Please read this carefully. It contains detailed explanations/ advice and is not ‘standard blurb’ to be ignored!
1.Who are we?
We would be very pleased to tell you more about ourselves and you are most welcome to visit our offices or we can visit you. Our brochure or web site provides general details initially, but we would be pleased to tell you more. We undertake a large number of projects of this type and they are very important to us.
We have been based in Wimbledon Village High Street for about 20 years and have an experienced team to look after your project. All design work is carried out by senior staff and all projects involve at least two people, ensuring good continuity during holidays, illness or someone away from the office. We work well with both fellow designers and builders and enjoy ‘design’ and can bring a practical angle to the project.
We hope that the cost of good ‘design’ is paid for by various benefits during the building work including an economical design, deploying the most modern methods, with good quality build-able elements.
We provide a prompt design service and help to site if this is part of our scope of service.
2. What we do.
As structural Engineers, we provide the ‘stress and strain’ calculations and structural drawings and associated advice, for the skeleton of the new building work, to complement the information provided by others, normally your Architect. This typically includes the load bearing walls, beams and foundations, roof timber’s etc. for Building Regulations purposes (items b and c below). We can also inspect the work on site if you wish; either to check general quality or to resolve queries or assist your builder (stage e below). In addition we assist yourself and your Architect during the development of the drawings to allow the structure to compliment the Architectural work (stage d below if appointed beyond Building Regulations Application stage). You will appreciate that the work will involve important structural work and appropriate calculations and drawings will be required to ensure that the work can proceed safely. In cases where existing buildings are concerned, our appraisal of the impact of the proposed work on the existing building is often as important as the design of the new works. E.g. to check the proposal does not overstress the existing building and sub soil or reduce its stability to unacceptable levels. Our analytical and ‘thinking time’ does not always result in drawings or the production of tangible information. Our advice is related to the time incurred by technical staff and the fees reflect this time.
Our advice can be summarised under five distinct headings, as follows:
2.a Assessment of existing structure. (Stage a)
For refurbishments and extensions adjacent to existing construction it is sometimes necessary to inspect the existing construction.
For simple alterations however, various assumptions can be made. This is not required for new building work.
An assessment might include the general nature of the existing construction such as wall thicknesses and to check the type of floors for weight loading considerations before the calculations and drawings are prepared, if at all possible. It is not practicable to expose all of the structure however, so inevitably some elements remain hidden until the building work progresses. This can result in minor modifications to the design and building work, so some contingency is required. You will need to employ/ pay for any builders/ testing/ specialist reports but we can arrange this on your behalf.
2.b Calculations sufficient to make a Full Plans building regulations application for Part A of building regs “structure” (Stage b)
Our calculations for new elements are carried out in accordance with the relevant British standards/ codes of practice by appropriately trained staff, mainly chartered Engineers. The treatment of existing structure like old walls and foundations is much more subjective and can be prone to the whims of the local Council’s building control department. This is because existing structure does not conform to current day standards. This is an area that can involve extra work sometimes. Fees quoted for stage (b) are only for those necessary to make a building regulations ‘application’. Additional advice may be required when the structure is finally exposed on site and the configuration is sometimes unknown or found to be different from that assumed at the time of the initial design work, or if the design changes or additional information is produced by others, e.g. more detailed architectural drawings. Matters such as foundation bearing pressures can often only be agreed with us during the building works. Please note that the calculations form part of our ‘background workings’ to produce our advice/ drawings etc. They do not form part of our ‘deliverables’ to clients. It is our time and advice that we provide in consideration of fees.
2.c Drawings sufficient to make a Full Plans Building Regulations Application (to meet part A of regulations)
Our drawings (or sketches on most residential projects) are less detailed than those of the Architects and are only to summarise our Structural requirements for Building Regulations purposes. Ie what size and how strong the skeletal structure needs to be. They are based on the architects drawings and we do not prepare our own measured survey. Various assumptions are often necessary as the existing buildings skeleton will remain hidden until the building work starts. They convey structural sizing requirements and the general nature of the structural works. They do not explain how to nail every piece of wood together and it is assumed your builder will have sufficient experience to be able to interpret the drawings and use good practice to construct the works from the drawings. All matters of co-ordination and setting out/ levels etc are normally managed by a competent builder in conjunction with the Architect (depending on the Architects terms of appointment to produce detailed working drawings; which we would always recommend). Dimensions are deliberately excluded from our drawings to prevent duplication and dangers of uncoordinated information if other drawings are changed without us realising. Our details are based on the Architects drawings; we should not need to duplicate and take our own site measurements. It is rare that there is a ‘structural reason’ for very accurate positioning of structural elements but many architectural reasons why the builder must carefully co-ordinate our work with the architectural details. Additional help may be required when the structure is finally exposed on site and the configuration is sometimes found to be different from that assumed at the time of the initial design work, or if the design changes or additional information is produced by others, e.g. more detailed architectural drawings, all subject to time charge fees.
‘Building Regulations submission’ drawings versus full ‘working’ drawings.
We would specifically draw your attention to the difference between drawings prepared for ‘Building Regulations submission’ (normally used for tender also) and those called ‘working’ drawings within the industry. The former, indicate the scope and key elements of the work and are commonly all that is prepared for most residential and smaller projects; with an experienced builder being fully aware of the finer details that are involved in constructing the works. Full working drawings include larger scale, much more detailed drawings, specifications, steel reinforcing schedules etc and are rarely prepared in domestic and smaller projects unless specifically agreed at the outset. Reinforced concrete structures are not normally anticipated at the time of our introduction and our fees exclude this unless specifically highlighted beforehand. Much depends on the knowledge of your builder in this regard but also on the amount of help you require and the level of detail provided on Architects drawings etc.
2.d General advice (Stage d), and production of working drawings post tender, if agreed
We might be asked to provide general advice, ranging from assistance to you and your Architect, attending meetings, investigating alternative designs, meeting with your builder, etc. There will be correspondence with your team and possibly with the local authority and neighbours on occasions. This can rarely be defined and is partly why our fee basis are normally based on hourly rates. We do not assume any involvement with party wall/ neighbourly matters unless specifically mentioned in our appointment letter but can provide this additional engineering 9not Party Wall Surveying) service by agreement if appropriate. We have assumed others will prepare all contract documents/ schedules/ specifications and supervise the builder.
2.e Additional advice including during building work- if required. (Stage e)
This sort of project could involve regular site inspections and meetings. It is also normal to expect some previously unknown aspects to materialise, as explained above. We will not automatically know when the project is to be built so please contact us in good time if you wish us to inspect the works. You or your builder should notify us if we need to review provisional items shown on the Tender drawings that are subject to confirmation on site. We cannot take responsibility for matters agreed with the Building Control Officer that are at variance to our designs.
We assume your builder and Architect are authorised to request that we visit site on your behalf, to resolve any particular issues that might arise. Builders sometimes ask us to change or provide additional details to suit his particular preference for how something is built. We are happy to provide this additional service if this is of benefit to the project as long as you are aware of the consequent re-design fees. Our appointment will be with you throughout, i.e. not your builder for any construction stage advice.
We assume you will employ one building contractor, who will co-ordinate the various trades and co-ordinate the Architectural and structural information with the site conditions encountered. The builder should be of sufficient size and experience to fully understand and be responsible for all matters of health and safety on site and temporary stability of the works. We assume the contractor will arrange his own design of any ‘temporary support’ (e.g. propping of excavations and walls) or scaffolding required, to suit his preferred working sequence and obtain fabrication drawings associated with any steelwork connections and specialist supply items. We have not made any allowance for checking fabrication details or design/ drawing of any steel fabrication/connection/ splice details, but can provide this additional help if you require.
You should be aware that our advice is based on considerable experience and the circumstances known to us at the time of providing such advice. Occasionally builders and local authority representatives question the need for some of our work and might try to persuade you to vary this. Clearly we cannot take any responsibility for such changes and you should contact us before considering such a change. There are sometimes differences between what we would recommend as best practice as opposed to minimum requirements of Local Authority Building Control requirements.
Please be aware that building work does involve the client in some risk and uncertainty. There is no prototype for refurbishment, structural work, particularly foundation works. Please also be aware that new building work can experience minor cracking and distortions as it adjusts to its new equilibrium and environment.
What we do not do. (Including but not limited to the following)
We are not Architects or Chartered Building Surveyors, nor Builders. There are various other professional advisors that you might need to procure building work and you should seek advice to ensure you obtain the correct complimentary advice.
Matters of Town Planning, Building regulations and the specification of non-structural items will normally require an Architect. He or she will also coordinate the wider aspects of the design and we strongly recommend you employ the Architect on a full service to design and administer the building contract. Some Architects produce sufficient details for building regulations approval only. This will allow a competent builder to safely construct the works but you will need more detailed coordination and working drawings, schedules and specifications if you wish to have everything specified, coordinated and cost controlled.
We do not manage, administer, or supervise your builder. Others will need to advise on a range of subjects including but not confined to; waterproofing, tanking, fire protection, surveys, drainage, plumbing, lighting, building services, cladding, external works, movement joints, costings, contamination, energy, sound transmission etc.
We do not coordinate our work with others. This is best done by your Architect/ Surveyor/ design consultant who is dealing with the wider aspects of the project.
We do not dimension our drawings and rely on surveys/ drawings/ plans/ records, prepared by others. We have not checked any Statutory Authority records for previous alterations, underground or hidden obstructions or services such as drains/ sewers etc and we assume the client or Architect will alert us to any known record information. We would strongly recommend that you include a search of all statutory services as part of your due diligence enquiries before commissioning our services.
A Surveyor could deal with neighbourly (party wall) matters and might undertake a survey or condition schedule of the property. Either an Architect or Surveyor could deal with contract administration and more general supervision of your builder.
We do recommend that you deploy builders known to your construction professionals, but at the very least following referral. A friend however may not be able to vouch for technical competence. We would recommend against using unknown builders and choosing minimum price quotations as this rarely results in a satisfactory outcome.
3. Health and Safety
Construction health and safety is of course very important and now a very hot topic with central government and the HSE due to appalling records of injuries and fatalities. Large fines and legal action are now commonplace. We all have a duty of care, but clients now have additional responsibilities to ensure their projects receive adequate financial resource and appropriate technical competencies etc to minimise risk.
If you are new to construction it is vitally important to familiarise yourself with these responsibilities. Client responsibility cannot be delegated to your professional team. The Health and safety executive provide free user friendly guides and there is a lot of information on the web at www.hse.gov.uk
We often issue our designers risk assessment as part of our drawings to bring this to the builder’s attention.
It is essential that you employ a builder with a good health and safety record and sound employment and induction rules.
We are not experts in deleterious materials such as the identification of asbestos. New legislation (May 2004) requires that particular care is required when handling and working near asbestos. It is important you alert the builder and contract administer to the existence of any known asbestos in your property.
General advice and recommendations
We strongly recommend you appoint an Architect or other appropriate designers to design the wider aspects of your project, to obtain tender prices from builders and to administer the building contract.
We always recommend that an architect is retained to provide what we call a full service ie to produce full working drawings and to supervise (administer) the building contract. To not do this might outwardly save fees but it invariably adds cost and delay to the building work and reduces quality.
We recommend you use builders proposed by your consultants as they know the quality and performance of their work, unlike friends and family who might only be able to comment on more domestic housekeeping and reliability issues.