Our Services - Other Considerations - Further Information

The building industry is notorious for underestimating on cost and time and this is usually down to not having enough detailed information available - Some less scrupulous builders will exploit this and estimate low then pile on extras later.

Not all fully appreciate the value that there is in these services and try to cut corners with potentially expensive consequences later. To avoid this clients should be prepared to invest and pay for good professional unbiased advise in having all this prepared properly. We believe in taking a thorough and detailed approach at the appropriate stages, with budgets being constantly reviewed.

The importance of good professional advice cannot be stressed hard enough. We are accountable to you for the advice we give and are bound by a duty of care and be suitably insured, unlike some other so called experts who offer an opinion. All too frequently many misunderstandings, myths and half truths are perpetuated by those with a bit of knowledge or experience, but have not been thoroughly trained and time served under the direction of fully qualified professionals. Professional indemnity insurance and public liability - the terms and conditions of our insurance are such that we are not allowed to go into detail, but if you need to know more we are happy to refer your enquiries about this to our insurance broker.

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996:

not only covers issues concerning the walls you share with your neighbours [and floors/ceilings/roofs in the case of flats and maisionettes] but also factors that may affect the stability of neighbouring structures when an extension is added close to the boundary. In some cases if you build something up to 6M away the Act applies. Your neighbours need to be properly informed, you need to be able to demonstrate that precautions will be taken to protect their property and repair any damage. Surveyor/s may need to be appointed and an 'award' should be prepared to state what will be done and who pays for it. It will be necessary to issue notices in accordance with the Party wall Act 1996 to your neighbours. If they dispute the notice and/or wish to appoint their own surveyor, you will be liable for their expenses. It may be necessary to appoint an independent Surveyor so there may be further charges. We can provide further information. The Fee for this would be based on time.

Boundary Disputes:

In some cases it is not clear where the exact boundary line lies, a vague line on a old out of scale drawing. A description of a situation that applied many years ago, but everything has been altered since then. A rusty post in the ground. There are some traditional rules of thumb that might apply. All these tricky issues need resolving. Restrictive covenants: Somewhere in your deeds, land registry documents or elsewhere there might be a restriction set up by a previous land owner to say that only certain types of development will be allowed on that land, that gardens should not have fences or hedges etc. There may be covenants restricting development that you should check by reference to your deeds/land registry documents and through your solicitor.

There is legislation that requires you to obtain permission from the Water Authority to build over, or within 3 metres, of a public drain or carry out alterations to the drain. The fee varies with the size of pipe. The only way to check if this applies is through the local Water Authority, who often charge a fee for this as well. Wayleaves etc: underground utility services may run under or close to your property - there may already be restrictions that prohibit you from building over or closer to these, or that special permissions may be needed. Recent changes to Water Companies rules that apply to foul and surface water mean that nearly all drains that are shared now come under their control. Manholes and other access points cannot be built over, but it might be possible to move/divert them.

Town and County Planning Acts:

A raft of legislation to control or permit development, from heights of garden walls and fences, surfacing materials and drainage, landscaping and trees to all manner of buildings and land uses. From National planning policies to Local Development Frameworks and area character assessments There are so many rules, regulations and guidance to understand. Sometimes it all is very clearly set out - more often with grey areas and vagaries open to various interpretations. Good local knowledge is very important, together with good working relationships with the Local Planning officers, to be able to guide clients into how successful their application might be. At the end of the day its either down to the Planning officers professional opinion, or a committee of elected persons, usually with very little working understanding of Architecture, Construction and Town and Country planning, but guided by the Planning officers.

Permitted Development:

Planning law that says you can carry out certain types of development without the need to make a planning application. In 2010 these rules were revised with the aim of making things easier and to reduce the amount of development that needed permission. However, nothing is ever that easy. Soon after the Government had to publish a report to clarify possible misunderstandings and definitions and then another. Possible loop holes found then plugged. You now need to confirm that what is proposed is permitted development by applying for a Certificate of Lawful Use - this can be for a proposed use or an existing one - there is a formal application process with a fee that usually takes the same time to be considered as a full planning application.

Planning Restrictions:

The original or subsequent planning permission, local orders etc, may place restrictions on any future development or remove rights or protect features.

Trees and Hedges:

Their roots can be invasive and cause damage to buildings, drains, soakaways, drives and paths etc. How close is it safe to build, what precautions are needed to protect these structures and the trees. Planning policies and conditions may protect the trees so that it is very difficult and expensive to build near to them. Knowledge of the process and effects of 'Heave' is very important. Often the services of a Structural Engineer will be needed to investigate advise and prepare a solution.

Ground Conditions:

Increasingly with growing demand for housing - less than ideal or previously used sites are being built on where they may be many hidden problems, remnants of underground structures and services, contaminated land and old rubbish tips. Houses are then built on complex and varied foundation structures, piles and ring beams, reinforced rafts etc. most of which won't lend themselves to being adapted for extensions and alterations. Identifying this at an early stage is very important before you commit to the full expense of a building project. Again, good local knowledge is important and an investment in a special ground survey worthwhile. Even on virgin sites the ground conditions may dictate that special measures are needed. Old wells, soakaways, air-raid shelters all found from time to time. We are beginning to appreciate the problems of building on or near flood plains. Also how increased areas of hard surfacing reduce the grounds natural ability to soak up rain run off. Further potential problems that could mean increased building costs.

Building Costs:

Market forces and regional variations, economies of scale, changing legislation, downturns and recession in the economy.

Low carbon building and energy saving measures, new technologies and methods of construction, scarcity of reclaimed materials, scarcity of specialist craftsman, how quickly you want it built, will you have to live in the property while work is carried out, requiring the workmen to make everywhere safe and tidy away tools and materials - protecting areas from damage and for safety. Just some of the many factors that can affect the building costs and not all will be immediately apparent at the outset. It can be very difficult to accurately cost a project in the early stages.

Building Regulations:

The rules and regulations controlling the construction and use of your building; to ensure the structural stability from the foundations to the top of the roof, to make sure the building is weather resistant and dry, to prevent defects such as rising damp, dry/wet rot, woodworm, mould growth and condensation, to ensure a healthy and safe environment to live in, sound proofing, protection against fires and creating safe means to escape, limiting the effects of fire and smoke, controlling plumbing and drainage, electrical installations, central heating and hot water. To reduce energy consumption and keep the building warm. While there are rules of thumb and deemed to satisfy provisions it is often necessary to deviate from these to create a particular feature, squeeze space in, create light and airy spaces - then complex calculations are needed to demonstrate from first principals how the requirements can be met. Sometimes requiring specialists to be employed to calculate and certify. In some areas other special precautions and protections are needed - for instance for radon gas.

Building Construction:

It is very important to understand the construction of your home and how it can be altered and extended; many types of construction have been used over hundreds of years, but over recent years this has increased with new techniques and technologies. Lighter materials and finely engineered constructions can be more difficult. A thorough knowledge of building construction and design is required, combined with knowing which experts need to be called upon for further advice.

Where appropriate we will endeavour to determine the nature of the existing construction, services routes etc, as best we can, without disturbing finishes, fitted furniture and coverings etc. However, if it is necessary to determine the nature of construction and materials used or ascertain the scope of building works, then further investigation will probably be required where the structure may need to be opened up or have finishes, coverings etc removed. We will need to locate the foul drain run and manholes, assuming they are easily accessible and fitted with light duty covers that can be easily lifted - if not it may be necessary for a builder to be employed to do this. Sometimes this can be deferred until work commences and/or conditional Building Regulation approval granted. We cannot be responsible for the making good and redecoration of any areas so disturbed, but will do our best to minimise it.

Construction Design Regulations:

Domestic alterations are normally exempted from notification by owners to Health and Safety Executive (HSE). However sometimes, due to the nature or duration of building work, owners, designers and builders may be required to notify and appoint a planning supervisor for risk assessments/management etc.

If the project includes deep exaction and the removal of a substantial amount of earth, which may constitute Engineering works and structural alterations at heights, this may require the appointment of a Planning Supervisor. A suitable contractor may be able to provide for this, or a separate consultant may need to be employed for this and risk assessments/management etc. There may also be issues with the disposal of large quantities of excavated material requiring licenses or permits - this will need to be investigated further.

Our role as designers is to try eliminate and reduce risks during design and to provide information about remaining risks. We must state clearly that there may be certain risks inherent in the aspects of the design requirements you have already set out, ie the extension of existing buildings and the need to replicate design and construction features of the surrounding building/construction for which we cannot take responsibility. The HSE can provide full details of your duties under the Construction Design Management (CDM) regulations.

Building is a potentially dangerous activity and great care should be taken by all parties. Owners should notify builders and designers of any particular hazards and in some cases inspections and reports need to be prepared by specialists.

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