Built Environment Journal: November-December 2019

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November/December 2019

22 Conserving courses Why drive for university efficiency is putting heritage training at risk

26 Beneath the surface How can professionals ensure cladding is actually safe?

52 Schooled in safety New building control degree aims to meet need for fire safety skills


Built Environment

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Built environment


The Built Environment Journal is the journal of the Building Control and Building Surveying Professional Groups and the Building Conservation Forum Editors: Barney Hatt (Building surveying and Building control) T: +44 (0)20 7695 1628 E: bhatt@rics.org Steph Fairbairn (Building conservation) T: +44 (0)20 7334 3726 E: sfairbairn@rics.org Advisory groups Building conservation: John Edwards (Edwards Hart Consultants), Alan Forster (Heriot-Watt University), Frank Keohane (Paul Arnold Architects), John Klahn (RICS), Meriel O’Dowd (The Churches Conservation Trust), Craig Ross (RICS), Gabriella Smith (Heritage House Consulting) Building control: Diane Marshall (NHBC), John Miles (Assent Building Control), Michael Morgan (jhai), Anthony Oloyede (LABC), Craig Ross (RICS), Richard Scott (LABC), Gordon Spence (Aberdeen City Council) Building surveying: Gary Blackman (Lambert Smith Hampton), Brad Hook (Hook and Sons), Andrew Little (Baily Garner), Mat Lown (Tuffin Ferraby Taylor), Patricia Newman (Patricia Newman Practice), Jay Ridings (Tuffin Ferraby Taylor), Craig Ross (RICS), Trevor Rushton (Watts Group), Chris Skinner (Savills), Kevin Thomas (Teesside University), Anthony Walker (GoReport), Terry Walker, Nolan Wilkens (Hollis) Published by: The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, Parliament Square, London SW1P 3AD T: + 44 (0)24 7678 8555 W: rics.org ISSN 2631-8423 (print) ISSN 2631-8431 (online) Editorial & production manager: Toni Gill Sub-editor: Matthew Griffiths Advertising: Jonny King T: +44 (0)20 7871 5734 E: jonny@wearesunday.com Design & production: We Are Sunday Printer: Geoff Neal Group



Technology will enable surveyors to improve and expand their services while also increasing productivity

Why is the profession still not addressing the race issue?


Building conservation



Members are clear about the importance of managing conflicts of interest but understand the term in different ways, RICS has found

The continuing drive for cost efficiencies in university teaching means specialist conservation training is under pressure

A new chapter

Briefing Conflict comprehension

Strength in diversity

Off course

25 9

Form follows function The updated RICS forms of consultant’s appointment now offer specialist schedule of services documents for the built environment

Cultivating conservators How can conservation encourage the next generation of professionals?


Securely fixing fireplaces Poorly fixed fire surrounds have caused a number of child deaths in recent years. What can surveyors do? 12


Designing buildings to ensure fire safety means looking beyond minimum regulatory requirements and assessing the risks

New guidance has been released for conservation professionals dealing with fibrous plasterwork

False sense of security While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of all content in the journal, RICS will have no responsibility for any errors or omissions in the content. The views expressed in the journal are not necessarily those of RICS. RICS cannot accept any liability for any loss or damage suffered by any person as a result of the content and the opinions expressed in the journal, or by any person acting or refraining to act as a result of the material included in the journal. All rights in the journal, including full copyright or publishing right, content and design, are owned by RICS, except where otherwise described. Any dispute arising out of the journal is subject to the law and jurisdiction of England and Wales. Crown copyright material is reproduced under the Open Government Licence v.3.0 for public sector information: nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/ open-government-licence/version/3/

Ceiling the deal


Claims on your time Under what circumstances and for how long are surveyors liable for negligence? 17

Lowering solar roof risks As installation of photovoltaic modules on roofs has increased, so has the potential for fire rics.org/journals 3

Built environment


Building control

Building surveying



Ensuring the needs of disabled people are properly met should be a higher priority in planning essential facilities

The profession can support diverse communities, but more must still be done to reflect our multiracial society




Choosing the right detection technology is essential if you are to avoid the twin risks of fire and false alarms

How can professionals ensure cladding systems are safe when even those that appear to comply may still be unsound?

Weak mortar is a prevalent issue in new homes – so what should surveyors look for when inspecting dwellings?



Recent cases show we should be alert to the risk of sudden failure in reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete planks

Contractors run the risk of paying out on an adjudication only to be prevented from recovering money as the subcontractor has gone bust

Flushing out poor design

Detection selection

Nirvana in Leicester

Beneath the surface

RAAC and ruin

Out of joint

Left empty-handed


Reconciling cost and condition


False pretences


A proper brief and client engagement are essential in implementing planned maintenance programmes

Although mould is everywhere, its build-up in the indoor environment must be controlled to prevent hazards to health


The data basis


True to your word


Digital data collection on site can offer a faster, more consistent and more flexible way to carry out surveys

Surveyors appointed as expert witnesses must pay heed to the rules of evidence

A new building control degree is being launched to promote the skills needed to ensure building safety




Investment in proptech now can enable surveyors to work more productively in the long run

Meeting targets for off-the-job learning over the summer months can be tough – but rewarding

Spore law

Safety studies

Learning on the job How does a trainee handle the heavier workload and increased responsibility that come with the APC?

4 Journal November/December 2019

Time to sharpen the axe

Where an adjudication decision is procured by fraud that later comes to light, the court is unlikely to enforce it

Academic momentum

Built environment


Innovation and technology

‘The objective is to use sensors on drones to avoid the need for destructive testing during building facade inspections’ John Woodman Hollis

Although elements of the survey process may well become automated before too long, we should not view this as the beginning of the end for building surveying as a career. Rather, it is the start of a new, exciting chapter, because technology will enable us to improve our services, and develop new ones, while also encouraging increased productivity. As a firm, Hollis has always strived to find ways of doing things better, continually seeking new ideas, technologies and working practices. This year we decided to take it a step further, when we appointed Tom Willcock as our surveying innovation partner: he has a wealth of experience in all kinds of proptech, and has opened our eyes to a range of possibilities. Much of our work in innovation focuses on gathering and analysing the high-quality data that will enable us and our clients to make more informed decisions. As surveyors, we need the best possible information if we are to formulate comprehensive and accurate reports. To help us do so, we are now using or evaluating a range of technologies.

Drones for instance can be used to collect high-resolution imagery of external and internal building elements cost-effectively. They also reduce the need for people to work at height, and can access other places that are difficult for humans to reach due to physical constraints or the risks presented. Thermal imaging cameras mounted on drones can be used to detect water ingress on roofs, while imagery from hyperspectral cameras is also now being used to determine differing strengths within a material. The objective is to use sensors on drones to avoid the need for destructive testing during building facade inspections, for instance. In the medium term, drones will be able to survey large areas, once drone operators are able to satisfy the Civil Aviation Authority of the systems’ safety, and the use of simultaneous localisation and mapping could even see robots and remotely operated vehicles being used in data acquisition. Photogrammetry will enable highly detailed models of buildings to be generated, which will allow greater

understanding of issues, better collaboration and problem-solving, and opportunities to simulate an asset in a future state. Furthermore, by acquiring comprehensive data on a frequent basis, deterioration of an asset can be tracked over time, and this information can be used to derive bespoke maintenance schedules for buildings. Technology such as augmented reality and digital twins – where a virtual replica of a property is created to help model the way people interact with it – also offer exciting new ways for clients to understand the state of their assets. Beyond this, machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms offer further potential to revolutionise surveying. For example, although human operators would always be necessary, at Hollis we are currently experimenting with artificial intelligence to count rusty roof bolts, automatically flag panels that require replacement, and identify cut-edge corrosion on roof sheeting. Proptech also enables data and imagery collected by whatever means to be live-streamed to colleagues or clients who aren’t on site, so they can direct inspections and see the condition of buildings in real time. Such data visualisation allows for quicker, more informed and therefore better decision-making. The world is changing rapidly, and so too must our profession. Innovation and technology should be seen as an opportunity not to replace surveyors, but as a way to improve our services and enable us to focus on more value-adding opportunities to benefit our clients. John Woodman is a senior partner at Hollis john.woodman@hollisglobal.com Related competencies include: Inspection rics.org/journals 5

Built environment

Briefing APC online support system improved RICS’ more accessible APC support system means candidates can now join presentations and other sessions from their desk or on devices free of charge. Tools include access to virtual study groups and webinars, and guidance on sector-specific issues. rics.org/apcdigisupport

Share your views on RICS’ performance

Vote in Governing Council elections Elections are now under way for the RICS Governing Council’s 15 geographic market seats, and it’s crucial you have your say. Our profession needs strong leadership and innovative thinking to navigate challenges such as urbanisation, climate change and the digital revolution, and the elections will help ensure we have a diversity of voices setting RICS’ strategy and direction. Voting is your opportunity to choose who sits on the profession’s highest decision-making body. Please make sure you take part, and encourage others to do so. Voting closes on 21 November. rics.org/elections 6 Journal November/December 2019

The next RICS Survey of the Profession will take place in January. This survey of the international member base takes place twice a year and helps to drive the future direction of RICS and to monitor the organisation’s performance in the key areas of trust and influence. Your feedback is an opportunity to detail your own experience and improve engagement, so we encourage you all to complete the survey and share your views.

Report sets out HRRB skill recommendations Following the Hackitt review, Raising the Bar has been published by the Industry Response Group’s Steering Group on Competence for Building a Safer Future. The interim report includes recommendations of competence requirements for those working on higher-risk residential buildings (HRRBs). bit.ly/IRG-CSF-bar

Domestic reverse charge postponed

MHCLG publishes homes consultation The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has published The Future Homes Standard, a consultation on changes to Parts L and F of the Building Regulations that runs until 10 January. Ministers are seeking views on how changes to the regulations could cut the carbon footprint of homes built after 2025. bit.ly/FHSconsul

RICS and BSI issue new fire guidance RICS has published a fire safety guide for the public, explaining tenants’ and landlords’ responsibilities. BSI has meanwhile published BS 9997: 2019 Fire risk management systems. Requirements with guidance for use. bit.ly/BS9997 rics.org/firesafetyguide

The domestic reverse charge for building and construction services, due to have come into force on 1 October, has been postponed by a year. HMRC said the change, which will make the customer rather than the supplier responsible for the payment of tax, had been delayed due to concerns raised by industry representatives. bit.ly/DRC2020

RIBA showcases conservation work RIBA’s new report Conservation, modernisation, and adaptation of existing buildings presents a selection of work by architects and conservation professionals that safeguards heritage. The report also summarises how the government could strengthen historic environment protection. bit.ly/RIBAconserv

Warning sounded on precast drainage British Precast has issued a safety alert after discovering that a range of imported precast concrete drainage products are being sold without visible proof of third-party verification kitemarks. The trade association added that verification systems are crucial to the industry, ensuring easy identification of a product’s quality, durability and safe performance.

Events Building Surveying Conference Scotland 7 November, Kimpton Charlotte Square Hotel, Edinburgh rics.org/bsconfscot RICS Dilapidations Forum Conference 2020, North 4 February, Hilton Deansgate, Manchester rics.org/dilapsconfnorth RICS Fire Safety Conference 2020 11 February, Marriott Regents Park, London 17 March, Hilton Deansgate, Manchester rics.org/firesafetysouth rics.org/firesafetynorth COBRA at ARES 2020 14–18 April, Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort and Spa, Fort Myers, Florida rics.org/cobra Building Surveying Conference 2020 30 April, The Royal Lancaster Hotel, London rics.org/bsconf

Standards Recently published International Construction Measurement Standards, second edition rics.org/ICMS Party wall legislation and procedure guidance note, seventh edition rics.org/partywall Technical due diligence of commercial property global guidance note, fifth edition rics.org/standards All RICS and international standards are subject to a consultation, open to RICS members. rics.org/iconsult

rics.org/journals 7

Built environment

Conflicts of interest

Conflict comprehension RICS’ first review of a professional statement shows the importance members place on managing conflicts of interest – but there is divergence over how these are understood

Sean Agass and Ellie Scott

The effective identification and management of conflicts of interest is essential to professionalism. The RICS Rules of Conduct state that members and firms must ‘act with integrity and avoid conflicts of interest and avoid any actions or situations that are inconsistent with its professional obligations’. The global RICS professional statement Conflicts of interest came into effect on 1 January 2018 and underpins the rules by setting mandatory requirements and providing supporting guidance in this challenging area. A recent review of the professional statement, entitled Conflicts of interest: implementation and impact, presents the findings from two phases of research. Phase one surveyed all 10,051 RICS-regulated firms with email addresses, 40 per cent of which responded. A large majority of respondents – 94 per cent – were small firms with fewer than ten staff, most of which are based in the UK. For phase two of the research, RICS interviewed contact officers or specialist staff representing 31 firms, this time focusing on a greater proportion of large firms and those operating internationally. Following this work, the review: ••sets out how the professional statement has been received by the market ••identifies how well conflicts of interest are understood, identified, managed, recorded and communicated 8 Journal November/December 2019

••details the specific actions RICS will take or has already taken to mitigate any risks that have been identified. The review was carried out with the aim of measuring levels of recognition and usage of the professional statement and identifying common themes, areas of weakness, risk and good practice. The findings are already being used to inform the future development of professional statements, policies and guidance. The review is accompanied by materials that are designed to strengthen implementation of the professional statement, although these documents do not constitute formal RICS guidance. The following are some of the key points identified in the review. ••Almost all RICS members and firms consider managing conflicts of interest to be important, with a combined 93 per cent believing this is either critically important or very important. ••The vast majority – 87 per cent – of firms believe staff are quite familiar with the professional statement. ••The process for identifying, managing and informing clients about conflicts of interest varies significantly from firm to firm. Some have a less formal approach in place, which may lead to inadequate record-keeping or management of conflicts of interest. ••Identifying and managing conflicts of interest comprehensively can be complex

and challenging for professional services firms and, as a result, they stressed the need for maximum clarity and more supporting material to be provided. ••When representatives were asked to explain what they understand a conflict of interest to be, both from their reading of the professional statement and their broader knowledge and experience, about half their responses demonstrated the lack of a clear and accurate comprehension of the term. RICS continually monitors feedback from the profession on its standards. The organisation has already made a number of changes to its publication and consultation process. This includes a greater focus on plain English, enhanced design and accessible layout, as well as detailed user questionnaires to engage with the right stakeholders as early as possible. In light of the review findings, RICS will assist members in the following ways. ••Support on standards: professional statements will be supported with guidance and good practice case studies where possible, to illustrate practically how they should be applied. ••Provide training: training will be delivered on all aspects of the professional statement through means such as online modules and webinars. ••Focus on smaller firms: additional assistance will be offered to smaller firms to ensure they meet the obligations of the professional statements. ••Raise awareness: new developments with professional statements will be highlighted to smaller firms, which may not have the resources available to monitor changes in the regulatory environment. Sean Agass is a former standards and guidance editor and Ellie Scott is a senior project manager at RICS escott@rics.org Related competencies include: Ethics, Rules of Conduct and professionalism Further information: Conflicts of interest: implementation and impact and supporting materials are available for download at rics.org/coireview. The e-learning course on conflicts of interest can be found at rics.org/conflicttraining.

Built environment

Consultant appointment

Form follows function The updated RICS forms of consultant’s appointment better accommodate surveying disciplines in the built environment

Steven Thompson

RICS has published a new edition of the forms of consultant’s appointment, which are intended to be used by clients when considering the appointment of surveyors in the built environment. The update reflects changes in legislation, forms of construction contract and case law. In addition, various specialist surveying disciplines have been added to take account of the recent growth in the range of services offered by surveyors. There are three separate forms of appointment. ••Standard Form of Consultant’s Appointment: these are intended for core surveying services – project manager, quantity surveyor, building surveyor, contract administrator and employer’s agent – for more complex medium or large project appointments. ••Short Form of Consultant’s Appointment: these cover core surveying services for less complex small project appointments. ••Short Form of Consultant’s Appointment for Designated Services: these are intended for specialist surveying services – dilapidations, technical due diligence, reinstatement cost assessment, lender’s independent monitoring surveyor, corporate restructuring and recovery, principal designer, CDM compliance consultant and expert witness. Each of the forms contains material that balances the allocation of risk between the parties and sets out provisions that govern the appointment. The standard form contains the following. ••Set of standard clauses: these cover the usual provisions, such as the obligations of the consultant, health and safety matters, duty of care, limitation of liability, payment, change management, assignment and dispute resolution. ••Schedule 1: this defines the services applying to the appointment. ••Schedule 2: this sets out the details of the agreed fees and payments, including the basis on which they are calculated, periodic payments, the status of expenses and a schedule of hourly rates. ••Schedule 3: this sets out details of the client brief. ••Attestation pages: these provide multiple authentication and signatory options to suit the corporate status of the legal entity entering into the appointment. ••Appendix: this details project-specific information inserted by way of a tick-box system, with fail-safe default entries.

Each short form is made up of the following. ••Appointment particulars: these provide information specific to the project. ••Attestation page: this provides limited authentication and signatory options. ••Set of standard clauses: this is as defined in previous column. ••Schedule: this defines the services that apply to the appointment. In each case, the form of consultant’s appointment is designed to be used in conjunction with the relevant schedule of services to form a complete appointment document. There are separate schedule of service documents available for all 13 core and specialist surveying services, which are listed in the previous column. All schedules contain a single set of services except for the building surveyor schedule, which includes several different services. Some of these services are classified in the standard and short forms as normal building surveying services, and others are classified in the designated form as specialist services. All schedules should be completed on a tick-box basis, with the core clauses in each containing the normal set of services expected for that discipline. There are, however, sets of optional supplementary or bespoke services that can be added if required. Three sets of explanatory notes have been published to correspond with the three forms of consultant’s appointments, and these guide surveyors and their clients on how the appointment documents should be completed. The explanatory notes also provide a detailed commentary on, and the rationale behind, the individual clauses. The suite of documents is only intended for use in England and Wales. RICS intends to publish related documents relevant to Scotland and Northern Ireland. Steven Thompson is associate director of the built environment at RICS sthompson@rics.org Related competencies include: Contract practice Further information: The forms are available to download at rics.org/ConsultantAppointment rics.org/journals 9

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Built environment

Health and safety

Securely fixing fireplaces There have been a number of avoidable child deaths in recent years from poorly fixed fire surrounds. Surveyors need to promote awareness of the problem, and understand what to look for on site Craig Ross

RICS has recently been approached by the technical policy division of the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) to help raise awareness of an issue with terrible consequences. The MHCLG’s attention has been drawn to the surprising frequency with which young children are killed or suffer life-changing injuries after being crushed by heavy fire surrounds that have inadequate or defective fixings. Media coverage of this issue has looked into the deaths of children aged between two and six, killed in little more than innocent play. It’s very difficult to put oneself in the shoes of parents who have lost a child, especially in accidents that are entirely preventable. But this is certainly an issue we must address in our work as RICS members. Fire surrounds, also known as mantelpieces and chimneypieces, have been used as decorative framing for fireplaces for hundreds of years. They come in a number of materials, including for example various types of wood, stone, and modern resin

laminates. Although building technology has moved on and fires are rarely used as the sole means of heating a home, fireplaces remain popular focal points for rooms even in modern properties. This tradition means surrounds remain desirable, and people will often install them retrospectively as ornamental features. However, this is also where risks can arise. It is important to recognise that fire surrounds can be extremely heavy – especially stone variants, which can easily exceed 60kg. In traditional buildings, surrounds were often built into the masonry wall substrate, which provided an intentionally strong fixing, but this is unlikely to be the case in modern buildings, especially homes that may be divided with lightweight timber-frame partitions. Whether new or salvaged, fire surrounds may come with minimal fixings – indeed, on previous projects that I have seen, many stone fire surrounds are provided with either flimsy metal brackets to be built

Building surveyors designing a new installation must be competent to do so and should refer to relevant technical guidance

in to or screw-fixed to masonry – and sometimes with none at all. In many of the cases reported in the media, the children had climbed on to fire surrounds or tried to reach for something on the mantel shelf. Without sound fixings, the surrounds dislodged and toppled on to them, and in many instances the weight killed them instantly. In other cases, surrounds bought online were fixed to a plywood or plasterboard backing by householders themselves using only adhesive. As replacing a fire surround is unlikely to require a building warrant or building control approval, such DIY efforts are therefore quite common. It is vital that professionals take these risks into account when working on a property with a fire surround. For example, building surveyors designing a new installation must be competent to do so and should refer to relevant technical guidance, such as the Stone Federation Great Britain’s data sheet on surrounds (bit.ly/SFfiresurDS). They should also consult the manufacturer of the surround where possible, making sure that fixing details provided to contractors are clear, and that the substrate has sufficient strength and stability to take the type and weight of fixing. Installation on site should be inspected carefully. Similarly, building control surveyors should ensure sufficient fixing details are provided in application information where possible. Those inspecting existing buildings with fire surrounds should give due regard to this problem and inspect the feature with care. They should look for gaps along the surround, check how stable it is, and consider the substrate, including the hearth and the base of the surround. If possible, they should also find out who constructed the surround and highlight any risks in their reports, as well as drawing attention to any potential risks. These simple actions may well save innocent young lives. Craig Ross MRICS is RICS associate director of the built environment cross@rics.org Related competencies include: Health and safety, Inspection rics.org/journals 11

Built environment


False sense of security Designing buildings to ensure fire safety means looking beyond the minimum regulatory requirements and taking a risk-based approach Gary Howe

12 Journal November/December 2019

Only life safety objectives are mandated in the UK Building Regulations, and these concentrate on providing early warning of fire to enable prompt escape from the building. But even though property protection is not mandated, it is of concern to insurers, who have a financial interest in minimising losses. Property protection can be achieved by: ••installing fire control, suppression or extinguishing systems ••providing non-combustible compartmentation to confine or limit fire spread in a building ••building with materials that incorporate non-combustible construction, which will not add to the fire load and remain structurally sound after a fire. The Building Regulations set no requirements for operational continuity either, but this is also of interest to insurers because commercial property policies cover material damage and business interruption. Thinking beyond the minimum Insurers are commonly told that a proposed project complies with the Building Regulations, and that the developers have no intention of fitting sprinklers because they have been advised by consulting engineers that these are not necessary to meet the minimum regulatory requirements. Sprinklers are therefore seen as burdensome and expensive, and the implications of omitting them from a building’s design are not appreciated, even though this can potentially affect insurers’ ability to underwrite the risk. Developers can often state that they believe fire safety provisions are adequate, because automatic fire alarms or compartmentation have been provided or the local fire and rescue service is located just a few minutes away. This may offer a false sense of security, however, and although automatic alarms are an essential part of any fire engineering design they are there predominantly to ensure life safety and enable escape. They can only tell you a fire has occurred and start the evacuation procedure, but they cannot suppress or control the blaze. Likewise, the proximity of a fire station may seem advantageous, but there is no guarantee that

Sprinklers can be seen as burdensome and expensive, and the implications of omitting them are not appreciated, though this may affect insurability firefighters will venture into a building to tackle a blaze if there are no lives at stake. Alongside this, the impact of business interruption after a fire is often vastly underestimated; typically it can take 18 to 24 months before a workplace is fully up and running again. This, and the related effect on supply chains, continue to top the list of major concerns for businesses. With so many companies interconnected on a global scale, a fire in one part of the world can have far-reaching repercussions. Sprinkler protection is a proven means of mitigating this risk of business interruption. With a history of a century or more, such systems control fires with typically four or fewer sprinkler heads and can dramatically reduce interruption, in some cases to a matter of a few days. The message from insurers is certainly not limited to demanding sprinklers be installed; for example, these will not solve the issue of combustible cladding on residential properties. The rationale for sprinklers has to be made on a case-by-case basis according to the risk and the sums insured, for example. However, with the potential for construction materials to be combustible, the need to deal with innovative building design, and increasing use of modern methods of construction, promoting sprinklers is still a reasonable response. Measuring risk Property insurers can give an alternative, holistic view of risk, beyond a simple focus on achieving the minimum life safety objectives of the Building Regulations. The Zurich Risk Advisor (ZRA) digital platform, for example, offers users self-service risk engineering tools (bit.ly/ZurRiskAdv).

ZRA supports risk management initiatives and makes risk assessment easier to understand, providing insights and recommendations so that users can carry out self-assessments and mitigate risks. The tool also allows them to develop scenarios that help them see how the implementation of risk-reduction and improvement measures will affect the overall risk and support business continuity objectives. Greater input from commercial property insurers at the building design stage will help to create a resilient built environment. It is important that property protection and business continuity is considered integral to new building design, to inform the work of consulting fire engineers and architectural design teams. This in turn will enable appropriate fire safety measures to be incorporated into the building design. It is wise to involve the insurer at the earliest possible stage of design, as most insurers have specialist risk, construction and fire protection engineers who can advise on the acceptability of the proposed design for policy purposes. Gary Strong, RICS global building standards director, comments: ‘RICS supports a risk-based approach rather than one that is purely based on height of a building. We also support the installation of automatic fire sprinkler systems in all but low-risk buildings, and will continue to lobby for changes to the building regulations in many countries.’ Gary Howe is a senior fire protection engineer at Zurich Risk Engineering gary.howe@ukzurich.com Related competencies include: Design and specification, Fire safety rics.org/journals 13

Built environment


Claims on your time Surveyors remain liable in contract and tort for a number of years after any alleged negligence. This, the first of two articles on the topic, covers situations giving rise to liability and when claims might be brought Alexandra Anderson and Jonathan Angell

The law of limitation strikes a balance between the competing interests of two parties: the right of those who have suffered loss as a result of a wrongful act by another to obtain compensation for that loss; and the right of those who are alleged to have committed the wrongful act not to have a claim hanging over their heads indefinitely. The law reconciles these interests by specifying the time within which a claimant must commence proceedings. If proceedings begin after the prescribed time limit, they may be dismissed on the basis that the entitlement to claim compensation is barred by statute. These time limits for commencing proceedings are set out in 14 Journal November/December 2019

the Limitation Act 1980, and numerous cases illustrate how they apply in practice. Most claims that surveyors, valuers and other building professionals face will be for breach of contract or negligence. This article will therefore focus on what the law says as to the time limit for bringing these claims. Claims against surveyors tend to be brought by their own clients. The relationship between the surveyor and the client, and the former’s duties to the latter, will almost always be governed by the terms of a contract into which they have entered. The surveyor will also normally owe the client a tortious duty to take reasonable care when providing services. The extent

of this duty will usually be the same as the duty the surveyor owes under the contract; that is, the two duties are co-extensive. The 1980 Act states that, where the contract has not been entered into as a deed, a claim for breach of contract must be brought within six years of the date when the cause of action accrues; in other words, the date on which the claimant’s right to sue first comes into existence. Where the contract has been entered into as a deed, this period is extended to 12 years. The cause of action for a claim for breach of contract accrues on the date on which the breach actually occurs. By way of example, a surveyor agrees to provide a client with a

Most claims that surveyors, valuers and other building professionals face will be for breach of contract or negligence

building survey for a property that they are considering buying. The property suffers from significant subsidence, but the surveyor, in breach of contract, fails to mention this in their report. The breach of contract occurs when the surveyor delivers the report to the client, and the client’s cause of action for damage by that breach accrues on that date, so they must commence any proceedings for breach of contract within six years. If they do so after that time, the surveyor will be able to have proceedings struck out as being statute-barred. Generally, the limitation period for breach of contract cannot be extended, irrespective of whether the claimant knew that the surveyor had breached the contract. In most cases, therefore, once six years have passed since the breach of contract, or 12 in the case of a deed, the client will be unable to pursue a claim for breach of contract against the surveyor. This may not be the end of matters, however. As noted above, a surveyor will usually owe duties to their client in both contract and tort, and may also owe tortious duties to other people as well, such as any party who comes to see and rely on the survey or valuation. The limitation period for claims in tort is more complex, but a client will often still be able to bring such a claim even if their contractual claim is statute-barred. Under the 1980 Act, the primary period for bringing a claim in tort that does not concern personal injury is also six years from the date on which the cause of action accrued. However, the cause of action in tort does not accrue until the claimant has suffered damage – which may be a long time after the surveyor’s negligent act.

In our earlier example, the client’s cause of action for negligence in tort will accrue not when they receive the report but when they suffer damage by acting in reliance on the surveyor’s advice. Most probably this will be when they legally commit to buying the defective property, which may be some months after they received the report. A more extreme example is that of a surveyor who values a property that a borrower is considering buying. The surveyor is retained by the lender, but their valuation will often be provided to the borrower as well. The surveyor values the property at £500,000, but because of problems with subsidence that were missed yet subsequently come to light, it is only worth £400,000. In the meantime, relying on the valuation, the borrower has agreed to buy the property for £500,000, with a loan from the lender of £350,000. The surveyor will owe a duty to the lender in contract, and is likely to owe duties to both the lender and the borrower in tort, if the borrower is buying a modest residential property. If they do, the borrower will have a claim against the surveyor for negligently overvaluing the property. The borrower will suffer loss as soon as they are legally committed to paying £500,000 for a property that is only worth £400,000, and their claim in tort will accrue at this stage – that is, shortly after the surveyor has provided their valuation. The lender will also have a claim in tort against the surveyor for negligent overvaluation, but will not suffer loss immediately on making the loan unless the amount it lends is greater than the value of the property against which the loan is secured. In fact, the lender may never suffer loss as a result of the surveyor’s negligence:

if the borrower continues to repay the mortgage and eventually does so in full the lender will never suffer a loss, and so its claim in tort will never accrue. Its cause of action in tort will only accrue when the value of its security falls below the level of debt owed by the borrower. In our example, the loss only accrues if the borrower defaults on the mortgage and the value of the property drops below £350,000. While the primary limitation period for claims in tort is six years, this can be extended where a claimant was unaware of their right to bring a claim at the time the cause of action accrued. For example, a lender may have no idea that the surveyor overvalued the subject property and that it has suffered a loss as a result of acting on this information. Although its cause of action accrued at the date of the loan, if it does not become aware of the overvaluation in the subsequent six years then the time for bringing its claim may be extended. In those particular circumstances, the 1980 Act allows a claimant to commence proceedings within three years of acquiring the requisite knowledge. There is extensive case law on what constitutes requisite knowledge for these purposes, and when it has been acquired, and each case will turn on its specific facts. This extended limitation period for claims in tort is subject to an absolute time limit of 15 years. This period runs from the date of the allegedly negligent act, which means that a claim in tort could be statute-barred before the loss has even occurred or a claimant knows that they have the right to bring a claim; for example, where a loan is for a period exceeding 15 years and only after this time does the borrower default and the loss occur. In the next article, we will look at some ways surveyors can limit their liability to clients and third parties. Alexandra Anderson is a partner and Jonathan Angell is a consultant at Reynolds Porter Chamberlain alexandra.anderson@rpc.co.uk jonathan.angell@rpc.co.uk Related competencies include: Contract practice, Legal/regulatory compliance rics.org/journals 15


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Built environment

Fire safety

Lowering solar roof risks As installation of photovoltaic modules on roofs has increased, so has the potential for fire. How can products be tested to minimise this risk?

Craig Ross

In the course of use, new construction technology, products and applications can develop defects that were not apparent when they were commissioned. These can include, for example, problems such as bimetallic corrosion that result from component combinations, or health and safety issues such as those discovered with asbestos. As awareness grows of such risks, further testing can be carried out to inform changes in regulations and the applications themselves to avoid issues recurring. One such problem that has recently emerged is the fire risk caused by solar photovoltaic (PV) modules in roof applications. Although PV is by no means a new technology and modules have been installed on roofs for years, recent reductions in the capital cost of units, increases in conventional energy bills and concern about carbon emissions have led to a significant increase in use globally, especially in the commercial sector.

However, there has also been a significant increase in the number of fires involving roof-mounted PV systems, prompting several investigations. These include a BRE report that was published in May 2018 (bit.ly/UKPVfirerep), and more recently a series of tests carried out at the Technical University of Denmark (bit.ly/SFPE-PV). BRE investigated 25 recent and 33 historic fires in the UK involving PV and summarised the causes; fire investigations are often inconclusive, but it found that 32 of these incidents probably originated in PV systems, while a further 14 possibly had. It also found an even split between fires in domestic buildings and those in other premises. Fortunately, the number of injuries or psychological trauma in fires caused by PV systems has been low, with eight recorded in the entire BRE data set. To help ensure that information on such types of fire is more consistent, BRE has created a database to record future incidents.

There has been a significant increase in the number of fires involving roof-mounted PV systems, prompting several investigations

The researchers in the Danish study meanwhile identified that PV installations can, thanks to the substantial DC power they generate, increase the probability of ignition when electrical malfunctions result from installation errors, natural wear and tear or using the product beyond its specified service life. The report also cites work by the US National Fire Protection Association (NFPA; bit.ly/NFPAPVfiremit), which shows that PV installations can be a hindrance to firefighting in some instances. Acting effectively as a second layer of roof covering, modules can inhibit fire suppression, as well as complicating health and safety risks because systems can remain live during firefighting. The main issue NFPA found, however, was that PV units can actually promote the spread of fire through the cavity that is created between them and roof finishes. The researchers concluded that there is a critical minimum distance for this gap below which fires can develop through rapid flame spread, significantly increasing risk. The test results indicate a critical gap distance of at least 170–200mm, but NFPA recommends further studies are carried out for specific applications. Ultimately, this research shows how current test procedures for PV units, which focus mainly on the combustibility of materials, are limited. A more realistic approach is required to help us understand how new applications affect the propagation of fire, which in turn will inform how we manage it. As new products can change the fire dynamics of construction, they should be tested in situations that reflect their intended application as far as is practicable. This should take account of both the materials and fixings, as well as any unique design features, in order to understand how the components of PV units are likely to react in actual installations. Craig Ross MRICS is RICS associate director of the built environment cross@rics.org Related competencies include: Fire safety, Sustainability rics.org/journals 17

Involved in dilapidations?

For TENANT, are you always sure that the legal limit on damages (lower of Cost of Remedial Works OR impact on Freehold Value) wouldn’t enable a lower settlement? Our ‘Diminution Valuations’ invariably do help building surveyors achieve far lower settlements. ‘Cost’ and ‘value’ are not the same. For most secondhand commercial & leisure properties, only an objectively selected number of the breaches require rectification to restore full value.

radius consulting T: 0845 673 3009

E: enquiries@radius-consulting.com For Case Studies & Guidance:


Whilst you specialise in the costs, we are the specialists on value. As CFO’s are ever more aware of the efficacy of good Section 18 (Diminution) Valuations, call us for a no obligation opinion before the client does! For LANDLORD, our uniquely informed & robust approach to DVs is often required to rebut an opportunistically low one from an outgoing tenant. Also when – as required by paragraph 9.4 of the Protocol – your landlord client isn’t doing all the claimed works.

Built environment



‘As the benefits of a diverse workplace have been researched and proven, why are we still not addressing the race issue?’ Bola Abisogun OBE DiverseCity Surveyors

Two years ago, the government published Race in the workplace: The McGregor-Smith review (bit.ly/RaceinWP), in which Baroness McGregor-Smith stated: ‘in the UK today, there is a structural, historical bias that favours certain individuals … organisations and individuals tend to hire in their own image, whether consciously or not’. This seems to be particularly true in the construction industry – the report revealed that the majority of management positions in the construction sector are held by white people. These findings are also echoed in Building magazine’s April 2019 diversity survey, which noted that just four per cent of workers in the UK construction industry are from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background. It also found that: ••58 per cent of black construction professionals do not feel secure in their jobs, compared with 41 per cent of white construction professionals ••76 per cent of black construction professionals felt their chance of finding a job was lower because of their ethnicity. The benefits of a diverse workplace have been researched, identified and proven.

They include improved team performance, an easier hiring and retention process, greater creativity, a better understanding of customers and an improved brand. So if this is the case, why are we still not addressing the race issue? One of the reasons, perhaps, is a lack of recognition. The fact that the racism experienced today isn’t always as overt as it has been in the past can mean it’s easier to ignore. That’s not to say that overt racism is not present in our society – it undoubtedly still occurs, and must be severely reprimanded when it does. Another reason could be that equality and diversity are now too often dismissed as political correctness, or just box-ticking exercises. Professionals can view hiring a diverse workforce as an obligation to fill a quota. There are also those who insist that all decisions should be merit-based and that employees are recruited based on their achievements alone, disregarding race, gender or any of the other seven protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. In a perfect world, hiring on merit would be the ideal scenario but, unfortunately, not

everyone has been given an equal platform to achieve this merit. Systemic racism is one of three types of racism identified by social psychologist Prof. James M. Jones and refers to institutional systemic policies, practices and economic and political structures that disadvantage racial and ethnic groups. In her report, Baroness McGregor-Smith stated that BAME people are affected throughout their career. They face a lack of role models, and are more likely to perceive the workplace as hostile, less likely to apply for and be offered promotions, and more likely to be judged harshly. It is a simple fact, and a human right, that everyone should be given the same opportunities, regardless of protected characteristics. It is also one of the five RICS ethical standards to which chartered surveyors must adhere: ‘Treat others with respect. Never discriminate against anyone for whatever reason. Always ensure that issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, size, religion, country of origin or disability have no place in the way you deal with other people or do business.’ The Building magazine survey found a severe lack of trust in leaders to identify the need for, and affect, greater diversity within their organisation. Change, however, is most effective when it occurs at all levels – top-down and bottom-up – and those with influence in particular need to be aware of their leverage to shape this change. In October, the UK, the Republic of Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands celebrate Black History Month, while the USA and Canada do so in February. Yet it should not be just one month a year when we celebrate black achievers and remember our responsibility. A more diverse construction industry, which will benefit us all, must be considered at all times. Bola Abisogun OBE FRICS is the founder and CEO of Urbanis, and the founder and chair of DiverseCity Surveyors, the first RICS BAME network offering support and training to BAME RICS-accredited surveyors bola.pqs@urbanis.co.uk Related competencies include: Diversity, inclusion and teamworking rics.org/journals 19

Building surveying


Nirvana in Leicester From leaving school with just one qualification to founding his own practice, one building surveyor has seen how the profession can support diverse communities – but he argues that surveying must do more to reflect our multiracial society Learie Gonsalves

After leaving school in 1985 with only a grade 1 CSE in art, I had a bit of a wake-up call and went to college to take O-levels in English, maths, sociology and economics. However, I still ended up working in various unsatisfying and low-paid jobs with no career prospects. Although I was artistically talented, I wasn’t able to consider a career working in the built environment – that was, until I applied for a two-year training programme with Leicester Housing Association (LHA). While I was working in the housing management, property and letting department, LHA’s lead architect decided to invest some time in me, and I began to help him carry out a measured survey. After first drawing up plans of existing building layouts so that he or the senior architectural technician could produce the required work, I started to develop the detailed drawings, compile the specification of works and contract documents, and run small housing refurbishment projects on site. Towards the end of my training my contract was extended for another two years, but before it finished I successfully secured a position as a trainee architectural 20 Journal November/December 2019

technician in the city architects department at Leicester City Council. I then worked my way up to the position of senior architectural technician while also completing an HNC in building studies. But although my talent lay in architecture, I became more and more interested in how buildings work, why defects occur and what remedies can be used. My interest led me to continue my education and enrol on a building surveying degree at De Montfort University. Thanks to my HNC I was able to start at year three of the five-year part-time course; but I still had to fund myself and take annual leave to attend the course one day a week, after being told that the qualification was above what was required in my post. When I completed my degree, I had to decide whether I wanted to continue to work as an architectural technician or change direction and pursue a career in building surveying. The decision was a relatively simple one: there was no further career path for me at the council, and the prospects for progression as an architectural technician appeared quite limited compared to those for a chartered surveyor.

So, after eight years’ service, I left the local authority to take up a position as building surveyor at Warwick District Council. After two years, I also passed my APC. However, the travelling began to take its toll financially and didn’t leave me with much time to spend with my newly born son, so I started looking for positions back in Leicester. This initially proved difficult because most of the medium or large surveying and building consultancy firms in the area are based in Birmingham or Nottingham. But eventually I came across an advert for a small surveying practice in Leicester that mainly worked on schools and churches. It was an ideal opportunity for me to consolidate the experience I had gained as an architectural technician and my recent work as a building surveyor. I continued to develop as a building surveyor, first at EC Harris – now Arcadis – and then at CBRE before moving to Pick Everard until, with 25 years of experience as an architectural technician and building surveyor, I decided to take the plunge and establish my own practice, One Building Solution, in November 2015.


In January 2016, the firm started work on a project with Leicester Nirvana Football Club (see photo, right), a voluntary organisation that emerged from the Red Star youth group in the mid 1980s. The club has strong links with the local community, especially the BAME community, representing parents and children from multiracial backgrounds. The club is also close to my heart as I played for it as a boy on an inner-city park, and my son decided to follow in my footsteps by playing for the team a couple of years ago. One Building Solution worked with the club on proposals to develop its site to include a full-size, 11-a-side pitch along with dugouts, floodlights, hardstanding areas, post-and-rail barriers, a stand and perimeter fencing. Planning permission for the final agreed scheme was sought from the local authority, and, once received, allowed development of working drawings and a specification of works. The club sourced quotations from specialised contractors, and works soon commenced. My connection with the club has continued: in 2018 we sponsored the under-16 team, and are now sponsoring the under-18s for the 2019–20 season. Reaching out RICS is a global brand working in diverse communities around the UK, and this needs to be properly reflected both in accredited firms and in building consultancy more generally. There is a pool of talent in diverse communities who may be perceived as being hard to reach, but who should be sought out. As well as enabling better representation at all levels of the profession, this work is necessary to identify potential surveyors in these communities who would not usually consider the career without prompting or guidance from RICS. While I myself face similar issues to any other small business – maintaining cash flow, complying with the General Data Protection Regulation, anticipating future uncertainty, securing a pipeline of work and repeat business, maintaining a work–life balance – there remains the challenge of overcoming the institutional and covert racism and inequalities that persist in the industry. I have embraced this challenge

Advice from surveyors enabled Leicester Nirvana FC to win planning permission for comprehensive redevelopment of ground and facilities

all the same, and it has not stopped me from enjoying and continuing my career. The Reach Society is an organisation I have worked with that provides support and role models, and puts on events for young black and dual-heritage people across the UK (reachsociety.com). For instance, One Building Solution exhibited at an employability day held in Leicester in May, and I also sat on an expert panel taking questions from attendees (bit.ly/ReachLeics). The society gives RICS a platform to exhibit at careers fairs and employability days – as it did in Leicester – where future talent may be discovered. Those attending can also consider a surveying career, with professionals offering direction, advice, links and possible partnership arrangements with the diverse community. This is one way to counteract institutional racism and help promote diversity in the profession. As the society normally works in the London region, a Foundation of the Reach Society Leicestershire is also now being set up, and will follow the model of running

inspirational events in the county. I am helping organise an event for the May 2020 half-term break, where large, small and medium-sized business will be exhibiting. I am aiming to invite RICS-accredited firms, particularly those with a commitment to diversity and inclusion, that run training or talent identification programmes and may be interested in supporting an internship. I will continue to work with the foundation, and with RICS head of future talent Barry Cullen and Bola Abisogun OBE, founder and chair of DiverseCity Surveyors (see p.19 of this issue), to seek out and inspire those from the BAME community to pursue careers in surveying, as well as promoting diversity in RICS and building consultancy generally. Learie Gonsalves is a director at One Building Solution Ltd info@onebuildingsolution.co.uk Related competencies include: Diversity, inclusion and teamworking rics.org/journals 21

Building conservation


Off course With the continuing drive for cost efficiencies in university teaching, specialist conservation training is under increasing pressure – affecting our ability to conserve our built heritage Dr Alan Forster

UK higher education is becoming increasingly neoliberal in nature, with an overt reduction in government spending. The marketisation of the sector favours deregulation and prompts fundamental questions about the purpose of universities and their civic and societal roles. In terms of building conservation, adequate and appropriate university education is vital to ensure that students fully master the subject. Our ability to protect our historic built environment may be damaged by a lack of higher-level critical analysis and application of knowledge required to cope with the inherent complexity of projects. Conducting work on historic buildings has arguably not always been recognised 22 Journal November/December 2019

as a specialist discipline in construction. In the past, materials and technologies for repair and construction were similar, so whether people were carrying out one or the other, the results were comparable. This situation arguably changed with innovation in materials and architectural technologies, most notably in a series of distinct waves of mass housing that took place after the war with the development of low-rise buildings in 1923–42 and 1944–55, and high-rises in the 1960s and 1970s. The technologies deployed signalled a marked divergence from traditional practices. Given this growing divergence, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) established a scholarship programme in 1930 to offer experiential

postgraduate education in conservative repair to qualified architects, and to encourage an understanding of philosophical approaches and respect for traditional craft and materials. The pioneering programme – the first specialist conservation course in the world – was initially limited in scale, with only one student a year. The scholarship was soon expanded to up to four students a year, and participation widened to building surveyors and engineers to acknowledge the importance of all three professions in overseeing conservation projects. The first university postgraduate programme offering specialist education in the field came some time later in 1967, in the form of an MA at the University

The building conservation provision is in a state of flux, potentially putting the conservation sector, and by extension building surveying, at risk

of Manchester. This was followed by Edinburgh College of Art in 1968, with other courses being developed at traditional – ancient or redbrick – universities and newer plate-glass universities as well as the polytechnics, now classified as the 1992 universities, over the next few decades. The establishment of these programmes responded to the following issues: ••the growing recognition of and value attached to historic buildings, and the subsequent need for specialist intervention and thus education ••increasing professional complexity and diversity as the conservation sector developed and matured ••the perceived deficiencies in both undergraduate and postgraduate training in architecture and surveying, with reduced coverage of traditional materials and technology and a bias in syllabuses towards modern construction methods. The core content of the postgraduate programmes was similar, sharing the Council on Training in Architectural Conservation (COTAC) framework, but the specifics differed according to the specialisms of the programme directors, who were largely practitioners rather than academics. Importantly, the nature of the programmes also reflected the professional accrediting institutions, including RICS and the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC). Although slowly at first, professional accreditation for these programmes began to gain traction, reflecting the diversity of specialisms offered, with building surveying being accredited by RICS, architecture by the Royal Institute of British Architects

and the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, planning by the Royal Town Planning Institute, construction management by the Chartered Institute of Building, and architectural archaeology by the Institute for Archaeologists. Today, the IHBC also accredits numerous programmes alongside these institutions, reflecting its increasing recognition across built environment professions. Today’s postgraduate programmes educate individuals who wish to enter the conservation sector, as well as those it already employs who want to enhance their personal competency and skills, thereby widening and supporting the specialist services they can offer clients. Generally, current syllabus design reflects core conservation skills identified by COTAC, and progressive societal, environmental and technological issues. Core skills will always be required, although programmes that fail to respond to societal, environmental and technological trends will struggle to provide their graduates with employment opportunities in our changing world. More recently, courses have evolved to incorporate teaching on sustainability, climate change and building resilience, energy in buildings and disruptive digital technologies, reflecting professional practice needs and sector-wide demand. Courses at risk There are currently no building conservation undergraduate degrees in the UK. However, modules on many programmes – mainly but not exclusively those in building surveying and architecture – cover

conservation of historic buildings. Postgraduates are served by around 20 programmes, each of which recruit between ten and 20 full-time students a year, but would logically aspire to enrol more. These programmes are offered to those with first degrees in both the built environment and in other disciplines – that is, non-cognate learners – and are also an accepted route into the sector for those without a traditional academic background as the courses are designed to take a potential lack of preceding technical education into account. However, with the current emphasis on financial efficiency at all levels, programmes with low cohort numbers are vulnerable to closure, meaning that the provision is in a state of flux, potentially putting the conservation sector, and by extension building surveying, at risk. Efficiency can be evaluated by looking at staff–student ratios and the relative cost of delivering bespoke modules. Universities establish notional minimum cohort sizes of around 20 full-time-equivalent learners in their strategic planning by which they measure financial viability, although this number can vary between institutions. Smaller programmes therefore not only represent a financial loss but also an opportunity cost, as highly qualified academic staff might be better employed writing research grant proposals, teaching on other programmes, or undertaking administrative tasks in an increasingly bureaucratic university system. Efficiency can also be judged by evaluating the relative numbers of common modules – that is, those that are taken across multiple programmes, such as procurement and contacts for architects, construction managers and quantity surveyors – and specialised or bespoke modules available only to limited numbers of conservation students – such as building conservation philosophy. The higher the number of common modules students take, the more profitable they are; however, this can result in a more generic educational offering, with many construction professional disciplines taking the same subjects. This reduces the opportunity for learners to specialise in conservation. rics.org/journals 23

Building conservation


Student fees are also critical to this equation: postgraduate programmes typically cost each domestic student around £10,000 a year but some MBAs are now charging £30,000, so it would be logical to assume that fees for conservation degrees will also rise. The benefit of taking an MSc in conservation is hindered by relatively low graduate wages for those entering the profession. The return on investment is likely not compelling, and this potentially dissuades many from taking such courses. It could, however, be argued that the cost inefficiencies in postgraduate programmes do not rest with the programmes themselves but the administrative overheads of the university. Indeed, Benjamin Ginsberg argued in The Fall of the Faculty that the true inefficiencies are associated with central administration and university running costs. In this context, it becomes increasingly difficult for programmes to break even, with funding directed to frontline teaching and learning surprisingly low at less than 50 per cent of income generated (bit.ly/HEPItchgres). Universities thus seek to achieve cost efficiencies by a combination of means: ••increasing student numbers ••increasing fees ••decreasing staffing numbers and increasing staff–student ratios ••reducing the number of bespoke modules. Surveying specialisms suffer While certain academic institutions may win or lose as programmes come and go, a decline in certain accredited programmes could have ramifications for the number of suitably qualified graduates entering the specialised branches of conservation. For example, building conservation programmes closely aligned to building surveying have fallen significantly in number, with several prominent universities all closing their courses to new entrants in the past couple of years. Learners may then be redirected towards alternative postgraduate programmes, but this does not bode well for the building surveying profession, which already requires specialist syllabus content on professional practice requirements such as pathology, survey and maintenance. Neither 24 Journal November/December 2019

Specialism is core to professional education: specific, practical conservation skills are fundamental for appropriate and well-considered work on historic buildings

does it help those wishing to use such courses as a route into building surveying or conservation. Undergraduate building surveying programmes also appear vulnerable, given the relatively small size of cohorts compared to those for quantity surveying, architecture and civil engineering courses. Clearly, not all institutions aim to reduce specialist provision for small undergraduate or postgraduate groups, but they do all require cross-subsidy from programmes with larger student intakes. Universities in the elite Russell Group are generally characterised by good postgraduate recruitment, relatively buoyant research grant income and higher levels of donations by alumni, and are therefore better positioned to subsidise such courses. Conversely, the former polytechnics provide most construction education are generally more financially vulnerable to lower recruitment numbers and relatively limited research grant income. Logically, the Russell Group universities can afford to keep offering these small specialist programmes, but as tertiary education becomes increasingly marketised it is not clear how long this will last. Of course, an institution’s willingness to support relatively low cohort numbers will depend on several factors, not just finance; for example, a diverse portfolio of courses can enhance other programmes by enriching students’ education. Critical thinking and analytical skills, which form part of all higher education, are important for higher-order practice in any profession, including conservation. Yet specialism is core to professional

education: practical conservation skills are fundamental for well-considered, appropriate work on historic buildings. A reduction in surveying-oriented conservation education may ultimately jeopardise the quality of such work and diminish the prominence of building surveyors in conservation. Building surveyors, and more specifically those professionals accredited in conservation, have worked hard to attain a high degree of respectability in the field, and specialist surveyors command a significant share of the conservation project market in the UK. If the number of RICS-accredited university conservation programmes continues to decline, educational opportunities may be offered by companies themselves in the form of in-house training and extended CPD offerings; but this will lead to more fragmented education that lacks the depth and breadth of traditional postgraduate studies, and potentially have negative implications on cost and time. It seems ironic that at a time when our traditional and historic buildings face urgent environmental challenges, we reduce the educational offering that supports our understanding of the performance of existing architectural form and fabric. Undoubtedly our traditional and historic buildings – and ultimately society – will be poorer for it. Dr Alan Forster is associate professor in building conservation, low-carbon materials and construction technology in the School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society at Heriot-Watt University a.m.forster@hw.ac.uk

Building conservation



‘To encourage the next generation, we must make sure education highlights the benefits of a career in conservation’ Katharine Cary Sir Robert McAlpine

From castles and palaces to barns, lighthouses and industrial buildings, I have always been fascinated by our built heritage. At college, my art teacher pointed out an emerging theme: I sketched, photographed and made models of buildings. I pursued this interest by volunteering at the National Trust, working across departments – including the building surveying team – where I realised that a career in conservation was for me. I decided to become a surveyor at the age of 20, and began studying an undergraduate degree in historic building conservation in 2010. In 2014, I enrolled on the RICS APC to become a chartered surveyor, a process that relies on the support of a remarkable network of mentors who provide invaluable guidance and advice. My education and training gave me the skills and confidence to launch into hugely satisfying, hands-on work and a varied career. On one day, for instance, I could be wearing a hard hat and boots on site and managing a series of brick repairs to Tudor barley twist chimneys at Hampton Court Palace; on another, I could be in an office

designing a new cafe at Kensington Palace, ensuring the space works for the thousands of people that visit each year. Today, though, I have the honour of working as a section engineer managing the restoration of the iconic Elizabeth Tower – commonly referred to as Big Ben – in Westminster. The role requires a huge sense of duty, which is equal to the privilege I feel preserving our built heritage. Every brick, stone and piece of timber has a tale to tell, and my role is to continue those stories. Reflecting on my role and experiences, I realise how much I owe to my art teacher, who encouraged me to explore a career in the historic environment. I was incredibly lucky to have her guidance as this turned out to be the happiest accident of my life. The next generation There is no doubt that there is a demand for skilled professionals in the conservation sector. To encourage the next generation, we must make sure the education system signposts careers in construction in every school, specifically highlighting the variety and benefits of a career in conservation.

Although a degree isn’t always necessary, obtaining an RICS-accredited qualification provides a great platform and can help you achieve chartered status and develop your professional network more speedily. Being young in this industry can be tough. Ensuring that your voice is heard when you’re in a room with more experienced practitioners can be a real challenge. Sometimes I feel that my opinion isn’t always taken seriously, and I need to be creative to make a point that resonates. While organisations promote the benefits of an inclusive and diverse team at work, this should be demonstrated in practice so that everyone feels valued and opportunities to develop are available to all. I believe the best way to learn is by doing. Those who can should offer those who are interested in conservation careers the opportunity to volunteer or do work experience. Time spent with a conservation contractor or working on an historic estate can demonstrate the rewards of a job in the field better than any literature or talk. As chartered professionals, we should encourage prospective professionals to ask questions: sharing our knowledge and our passion for our subject is what will engage the next generation. For me, it is a key part of my role as a chartered building surveyor specialising in conservation to make a difference in the way our past is presented to future generations, and to create opportunities for others to experience this unique sector. My reward is seeing the power and value our heritage buildings have in our everyday lives, and how important history is in defining who we are. I know the work I manage today will outlast me, and continue to shape our national identity for generations to come. Katharine Cary MRICS is a section engineer working for Sir Robert McAlpine Special Projects at Elizabeth Tower, the Palace of Westminster katharine.cary@srm.com rics.org/journals 25

Building surveying

Fire safety

Beneath the surface

As the Grenfell Tower fire demonstrates, getting cladding systems wrong can have disastrous consequences. But how can professionals ensure such systems are safe when even those that are apparently compliant may still be unsound?

Simon Young

26 Journal November/December 2019

It is not surprising that queries about cladding have, in recent years, consistently topped the list of technical concerns on commercial property transactions. In addition to their fire and life safety implications, these issues have the potential to frustrate deals and affect asset liquidity. Building surveying has always been an incredibly broad and challenging profession. The job requires us to connect our knowledge of design and construction technology with contract practice and risk management; to interpret a building’s history and project it into the future; to understand costs; and to communicate with specialists and appreciate the views of multiple stakeholders. By using all these skills, surveyors should be able to offer clients concise advice with some commercial insight. Yet cladding and fire safety might represent the biggest technical challenge the profession has faced since the dangers of asbestos became publicised, and suitably skilled and experienced building surveyors can play a crucial role in managing investigations and overseeing remedial works. This article therefore discusses the current regulatory framework, the kinds of cladding system that consistently cause concern, the processes that may be adopted to investigate them, and the commercial implications. Part B and Approved Document B The functional fire safety requirements are defined in Part B of the Building Regulations, with B4 stating: ‘The external walls of the building shall adequately resist the spread of fire over the walls’ (bit.ly/AppDocB2019). The most widely used method of demonstrating compliance with Part B is to follow the government recommendations in Approved Document B. However, doing so is not mandatory, and alternative fire engineering approaches may achieve an adequate level of fire safety. Before December 2018, the Building Regulations did not rule out the use of combustible materials in the external walls of high-rise buildings where upper floors exceed 18m in height. In such circumstances, Approved Document B allowed for the submission of evidence that the entire external cladding system had been classified

Cladding and fire safety might represent the biggest technical challenge the profession has faced since the dangers of asbestos became publicised

to BR 135 Fire Performance of External Thermal Insulation for Walls of Multistorey Buildings (bit.ly/BR1353rdEd), using data from full-scale fire tests that had been conducted in line with BS 8414 (bit.ly/BS8414). Where combustible materials are identified in existing high-rise cladding systems, an audit trail incorporating a BR 135 assessment – together with evidence that the system was installed correctly, as designed – may provide assurance that the design did align with Approved Document B at the time it was installed. However, BR 135 assessments do not offer blanket approval for a material or system type. It is not unusual for such assessments to be entirely missing, or for the reports to be based on a generic arrangement of materials that bear little resemblance to those found on site. Although a Building Regulations final certificate should arguably provide the necessary assurance that Part B and other relevant criteria have been satisfied, these certificates are invariably caveated such that they do not provide absolute evidence of regulatory compliance. Building Regulation 38 states that fire safety information must be provided at project completion or before occupation, so information to support the final certificate should be sought. It is important to remember that the principle objective of Part B and Approved

Document B alike is the preservation of human life. While life safety should be a given for any property, asset protection is not; therefore, the Building Regulations and guidance should be viewed as minimum standards rather than an assurance that a fire will not start or spread. A fire at online grocer Ocado’s automated distribution centre in Andover in February this year prevented it from fulfilling up to 65,000 orders a week. This serves as a reminder that fire can have a huge impact on business continuity, reputation and, in this instance, share price. It is prudent to consider these implications, and specialist fire engineering can add value when it comes to enhancing existing assets and designing new developments. In December 2018, Building Regulation 7 was expanded in England to restrict the use of combustible materials that fall short of the Euroclass A2-s1, d0 standard in the external walls of buildings with any storey 18m above ground level that contains a dwelling, institution or room for residential purposes (bit.ly/AppDoc7). Although this has been widely referred to as a ban, other properties such as commercial premises, hotels, hostels and boarding houses do not fall under its scope, and combustible materials may still be justifiable in such buildings whether they are above or below 18m in height. rics.org/journals 27

Building surveying

Fire safety

Under the Building (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2019, which came into force on 1 October, the situation is similar, albeit more robust (bit.ly/BSDOct19). The changes apply to both domestic and non-domestic properties and stipulate a ban on combustible materials in wall cladding where buildings have a storey height of more than 11m; that is, 7m lower than in England. Regardless of whether there is a robust audit trail to demonstrate regulatory compliance at the time of construction, the English and Scottish situations force a commercial comparison between buildings with combustible cladding materials and those without. Where combustible materials are present, especially on high-rise residential assets, there could be a potential risk to asset liquidity and reputation. The UK government has published numerous advice notes on the building safety website that bring together test results and extensive industry insight on existing assets, covering everything from remediation of metal composite and aluminium composite material (ACM), urgent life safety interventions known as interim measures, combustible insulation and smoke ventilation (bit.ly/UKBSP). Surveyors need to be aware of this information and keep abreast of any changes. They would also be well advised to act on such information, taking specialist advice as necessary, particularly as the Health and Safety Executive would refer to such guidance in the event of an issue. Although most of the advice notes are intended for owners of residential buildings of 18m or more in height, some are caveated such that the principles may also apply to other use classes and buildings below 18m. Where risks might be present, specialist fire engineering input should be obtained. Component complexity Developments in material technology, changing design tastes, cost factors and specialisation of production have resulted in a situation where external walls are made up of many different components, manufactured and installed by multiple different parties. This means that it can be difficult to find or rely on appropriate documentation, and 28 Journal November/December 2019

a superficial visual inspection might result in misleading conclusions. Facades must then be primarily considered a system rather than a collection of unrelated components. A modern non-load-bearing facade system has three main sections: the external cladding, thermal insulation and the backing wall. All three parts may promote fire spread, and even combinations that have been demonstrated in tests to be safe might be problematic depending on the kind of materials used and their extent, arrangement and installation. Modern construction products are highly dependent on organic materials derived from oil. Although materials such as plastics and foams can be modified with fire-retardant additives – sometimes referred to as FR grades – that reduce the rate of ignition or flammability, this terminology can be misleading since all organic materials are ultimately combustible and fall short of Euroclass A2-s1, d0. The potential issues with rainscreens clad in materials such as combustible ACM panels, for instance, include a propensity for rapid external fire spread, which can be accelerated by a ventilated cavity acting as a chimney, and fire compartments that cross over one another. ACM can be visually identified at the cut edge by a plastic core sandwiched between two wafer-thin skins of metal. Although such identification is tricky with folded- or tray-profile panels, ACM usually produces a sharp mitred edge in contrast to the shallower radius of a folded, solid-metal panel. Of course, testing is the only way to determine categorically the type of core or filler material. High-pressure laminates (HPLs) meanwhile combine compressed wood and resin, and their use on high-rise residential buildings is cause for concern given their combustibility and potential for external fire spread. HPL is one of many materials that is no longer acceptable on new buildings that fall under the scope of Building Regulation 7. For existing buildings, government advice is that low-grade HPL panels of Euroclass C or D, used with combustible insulation on residential buildings more than 18m high, represent a notable fire hazard. However,

it is acknowledged that fire-retardant, though ultimately still combustible, HPL panels used with stone or mineral wool insulation may be acceptable, if supported by a relevant BR 135 assessment. External wall insulation (EWI) systems, while often faced with non-combustible materials such as brick slips, can conceal combustible insulation that may not be picked up from visual inspection alone. The other potential issue identified by the government is that EWI systems may, in some situations, be at increased risk of deterioration, resulting in materials debonding or falling. EWI systems should be reviewed to ensure that they are in sound condition, have been adequately designed to account for both wind loads and the weight of the structure, and installed properly. The risk of falling material could be compounded in situations where the surface is already damaged and the action of trapped moisture or frost may accelerate its deterioration. Due to their relative thinness and excellent thermal efficiency, it is unsurprising that plastic-based thermoset insulation such as polyisocyanurate (PIR) and phenolic foam had become the default choice for modern cladding systems. These materials are incredibly widely used, often acceptably so, but the audit trail for buildings above 18m must be considered. Although PIR and phenolic foams typically form a protective char layer when exposed to flames, it must be remembered that all forms of foam insulation are ultimately combustible and are no longer acceptable on residential buildings within the scope of Building Regulation 7. Foam insulation is also found in structurally insulated panels (SIPs), and an audit trail should be sought for these. SIPs and built-up backing walls may incorporate sheathing layers such as plywood, oriented strand board and cement particle boards, which are combustible and need to be factored in to the assessment of fire risk. Concealed fires Cavities are common in external walls to enable drainage and ventilation, and to limit the internal passage of moisture. However,

extensive cavities have the potential to spread smoke and flames from one compartment to another, and a cavity acting in effect as a chimney can accelerate this spread. Fire may enter an external wall cavity from the interior or exterior of a building; for example, if it breaks out through window openings or penetrations such as extract ducts or electrical sockets in the internal leaf of the external wall. Part B3.4 of 2010 states that: ‘The building shall be designed and constructed so that the unseen spread of fire and smoke within concealed spaces in its structure and fabric is inhibited.’ Approved Document B in turn makes recommendations as to the location of cavity barriers, and this includes around openings such as windows, and at the junction between every wall and floor in a fire-resisting compartment. There are two main types of cavity barrier. ••Open-state cavity barriers: these incorporate an intumescent layer that maintains ventilation paths when cold but expands to close the cavity when activated by the heat of a fire. ••Full-fill cavity barriers: these completely close the cavity and are used in situations where ventilation or drainage paths need not be maintained, such as at vertical compartment wall junctions. Installation and fixing details are crucial, and it is not uncommon to find cavity barriers missing or inadequately secured and therefore at risk of becoming displaced and failing to perform as intended. Cavity barriers are relatively simple to install and most manufacturers supply them with mechanical fixings, but it can be very difficult to remediate poorly fitted or unsuitable barriers. The whole or partial removal of cladding panels may be necessary to gain access to the barriers, and remediation in handset brickwork or an EWI cladding system can be far more disruptive and costly once access and preliminaries are considered. Intrusive investigation Initial information about cladding systems may be gathered during more general surveys, for example from operation and maintenance manuals as part of the technical due diligence process. But the limitations of

All forms of foam insulation are ultimately combustible and are no longer acceptable on residential buildings under the scope of Building Regulation 7

visual surveys and the risks of overreliance on potentially inaccurate documentation are still important to bear in mind. In many cases, intrusive surveys will be necessary to establish the composition of the cladding system, and the quality and completeness of the installation. A typical study would include specialist advice from a facade cladding engineer with a contractor in attendance as well, and there would also be input from a testing laboratory and assessment by a fire engineer. Samples from multiple points in the system are normally needed to obtain a comprehensive picture of the way it works, but access restrictions, possible road closures and disruption to occupants all need to be considered. Although experienced building surveyors are well placed to coordinate this process, it remains as important as ever to ensure that the scope of service is achievable and does not extend into the disciplines of facade engineering or fire engineering. Professional indemnity insurance (PII) providers are carefully considering policy coverage to limit their exposure to cladding and fire safety claims, and some form of restriction, exclusion or aggregate cap is increasingly becoming standard (see Built Environment Journal September/October, p.18). The upshot is that direct appointments of specialists by clients remains preferable, rather than appointment as sub-consultants.

Limitations on the scope and liability of specialist input must be duly assessed to ensure that the reporting output is sufficient and PII cover is adequate. We can expect cladding safety concerns to continue to evolve, likewise government advice and insurance requirements. For existing assets the situation is complicated, but government advice notes should be considered, with specialist input and an audit trail sought to show that cladding systems complied with the regulations that applied at the time of construction. Evidence that systems were constructed properly and in line with the original design should also be identified. Suitably trained and experienced surveyors can contribute positively by managing the process, coordinating investigations and, managing the remedial works. There are substantial risks and pitfalls to bear in mind, but involvement with specialist investigations and complicated repair works play to a building surveyor’s core skills. Simon Young is an associate at Tuffin Ferraby Taylor syoung@tftconsultants.com Related competencies include: Construction technology and environmental services, Fire safety, Inspection Further information: bit.ly/sprinkrev rics.org/journals 29

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30 Journal November/December Xxxxx/Xxxxx 2019 2019


Robert Hopps

Building control

Inclusive design

Flushing out poor design Ensuring the needs of disabled people are properly met should be a much higher priority when planning essential facilities Ian Streets

It should be so easy to get the basics right – but far too often, accessible toilet provision for disabled people is continuing to fall short of the mark. It’s a subject we keep coming back to, because we continue to see things that not only breach guidance and regulations but fly in the face of simple common sense. To start with, it’s worth checking the provisions of BS 8300-2: 2018 Design of an accessible and inclusive built environment. Buildings – code of practice (bit.ly/BS8300-2), and noting that changes made in preparing the standard mean they differ in parts from Approved Document M (bit.ly/AppDocM). In summary, BS 8300-2 says any building to which members of the public have access in numbers would benefit from provision of a Changing Place (changing-places.org). These are designed for people with complex needs, providing a WC that can be accessed from both sides, a height-adjustable changing bench for adults, a ceiling-tracked hoist, and a room measuring at least 3m by 4m with a minimum height of 2.4m, among other design features. Section 18.6 of BS 8300: 2018 part 2 gives more detail, and offers examples: ‘Accessible sanitary accommodation ought to be no less pleasant and convenient to use than equivalent non-accessible facilities. It needs to contain all of the amenities that would be provided elsewhere, [such as] mirrors and hairdryers, but without compromising the functionality of the space.’ It is the size of that space that is at the heart of the changes to BS 8300. Approved

Document M is the baseline requirement in terms of accessibility, but is limited in terms of the areas that it covers. As an access consultant, I would urge designers to go beyond the document, which still only requires a minimum 1.5m by 2.2m space for a unisex, wheelchair-accessible WC, as since 2018 the BS 8300 guidance recommends 1.7m by 2.2m. BS 8300 also now accepts that, in smaller establishments, a self-contained unit can include a baby-changing table as well, provided that the minimum room width is increased from 1.7m to 2m and an extra hand basin is added. It recommends, too, that larger buildings and complexes should have a Changing Place. Consideration should be given to each of the facilities inside the cubicle of an accessible toilet. Is there enough space for the user, their mobility equipment and any bags? The position of the toilet is important as well: it should be close to a wall, enabling the user to support themselves if necessary. It should also be in easy reach of the wash basin, soap dispenser and paper towels, which is desirable for able-bodied people and vital for disabled people. The different impairments of users also need to be considered, and the design must ensure that no individual is at a disadvantage. Recent lapses include a £60m shopping centre project where the designers forgot to plan soil pipes in the layout for the accessible toilet. Work was almost completed when it was found the pipes hadn’t been taken

into account in the room length, meaning that the rooms were now shorter than the required 2.2m. It is likely that other facilities will now have to be moved, making the room non-compliant. Another example was found during an access audit at a university, where an accessible toilet had been retrofitted with a view to provide a Changing Place. The fact that the room was nowhere near the minimum size should have been picked up, but the most significant issue was that a disabled person would have found it extremely difficult to get into the room in the first place. The space was full of ancillary equipment that didn’t need to be there and, worse, the entrance door was located in the corner of a corridor with an adjacent wall at about 45°. There was no way you could get a wheelchair in there, and it would be awkward at best for people using other mobility aids. This latter example shows that it doesn’t matter how much space there is if the facilities are inadequate and the room itself is cluttered and inaccessible. Should you be in doubt, always get a professional involved, because the cost of their input will be a lot less than the price of the remedial work needed if you don’t. Ian Streets is the managing director of About Access info@aboutaccess.co.uk Related competencies include: Design and specification, Inclusive environments rics.org/journals 31

Building control

Fire safety

Detection selection Choosing the right detection technology is essential if you are to avoid the twin risks of fire and false alarms

Simon Sandland-Taylor

When selecting detectors for a fire alarm system, you must give equal consideration to optimising fire detection and minimising the occurrence of false alarms. Most false alarms are down to poor system design and incorrect detector selection, and the risk can be significantly reduced by careful design and advances in technology. Detectors are selected according to the nature of the area where their use is planned, and any associated fire risk. Often, different technologies are used to ensure that fire is detected while false alarms are avoided. Detectors themselves are designed to identify one or more of the four characteristics of fire: smoke, heat, combustion gas – such as carbon monoxide (CO) – and infrared or ultraviolet radiation. In some fire detection and alarm systems, an alarm signal is initiated when one of these characteristics reaches a predetermined threshold. In other situations, a signal may be initiated instead, or as well, when the rate at which this characteristic changes is indicative of a fire. With point detectors, smoke, heat, gas or radiation are monitored at a defined spot in the protected area, whereas line detectors recognise these qualities along a specified line in that space. Detector options Smoke detection is the most common type of technology used in automatic fire detection systems, and can take the following forms. 32 Journal November/December 2019

••Ionisation chambers are point detectors that identify smoke by the reduction in current it causes between electrodes. ••Optical point detectors identify smoke by a process of scattering light from a source within the detector. ••Optical beam detectors are line detectors sending light from a transmitter to a receiver, identifying smoke when it obscures the light. ••Aspirating smoke detection uses a pump or fan to draw air samples through points in the protected area to a central detector, which operates using an ionisation chamber or optical principles. Heat detectors take the form of either point or line detectors, and may be designed to respond when a fixed temperature is reached. The heat detector may also include a sensor that responds to the rate of rise of temperature. Combustion gas detectors in turn are point detectors that respond to one or more of the gases, such as CO, that are produced when combustion is incomplete due to a restricted amount of oxygen. Flame detectors detect the infrared or ultraviolet radiation emitted by flame, or both. Each kind uses radiation-sensitive cells that identify the fire directly or through built-in lenses or reflectors. Some fire detectors contain more than one sensor, each of which responds to a different characteristic of fire. Such multi-sensor devices can be used to enhance detection of fire and reduce the risk of certain categories of false alarm. Video is another means of detection, which monitors the protected

area and analyses images electronically to identify the presence of smoke or flames from changes in the camera’s field of view. The choice of fire detector types should, ideally, be made early in the design stage to support the fire safety strategy. Sometimes this choice is revisited and modified as the building design evolves, or during installation and commissioning, or periodic maintenance thereafter. Such modifications are not always clearly documented, however; neither is the rationale behind their selection at the design stage or later. But it is absolutely essential that the reasoning for the selection and configuration of the detectors is clearly documented, and likewise the justification for any changes to them throughout the lifetime of a building, in order to verify continued suitability. To help the selection and verification of detection, the methodology introduced in annex E of BS 5839-1: 2017 Fire detection and fire alarm systems for buildings: Code of practice for design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of systems in non-domestic premises (bit.ly/BS5839-1) can be used. Another way to ensure the correct detection technology is selected is to complete a template form for each detector. A simplified version with several examples is provided in Table 1; the factors set out in the left-hand column should all be considered, so that the completed version can be used as a live document. Tables 2 and 3 on typical fire and false alarm risks, overleaf, can also aid completion of the selection table.

Table 1. Detector selection Detector reference

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

Example 4

Example 5

Example 6

Example 7

Example 8

Hotel bedroom with en-suite shower

Disabled person’s hotel bedroom with en-suite shower

Small office kitchen with toaster and microwave but no oven

Commercial kitchen in community centre with oven

Escape stairs

Boiler room

Data storage room




Teas, coffees, toast, microwave cooking


Escape route

Boiler room

Data storage


Smouldering dark smoke

Smouldering dark smoke

Flaming (dirty)

Flaming (dirty)

Smouldering white smoke

Flaming (dirty)

Smouldering white smoke

Smouldering white smoke



Smoke or steam

Smoke or steam; rapid heat rise





Detector type

Heat (fixed temperature)

Smoke (ionisation)

Heat (rate of rise)

Heat (fixed temperature)

Smoke (optical)

Heat (fixed temperature)

Aspirating (smoke detection)


Detector setting

See commentary (overleaf) for each case

Certified modes chosen?

Yes, for all these examples

Early warning (highest sensitivity)

Highest temperature (least sensitive setting), and rate of rise

Specialist advice required

Very early detection necessary

Protected area or type of area

Predominant use of area

Fire risk(s)

False alarm risk(s)

Acceptable to interested parties

N/A; only required if detectors with non-certified settings are used

Fire strategy met?

Yes, for all these examples

Rationale for selection of detector type and choice of setting

Heat detector; fixed-point, middle setting

Comments or actions


Early warning; provides increased escape time

Lowest temperature (most sensitive setting), and rate of rise

Highest temperature (least sensitive setting)


rics.org/journals 33

Building control

Fire safety

Guidance on completing selection table ••Detector reference: it is good practice to give each detector a unique reference such as detector 1, detector 2 and so on. ••Protected area: this should correspond to the system category as defined in BS 5839–1: 2017 clause 5. ••Anticipated use of area: only the main use of the area needs to be listed. ••Fire risk(s): fire risk can either be described as the fire type or in terms of the cause; for instance, a fire involving electrical cables could be described as smouldering white smoke or as overheating electrical cables. Table 2, which gives some examples of fire risk, should be used to help complete this field. ••False alarm risk(s): only the predominant false alarm risk needs to be identified. The examples of risk in Table 3 should be used to help complete this field. ••Detection type: select the detection type that gives the desired form of warning and minimises false alarm risk. ••Detector setting: this is critical, as settings in a detector type vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some produce different ranges of addressable detector – which comprise a series of detectors and devices connected to a central control panel – with differing sensitivity settings. Specific advice from the chosen detector company may be required. ••Certified modes: some detectors may have modes of operation that are not certified to the relevant part of BS EN 54, but these should be avoided where at all possible. Where such modes are used, the decision to do so and the rationale for it should be agreed in writing by all relevant interested parties following a fire risk assessment, and then noted in the detector selection table. ••Acceptable to interested parties: BS 5839–1: 2017 clause 6 defines relevant interested parties, including the building control body and the fire authority. ••Fire strategy: it is imperative that the implications of any future change to detector type or to settings are fully understood, such that the objectives of the fire strategy continue to be met throughout the lifetime of the building. ••Rationale for selection of detector type and choice of setting: this should be 34 Journal November/December 2019

recorded to inform any future decisions that might be taken in relation to the suitability of the detector and its settings. ••Comments or actions: any additional, relevant information concerning the detector selection should be provided, and there should also be a record of any required changes – for instance, fine-tuning the sensitivity of a particular detector by adjusting its settings, or the substitution of one detector type with another, such as the replacement of a smoke detector with a multi-sensor optical–heat device. Selection table examples: commentary 1. Hotel room with en-suite shower: it is acceptable to install heat detectors in bedrooms; the objective in such a case is to warn all occupants before the integrity of the bedroom door is threatened by fire. Some hotel chains, however, prefer to have smoke detection fitted to warn them that a guest is smoking in a bedroom, as this enables them to take prompt action. Such smoke detection provision would inevitably increase the risk of false alarms, so it is not a decision to be taken lightly; however, providing a combined optical–heat detector might be a suitable compromise. The rationale for this kind of decision must be clearly documented in the selection table. 2. Disabled person’s hotel room with en-suite shower: in this example, the hotel bedroom has smoke detection to give the earliest possible warning for disabled persons, and thereby afford them more time to escape in the event of a fire. Ionisation smoke detection is chosen in preference to optical technology to reduce the risk of false alarms from steam produced by the shower or a kettle. 3. Small kitchen with toaster and microwave: this is an example of a typical food preparation area provided in many workplaces. In this situation, ionisation or optical smoke detection is not recommended because of the risk of false alarms caused by the production of steam and smoke particulates. A low fixed-temperature heat detector with a setting that can pick up a sudden rate of rise would be most desirable in these circumstances. 4. Commercial-type kitchen: this particular scenario has the potential for three false

alarm risks: smoke and steam production as well as rapid thermal change caused by opening of oven doors. A heat detector with the highest setting would strike an ideal balance between fire detection and false alarm reduction. 5. Escape stairs in protected stairway: maintaining the integrity of protected stairs is essential to ensure a safe means of escape. As these are fire-sterile areas, the risk of fire in a stair enclosure should be very low. Consideration should be given to the possibility of smoke entering the protected stairway. Either ionisation or optical smoke detectors would provide an early warning in this event, with the latter being the preferred choice as they would detect any smoke that might obscure people’s vision and make escape more difficult. 6. Boiler room: smoke detection would not be suitable due to the presence of dust and dirt. Room temperatures are likely to be relatively high, and could fluctuate from time to time. A heat detector that has a high fixed-temperature setting would mitigate against potential false alarm risks. If temperature fluctuations are less significant, then a heat detector with combined high fixed-temperature and rate of temperature rise settings could suffice. 7. Data storage room or suite: loss of a data storage room or suite could devastate a business, and therefore rapid detection of fire is critical in such a situation. Aspirating smoke detection is up to 100 times more sensitive than traditional point smoke detectors, and can identify smoke even before it is visible to the human eye. Specialist advice should be sought for such an application, however. 8. Sawmill: in this scenario, a CO detector would be most suitable to prevent smouldering in the early stages from developing into a major life-threatening fire. In such an environment, a smoke or heat detector would only be activated once a significant fire had taken hold. Simon Sandland-Taylor is director and owner of Sandland-Taylor Consultancy info@sandlandtaylorconsultancy.co.uk Related competencies include: Fire safety

Table 2. Example fire risks

Example fire(s)

Ionisation detection

Optical (scatter) detection

CO detection

Heat detection

Flame detection

Typical two-sensor detection (e.g. optical–heat)

Typical three-sensor detection (e.g. optical–heat–CO)

Smouldering electrical fire








Smouldering wood








Smouldering dark smoke

Smouldering furnishings








Smouldering, changing to flaming

Waste-paper bin fire








Flaming (clean burn)

Burning solvents








Burning oils








Fire phenomenon

Smouldering white smoke

Flaming (dirty burn)

Table 3. Example false alarm risks Example false alarm location/ cause

Rejection by ionisation detection

Rejection by optical (scatter) detection

Rejection by CO detection

Rejection by heat detection

Rejection by flame detection

Rejection by typical two-sensor detection (e.g. optical–heat)

Rejection by typical three-sensor detection (e.g. optical–heat–CO)


Shower or bathroom









Smoking; kitchen or cooking fumes
















Aerosol canister products; artificial smoke
























Air conditioning; open doors or windows








Opening of ovens








False alarm risk


Other particular

Sparks/naked flames

Substance ingress

High ambient airflow

Rapid thermal change


rics.org/journals 35

Ceiling the deal Fibrous plasterwork was frequently used in buildings from the late 19th century. Fortunately, there is new guidance for conservation professionals to help them deal with this often-misunderstood decorative finish Dr William Napier

36 Journal November/December 2019

Building conservation

Historic plasterwork

Following the high-profile collapse of a decorative plaster ceiling at the Apollo Theatre in Westminster, London in 2013, the Association of British Theatre Technicians (ABTT) published a guidance note in 2015, Advice to Theatre Owners and Managers regarding Suspended Fibrous Plaster Ceilings; Survey, Certification, Record Keeping etc. (bit.ly/ABTTplaster). Earlier this year, Historic England added to this work with Historic Fibrous Plaster in the UK, designed as interim guidance for conservation professionals and building managers responsible for UK properties with fibrous work (bit.ly/HEplaster). Fibrous plasterwork is a form of decoration made from plaster of Paris reinforced with hessian and thin strips of timber. Ceilings of this type were cast in workshops in large panels and dried before being transported to site for installation. Use of fibrous plasterwork increased in the mid to late 19th century because it was lighter, quicker to produce and therefore cheaper than the traditional lime-based plasterwork applied on timber laths. Although often associated with public buildings, theatres, music halls and cinemas, fibrous plasterwork is increasingly being discovered in private houses that were built, extended or altered in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This therefore requires surveyors to be able to identify the type of plasterwork present in buildings so they can appraise the risk of defects and failures. Fibrous plasterwork was often fixed to, or suspended from, the structure above using hessian ties soaked in plaster of Paris, a method known as wadding. Investigations and research carried out since the 2013 Apollo collapse have shown that wad ties can be susceptible to poor environmental conditions, penetrating dampness, damage from later interventions and additional loading. The Historic England guidance considers wadding to be one of the greatest risks to the integrity of fibrous plaster. The ABTT guidance, which has largely been incorporated into Historic England’s publication, requires those responsible for fibrous plaster ceilings to carry out regular inspections. This is especially important for ceilings supported by unreinforced

1. Unreinforced wad ties – a common method of fixing decorative fibrous plasterwork – will require replacement to minimise the risk of failure, as recommended by new guidance

2. Retention and repair of traditional plasterwork should be considered as the primary option where possible

rics.org/journals 37

Building conservation

Historic plasterwork

hessian wads, which the ABTT considers to be a deleterious material likely to require additional reinforcement to minimise the risk of collapse (see photo 1 on p.37). It also advises that, in areas that cannot be reasonably inspected, the use of unreinforced wads should be presumed. In addition, both the ABTT and the Historic England guidance advise that: ••structures supporting suspended fibrous ceilings should be inspected by a competent structural engineer, and plaster parts by a competent plaster inspector ••ceilings should be inspected from both above and below, and surrounding fabric should be inspected for signs of water ingress – past and present – as well as structural movement ••a baseline survey should be carried out to give an accurate record of the ceiling’s construction, including all supports. Both the ABTT and Historic England Guidance provide survey templates. The baseline survey should be used to inform any repairs required, advise future management of the asset, and decide when the next ceiling inspection should be carried out. This may require additional support ties, or replacement of existing ones; removing accumulated debris or reducing imposed loads such as walkways; consolidation; and, in some cases, replacing parts of the ceiling. Between these main inspections, ceilings should be regularly checked for signs of change, including cracking and staining, and any evidence of this should be acted on in a timely manner.

Although often associated with public buildings, fibrous plasterwork is increasingly being discovered in private houses that were built, extended or altered in the late 19th and early 20th centuries

While the advice has been written for fibrous plasterwork, many of the same principles apply to inspecting traditional lime-based plasterwork, which was much more commonly used in British buildings until the early to mid 20th century, and which can be equally susceptible to many of the same issues. Traditional lime-based decorative ceilings were usually applied to timber laths nailed to the underside of a floor or roof structure or a secondary structure attached to the principal structure above. Ceilings, cornices and mouldings were built out in coats of haired plaster – so-called coarse stuff – and finished with a finer finishing or setting coat. Decorative elements were either created in situ by hand, or cast from moulds and stuck into place afterwards. Checks should be made to assess the condition of the plaster nibs or rivets

Top tips for working with plaster • Identify the type of plasterwork present, for example, traditional lime-based plasterwork or fibrous plasterwork. • Establish the method of fixing and support used and their condition. • Assess the condition of surrounding fabric, and consider the impact of later interventions such as services, alterations and imposed loadings. • In significant buildings, consider a conservative approach that allows as much historic plasterwork to be retained as possible (see photo 2, p.37). • Encourage contractors and building professionals who do not have conservation experience to attend training courses. • Implement regular inspections informed by a baseline plaster survey.

38 Journal November/December 2019

that are formed on the upper face of the laths when the first coat of plaster is applied, and which provide a mechanical key or bond. These can be inadvertently damaged as a result of additional loading, later reservicing and alterations, insulation upgrades, or vibrations from site activities. The condition of timber laths, ties and connections between secondary and principal structures should be checked, as should the surrounding fabric for signs of water ingress. A close inspection of the underside of the ceiling should be carried out, with defects – including cracks, detachment and surface disruption – accurately recorded. As with fibrous plasterwork, the method of construction and any defects observed should be accurately recorded and used to inform future repairs and monitoring. In most cases, retention and repair of traditional lime-based plasterwork is possible and should be the first consideration, especially in significant buildings. Repairs of traditional plasterwork should be carried out following guidance from English Heritage (bit.ly/EngHplaster), or, north of the border, Historic Environment Scotland (bit.ly/HESplaster). Wholesale replacement should be the last resort, and is generally avoidable. Dr William Napier MRICS is a chartered building surveyor, an RICS-certified historic buildings professional and a fully trained decorative plasterer wnapier@adamsnapier.co.uk

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rics.org/journals 39

Building surveying

Concrete failure

RAAC and ruin The potential for sudden failure of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete planks has been highlighted recently. So how can surveyors tell whether the material has been used for construction and identify the warning signs?

Trevor Rushton

Excessive deflections and transverse cracking were thought to be a key warning sign of failure in reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC), but recent investigation has shown a much more serious risk of sudden failure. In May, the Standing Committee on Structural Safety (SCOSS) issued an alert about the collapse of a school roof last year (bit.ly/SCOSSraacfail), an alert taken up in advice from the Local Government Association. The SCOSS report notes that there was evidence of shear cracking adjacent to a support in the school building, as well as possible indications of tension reinforcement stopping short of it. The roof covering had been replaced, and it was thought that thermal effects could also have contributed to the failure because bowing or deflection can be caused by restraint at the ends of planks, which prevents thermal expansion. While the two are not necessarily related – the planks may already have been restrained – re-roofing with a darker material could have resulted in more expansion as this will absorb more infrared light, thus creating a greater degree of bowing. SCOSS also mentioned the discovery of water-related damage and spalling to the roof of a retail premises, while other reports have referred to evidence of corroded steel reinforcement that had resulted from moisture ingress. So although there is not a central register of buildings containing RAAC, owners, local authorities, health trusts and education authorities must take 40 Journal November/December 2019

steps to determine where such planks have been installed so that the risks can be mitigated. Composition and history Autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC) was developed in Sweden in the 1920s and introduced to the UK in the late 1950s. In its most common form, it is used in the construction of lightweight thermal blocks. The raw materials are cement, blast furnace slag, pulverised fuel ash or silica flour, and these are mixed with water and aluminium powder. The slurry is then cast in a mould where the chemical reaction between the aluminium and the other constituents increases the volume of the mixture around fivefold, with the formation of small hydrogen gas bubbles. The hydrogen evaporates, leaving a cellular concrete mixture, and the product is then removed from the mould and cured in an autoclave for between eight and 15 hours at high temperature and pressure to control drying shrinkage. RAAC planks in turn are effectively made of the same core material as these unreinforced AAC thermal blocks, and they have trade names such as Sipporex, Durox, Celcon or Thermalite. The material is usually light grey or off-white in colour, easily broken or damaged with hand tools or sharp implements. Because the concrete does not bond to the steel reinforcement very well, it needs to be bent into hooks or have welded crossbars added

to lock it into place, while corrosion protection such a coating of latex or bitumen is also necessary. RAAC planks are rectangular in cross-section, when the cellular structure is also evident, with chamfered edges that have a V-shaped groove appearance on installation. Typically, planks vary in width from 300mm to 750mm, and spans up to 6m are not unknown. A thickness of 100–250mm is common. From the mid 1950s until the mid 1980s, RAAC planks were often selected for the use of roof decks in school buildings and similar structures; being lightweight, they enabled economies in the design of supporting structures, as well as improved thermal performance. Other uses included wall panels in, for example, shopping centres and office buildings. However, RAAC is not the same as reinforced concrete and behaves in a different way. It has a much higher elastic modulus than reinforced concrete, for instance, meaning that for a given load, deflection will be about ten times that for an equivalent concrete plank under similar loading conditions. RAAC is also more vulnerable to corrosion and has a lower compressive strength than reinforced concrete. In 1982, production of RAAC in the UK stopped amid concerns over its structural performance and life expectancy, which was subsequently predicted by BRE to be around 30 years. The stability of more modern, imported panels has been called into question too. As a result, RAAC planks are not considered to be durable materials, and references to them in BS 8110 and EN 12602 have been dropped for fear of lending respectability to what is a relatively short-lived material. Warning signs Surveyors are frequently appointed to carry out condition surveys and planned maintenance inspections, and it follows that they must be familiar with identifying both the use of RAAC and its possible defects and performance issues. Warning signs could include cracking and disruption around the bearings, transverse cracking, or bearing widths of less than 40mm. Deflection can be checked and measured, with results greater than one-hundredth of the span being cause for concern. In some cases, soffits may be concealed by suspended ceilings, so it is worth opening them up to check whether there are RAAC planks and, if so, assessing their condition. Externally, signs of ponding, previous or current leaks might be indications of RAAC plank failure. Since it is thought that thermal effects can contribute to deterioration, check whether the roof has been re-covered, in particular where loading may have increased or where the surface was formerly reflective and is now black, thus absorbing more infrared light and resulting in higher temperatures within roof construction. On discovering RAAC, it is important to guide the client or owner as to proportionate action without being alarmist. In assessing the risk, the use of the building will need to be considered, because planks in an occupied classroom would for example present a higher risk than any in an unoccupied store. The results of the condition assessment will inform a management

References to RAAC planks have been dropped from several standards for fear of lending respectability to a relatively short-lived material

plan, as well as helping to determine whether replacement needs to be considered and when. If the roof deck appears to be in good order but the covering needs to be replaced, consider the potential increase in load during the work, likewise any increase resulting from use of heavier materials. Measures such as removing chippings may need to be considered in order to reduce dead loads, as may the provision of span breakers. In certain circumstances, a more detailed examination of the planks may be necessary. Check whether any have deflected to a larger extent than others – a 20mm difference between adjacent planks would, for example, be significant. Also look for signs of previous water ingress and check the reinforcement for corrosion. The position of transverse reinforcement can be identified by a cover meter, an electromagnetic device that measures changes in voltage arising from responses to applied magnetic fields. The location of tension reinforcement should be checked, too, to see that it extends to the ends of the planks. Such reinforcement must be present around intermediate supports because sagging can occur due to thermal effects, and the presence of shear reinforcement should also be checked. Laboratory analysis of samples will confirm the composition of the planks as well as the degree of carbonation, as the latter can result in degradation such as cracking in the microstructure of the RAAC. If the analysis and risk assessment find that the planks can be retained, it will be important to monitor the situation carefully for signs of deterioration in future. Whereas BRE used to advise that the material would show signs of failure over a period of time, the sudden failure reported by SCOSS suggests that surveyors may need to be more alert. Trevor Rushton is a technical director at Watts trevor.rushton@watts.co.uk Related competencies include: Building pathology, Construction technology and environmental services rics.org/journals 41

Building surveying

Planned maintenance

Reconciling costs and conditions A proper brief and client engagement are essential in the implementation of planned maintenance programmes Chris Seton and James Ingles

With the property market always changing and asset classes becoming increasingly varied, it is important when preparing planned maintenance instructions that building surveyors understand how their reports are to be used, so they can tailor them to clients’ needs. As specialists, we sometimes hear reservations from commercial and residential property managers and landlords about instructing a planned maintenance programme (PMP), such as ‘Do we really need it?’, ‘Building surveyors put everything in, including the kitchen sink’, ‘They end up being put in a drawer and not followed,’ and ‘We don’t want to instruct in case the report is disclosed to the prospective purchaser on disposal.’ The common issue in all of these comments is the tension between technical advice and the budgets and service charge levels demanded by commercial and residential occupiers. However, the absence of a PMP often leads to reactive expenditure, either on obvious aesthetic concerns or in response to events such as water ingress or breakdowns. This can be an inefficient, costly and wasteful approach, which will not maintain the asset in a state that is ready for sale, and also runs the risk of significant price reductions on disposal. So how should we approach PMPs to satisfy clients? The simple answer is to engage with the client by asking for a brief at the outset. But the difficulty remains that each professional taking up the brief 42 Journal November/December 2019

on the site inspection has tunnel vision in respect of their specialism. Furthermore, any brief defined at the start will often change once the client has seen the overall expenditure in the PMP. The PMP for most buildings should comprise schedules prepared individually by building surveyors and building services engineers and, where this is warranted, should also include those by vertical transportation engineers and cladding consultants. It is only once these have been collated into a master document that the big picture begins to emerge, though, and this can be seen in the context of expenditure benchmarks, historic expenditure, lease events, recoverability and the landlord’s intentions. Any attempt to manage the timing of expenditure before all this information has been assembled can create a skewed picture, as well as losing sight of the asset’s true condition – a problem compounded if further iterations of the report are required after presentation to the client. Instead, the report should be presented in two stages: ••first, the technical view: an objective assessment of the condition of the asset, based strictly on the opinion of the professional team ••second, the service charge or budget view: an adjusted-expenditure profile after a meeting with the client to take the wider context into account. Some examples can illustrate how the context may vary from instruction to

instruction, and how important it is for client engagement to reflect this. High-end, trophy buildings compete for blue-chip tenants, and expectations of the level of service on offer will be high. For these buildings, a comprehensive PMP with specialist input is therefore essential. However, a recent instruction on a high-end office building in the City of London shows that even trophy assets are not immune to competition on service charge. A large proportion of the building engineering services is approaching the end of its life over the next five years and, to help retain tenants contemplating a move elsewhere, the landlord is looking to make a loan to the service charge account. This will reduce the short-term impact on tenants, instead effectively meaning they repay the loan over the five-year time frame. Residential reserve funds Before a development is completed, it is still important to plan maintenance and a reserve fund. Historically, there has been a reluctance to consider the reserve fund for new-build developments – after all, the building is new and will benefit from various guarantees and warranties on completion. However, this attitude is changing, with a more forward-thinking approach now being favoured, regardless of what stage of its life cycle an asset has reached. Savills was for instance recently instructed on a multi-phase project where the client wanted accurate cost forecasts


for reserve fund collections. The report has informed management team budgets, and lessees can now be comfortable that there won’t be spikes in their future expenditure. Considerations in managing traditional long-leasehold residential blocks are very different to those in commercial property. Much of the time the management falls to management companies, so the plan is designed to spread the collection of reserve funds more equally between repairing and decorating cycles. Unless there is adequate planning, lessees can find that expensive projects such as lift replacements are necessary but that they lack adequate reserves to cover them. Savills recently completed a reserve fund plan for a client in west London to help set required collection levels, reducing the risk that there will be inadequate funds for any works that arise. Without fit-out costs as a consideration, competition to retain the tenants of private rented apartments is arguably even higher. This was a key factor in the PMP for a portfolio of build-to-rent apartments recently prepared by Savills, with the report requiring granular detail to ensure that the firm’s in-house maintenance team could plan both remedial works and future refurbishment cycles. Without a service charge from which to recover costs, the client is taking a hands-on approach to maintenance, and the PMP is central to understanding this and communicating it to those responsible for implementing the works. Technical asset management The company also provides an overarching technical asset management service for a large portfolio of leisure schemes, ensuring that PMPs dovetail with projects designed to enhance or redevelop the assets. Such PMPs can expand the scope of works, saving money by avoiding supersession of maintenance, increasing procurement efficiency or spending the minimum required for statutory compliance. They can also reduce operational risk to an acceptable level until major works commence. In addition, PMPs are key documents in vendor’s packs, demonstrating to

High-end, trophy buildings compete for blue-chip tenants, and expectations of the level of service on offer will be high

prospective purchasers how far it might be possible to recover maintenance expenditure from tenants. At the recent disposal of a portfolio of shopping centres, for instance, Savills focused on smoothing the transaction and reducing the risk of an unexpected price drop, and aligned the technical due diligence reports to ensure clarity and transparency. Taking this approach for all PMP instructions should result in reports that encapsulate the clients’ maintenance strategy. But how can you increase the chances of these PMPs being followed? Clarity of reporting is essential, and most of us can relate to the difficulty of following another building surveyor’s report on site. The report must therefore include: ••high-level summaries and risk-based prioritisation, so asset and property managers can quickly gain an appreciation of the works required and understand the impact of deferring them ••reference drawings and cross-referenced photographs, to enable building surveyors and facilities managers to understand individual work items easily and either

specify remedial works or communicate them to contractors ••cyclical PMP updates to incorporate further specialist input where warranted – for example, cladding or curtain walling and vertical transportation – so figures can be refined and the expenditure profile adjusted to reflect the new information. As more and more assets are provided with building information models, we anticipate increasing demand for PMPs to be integrated into these, supporting communication with those implementing the plans. Finally, it may be concluded that, if PMPs are to serve the purpose for which they are intended, client engagement and clarity of reporting are essential. Chris Seton is PMP service lead, building and project consultancy, and James Ingles is residential PMP service line lead at Savills cseton@savills.com jingles@savills.com Related competencies include: Housing maintenance, repair and improvements, Maintenance management rics.org/journals 43

Building surveying

Planned maintenance

The data basis Digital data collection on site can offer a faster, more consistent and

more flexible way of carrying out surveys than the traditional approach

Vicky Green

Planned maintenance surveys involve identifying the condition of elements and finishes then prioritising and costing remedial works, before presenting findings to help clients plan and define budgets and inform their investment decisions. But for clients with large property portfolios, condition data should be consistent to enable analysis. With this in mind, is the traditional surveying approach still viable, or are proptech and electronic data collection now a necessity for large volumes of surveys? A traditional approach generally involves carrying out a pen and paper survey, noting the area and identifying, grading and costing the issues and life-cycle requirements. Activity cycles should be included, covering any remedial works required, as should photos, ensuring these are clearly related to the defects described for ease of reference later. Back in the office, data must be entered into a spreadsheet, photos matched up and copied in, and costs worked out by cross-checking images. Price books also need to be reviewed, activity plans 44 Journal November/December 2019

worked out to include recurrent life-cycle costs and produce the schedule, and the findings summarised in a report. When other professionals such as mechanical and electrical consultants are involved, their reports are needed as well so costs can be compiled into a single planned maintenance programme. When large portfolios are being surveyed, information must be kept consistent – which requires considerable checking and streamlining of costs, and element and defect descriptions. Quality assurance of the surveys is a huge task in itself. The data-driven approach Opting for a data-driven approach, particularly for a portfolio of surveys, has a number of benefits. First, data can be collected on site ensuring consistency, and second, it helps analysis and reporting. Element lists in the reporting software can be pre-populated in line with industry standards, with templates prompting surveyors to gather all required information in a consistent way. Costs and activity cycles can also be pre-populated against

the individual elements, as can room lists and descriptions of defects, and these can subsequently be tailored to each element. This means surveyors across the country can use the same element and remedial works descriptions, costs and activity cycles. Photos can also be taken, automatically tagged, and transferred directly into reports. Third-party consultants can likewise carry out surveys using the same method, and the reports seamlessly combined. Data can be uploaded in seconds to a secure, cloud-based service where it can be interrogated before report generation. Recent improvements in standard data collection software have led to a far wider choice of output formats, ranging from prioritised lists of works required to document reports analysing the data that is specific to clients’ requirements, with table and graph summaries showing where to focus expenditure. Many packages are now able to perform the required technical tasks, such as instantaneous analysis and reporting of higher-priority remedial works or health

and safety issues. Software can also be used to group remedial works into packages, for instance window replacement programmes across a region. Report data from complex, multiple site surveys involving teams of surveyors can be rapidly summarised and the results collated into a single report. Outputs can also be tailored to fit existing computer-aided facility management (CAFM) systems, so that information is uploaded seamlessly into databases. In contrast, traditional surveying involves a vast amount of manual input, leading to inefficiencies in terms of time and an increased risk of errors. The standard lists allow for works to be analysed by element, whether report by report or across an entire portfolio. The latter can offer an indication of where expenditure needs to be focused, enabling evidence-based investment decisions and subsequent economies of scale when procuring works across a portfolio. Surveyors who carry out planned maintenance surveys in a traditional way may believe the data-driven approach means they cannot exercise their professional judgement, thinking that recommendations must fit into the software rather than the other way around. But electronic data collection should be seen as adding value to the services we already provide. There will always be a demand for building surveyors who have specialist knowledge, experience and the ability to think reflectively to inform the advice they provide to clients. Proptech in practice Trident Building Consultancy was approached by two large charities to carry out planned maintenance surveys on portfolios across the UK. One portfolio included more than 100 buildings over 20 sites. This client’s aim was to prioritise and budget its expenditure over five years. We were provided with floor plans and were therefore able to populate the data capture software with room names before going on site. We worked with the client to produce a report output that analysed the data to ensure that work packages of higher-priority items could be

Electronic data collection should be seen as adding value to the services we provide, and there will always be a demand for our specialist knowledge

defined, and developed a planned preventative maintenance schedule that the client could upload into its CAFM system. Surveys were then carried out by ten surveyors across five different offices. Because the same template was used, all surveyors worked with the same element list, cost information and defect descriptions. Free-text input was always an option, though, to ensure that non-standard defects could be picked up, and consistent reports were produced for each site. We were able to produce an asset management portfolio dashboard for both charities, because the elements were recorded in line with a standard list. The dashboard analysed the data, allowing the clients to forecast their most urgent expenditure by region or by element, and to define work packages across regions to achieve economies of scale. One client also used the dashboard to budget its expenditure for the next two years. Trident helped by defining work packages, and carried out contract administration services on the works. Although the traditional approach is still viable for one-off surveys, it is increasingly being superseded by electronic information sharing. Data collection means that surveys can be more streamlined, with more effective quality and assurance processes. The structure in which the data is collected allows for strategic analysis, so it can then inform investment decisions and enable procurement efficiencies.

In contrast, a traditional approach involves a vast amount of additional time, inconsistencies between surveyors, added difficulties in manipulating data – and limited intelligence in analysing it – as well as the need for substantial manual input, increasing the risk of errors. As clients are becoming more aware of the advantages of the data-driven approach, many are specifying that they want data to be collected electronically so it can be seamlessly integrated into CAFM systems. It is clear that recent digital developments have begun to disrupt the daily work of building surveyors, which will continue to change with the increased adoption of emerging technologies. As businesses take on different ways of working and complete surveys of large portfolios more quickly, consistently, accurately and cost-effectively, their rivals will have little option but to seek the same technological improvements. The companies that can respond to clients’ ever-changing needs in an agile way will be the most successful building surveying firms of tomorrow. Vicky Green is an associate director at Trident Building Consultancy vicky.green@tridentbc.com Related competencies include: Building pathology, Data management, Fire safety, Health and safety, Housing maintenance, repairs and improvements, Inspection rics.org/journals 45

Building surveying


Time to sharpen the axe Money and time invested in proptech now can enable surveyors to work more productively in the long run

Anthony Walker

US president Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said: ‘Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.’ The remark concerns the story of a woodcutter determined to chop down as many trees as possible. Yet after an excellent start on the first day, on each subsequent day he felled fewer and fewer trees. The woodcutter eventually went to the timber yard manager to apologise, and put it down to a loss of strength. The manager asked when the axe had last been sharpened, and the woodcutter replied: ‘Sharpened? I’ve had no time to sharpen my axe. I have been so busy trying to cut trees.’ The story highlights the positive impact that preparation can have on productivity. The preparation that surveyors should carry out today must take account of technology and digital transformation so they can add maximum value to the services that clients are seeking. In fact, this is now a more important consideration than ever. Latest available figures from the Office for National Statistics indicate that, on the basis of GDP per hour worked, UK productivity in 2016 was lower than the average of rest of the G7 by 16.3 per cent, with the gap narrowing fractionally from 16.4 per cent in 2015 (bit.ly/ONSprod2016). Many reasons have been put forward 46 Journal November/December 2019

for this, although limited investment in research and development, poor integration of information systems and the lack of large-scale adoption of digital technologies are among those suggested by McKinsey in a paper published in 2018 (bit.ly/UKprodig). Breaking down the benefits Construction is the least digitised sector, ranking bottom of the Industry Digitalisation Index. According to an article by Deloitte in late 2017, of 19 industrial sectors, construction spends the least on technology as a proportion of revenue, at 1.51 per cent. The leading sector, at 7.16 per cent, was banking, and the average spend across all sectors was 3.28 per cent, all of which reinforces the view that many still consider technology to be a cost rather than an investment (bit.ly/valprescre). This point was stressed in the RICS survey Proptech: Its position and impact on surveying, work on which I led and presented at the RICS Building Surveying Conference 2018 (rics.org/ptsurvey2018). The questionnaire asked what challenges are holding back wider adoption of proptech, with 56 per cent of respondents attributing it to lack of knowledge and training, closely followed by cost at 53 per cent and lack of clarity of benefits at 43 per cent.

Investment in proptech can offer a number of potential benefits. ••Productivity: proptech can enable more efficient use of time on site and back in the office. ••Competitive fees and profit: increased productivity means that firms can set fees at a more competitive level while also maintaining or increasing profit. ••Reduced errors: manual handling of data increases the potential for human error and the need for rework. ••Converting data into intelligence: robust and accurate data can inform property management decisions and maximise the return on future investment. This in turn increases the likelihood of repeat business or follow-up commissions, such as contract administration and project management after a planned preventative maintenance survey. ••More opportunities: an increasing number of commissions now require the collection of data by technology and its upload into client systems. An inability to do so is likely to reduce the number of future opportunities. ••Recruitment: many of those now entering the profession are attracted to companies that can show technology is a key part of their business offer, and that have a digital strategy. ••Research and development: this is essential for businesses that want an advantage over their competitors. Any investment made in this field – and not just the cost of the technology – is eligible for tax credits (bit.ly/RandDtaxrlf). When adopting new technology or expanding its use, maximum return can be ensured by taking the following steps. ••Lead from the top: the rationale for adopting technology and its importance to the business must be clearly communicated to all from the top. ••Create a champion: most organisations will have someone who is passionate about technology, so seek them out and make them a proptech champion. Give them freedom to explore and make mistakes, and allocate them time when they don’t have to be earning fees. Set them objectives and make them eligible for a bonus if they achieve these – they must feel that the work they are doing is valued and that they will not be financially disadvantaged in taking on the role. ••Map the process: existing ways of working will need to be reviewed to develop better means of collecting and reporting data. Start with the end in mind, and reverse-engineer new processes rather than digitising existing ones. ••Take one step at a time: choose one survey type that you can digitise first, for example a schedule of condition. Once this version is created, established and used consistently, consider the next survey type to digitise that will have the most positive effect or best align with the services you provide, for example planned preventative maintenance. ••Allow time to learn and make mistakes: without adequate training, staff will not have the skills to use the technology correctly and this creates a risk of mistakes. Accept that mistakes will happen and, when they do, learn from them and apply that learning. Within a short time, staff will be comfortable and confident in using the technology.

The preparation that surveyors should carry out today must take account of technology and digital transformation so they can add maximum value to the services that clients are seeking

••Go live: on successful completion of training, start to provide the service. Emphasise that everyone in the business must follow the new ways of working, because if adoption remains optional you will not maximise the benefits or consistency. ••Review and check: as with any process, it’s important to carry out regular audits to help reinforce agreed practices and ensure staff do not drift away from these. ••Seek feedback: ask for regular feedback, because this will help identify where improvements can be made and new services that may be offered. ••Maintain the message: once technology is adopted it is here to stay – so ensure that staff understand this. RICS has four broad categories to classify building survey types, and proptech can be used to carry out all of these: ••acquisition: pre-purchase or building survey; reinstatement cost assessment; mechanical and electrical; specialist structural inspection; contamination survey; flood risk assessment; commercial valuation; asset survey; technical due diligence ••occupation: stock condition survey; planned preventative maintenance; defects or latent defect survey; schedule of condition; insurance – loss adjustment; access audit; asbestos management survey; workplace assessment; health and safety audit; fire risk assessment; glass and glazing assessment; dilapidations ••disposal: vendor survey; energy performance ••development: project monitoring; independent certifier; meeting notes and actions; site inspection report; party wall survey. Change is never comfortable, but nothing worthwhile is easy. Proptech offers the profession incredible opportunities to up its game and efficiency. Anthony Walker FRICS is chief executive officer at GoReport anthony.walker@goreport.com Related competencies include: Business planning, Data management rics.org/journals 47

Building control

Toxic mould

Spore law Although mould is everywhere, its build-up in the indoor environment must be controlled to prevent hazards to health – and to sensitive individuals in particular

Dr Jagjit Singh

48 Journal November/December 2019

Moulds are a ubiquitous part of our ecosystem. Their spores and fragments are always present to a greater or lesser extent in our houses, workplaces and public buildings, whether these structures are modern or historic. It is important to accept that there is always a little mould everywhere – in the air we breathe and on many building surfaces and contents. But when mould spores land on places where there is excessive moisture, such as properties suffering from condensation, rising damp, penetrating dampness or leaks, these spores will grow. Many building materials provide nutrients that encourage such growth. Impact and identification Although the word ‘mould’ is widely used as a collective term for spore-producing hyphomycetes fungi, the phrase ‘toxic mould’ is not scientifically accurate, as moulds are not themselves toxic or poisonous. Rather, they are toxigenic, meaning they can produce toxins – specifically mycotoxins. The scientific community does not therefore refer to toxic mould, as the toxic effects of airborne exposure to mould are not well documented. Likewise, medical doctors do not recognise the term, instead focusing on the well-established connection between the allergenic effects of mould and the human body. Moulds can have multiple health effects, such as respiratory distress, allergy to spores, or fungal infection, particularly in susceptible individuals. Some people are sensitive to mould spores, and exposure to these can lead to them suffering symptoms such as stuffy nose, wheezing, and red or itchy eyes or skin. Those who are allergic to moulds or are asthmatic may have more intense reactions, and mould or dampness may even lead to development of asthma in some individuals. Likewise, people with weak or compromised immune systems, chronic respiratory disease or underlying lung conditions are more likely to get infections from mould. Mould is a living organism and will continue to proliferate in the indoor environment as long the conditions favourable to it remain. It is therefore

The scientific community does not refer to toxic mould, as the toxic effects of airborne exposure to mould are not well documented

essential to seek building mycology advice as soon as practically possible. This is the discipline that deals with fungi in and around buildings, especially the kinds that have a direct or indirect effect on the fabric, its materials and structures, environments and occupants. When dealing with any indoor mould contamination, a common-sense approach should be taken. The process will involve the following: ••monitoring the building structure and external environment ••carrying out a mycological assessment of the indoor environment ••assessing the medical history of the building occupants, including asking them whether they suffer from asthma or are sensitive to mould ••ensuring your health and safety, with the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for instance ••regular maintenance and monitoring measures to prevent recurrence of mould growth in the home. To explain each of these in more detail, it is standard practice – and in my opinion essential – for any building mycologist to measure moulds immediately outside the property to determine the levels, types, composition and species, as this will enable comparisons with the indoor environment. Most often, mould infestation indoors is not readily visible to the naked eye, but is detected by monitoring, sampling, culturing

and microscopic identification of hyphae, or fungal filaments, and the conidiophores that some hyphae produce, as well as conidia and other spores. Methods used in detection include airborne, contact and particulate sampling analysis. The most frequently observed effects among the mould-associated health disorders include irritation of the mucous membrane in the eyes and the respiratory tract as well as allergic reactions. In 2004, the Institute of Medicine found suggestive evidence linking indoor mould exposure and respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children, and in 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued the WHO guidelines for indoor air quality: dampness and mould (bit.ly/WHOdamp). Stachybotrys chartarum – often referred to as toxic black mould, even though many other species are black and produce mycotoxins – has been implicated in illnesses suffered by those living in damp houses, and can grow on wallpaper and plasterboard when these have become extremely wet. Reports of idiopathic pulmonary haemorrhage in very young children living in water-damaged homes in Cleveland, Ohio have put the spotlight on this group of moulds. This, along with a number of multi-million-dollar lawsuits, has seen mould getting considerable attention in the US media. Meanwhile, UK insurance companies that cover professional rics.org/journals 49

Building control

Toxic mould

Investigation and remediation After a pipe burst on the seventh floor, a multi-storey block of flats suffered from water damage, damp, condensation and moisture throughout, including ingress into cavities and voids (see photos, right). With inadequate ventilation and high levels of humidity, this enabled the growth of a variety of moulds, bacteria and other biological agents. Residents reported a range of issues, including the mouldy odour associated with microbial volatile organic compounds. WHO guidelines for protecting public health stress the need to prevent or minimise persistent dampness and microbial growth on interior surfaces and building structures. After an initial survey of the damage, I recommended the appointment of a strip-out contractor. Moisture-saturated 50 Journal November/December 2019

materials were removed and the building fabric dried to acceptable levels, which were independently monitored. Mould levels and relative humidity levels in the floor slab were checked, and where the latter were at or below 75 per cent the slab was certified as dry. Tests were also undertaken for airborne moulds and particulate matter, surface moulds and mould in cavities and voids, and a remediation company was then employed to treat the property as my

report specified. Following the treatment, all the rooms in various flats were tested to check that contamination was below levels recommended by WHO in Indoor air quality: biological contaminants (bit.ly/WHOIaqbc88). Dr Jagjit Singh is a director at Environmental Building Solutions ebs@ebssurvey.co.uk Related competencies include: Building pathology, Health and safety Further information: bit.ly/Singhetal2010


indemnity for the building industry recently introduced a clause excluding mould and asbestos work. Although in most cases mould contamination can be removed from hard surfaces by thorough cleaning with commercial products, soap and water, or a weak bleach solution, using adequate PPE including non-porous gloves and protective eyewear, severely contaminated porous or absorbent materials such as ceiling tiles, gyproc plasterboard and carpets may well require disposal. It is important to use a high-efficiency particulate air filter to vacuum-clean and remediate mould contamination from the building fabric, structure and contents. Failing to clean and remediate thoroughly could cause the exposed occupants to suffer an allergic reaction, even to dead mould. The building fabric, structure and contents should also be dried to acceptable levels, with timber moisture content below 16 per cent, and ambient relative humidity indoors maintained within acceptable limits; that is, below 70 per cent. Failing to do so may lead to the recurrence of mould growth, proliferation and contamination. PAS 64: 2013 Mitigation and recovery of water damaged buildings: Code of practice, developed in collaboration with BSI, offers more advice (bit.ly/PAS64-2013).




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Building control



‘After the Grenfell Tower fire the importance of building safety has never been more obvious, but it should always be paramount’ Ashley Wheaton University College of Estate Management

In May, the University College of Estate Management (UCEM) launched its BSc in building control, and I can’t recall the creation of a more important programme in my six years as principal. The BSc was joined by our building control surveyor level 6 degree apprenticeship in August, and our MSc in the subject will have its first intake of students in October 2020. In the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, the importance of building safety has never been more obvious. This should of course always be paramount. But it’s fair to say that the terrible event in June 2017 left the construction industry reeling, and it has required organisations to examine their practice more critically than ever before. One of the key messages in Dame Judith Hackitt’s report on fire safety in the wake of the tragedy is that more professionals are needed in building control – and, crucially, they need appropriate qualifications to inform their work. The three new building control programmes UCEM is offering can help meet this need and realise a safer built environment. This is why I am so 52 Journal November/December 2019

delighted that these programmes – on which we have been working for the past few years – are being launched. UCEM had been having conversations with professional bodies about offering building control programmes before the Grenfell Tower fire, though. Our strategy – to be the leading online vocational university – and a considered plan to extend the range of subjects we offer by including building control both supported that aim. What the fire did do, however, was reinforce our belief in offering building control programmes, and emphasise the importance of making these the best they could be while providing them as soon as possible. Our academic team worked tirelessly with the Association of Consultant Approved Inspectors (ACAI) and a supportive employer base to develop these programmes. The second anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire in June should have been an opportunity for reflection on the steps made to make the UK’s buildings safer. Instead, the media was saturated with

laments about inaction since that dark day. The Evening Standard reported London Fire Brigade commissioner Dany Cotton’s anger at how slow the work to make vulnerable buildings safe has been, while the Guardian covered the activity of campaign group Grenfell United in highlighting tower blocks still covered in dangerous cladding. To compound matters, the same month also saw an ACAI spokesperson declare that a shortage of building inspectors is creating a ‘crisis point’ for building control, highlighting why the work necessary to make buildings safer has been delayed. This situation is also representative of the wider skills crisis in the construction industry. The only way to remedy this is to upskill the current workforce and recruit more people, and our degree programmes are supporting this effort. On the positive side, coverage was also given in June to the community-led initiatives being carried out in memory of those who perished. Everyone who plays a role, whether directly or indirectly, in making our buildings safe should take the time to reflect on those who lost their lives two years ago. While it’s easy to remember the fire, confronting the devastating impact on those innocent people will allow compassion to become the foundation on which we construct our buildings in future. Gary Strong, RICS global building standards director, says: ‘RICS strongly supports the availability of new courses in building control, and believes that the sector has a good future with the emphasis on skilled, qualified professionals.’ Currently, the UCEM programmes are not accredited, but they are mapped to the Building Control pathway of the RICS APC. Accreditation will be sought at the next window for doing so. Ashley Wheaton is principal at UCEM a.wheaton@ucem.ac.uk Related competencies include: Fire safety

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rics.org/journals 53

Building surveying


Out of joint Weak mortar is a prevalent issue in new homes – so what should surveyors look for when inspecting dwellings that may be affected?

Words: Mark Kirk and Giovanni Pesce

54 Journal November/December 2019

mechanical characteristics of mortars, affecting the structural stability of a building. The problem cannot therefore be considered a minor defect. At present, there are no agreed UK or European tests that can be carried out on site to evaluate the compressive strength of a hardened mortar. This is an important consideration, given that compressive strength is the characteristic used by BS EN 1996-1-1: 2005 + A1: 2012 – and thus by the NHBC and other regulatory documents – to classify the mix. Mortar make-up At the centre of the problem is the hardened mortar, which is laid in layers just 10mm thick, 100–300mm wide, and several metres long. Testing the mechanical properties of this is difficult, if not impossible, because of the physical conditions. Although small samples of mortars can be removed, testing is challenging as equipment must be adapted to their size; consequently, it is impossible to use any current standard for this process. More importantly, any sample removed from a mortar joint is likely to crack while being removed, and this can substantially affect the results of the mechanical tests. Any test results would therefore be unlikely to prove that the mortar had not been produced to the right standard, for instance if it were necessary to do


In December 2018, BBC2’s Victoria Derbyshire programme reported that mortar in the brickwork of hundreds of new builds had been found to be crumbling and powdery (bbc.in/2EgSeyw), a story picked up by the New Home Blog (bit.ly/wkmtrscan). While this brought the issue to public attention, specialists had been aware of it since at least 2003 (bit.ly/crmblghomes), although the extent of the problem was probably unknown to most of them until recently. The two blog posts by retired construction manager Phil Waller, plus a third instalment (bit.ly/TWwkmort), provide a detailed technical analysis. The problem is simple: the mortar used in a number of new dwellings in the UK can be easily brushed or lightly scraped from joints and washed away by rain. As a consequence, some are already experiencing major structural problems that need repair or, more commonly, demolition and reconstruction. This suggests that the quality of the mortar used is not of the required industry standard, specifically BS EN 1996-1-1: 2005 + A1: 2012 Eurocode 6: Design of masonry structures. General rules for reinforced and unreinforced masonry structures, although that in turn refers to further standards such as BS EN 998-2: 2016. As in the case reported by the BBC, insufficient cement in the mixture is the probable cause of this problem, which is well known to have a negative effect on the physical and

so in court. The problem is not so much the difficulty of testing such mortar; rather, that traditional testing techniques cannot produce any meaningful results. The only way to assess the mechanical properties of the mortar and obtain reliable results that could be used in a court would be to cast some cubes of mortar at the same time it is laid in the wall, and to test these in the conventional way. However, there is currently no regulation requiring the production and testing of such cubes because this would entail further costs and additional time, as samples would need testing 28 days after casting. It is still possible, though, to get an idea of the mortars’ mechanical properties by methods such as brushing or scraping the joints with a flat-blade screwdriver or even a finger. If this removes a substantial amount of material with no or very little pressure, and if the material removed is powdery, then the mortar is showing signs of weakness. It is important to emphasise that any tests – even if carried out by a professional with equipment such as a scratch tester – do not actually provide information on compressive strength, because these tests are affected by various factors such as joint finish, mortar type and sand type. However, researchers have found a correlation between the so-called scratch index and the cement content (see for instance bit.ly/GTrue2017). Any test that involves brushing and scraping can only be used as a possible symptom of a problem, not as evidence of the wrong cement-to-sand ratio. But further evidence of mortars’ mechanical properties can be gathered by looking at signs such as holes, cracks and even erosion where water has run down the surface of walls. All the same, it is best not to assess the quality of mortars on the basis of visual inspections alone, because even if the mortar looks fine on the surface its strength may not be of an industry standard beneath, where, for instance, the wall ties are located. Laboratory investigation If after an initial inspection the surveyor suspects that further investigation is needed, mortar samples can be sent to laboratories for testing; a list of certified labs is available from the UK Accreditation Service (ukas.com). These cannot test for compressive strength either, but they can investigate other, related properties such as the cement-to-sand ratio. Because of factors such as the cost of materials, various types of blended cement are currently used instead of the more traditional CEM I, once called Portland cement; for instance, CEM II Portland fly-ash cement is currently a widely used alternative. These blended cements are well known among specialists, being perfectly suited for masonry mortars

The mortar used in a number of new UK dwellings can be easily washed away by rain

and providing the minimum compressive strength required by surveyors. However, the complex chemical composition of such cements makes it more difficult to assess the actual binder content in the mortars when set. In fact, mortars with such blends contain less Portland cement but, because of the other components, their mechanical properties are equivalent to those of mortar made exclusively with CEM I Portland cement. In addition, some chemical compounds that enable cement identification during mortar analysis are themselves difficult to detect, and even laboratories specialising in mortar analysis find it hard to assess the original cement-to-sand ratio of the mix. Any result can then only be a rough estimate that rarely enables labs to establish definitively whether a mortar was produced according to the requirements listed in the specifications or not. This being the current situation, the building surveyors group at Northumbria University is looking to develop on-site tests to assess the mortars’ compressive strength. The problem could be more easily solved by requiring lab testing of mortar samples taken from sites so that housebuilders can ensure they comply with current regulations. But until such testing is mandated, we can only try to make correct identifications in as many cases as possible, and train specialists to deal with the problem. Although this is an issue that the whole construction industry should recognise and try to resolve, building surveyors should be directly involved because they are the professionals who have to assess the quality of the mortar and seek further advice if needed. Mark Kirk and Giovanni Pesce are senior lecturers at the Department of Architecture and Built Environment at Northumbria University mark.kirk@northumbria.ac.uk giovanni.pesce@northumbria.ac.uk Related competencies include: Building pathology, Inspection rics.org/journals 55

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56 Journal November/December 2019

Building surveying



‘To enforce payment after the contractor had entered into a CVA would distort the CVA accounting process’ Charles Blamire-Brown and David Greenwood Pinsent Masons

Q: I am the main contractor on a commercial project, and one of my subcontractors has won a smash-and-grab adjudication; that is, the sum for which it applied became payable due to our failure to issue a valid payment notice or pay-less notice. It has now issued enforcement proceedings and I have just discovered that, since doing so, it has also issued a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) proposal to its creditors. Should I pay the sum ordered by the adjudicator, to avoid the enforcement proceedings? If I pay now, I am concerned we may not recover the full value of the counterclaims we have against the subcontractor relating to various defects in its work and liquidated damages. A: Margins remain small in the construction industry. When facing financial difficulties, it is not uncommon for subcontractors to try to maximise the money they can recover through their subcontracts, often by more aggressive, adversarial means, while at the

same time seeking to enter a formal insolvency process. This means main contractors run the risk of having to pay out on a smash-and-grab adjudication only to be prevented from recovering those sums through a true-value adjudication or a final determination in the courts because the subcontractor has gone bust in the meantime. The impact of a CVA on adjudication enforcement was recently clarified by the courts in Indigo Projects London Ltd v Razin & Anor [2019] EWHC 1205. In this case, the referring party – the contractor – had entered into a CVA after the adjudicator had issued his decision, but an application to enforce this was declined, with two reasons cited for doing so. First, the adjudicator’s decision was merely an order for payment of a sum claimed in a payment notice where the responding party – the employer – had failed to serve a pay-less notice. The adjudicator’s decision did not determine the value or merits of any particular claim, including the employer’s arguable counterclaims against the contractor;

neither did it assess the account between the parties but was rather, in effect, an order for an interim payment on account. Second, to try to enforce payment after the contractor had entered into a CVA would distort the CVA accounting process: the application of money would not be made for the sole benefit of the employer, but would be distributed among all the contractor’s creditors. If the CVA supervisors ultimately determined that sums were due to the employer on the basis of its counterclaims or otherwise, the employer would have little to no prospect of recovering the amounts that had been paid in full. In these circumstances, the court held that enforcement would be harsh on the employer. Furthermore, since the adjudicator’s decision did not determine the value of the contractor’s claims or any counterclaims, it would have had no effect on the supervisors’ setting-off exercise under the CVA unless the monies had been paid in accordance with the decision before the agreement came into force. These factors differentiated Indigo from previous cases where the parties seeking to enforce adjudicators’ decisions had entered into CVAs before those decisions were issued, and each adjudicator had considered both parties’ claims in detail. Given the adjudicator’s decision described in your question was based on a failure to serve a pay-less notice – as in Indigo – and a CVA may commence imminently, the main contractor should consider delaying payment of the sum ordered by the adjudicator, at least until the outcome of the CVA proposal is known. If the CVA is approved, Indigo suggests that the courts may refuse to enforce the adjudicator’s decision and therefore the main contractor should consider resisting enforcement as a way to retain the money. Charles Blamire-Brown is a partner and David Greenwood a senior associate at Pinsent Masons charles.blamire-brown@ pinsentmasons.com david.greenwood@pinsentmasons.com Related competencies include: Contract practice rics.org/journals 57

Building surveying



‘The judge dismissed the application for summary judgment to enforce the adjudication as it had been gained by fraud’ Jonathan Hutt and Rebecca May Taylor Wessing

Where an adjudication decision is procured by fraud that later comes to light, the court is unlikely to enforce it by way of summary judgment – as was demonstrated in the recent case of PBS Energo v Bester Generacion UK Limited [2019] EWHC 996 (TCC). In April 2016, Bester Generacion UK Limited entered into a contract with Equitix ESI CHP Wrexham Limited to design and build a biomass-fired energy-generating plant. That May, Bester then entered into a subcontract with PBS Energo A.S. for the engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning of the plant, for a price of £14.2m plus VAT. In June 2017 PBS gave notice of its intention to terminate the subcontract, which Bester initially resisted. However, it did later terminate the subcontract, which meant that Equitix called on Bester’s performance security and in turn invoked counter-guarantees provided by PBS. In January 2018, an adjudicator determined that PBS was entitled to terminate the subcontract in June the previous year, and had done so with validity. Bester was ordered to repay the PBS 58 Journal November/December 2019

counter-guarantee but failed to do so, and PBS enforced the adjudication decision in the Technology and Construction Court. The first adjudication only dealt with questions of liability and the repayment of the payment security; PBS therefore sought valuation and payment of its claims under the subcontract in a second adjudication. PBS was successful, but again Bester failed to make payment, seeking to resist enforcement on the ground that this adjudication decision was procured by fraud. PBS had alleged in the second adjudication that the equipment manufactured for the project was ‘stored to Bester’s order and would be available to Bester upon payment of the sums found to be due’. Bester alleged this was untrue and pointed to evidence that PBS had cancelled its order for some equipment, meaning that its claim in the second adjudication was overstated. Further, late disclosure of documents by PBS demonstrated that the sum claimed in the second adjudication did not take into account the value of equipment that had been fully

manufactured and in fact sold by PBS. Bester therefore contended that PBS’s statements were false or, at the very least, reckless, and had directly influenced the second adjudicator’s decision. The judge dismissed the application for summary judgment to enforce the second adjudication decision on the basis that it had been obtained by fraud. PBS had represented that specialist or bespoke equipment was manufactured pursuant to the Bester subcontract for use on the project, was held to Bester’s order and was to be made available to Bester on payment. The judgment concludes that there was, however, ‘credible evidence’ that PBS had made these representations ‘knowing them to be false, alternatively without belief in their truth or recklessly, not caring whether such statements were true or false’. As a result, PBS had obtained an advantage in the adjudication, and Bester could not reasonably have discovered the alleged fraud or raised this before the conclusion of the second adjudication. Although it is unusual for such a situation to arise, the judge in this case confirmed that ‘where, exceptionally, it is properly arguable on credible evidence that the adjudication decision was itself procured by a fraud that was reasonably discovered after the adjudication, the court is unlikely to grant summary judgment.’ The judge also helpfully distinguished between where fraud is apparent or raised in the adjudication itself and where the alleged fraud only came to light following the adjudication. In the former, the fraud is taken into consideration in the adjudication and so the decision will be enforceable. However in the latter situation, as arose in this case, enforcement of the adjudication decision can be successfully resisted on the basis of fraud that was not, and could not reasonably have been, known about before the adjudication decision was issued. Jonathan Hutt is a partner and Rebecca May an associate at Taylor Wessing j.hutt@taylorwessing.com r.may@taylorwessing.com Related competencies include: Contract practice

Building surveying



‘It is your professional opinion on the line, and you who may be accused of breaching the rules of evidence’ Vivien King Hollis

Any chartered surveyor appointed as an expert witness will know that, in giving their opinion, their duty is not to the appointing party but to the court. The expert witness is not there to present a case for and on behalf of their client, but in the heat of the moment they may be tempted to slant an opinion towards the view they know the client wishes to hear, or to include evidence that they have not verified personally. Always resist that temptation. It is your professional opinion on the line, and you who may be accused of breaching the rules of evidence – the punishment for which can be a prison sentence. If you are in any doubt about this then take a look at Civil Procedure Rule 32.14 (bit.ly/CPR32-14). An expert witness’s report is supported by a statement of truth, and if this is given in support of a statement that is false – whether knowingly or recklessly given – and without the expert’s honest belief in its truth, that expert is in contempt of court and can await jail. This threat became a reality in the recently reported case Liverpool Victoria

Insurance Co. Ltd v Zafar [2019] EWCA Civ 392. In this case a solicitor, Mr Khan, who frequently advised potential claimants regarding personal injury actions, instructed a Dr Zafar to examine one client, Mr Iqbal, who had been involved in a motor accident. Iqbal had suffered neck injuries, and Khan, for and on behalf of Iqbal, asked Zafar to prepare a report as an expert witness in Iqbal’s proceedings against the driver of the other car. The proceedings were defended by that driver’s insurers. Zafar produced a report saying he had seen Iqbal, who he said had indeed suffered injuries but was now fully recovered. However, Iqbal complained to Khan that he was, in fact, still suffering. Khan reported the situation to Zafar who, without a further examination of Iqbal, produced a second report that made reference to the client’s ongoing neck pains. Both reports contained a statement of truth in accordance with the Civil Procedure Rules, and were disclosable under those rules. Seeing both reports, the insurers for the defendant driver issued proceedings against Zafar and Khan.

The judge at first instance found ‘those who make false claims should expect to go to prison. Solicitors and expert witnesses who act dishonestly in the evidence they give to the court, whether in support of such claims or otherwise, must expect a similar outcome.’ He told the defendants: ‘You must understand that the proper functioning of the court system depended on your honesty. Your conduct in this case amounts to a fundamental betrayal of the trust placed in you by the court.’ Blaming the solicitor for ‘the whole sorry affair’, the judge gave a sentence of 15 months’ imprisonment. He suspended a sentence of two years against Zafar, but in so doing recognised that there was no judicial guidance available regarding suspended sentences for contempt of court. The insurers appealed Zafar’s sentence. Giving guidance on such circumstances, the Court of Appeal said a judge should consider ‘the culpability of the contemnor and the harm caused, intended or likely to be caused by the contempt of court.’ Their Lordships thought that, having considered the seriousness of the offence, a fine may be a sufficient penalty. However, they added: ‘We say at once, however, that the deliberate or reckless making of a false statement in a document verified by a statement of truth will usually be so inherently serious that nothing other than an order for committal to prison will be sufficient.’ If, having considered all the facts of a case, the judge concludes that a prison sentence is applicable, the sentence cannot normally be suspended. Expert witnesses and instructing solicitors should beware. Prison is in prospect for those who knowingly or recklessly present a report that does not contain the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Vivien King is a consultant to Hollis vivien.king@hollisglobal.com Related competencies include: Ethics, Rules of Conduct and professionalism, Legal/regulatory compliance rics.org/journals 59

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60 Journal November/December 2019

Building surveying


Academic momentum It can be tough but rewarding to meet targets for off-the-job learning in the summer months, as a trainee building surveyor explains in the second of our series on apprenticeships

Jordanne Wilson

Since I wrote my previous article, my daily routine has changed considerably. In July, I was very pleased to finish my first year at Birmingham City University, achieving a first in all of my modules. Even during the academic break, though, I was still responsible for fulfilling my apprenticeship’s mandatory requirement for 20 per cent off-the-job learning. Broadly speaking, this comprises activities during working hours that are educational and related to my job role but that are not fee-earning. As part of my apprenticeship, I must submit a log to the university demonstrating that I have completed roughly eight hours a week of such learning, although this time can be distributed however I choose, as long as it amounts to 20 per cent of my contracted hours by the end of the year. This can be difficult to manage, as maintaining one full day out of the office a week during the busy summer months simply isn’t practical for my team, or compatible with my schedule. However,

Savills accommodates and supports me in this as it does in my formal studies, which is hugely helpful. Most of my off-the-job learning comes from the additional CPD seminars and events I attend, which are incredibly useful and often held at convenient times. Work shadowing, training courses and reading also help to front-load hours when I know I have a busy couple of weeks ahead of me. Fortunately, much of my workload over the past few months has complemented my self-guided study. I have worked on a variety of instructions, including contract administration, dilapidations and project management, but most of my time has been spent on reinstatement cost assessments (RCAs) and, more recently, depreciated reinstatement cost assessments (DRCAs). The former involved coordinating inspections and reports for a portfolio of around 80 industrial and logistics facilities throughout the UK, a vast task that involved a lot of different elements but that was ultimately rewarding,

I have worked on a variety of instructions, including contract administration, dilapidatons and project management

especially as I was able to carry out several of the inspections myself. The latter, meanwhile, was an entirely new experience for me, and I found the process fascinating. Somewhat similar to an RCA, a DRCA evaluates the cost of an asset; however, it does so by first costing the construction of a hypothetical modern equivalent, and then writing down the cost by applying obsolescence factors from the existing one. The instruction was made more interesting by the property itself, as it exposed me to some new – and niche – methods of construction, something I would never have had access to outside my apprenticeship. Beyond my work and study, I have continued my extracurricular activities and had the chance to go to several fantastic networking, Matrics and schools events and meet some interesting people. In June, the Savills socio-economic group – of which I am a part – attended a performance by the Big House Theatre Company, a charity that works with care leavers and vulnerable young people through dramatic performance. Even now, I am still in awe at the talent and power of the performance they put on of Bullet Tongue Reloaded. I was first introduced to Big House in May when they performed a sneak preview of the show at one of the group’s social events, where I was also asked to give a talk about the benefits and drawbacks of apprenticeships. As an ambassador for the profession, I have also attended careers events and given presentations at several schools, including a practice interview morning at Plantsbrook School in Birmingham where I was incredibly impressed with their talented year-12 students. As part of my role with the RICS Matrics Birmingham Committee, I continue to help with the many events we hold throughout the city including our inaugural summer soiree in July, which raised £1,000 for LandAid. There is no doubt this has been a fantastic few months, and I look forward to more to come. Jordanne Wilson is an apprentice building surveyor at Savills jordanne.wilson@savills.com rics.org/journals 61

Building control


Learning on the job Progressing through the APC means taking on a heavier workload and increased responsibility. How can a trainee building control surveyor manage?

Jake Green

As we develop as surveyors, we are constantly expanding our knowledge and skills, and are being given increasingly larger and more difficult projects to manage and inspect. My own workload recently scaled up from mainly simple domestic jobs with the occasional commercial project thrown in to managing much larger jobs, including many commercial schemes that require a much greater level of inspection. It’s fair to say that there are many positives but also a few negatives to this change. The projects I can write about in my APC diary are now much more interesting and in-depth, and I am finding it easier to achieve various competencies because of the range of work I’m doing. I am also working more closely with my better-qualified colleagues to ensure that these projects are managed correctly and that any assessments or comments I make are justified. Working this way is I feel more beneficial to the training process than shadowing qualified members of staff on their own projects. Instead of just following them and listening to their comments, I am now attending sites, checking plans, making my own assertions, and backing these up with evidence. After this has been done, my work is checked by a qualified colleague who will point out any mistakes that have been made, or anything that has been potentially missed. I strongly believe that such a collaborative approach is not for trainee surveyors alone. If all projects were constantly viewed by two sets of eyes then the mistakes that are made across the profession would be reduced drastically in number, if not completely eliminated. As I mentioned, though, my increased workload and responsibilities have had a downside as well. I now have 62 Journal November/December 2019

much less time during working hours to complete my APC diary and fill out the summary of experience, for example, and I have also not dedicated enough time to looking into my case study. But I feel that once I get through this adjustment period, I will be able to find a better balance between the time I spend on my projects and the time my APC requires. In September, I started my final year at Sheffield Hallam University. I have thoroughly enjoyed the past two years of study, but this one will be the most testing by far. In addition to my APC and the larger workload I now have, I will also be required to complete three modules and my dissertation. I am excited to begin working on the dissertation, however, because I will be able to cherry-pick a subject that I have a genuine interest in, and one that is relevant to our profession. The amount of research I will have to undertake will no doubt help me in the APC process as well. With all these aspects of my training and work requiring considerable amounts of focus, it is essential that I am organised, and that I plan and use my time well. It is important for me to set short-term as well as long-term goals so that I do not get lost along the way in the marathon of becoming chartered. Each week I set out what I am required to do, and make sure that I fit this around my work schedule. There may come a time where all of the combined work threatens to become unmanageable. But I am sure that with the full support of my APC mentor and colleagues I will not only keep my head above water but continue to enjoy the process. Jake Green is an assistant building control surveyor at Assent Building Control jakegreen@assentbc.co.uk

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