Aug 17, 2018 Last Updated 8:05 AM, Aug 13, 2018

A look at how build services can help architects and developers on their way to compliance

Published in Talking Point
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Achieving compliance on a building project is nothing new. In fact, records suggest that some Building Regulations date back to the late 1100s, when the sudden surge in building in London led to homes blocking access to natural light and poorly placed gutters, writes Michael Copley, Technical Manager for Build Aviator at Jewson.

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Much has changed since then, and the pressure to increase outputs, enhance efficiencies and keep costs down has never been greater. In November 2017, the Government announced a new and long-awaited strategy to address these pressures, while simultaneously improving productivity in the construction industry. In line with this, there is also a need to re-emphasise the importance of compliance, and how it can impact efficiency on building projects.

By fully understanding the role of compliance in the wider construction process and, equally, the consequences of non-compliance, developers and contractors can save time, money and reduce risk within public sector building. To ensure Building Regulations are incorporated effectively throughout the entire build process, building control will visit at various phases of the project. But it’s important to note that those responsible for carrying out building work should not rely solely on these inspections to achieve sign-off upon completion. Instead, Building Regulations should be incorporated at the concept design stage of any project, to help contractors safeguard against compliance pitfalls at every stage.

Designing with compliance in mind

The first step towards achieving compliance lies with the architect.

It’s their responsibility to create site drawings that depict a functional and safe building, whilst balancing the aesthetics of design. By factoring the 16 Approved Documents that make up Building Regulations into their plans, the risk of non-compliance when construction starts is significantly limited.

During design, one of the most common pitfalls is acoustics. Good acoustic insulation is a combination of mass, isolation and airtightness. If any one of these elements is lacking, there is a need to over-compensate elsewhere, and architects should keep this in mind when preparing site drawings.

Another common error is the effect of thermal bridges in the final construction. Thermal bridging can have a significant effect on the overall thermal performance of a building, including heat loss and, in turn, increased running costs. Making good use of Registered Construction Details (RCDs) can limit thermal bridging, as well as improve airtightness and the building’s overall SAP calculation.

Building with compliance in mind

While design is important on the road to compliance, a plan will only translate to compliance on site if drawings are followed to the letter. To do this, developers and contractors should stick to the bill of materials provided by the architect and consultancy team, which will make sure the process from as-designed to as-built is seamless.

There are tools available to assist with this process and Build Aviator is one example. Available at Jewson, Build Aviator simplifies many of the steps involved in the wider compliance process, from SAP assessment to acoustic testing. It also estimates the cost of the bill of materials, streamlining the purchasing process.

In instances where stock on the bill of materials is not immediately available, it can be tempting to make product substitutions. While opting for alternative materials may save time in procurement and installation, it could ultimately cost developers tens of thousands of pounds in remedial repairs to ensure compliance with Building Regulations.

Since funding for public sector building development is already under pressure, it’s vital that every measure is taken, so the need for such remedial work to meet compliance is all but eliminated. This means sticking to the architect’s design and taking the time to get it right first time.

Contractors and developers should also be mindful of SAP assessments and the role this plays in the wider compliance process. SAP assessments are carried out using architects' drawings, so to ensure a smooth transition from as-designed to as-built, material orders should be placed after the assessment has been completed. This will limit requirement for product substitutions, and increase the likelihood of achieving sign-off from building control.

Sticking to the plan

Product substitution not only deviates from the architect’s design, but it could also impact the layout of the build.

To combat this, contractors and developers should keep best practice in mind and stick to the approved layout plan as designed by the architect. If a situation arises where there is a need to deviate from the plan, be sure to consult building control. They will be able to advise if local planning authorities need to be aware of the changes to layout and offer support with the wider compliance process.

Understanding risk

The cost of non-compliance can extend well beyond time and money. If a build has not been constructed with compliance in mind and has been put to use without sign-off from building control, it could be structurally unsound and, therefore, unfit for use. In the public sector, this has the potential to compromise the safety of those using the building.

To combat this, contractors and developers should always liaise with inspection services such as Local Authority Building Control or other reputable Building Control Bodies (BCBs) throughout the build process. This means contractors and developers can get essential guidance and advice on tackling common compliance pitfalls, and help guarantee sign-off at the very end of a project.

Compliance at every stage

When compliance is effectively integrated into the entire build process, achieving sign-off from building control is a much simpler and more efficient process. Getting compliance right may take some time, but it is a much more effective use of the limited resources available in public sector building.

Services such as Build Aviator, available at Jewson, have been created to help guide architects, contractors and developers through the build process from design to completion, and ensure public sector buildings are compliant.

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