission for this change of use, incentivising growth and giving a much needed boost to housing supply, and will consult on this shortly. The Government will also launch an urgent review of the Use Classes Order, which determines how a building can be used, for example as a shop or office. The review will examine the role the Use Classes system can play in supporting growth. Immediately prioritising growth and jobs


Some reforms to the planning system will take time to deliver. But local authorities can start immediately prioritising growth in the decisions that they take locally. The Government has today made clear its expectation that every council should be firmly on the front foot in encouraging and supporting growth. Local authorities should be pressing ahead without delay in preparing up-to-date development plans which set out the opportunities for growth in their areas. Councils must ensure they are not imposing any unnecessary burdens in the way of development. Where development has stalled, councils should be open to reviewing section 106 agreements at the request of developers, and look at making possible amendments to get growth underway. Section 106 agreements require developers to make contributions to the cost of related infrastructure such as new schools and roads. Piloting elements of the land auctions model


One of the biggest barriers to development is the shortage of land available with planning permission to build on. The Government is interested in testing the potential of land auctions to bring forward land for development, improve competition and provide greater certainty for developers. We will pilot elements of the approach on public sector land through auctioning parcels of land with planning permission. The outcomes of the pilot will inform our next steps for looking at land auctions more widely. Extending neighbourhood planning to businesses


Neighbourhood planning is a radical new right being introduced in the Localism Bill. It will allow communities to create their vision of what their area should look like: where new shops, offices or homes should go. Local people will be able to define types of development which will have automatic planning permission. This is known as a Neighbourhood Development Order.


Neighbourhood plans will give communities a much greater say on what gets built, but must be in line with wider ambitions for growth in the council’s development plan. If approved by a local referendum, the neighbourhood plan will need to be adopted by the council. The Government will today extend to businesses the right to initiate Neighbourhood Plans and Neighbourhood Development Orders. This will encourage growth by reducing the need to apply for planning approval in order to develop. Businesses will need to work closely with and win the approval of local communities in order to establish a neighbourhood plan or order.Removal of arbitrary Whitehall targets


In line with its commitment to make the planning regime more responsive to economic demand and the needs of local communities, the Government will, through the National Planning Policy Framework, remove the Whitehall target specifying the levels of housing development that should take place on previously developed land. As has been evident in the debate over ‘garden grabbing’, the definition of previously developed land has become discredited. In some areas, the cocktail of centrally imposed targets have had perverse outcomes - resulting in in-balances in provision such as between blocks of flats and family homes with gardens. Localism requires removing the comfort blanket of national targets and putting local people back in charge. As indicated in the Coalition Agreement, we will be maintaining strong policy protection for the environment, including maintaining the Green Belt, National Parks, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and other environmental protections. Removing bureaucracy from planning applications


The Government intends to promote development by simplifying and speeding up the planning application process. This will include a 12-month guarantee for the processing of all planning applications, including appeals which have been made in a timely fashion. The Government will consult on proposals to make outline and other applications simpler, and on other streamlining measures. New duty for councils to co-operate on planning issues


The Government's pro-growth reforms will ensure really powerful economic co-operation between councils. The Localism Bill will place a new Duty to Co-operate on councils to work together to address planning issues that impact beyond local boundaries, such as on transport, housing, or infrastructure. Councils are already operating in natural economic areas that stretch beyond traditional boundaries through 31 local enterprise partnerships.


Fast track, democratic system for major infrastructure applications. The Government is returning democratic accountability to decision making on applications for major infrastructure projects like wind farms, power stations and road schemes. The new Major Infrastructure Unit will maintain the stability and speed of the current fast track system for applications, but decisions will be made by Ministers rather than unelected officials.


HSE publish report on catastrophic events.

The construction industry is a highly hazardous activity, which can be seen in the high toll of accidents its workers suffer compared with other industries - ranging from lost time injuries to
fatalities. The industry has also potential to be associated with more major or catastrophic events (those involving multiple deaths and/or significant damage to property and infrastructure).

HSE have issued a new report which has examined these ‘low probability but high-consequence’ safety hazards by looking at the types of catastrophic event which have occurred or which might occur during construction and the reasons for occurrence.

Examples of occurrences which may be Catastrophic Events are:
Structural collapse of permanent structure 
Collapse of temporary works
Collapse of plant or equipment, such as cranes 
Tunnel collapse 
Disruption of underground services.

The report can be downloaded from http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrpdf/rr834.pdf and Wilkinson Construction consultants can now offer training in catastrophic events, drawing on Geoff Wilkinson’s 25 years of dealing with dangerous structures and fire safety. The training includes insider experiences of many of the incidents listed in the report and practical tips for how to avoid such incidents and what to do in the event you become involved.

For more info or to book a place click on the contact us tab.

GLA Publish findings of enquiry

Nicky Gavron speaks about the conclusions of the GLA enquiry into fire safety.

Stunell outlines plans to improve Building Regulations

Communities Minister Andrew Stunell has today outlined a programme of work to improve the system of building regulation in England.

Changes will look to reduce the regulatory burden on builders, making it easier and cheaper for them to comply. The programme results from an exercise that asked the industry to identify the changes that really needed to be made, either to the technical standards themselves or the regime more generally to secure compliance.

In a statement to Parliament, Mr Stunell reaffirmed the commitment that Building Regulations relating to the conservation of fuel and power will be revised, delivering the necessary next steps towards zero carbon buildings, and considering how they may support wider retrofit policies.

He also said he would examine how regulations might be used to ensure suitable toilet and changing facilities are offered for people with multiple and profound disabilities in new developments and explore further how building regulations could be used to help improve the security of new homes.

The Minister also reiterated the Governments determination to manage this process through a one-in, one-out approach to regulation, ensuring that the cost of any new regulations is offset by regulatory savings of at least the same value. In response to significant concerns raised by many in the industry, the Minister also plans to evaluate how the Building Regulations relating to electrical safety can be changed to lower the costs of compliance. He also set out plans to examine a number of other regulations where there may be an opportunity to not only reduce the cost to business, but also improve compliance.

Communities Minister Andrew Stunell said:
At the end of July I asked the building industry to tell me their ideas about what in the Building Regulations and associated processes needed to be improved or extended, where we might reduce the regulatory burdens and how we might deliver even better levels of compliance.
Today, Im publishing the findings of that process. In the coming year, I plan to look at how we ensure our regulations are as effective as they can be in delivering safe and sustainable buildings.

The success of this process is dependent on consultation with those at the frontline of the construction industry, building the homes and buildings that this country needs. That’s why for me this is just the start of the process – their contribution has informed my programme of work for the next year, and I want to work with them further to ensure building regulations are fit for the 21st century.

English Heritage guide to Part L 2010 published

English Heritage have published a new guide to energy efficency in Historic Buildings. The guidance has been produced to help prevent conflicts between energy efficiency requirements in Part L of the Building Regulations and the conservation of historic and traditionally constructed buildings. Much of the advice will also be relevant where thermal upgrading is planned without the specific need to comply with these regulations. The advice acts as 'second tier' supporting guidance in the interpretation of Approved Documents L1B and L2B that should be taken into account when determining appropriate energy performance standards for works to historic and traditionally constructed buildings. The guidance supersedes English Heritage's previous publication 'Building Regulations and Historic Buildings: an interim guidance note on the application of Part L' (2004).

Download a copy of the new guide here 

Private drains and sewers

Technically this is not news as it was announced last December, but as so few people seemed aware of it during my recent round of CPD talks, I have decided to post it again as a refresher.

There has been a long standing concern that individual property owners have a liability for the repair and maintenance of private drains and sewers outside of their curtilege, i.e. within 3rd party land and/or public highway.

The vast majority are ignorant of this situation and as such could be faced with a very nasty surprise if something does go wrong. Back in 2003 the Government acknowledged this problem and started to make provision for the transfer of these assets to the water and sewerage companies.

A Ministerial Announcement was made in December 2008, stating that the transfer would take place in 2011.

The transfer is proposed to take place in phases, starting with lateral drains and sewers draining by gravity. Phase Two will be private pumping stations, with a possible phase three dealing with surface water sewers draining directly to a water course. 

To support this transfer, new mandatory building standards will be introduced to control the construction of all new private drains and both private and public sewers.

Defra has asked Water UK to produce this standard, and the draft 'Unified Build Standard for Sewerage (England & Wales)' has now been completed. 

For more info and a handy diagram check out http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/quality/water/industry/sewers/existing/index.htm

Why is all this relevant? Well under building regulations extensions to existing buildings and new buildings are checked against the map of sewers provided by the water board. This check is carried out as soon as possible and the applicant or agent is advised of the outcome.

Where a proposal is likely to be within 3 metres of a sewer shown on the map of sewers, the Water Authority are advised, so that their observations or recommendations can be borne in mind in issuing our decision.

Architects should bear in mind that Water authorities may require a separate application to be made and impose additional requirements, such as a CCTV survey, or even diversion see  http://www.thameswater.co.uk/cps/rde/xbcr/corp/building-over-a-public-sewer-guide-112Kb-020408.pdf  

Footnote - Many projects such as conservatories, porches etc do not require building control permission but will still require permission from the water authority.   

Construction Site Fire safety - New guide and Training

A serious blaze at a Hampshire construction last month site thrust the safety of buildings under construction back into the spotlight. The blaze ripped through a partially built three-storey timber-framed care home in Basingstoke and follows similar fires in Glasgow and Peckham earlier this year.

Although these high profile fires hit the headlines, they are very much the tip of the iceberg as the HSE estimates that there are around 11 construction site fires every day. The human and commercial consequences of these construction fires can be devastating, yet CDM co-ordinators often apy lip service to this issue.

The CDM Regulations make specific requirements to ensure that suitable and sufficient steps are taken to prevent the risk of injury to any person, during construction work, from fire. Recent interpretation by both the HSE and the Fire Service have extended the definition of persons at risk beyond the boundary of the construction site to occupants of adjacent buildings and fire fighters.

The HSE have now launched a revised version of HSG 168 which can be downloaded here . The guide applies to even small refurbishment schemes and the HSE are keen to raise the profile of Fire Safety. Philip White HSE Chief Inspector for Construction, said "At worst, fires can and do kill.Preventing them must be a priority on any building project. Our Inspectors would prefer to offer advice but if lives and livelihoods are at risk they will not hesitate to take enforcement action."

Wilkinson Construction Consultants are currently engaged on a number of projects where the original fire risk assessments were found to be inadequate, and where specialist advice is needed. We are currently running CPD training sessions which draws on our practical experience to explain the new guidance. Sessions are available in house from £500 + VAT. Contact Chloe arrange a session for your company.

Chimney fire safety

The Kent Fire and Rescue service have launched a campaign (http://ht.ly/2GV53) to encourage people to ensure that they sweep thier chimneys. With pressure on maintenance budgets, chimney sweeping may seem like a non-essential item and yet chimney fires in licensed premises were one of the most common non domestic incident types attended by Kent Fire and Rescue Service.

Chimney fires are usually caused due to a build up of debris in the chimney and failure to get it swept. Fires of this nature can smoulder undetected for some time and present serious risk to you and your business.

As the winter months draw in, and before you use your chimney, it is essential to ensure it has recently been swept. Whatever fuel you burn it is important that the chimney is kept clean and you do not allow soot or ash to build up. Another cause of chimney fires occurs as the bricks in the roof space can become hot, hot enough to start a smouldering fire that can set light to any combustible material placed near it. Effectively, what you store in your roof could become fuel for a larger fire.

The final danger is carbon monoxide, which can escape from a faulty appliance, or your property is not correctly ventilated or the chimney or flue is blocked, you risk carbon monoxide poisoning.

National Chimney Fire Safety Week taking place from 20thto 26th September, so now is a good time to think about your property in order to keep your business safe over the winter season.

New Guidance on Electric Gates

Installers, designers, maintenance firms and manufacturers of electric gates, are being urged to seriously consider new safety advice issued by the Health and Safety Executive, following the recent deaths of two children involving these gates.

The safety alert points out that limiting the closing forces of gates alone will not provide sufficient protection to meet the relevant standards, and installers must fit additional safeguards to gates in public areas.

HSE's Director of Field Operations, David Ashton, said:

"Electric or automatic gates are designed to stop if someone gets in the way, and installers and those maintaining these gates have a real duty to ensure this happens.
"They must take their responsibilities seriously to make sure that anti-crushing, shearing and trapping safety protection devices are correctly set and maintained."
The alert follows a similar notice issued in February this year reminding gate manufacturers and installers of their safety responsibilities when designing, building and installing electrically powered gates.

On 28 June this year, Semelia Campbell, 6, died when she was crushed by electric gates in Manchester. A few days later on 3 July, Karolina Golabek, 5, was also crushed to death by electric gates in Bridgend,South Wales.
While the police and HSE investigations continue into both deaths, HSE does want to make it clear to installers that they must take action to prevent pedestrians from becoming trapped in electric gates.

David Ashton added: "When manufacturing, designing or installing electric gates, it's crucial to consider who will be in the area when it's operating. If general public can access the gate then additional protections should be in place.
"These protections can be in the form of creating safe distances, installing fixed guards, limiting the forces or installing sensitive protective equipment - among others."
HSE's advice also reminds those in control of the maintenance of electric gates to regularly review their risk assessments, taking account of or any changes to the operating conditions or environment.

The new safety alert is available online at http://www.hse.gov.uk/safetybulletins/electricgates2.htm

More large fines for breaches of Fire Safety

Building owners should be aware that there has been a recent increase in actvity by Fire Brigades seeking prosecutions under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

One of the largest fines to date went to The Co-operative Group for what a judge described as 'a lamentable approach to Fire Safety' at its Hampshire stores. The fine including costs totalled £210,000 for a total of six breaches of fire safety law, including locked Fire Exit doors.

But shoppers thinking of switching to Co-operatives rival Tesco would fare no better, as Tesco have just been fined £95,000 plus £24,000 costs for a simliar breach at its Barnet Store. Elsewhere a Chinese Restaurant in Tadworth was fined £26,000 plus £13,000 , whilst Chalk Lane Hotel in Surrey was fined £20,000 including costs. In both cases inadequate fire risk assessment were listed as common failures.

As previously reported (see below) the Law has recently changed and Fire Risk Assesments must be carried out by competent persons. With our fees for FRA's starting from just £500 can you afford not to contact us?

Local Authority Building Control fees to increase

In February CLG published new rules allowing Councils to change the way they charge fees for Building Control Approval and inspection at http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/circular012010%20

A leaked report from LABC (the organisation tht represents Local authority Building Control Departments) shows that plans are being made to significantly increase the Charges made by Council Departments forthese services

A copy of the report can be found at  https://members.webs.com/MembersB/EditPage/%20http://www.labc.uk.com/downloads/LABC_Charges_Tony_Hough.pdf

As you will see from that report, LABC are suggested increased charges eg

Garage <40m

From £124.24 to £215.25

Garage 40-60m

From £255.32 to £365.22

Extension <10m

From £263.00 to £412.17

Extension 10-40m

From £385.00 to £542.62

Extension 40-60m

From £468.08 to £690.00

Loft conversions

From £347.25 to £699.14

For other residential (institutional and other) the charge could be 2 X the charge.
For assembly and recreational usages the charge could be 1.5 X the charge.
For industrial and storage usages the charge could be 0.5 X the charge.

The charges are likely to come into effect in October so either get your application in quick or better still get a quote from an Approved Inspector, instead.

New Approved Documents Released

The communities department has today (30/4/2010) published the 4 Approved Documents for Part L of the Building Regulations, which come into force in October.

Approved documents for Part F, covering ventilation, and Part J on heating appliances, have also been published along with three new compliance guides

Non-Compliance costs campaign

Wilkinson Construction Consultants are backing the CIBSE Non-Compliance costs campaign.

The non-compliance costs campaign addresses the issue of non-compliance with air conditioning inspection requirements and f-gas legislation.

The campaign aims to highlight the growing concern in the industry about the lack of compliance with the Energy Performance in Buildings Directive and F-Gas Regulations in an attempt to drive the government to deliver a more successful approach.

With rates of compliance of Air Conditioning Inspections at less than 5% (compared to 80% for Display Energy Certificates and 70-75% for Energy Performance Certificates), we agree with CIBSE that  it is time for industry organisations to unite as one voice to raise the issue of non-compliance up the government agenda and promote the benefits of increasing compliance rates.

If the UK is to realise the reduction in carbon emissions expected from the introduction of energy certification legislation then the whole industry needs to act now to ensure that Air Conditioning Inspections fulfil their potential and that clients open their eyes to the benefits, both short and long term, that the inspections and their accompanying reports can bring to their buildings. The business case for saving both money and carbon must be seen to be strong enough so that organisations start to view inspections as a real benefit, something that can truly add value to the business and have a real and lasting impact on the bottom line.

To sign up to support the campaign click here - Non Compliance Costs



CLG announce BSF acoustic standards

CLG has today issued a letter on behalf of Lord McKenzie to all Building Control Bodies in England and Wales regarding the issue of acoustics in Schools.

The Building Schools for the Future (BSF) is the biggest-ever school buildings investment program. The Government has confirmed its commitment to devolve significant funds to local authorities and schools to spend on maintaining and improving their school buildings. But it also wants to promote a step-change in the quality of provision.

Good acoustic conditions are essential to teaching and learning and a particular need for children and young people with special needs such as those with hearing impairments or speech and language difficulties. Building Control Bodies (BCB's) play a key role in ensuring that this vision is delivered.

In October 2009, Vernon Coaker, the Minister of State for Schools and Learners issued a written statement entitled “Auditory standards for school buildings” announcing a package of measures designed to ensure that school buildings have good acoustics. The full statement is available at www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm200809/cmhansrd/cm091016/wmstext/91016m0001.htm

As part of this package, the Government has taken steps to ensure that all future funding for BSF schools will not be approved without contractual commitment to meeting appropriate standards through acoustic test certification. Building Control Bodies are required to ask to see the results of this testing to assess compliance with Requirement E4. In some cases, it may also be possible to avoid the need for detailed design calculations where performance testing is offered as an alternative.

Alternative performance standards to those set out in Building Bulletin 93 Acoustic Design of Schools may sometimes be appropriate for specific areas within individual schools for particular educational, environmental or health and safety reasons. However, some clients may not fully appreciate the implications of adopting such alternative approaches on the functionality of the finished school. Where proposals are being considered to adopt alternative performance standards, BCB's should alert applicants to the latest guidance on acoustics, issued by DCSF and not approve them unless a full and proper case has been made. Building Bulletin 93 gives guidance on this.

Another part of this package is a DCSF design practice note for clients which include a recommendation for them to seek advice from technical advisers, particularly when alternative performance standards are proposed. It also alerts clients to the fact that Building Control officers will not approve alternative performance standards unless a suitable case has been made in accordance with Building Bulletin 93

You may also find it useful to refer to the Department for Children Schools and Families web page on acoustics: Teachernet Acoustics

News Feeds


Are your staff competent?


From 6 April 2010 all employers have a statutory duty to consider the capability of worker(s) who carry out tasks or assignments related to fire safety.

This is in addition to employers' general duties to carry out health and safety risk assessments and fire safety risk assessments, and to review them regularly. An assessment of capability should already be an implicit part of those risk assessments, so the new regulations only serve to make it explicit in relation to fire safety. 

Employers need to be aware that using there own trained but unqualified staff may be adequate for very basic premises, more complex premises should be assessed by qualified Fire Engineers. Many Risk Assessments are carried out by retired Fire Service personal and employers assume that these individuals are suitably qualified, however, it is often the case that they have only ever worked as operational fire-fighters and are not qualified in Fire Safety Engineering nor are they up to date with Current Building Regulations. 

In order to ensure that anyone you employ is suitably Qualified you should look for MIFireE qualifications and ask for evidence of knowledge of current Building Regulations.

For a copy of the the Fire Safety (Employees' Capabilities) (England) Regulations 2010  Click Here

Wilkinson Construction Consultants offer Fire Risk Assessments and have experience of all building types - Rates from £500. 


Building Control Performance report Published

The report into the 2008-09 Building Control Performance Indicators has been published.

Despite costing CLG £25,000  (see CLG website) the results are not to be found on thier website but instead the little known BCPSAG site (BCPSAG) .

The results are quite shocking as less than 20% of Local Authority Building Control Departments have bothered to make a return. If the Performance Standards for Building Control are going to be maeningful, then surely KPI retuns mut be made mandatory, and failure to submit a return result in harsh penalties. To down load a copy of the full report check out our links page.

Part G Published

Approved Document G has finally been published and takes affect from 6/4/2010 - Download a copy here Approved Document G 2010 and also check out the online water calculator at Water Calculator

Dont forget to check out the Links page for downloads of all the Approved Documents.

EU delay proposals for water efficency to new dwellings.

I have become aware that regulations were laid on 9th September that will delay the amendments to Part G (Sanitation, Hot Water Safety and Water Efficiency) of the Building Regulations from 1 October 2009 until 6 April 2010 . The regulations will also delay amendments to extend the scope of the existing competent person scheme to types of work relating to Part G and to the revocation of a redundant provision relating to time limits for prosecution.

The delay has been caused because it was necessary, under the EU Technical Standards Directive, to resubmit the draft Approved Document G to the European Commission .
Member States are obliged to notify to the Commission, in draft, proposed technical regulations and to observe a three month standstill period before the regulation is made or brought into force. This is to provide an opportunity for the Commission and other Member States to comment if they consider that the proposed regulation has the potential to create a technical barrier to trade.
The document was notified in early June, as a number of changes were made to the technical guidance since the document was originally notified. Member States had three months within which to comment on the revised guidance. Correspondence received at the 11th hour from the European Commission which contained representations on elements of the technical guidance. As the representation relates to a serious potential barrier to trade it has the effect of creating a stand still period for a further three months, which would mean it is not be possible to bring into force “regulations” until December 2009. It is understood that the CLG have decided to extend the delay further, until the traditional April changeover date, to ensure that the represenations can be fully dealt with.

As well as postponing the changes until April of next year, it also makes corresponding changes to the transitional provisions originally put in place. In effect, this moves back the dates contained in the regulations by six months. Following on so soon after the highly critisised decision to drop consequential improvements from the Part L consulation, this decision again calls into question the UK's Governments ability to deliver on its green agenda.
New contract for appointment of Approved Inspectors

The Association of Consultant Approved Inspectors (ACAI) has teamed up with the Construction Industry Council (CIC) to create a contract for the appointment of approved inspectors.

The 14 page document, covers sections such as fees, services, conditions and definitions, was also published to fill a gap in the client/inspector working relationship, as explains Geoff Wilkinson.

 “Building control used to be so simple, you didnt have a choice. Traditionally, only inspectors from the local authority were accredited to undertake building control.  But the Building Act 1984 opened up the market, allowing Approved Inspectors in the private sector to fulfil this role in England and Wales. There are now over 60 companies operating in this field, and recent surveys show that half of the country’s top 10 building control bodies (by value) are Approved Inspectors. Government and industry recognise that competition in this sector has had a positive impact, providing a stimulus to greater efficiency and high standards of service to the customer"

"Approved Inspectors become part of the project team and offer their services under contract and PI cover unlike Local Authorities. However, most existing contracts (eg JCT etc) were inappropriate and failed to address the Statutory Functions of a building control body, and could be un-enforceable. This new document can be used for all projects ranging from residential to major public sector schemes and is currently the best form of contract for both clients and approved inspectors.”

The release of this document completes the CIC’s suite of contracts for professionals involved in the construction process and bring building control in line with architectural services, surveying and other professional disciplines.

Copies of the Document can be purchased for £17.50 at http://www.cicshop.co.uk/acatalog/CIC_Consultants__Contract.html

For more advice on the tendering, selection and appointment of Building Control Bodies contact Wilkinson Construction Consultants who will be pleased to help you make the right choice.

CLG Consultation

Housing Minister John Healey today (18/6) launched a consultation on changes to the Building Regulations to deliver the first step towards zero carbon buildings and carbon savings of over 3 million tonnes a year from 2020. An important plank of the government's commitment to tackling climate change, the proposals would require a 25per cent improvement in energy efficiency standards for new homes and other buildings from October 2010. This will require better insulation and draught-proofing, better low-energy lighting and more efficient boilers. The higher energy efficiency standards will also mean lower fuel bills lower - by up to £100 a year for an average home.

Mr Healey said

"In the UK we know that nearly half of our carbon emissions come from our buildings, 27 per cent come from our homes and a further 17 per cent from other non domestic buildings. So we must build our homes to a better, greener standard. We are leading the way globally, with our ambitions for zero carbon homes and buildings.

"Today I have announced the next step towards zero carbon - a 25 per cent improvement on current standards for new homes or buildings from 2010. This consultation on changes to the Building Regulations means we are not only building to better standards, but making homes cheaper to heat and run for the families living in them. It could mean savings of up to £100 a year for an average home.

"These measures demonstrate that we have listened to the needs of people, councils, industry and developers and are taking practical action that will make a real difference to communities across the country."

The Consultation Documents run out at around 800pages, and can be found on the CLG website

Fraud investigation prompts system change

Two recent cases of Fraud have meant a major overhaul of the Association of Noise Consultants (ANC) Green Certificate scheme.  

We are not in a position to provide full details of either case, as this may result in a police investigation, however, it appears that in the current recessionary climate that unscrupulous developers may be prepared to digitally alter, or even completely fabricate look-alike certificates.  As the building control sign-off of a high value development could be significantly delayed due to PCT failures, it is easy to see how there might be considerable financial pressure to fabricate a ‘PASS’ result. One particularly serious aspect is when Ecohomes or Code for Sustainable Homes points are associated with the test results, potentially linked to publically funded grants, when the very serious issue of misappropriation of public funds comes into play.
Most Building Control Bodies will be familiar with the user friendly ‘green’ certificates from the ANC when assessing compliance with Approved Document E of the Building Regulations with respect to sound insulation.   This new verification system is known as ADvANCE  which is shorthand for ANCsound testverificationforADE. The ANC Board and its Pre Completion Testing (PCT) Registration Scheme Committee are taking this necessary action due to two cases of certificate fraud.  In a form of backhanded compliment to the value of the ANC registration scheme and the test certification process,  
All those involved felt it was important to move quickly to provide a mechanism for certificate security and verification.  As a first step the certificates have already been changed to state that the original hard copy should be checked, and can be verified against unique certificate numbers with the ANC.
In addition the ANC database management contractors (CMMS) were tasked with producing an online, secure, password verified certification procedure.  From the 1st of June 2009 this new ADvANCEsystem has gone live, and ANC registered testers will be issued with unique test numbers and passwords for every site that they work on.  These together with the database website address will be provided to the Building Control Officer who will then be able to check the results of every single test on that site, including re-tests, and produce a printer friendly summary page for his or her records.  It will not be possible for any third party to alter or forge these records making the whole system secure. 

Between the 1st of June and the 31st of December 2009, the secure web access will be accompanied by the familiar ‘green’ certificates while BCO’s become familiar with this new system.  The ‘green’ certificates will cease to be produced from the 1st of January 2010 and the way of verifying that a site has complied with ADE will be by the BCO accessing the password protected ADvANCEweb site.
Wilkinson Construction Consultants are currently working with the ANC to produce a checksheet for Building Control to further assist the checking and sign off process.

Contact person for further information:-
P R Dunbavin  MSc, FIOA, MSEE, MInstSCE
Chairman of the ANC’s PCT
Registration Scheme Committee
Email: philipdunbavin@pdaltd.com
Tel: 01925 759380