On most small domestic projects, consultants will not be required. However recent changes to planning and environmental requirements mean that specialist advice from consultants may be necessary at additional cost to the project.
Should there be any steelwork or large openings involved within a project, or possibly a structural report required as a planning requirement, you may require the services of a consultant structural engineer. In such cases, we would usually brief a structural engineer on what details are required for a project. The engineer would then contact the client with his fee proposal. On the basis that this is accepted, the engineer would size and provide the requisite calculations for approval under the building regulations. The details would also be added to the schedule of works within the 3D BIM model.
The institute of structural engineers can advise on suitable members. As with architects, engineers will often have their own specialism, so an engineer used to detailing steel framed buildings may not be entirely suitable for a listed building.
Quantity Surveyor (QS)
On very large projects, a specialist consultant in construction costs may be useful to provide initial outline estimates for a project. A QS will also monitor valuations and assist with agreeing any cost claims with a contractor within a building contract. On most residential projects, we would generally provide initial cost indicators. Once the project is more advanced, prices tendered by contractors would form the basis for valuations.
Party Wall Surveyors
The Party Wall Act originated in London (broadly from 1939) where disputes would often arise between owners of adjoining terraced properties. The Party Wall etc. Act of 1996 extended legislation to the whole country. It is intended to allow disputes to be adjudicated by an independent party wall surveyor. We would usually recommend discussing any intended proposals informally with your neighbour before making any planning applications. This can be followed up with a formal letter agreeing matters. We can offer advice and can act as an independent party wall surveyor if required where disputes may arise. We would stress that we are required to remain independent of the parties involved.
Building Control departments now require SAP (Standard Assessment Procedure) calculations to be provided to ensure that the development meets the energy and heat loss criteria set down under Part L of the Building Regulations. We recommend using a specialist assessor who can provide the required information in a economical manner. The consultant will usually also provide an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate), which is now a legal requirement.
The building inspector may also require new or altered buildings to have an acoustic (and possibly air leakage) test. Again this is the realm of a specialist with appropriate testing equipment. The overall cost is not large but potentially needs to be allowed for within a budget!
The local planning authority may require a bat survey to be submitted for conversion projects (especially on older farm buildings). Occasionally other surveys such as a newt survey may be required near ponds. These are prepared by specialist ecologists. Again we can recommend consultants. The surveys can only be carried out during certain months of the year. For instance, bat surveys are undertaken during the summer months when bats are active. Outside the survey season, an expert may be able to determine whether bats are likely to be present. These surveys can add five or six hundred pounds to the overall budget.
Where there are trees within or adjacent to a site, the planning department may require a tree survey. This will be prepared by a qualified arborist. The intention is to ensure that trees are protected during the construction process.
Flood Risk Assessment
You may need a specialist to produce a report, especially for a new site or large development, to meet the planning department’s criteria. Costs will vary depending on the size and likelihood of any flood risk.
It is mandatory for an Asbestos Management Survey to be carried out on all non-domestic premises built before 2000. Further details can be found on the HSE website. Older properties often have asbestos present in what appear to be everyday building materials such as Artex wallpaper or ceiling and floor tiles.
Utility & Services Provisions
If you are considering a change of use for an agricultural building, you may need to allow for the provision of new services, such as electricity, telephones, water and sewerage, and a gas supply. The utility companies can be unbelievably slow to carry out new installations and connections, despite the often hefty charges levied. It is always prudent to allow several months for installations to be activated. We contact the utility companies before preparing a schedule of work to ascertain likely costs!
Planning approval may or may not be required for your project. However much construction work will be notifiable under the Building Regulations. There are two or three alternative approaches to obtaining approval under the regulations. Each council has its own approved building inspectors. However an independent approved inspector may also issue certificates. Should work be carried out without prior approval, the local authority will assess and verify, by means of site visits, plans and information submitted, to identify non-compliant items. They can open up and inspect works and monitor the making good of defective work. If satisfied, they will issue a Certificate. This will be required should the property be sold at a later date. Fees can be negotiated with independent inspectors. Councils will usually have a set of standard costs.
Construction Design & Management Regulations 2015 (CDM)
The CDM regulations have been extended (through European Commission legislation) so that now any building work must comply with the regulations.The regulations are intended to improve Health and Safety on construction sites, especially on smaller sites where accidents are most likely to occur. Health, welfare and safety considerations are covered by the Construction, Design and Management (CDM) regulations. These have recently (2015) been updated. A domestic client wanting building work carried out is now required to make suitable arrangements for managing a building project. Generally these duties would be transferred to their building contractor. The principal designer (usually the architect) can, with a written agreement, be chosen to carry out the client’s duties under the CDM regulations. We usually send out a checklist for site information for a client to complete where possible. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has information and guidance on the requisite procedures.