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Housing Standards Review 2

Posted by Geoff Wilkinson on July 30, 2015 at 8:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Continuing the series looking at the October changes to Building Regs


In March the outgoing government announced the outcome of the Housing Standards Review, and that all technical standards will (as far as possible) be consolidated in the building regulations and the accompanying approved documents. This is part of an ongoing series looking at those new standards.


This month (and next) I am looking at the changes to Part M - Access and use of Buildings.


As previously explained The Government has created a new approach for the setting of technical standards for new housing. This rationalises the many differing existing standards into a simpler, streamlined system which will reduce burdens and help bring forward much needed new homes.


As a result of the changes the Lifetime Homes code of practice standard and various other local requirements for Accessible housing have been withdrawn from use by planning authorities. Instead Local planning authorities will now only have the option to set additional technical requirements exceeding the minimum standards required by Building Regulations in respect of access to new dwellings by reference to enhanced Building Regulations in National Guidance.


They will have the option to set the requirements at one of three levels - either the base default level Requirement M4(1) Visitable dwellings - which is the current Part M standard or a new increased standard M4(2) for Accessible and adaptable dwellings, or a higher standard still - M4(3) Wheelchair user dwellings.


Architects will ideally need to appoint Building Control prior to making a planning application to advise on the potential impacts, and at the very least will need to include details of any planning conditions as part of the Building Regs application process.

Before looking at detail at these technical standards I should first explain the process involved in selecting the standards. Planning Authorities must now base their requirements on the housing needs assessment and other available datasets. There is a wide range of these datasets including:


• the likely future need for housing for older and disabled people (including wheelchair user dwellings).

• size, location, type and quality of dwellings needed to meet specifically evidenced needs (for example retirement homes, sheltered homes or care homes).

• the accessibility and adaptability of existing housing stock.

• how needs vary across different housing tenures.

• the overall impact on viability.


Having established a need the local planning authority can adopt a policy to provide enhanced accessibility or adaptability but only by reference to Requirement M4(2) and / or M4(3) of the optional requirements in the Building Regulations. They should clearly state in their Local Plan what proportion of new dwellings should comply with the requirements, and then apply these by condition with the planning consent. But it will be Building Control and not planning that will be required to sign off on compliance on these conditions and as a result forms such as application forms, Initial Notices and Final Certificates will all need to be amended to reflect these changes.


As a result of these changes Part M is now broken down into two new approved documents


Approved Document M (Access to and use of buildings):• Volume 1 - Dwellings and • Volume 2 - Buildings other than dwellings


Requirement M4 Sanitary conveniences for dwellings is gone is divided into the 3 new requirements as described above. Architects dealing with M4 (1) dwellings and buildings other than dwellings will find that the technical standards in the approved documents are unchanged from the current Part M. However those dealing with M4 (2) and (3) dwellings will need to become familiar with a whole new set of technical standards.


Enquiries to book CPD courses can be made via



Great Place To Work

Posted by Geoff Wilkinson on July 30, 2015 at 8:05 AM Comments comments (0)

We are pleased to announce that we have been officially accredited with the Natiuonal Workplace Wellbeing Charter Mark.


The Charter Mark, was awarded by Kent County Council at an awards ceremony at Oakwood House in Maidstone


The award followed a detailed audit and interview of staff & management against the 8 awards criteria including Leadership, Absence Management; Health and safety; Smoking and Physical Activity and the company was officially deemed strong enough in all areas to receive the accreditation. In addition the company was recoognised for excellence in Health & Safety and in its flexible working arrangements


This award follows the recent news that WCCL has been named as a finalist in the Family Business Awards 2015.


The auditors stated that

"During the course of the accreditation process it became apparent that there was an ‘open’ culture, with good communication between employees at all levels. There was a friendly atmosphere and a good feeling of comradeship between employees and employers. Staff felt supported and the organisation had a flexible approach to work life balance that made work a positive experience and if they were quite busy, or a bit stressed, the boss even made the tea!

Staff had a good knowledge of health and safety legislation as this is their core business, but felt the process had put ‘health’ more prominently on their agenda. They felt they could share this with other businesses. All were positive about roles, management and felt this was a good place to work.

Gaining the Workplace Wellbeing Charter demonstrates  that Wilkinson Construction is an employer of choice, a successful and happy place of work."



MP Visit

Posted by Geoff Wilkinson on July 17, 2015 at 8:55 AM Comments comments (0)

We were recently paid a visit at our West Malling Office by Kent MP Tom Tugendhat. Tom had a brief tour of our offices and spoke to staff to find out more about Approved Inspectors, before heading off to see one of our supervised projects - the extension at Kings Hill Cricket Club. Tom later took to twitter to explain how impressed he had been with our portfolio.



Posted by Geoff Wilkinson on July 6, 2015 at 7:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Wilkinson Construction Consulatnts are pleased to announce we have been shortlisted as a finalist in the prestigous Red Ribbon Family Business Awards. The finals were held at Shakespeare Globe theatre in London in July 2015

Housing Standards Review 1

Posted by Geoff Wilkinson on June 30, 2015 at 8:25 AM Comments comments (0)

In March the outgoing government announced the outcome of the Housing Standards Review, and that all technical standards will (as far as possible) be consolidated in the building regulations and the accompanying approved documents. This is part of an ongoing series looking at those new standards.

The 2015 edition of Approved Document G (Sanitation, hot water safety and water efficiency) contains changes to the water efficiency requirements. In particular, it introduces an optional requirement of 110 litres/person/day where required by planning permission, and an alternative fittings-based approach to demonstrating compliance. It also includes the water-efficiency calculation methodology for new dwellings, approved by the Secretary of State.

The first major change is to the regulations themselves whereby regulation 36 has been amended to include two performance levels - a default standard of 125 litres per person per day (unchanged from the 2010 version) and an optional requirement of 110 litres per person per day. This higher standard only applies where the planning permission under which the building work is carried out specifies the optional requirement and makes it a condition that that requirement must be complied with.

The question this throws up is - when does the optional standard kick in and can a planning authority make such a condition? The guidance on the planning portal states that this should only be where there is a clear local need, set out in Local Plan policy.

It will be for a local planning authority to establish such a clear need based on:

• existing sources of evidence.

• consultations with the local water and sewerage company, the Environment Agency and catchment partnerships.

• consideration of the impact on viability and housing supply of such a requirement.

Architects will ideally need to appoint Building Control prior to making a planning application to advise on the potential impacts, and at the very least will need to include details of any planning conditions as part of the Building Regs application process. Building Control will be required to sign off on compliance on these conditions and as a result forms such as application forms, Initial Notices and Final Certificates will all need to be amended to reflect these changes. Architects will need to obtain the new forms in plenty of time for the changes.


The second major change is that there will now be an alternative compliance route to demonstrate how you have met the standard. In the past the only option was to undertake a detailed water use calculation using the nationally approved method. However under the new Approved Document there is now a second simpler option called the fittings approach whereby an architect can simply specify maximum consumption levels for typical fitting such as baths, showers, washing machines etc. There are two new tables (reproduced below) showing the approach for both consumption levels.




This simplifies the application process and helps remove the need for a specialist appointment (such as a CfSH assessor) but does limit the degree of choice of fittings. Also it should be noted that not all countries follow the UK method of specifying water use and some countries allow for bather displacement, which is inconsistent with the tables. Care should be taken in specifying non-UK based products when using the tables.


Last Call on Part L 2010

Posted by Geoff Wilkinson on March 2, 2015 at 4:40 AM Comments comments (0)

This is a last reminder to Clients who appointed us ahead of the implementation of Part L 2013 that the deadline for commencement of works  is almost upon us.

There is just over 1 month remaining to meet the transitional provisions put in place under Part L for applications deposited prior to 6 April 2014 that requires work to commence on site before 6 April 2015.


In order to qualify as 'commencement of work' we will need to have undertaken an inspection of


  • excavation for strip or trench foundations or for pad footings
  • digging out and preparation of ground for raft foundations
  • vibrofloatation (stone columns) piling, boring for piles or pile driving
  • drainage work specific to the building(s) concerned


DCLG have stated that we cannot accept the following as the commencement of work

  • removal of vegetation, top soil or removal/treatment of contaminated soil
  • demolition of any previous buildings on the site
  • excavation of trial holes
  • dynamic compaction
  • general site servicing works (e.g. roadways).


If the application relates to multiple buildings it is only necessary to commence work on the first of the buildings within the application to take advantage of the transitional provisions, not each individual building.

If you are unable to commence works by this date then it will be necessary to revise the thermal design (SAP/SBEM) in order to comply with the higher 2013 standards.

New CDM rules for domestic clients from April

Posted by Geoff Wilkinson on February 25, 2015 at 4:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015

Regulation 7 application to domestic clients


Where the client is a domestic client the duties must be carried out by the contractor for a project where there is only one contractor; the principal contractor for a project where there is more than one contractor; or the principal designer where there is a written agreement that the principal designer will fulfil those duties. If a domestic client fails to make the appointments required by Regulation 5 the designer in control of the pre-construction phase of the project is the principal designer and the contractor in control of the construction phase of the project is the principal contractor.

Definition of a domestic client:

A domestic client is someone who has construction work done on their own home, or the home of a family member, which is not done in connection with a business. Local authorities, housing associations, charities, landlords and other businesses may own domestic properties, but they are not a domestic client for the purposes of CDM 2015. If the work is in connection with a business attached to domestic premises, such as a shop, the client is not a domestic client.

Duties of a domestic client:

A domestic client is not required to carry out the duties placed on commercial clients in Regulations 4 (client duties for managing projects), notification nor general duties. Where the project involves only one contractor, client duties must instead be carried out by the contractor. The contractor must then carry out client duties, as well as the duties they already have as contractor for the project. In practice, this should involve doing little more to manage the work to ensure health & safety. Where the project involves more than one contractor, client duties must instead be carried out by the principal contractor as well as the duties they already have as principal contractor. If the domestic client has not appointed a principal contractor then the duties of the client will be carried out by the contractor in control of the construction work.

In many situations, domestic clients wishing to extend, refurbish or demolish parts of their own property will, in the first instance, engage an architect or other designer to produce possible designs for them. It is also recognised that construction work does not always follow immediately after design work is completed. If they so wish, a domestic client has the flexibility of agreeing, in writing, with their designer that the designer coordinates and manages the project, rather than this role automatically passing to the principal contractor.

Where no such agreement is made, then the principal contractor will automatically take over the project management responsibilities.

Charlie Hebdo

Posted by Geoff Wilkinson on January 7, 2015 at 8:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Easy target

Terrorists have found that security surrounding military and Government facilities’ has improved significantly since 9/11 and at the same time organizations such as Al-Qaida have become more splintered, with less training, funding and access to weapons and explosives. As a result they are turning their attention towards easier-to-hit targets such as we saw in France today with the attack on Charlie Hebdo.

In fact the 2008 attack on the Taj Hotel in Mumbai marked a turning point in extremist activity and a study by STRATFOR (the subscriber funded US Intelligence gathering body) concluded that the number of such attacks has more than doubled since the 9/11 attacks in 2001, when compared with the 8 year period before.


Obviously, it is important to ensure that the response is proportionate Particularly relevant to protective security are the specific requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to carry out adequate risk assessments and put suitable measures in place to manage the identified risks. Even where they are not of your making and are outside your direct control, you need to be alert to the need to conduct prompt and regular reviews of those assessments and measures in light of new threats and development.

It should also be remembered that terrorism can come in many forms, not just a physical attack on life and limb. Terrorism also includes threats or hoaxes designed to frighten and intimidate or attacks designed to cause disruption and economic damage. It can include interference with vital operational, information or communication system, which can have a major affect on the businesses ability to operate. Some attacks are easier to carry out if the terrorist is assisted by an ‘insider’ or by someone with specialist knowledge or access. 

What you can do 

The first step is to understand your premises, identifying the threats to it, and its vulnerability to those threats. Ideally you should review and test current safety arrangements, audit them and as a result improve planning and response. In particular you should ensure adequate training, information and equipment are provided to all staff, and especially to those involved directly on the safety and security side. 

In most cases simple good practice – coupled with vigilance and well exercised contingency arrangements – may be all that is needed. If, however, you assess that you are vulnerable to attack, you should apply appropriate protective security measures to reduce the risk to as low as reasonably practicable.

Step One: Identify the threat - understanding the terrorist's intentions and capabilities - what they might do and how they might do it - is crucial to assessing threat. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the current state of alert - Visit or check media
  • Is there anything about the location of your premises, its customers, occupiers and staff, or your activities that would particularly attract a terrorist attack?
  • Is there an association with high profile individuals or organisations which might be terrorist targets?
  • Do you have procedures in place and available for deployment on occasions when VIPs attend your premises?
  • Could collateral damage occur from an attack on, or another incident to a high risk neighbour?
  • Is there any aspect of your business or activities that terrorists might wish to exploit to aid their work, e.g. plans, technical expertise or unauthorised access?

Step Two: Decide what you need to protect and identify the vulnerabilities:

Your priorities for protection should fall under the following categories:

  • People (staff, visitors, concessionaires, contractors)
  • Physical assets (buildings, contents, equipment, plans and sensitive materials)
  • Information (electronic and paper data)
  • Processes (supply chains, critical procedures)

Step Three: Identify measures to reduce risk 

An integrated approach to security is essential. This involves thinking about physical security, information security and personnel security. There is little point investing in costly security measures if they can be easily undermined by a disaffected member of staff or by a lax recruitment process. In the run up to a busy period it is easy to fall into the trap of being desperate for additional staff, and so be willing to circumvent normal background checks. 

Remember, terrorism is a crime and many of the security precautions typically used to deter criminals are also effective against terrorists. Before you invest in additional security measures, review what you already have in place. You may already have a good security regime on which you can build. You should have measures in place to limit access into service or back of house corridors and vehicle access control measures into goods and service yards.

Staff may be unaware of existing security measures, or may have developed habits to circumvent them, e.g. short cuts through fire exits. Simply reinstating good basic security practices and regularly reviewing them will bring benefits at negligible cost. If you need additional security measures, then make them cost-effective by careful planning wherever possible. Try to introduce new equipment or procedures in conjunction with planned building work and remember that significant changes may require statutory consents such as planning permission or building regulations consent.

Step Four: Review your security measures 

You should regularly review and exercise your plans to ensure that they remain accurate, workable and up-to-date. You should be aware of the need to modify them to take into account any changes (e.g. recent or planned building work, changes to personnel, information and communication systems and revised health and safety issues). Rehearsals and exercises should wherever possible, be conducted in conjunction with emergency services and local authorities. 

Make sure that your staff understand and accept the need for security measures and that security is seen as part of everyone's responsibility, not merely something for security experts or professionals. Make it easy for people to raise concerns or report unusual activity and ensure that you investigate such observations. 


The government have recently consulted on bringing Security under the Building Regulations and have created a draft Approved Document Q though this currently only extends to dwellings. I would like to see this extended under powers created by Andrew Stunnells' Secure and Sustainable Buildings Bill to encompass the relevant guidance for public buildings produced by the National Counter Terrorism Security Office alongside the Royal Institute of British Architects see

This Blog includes material from an article by Chris Phillips that first appeared in Big Hospitality News

HSE Policy on Timber Frame

Posted by Geoff Wilkinson on December 22, 2014 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Following the recent prosecution of Architects who specified Timber Frame without adequate consideration of construction phase fire safety; the HSE has taken the unusual step of writing an open letter to the whole Construction Industry - reproduced below. If you are concerned how this may affect any projects you are currently working on please contact us via the Enquiry Page

Open letter to all parties involved in the design, specification, procurement and construction of timber frame structures

The purpose of this letter is to explain HSE’s expectations in relation to the management of fire risks prior to and during the construction of timber frame structures. The letter has been produced in cooperation with the Structural Timber Association (STA), which represents the industry’s manufacturers and suppliers. STA and HSE are working together to promote a better understanding of fire risk management throughout all parts of the supply chain, including those outside STA’s membership. The standards to be achieved are the same regardless of trade body membership or otherwise.

HSE’s approach to off site fire risks during the construction phase of timber frame structures

Fire precautions during the construction of timber frame structures fall within HSE’s remit. For any project, regardless of the construction method, duty holders have legal responsibilities to ensure the safety and health of workers and those who might be affected by their work activities, including those arising from fire risks. Serious incidents have arisen where fires involving timber frame structures under construction have affected neighbouring buildings. Consequently, HSE has worked with the STA to produce guidance on reducing the risk of harm to people in buildings adjacent to the construction site.


All those making design and procurement decisions that significantly affect fire risk should consider and reduce the risk and consequences of fire during the construction phase through DESIGN. Failure so to do may constitute a material breach1 for which HSE will apply its Fee for Intervention scheme those duty holders who have contributed to the breach.

Detailed Explanation

Regulation 11 of The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM)requires risks to be considered and eliminated/reduced so far as is reasonably practicable through the design process. This duty is imposed on anyone who makes decisions affecting the design, including, for example, architects, structural engineers, clients, suppliers, principal and other contractors and even those involved in the planning approval process where they specify particular construction methods or products. This is explained in HSG 168 Fire in Construction

The primary legal responsibility for assessing off-site fire risk rests with those making design and procurement decisions before work starts on site. Designers and manufacturers of timber frame structures duties under CDM Regulation 11 cannot be passed on to the Principal Contractor. Risk should be designed out as far as is reasonably practicable and information about residual risk passed to the Principal Contractor. The Principal Contractor is obliged to consider and manage risks arising from the activities under their control at the site stage.

The STA’s publication ”Design guide to separating distances during construction has been produced with HSE’s input and provides guidance on assessing the off site fire risk from timber frame structures under construction. Although the title of the document “Design Guide to Separating Distances During Construction” might imply that the guidance is for use during construction, it is intended to be used at the design and procurement stages of a project.

HSE commends the STA for the substantial work carried out to produce this guidance, promote its use and make it freely available to all rather than being restricted to STA members. Although following the guidance is not compulsory, it does provide a practical means of complying with legal requirements. If an alternative approach to the guidance is used, a competent person with fire engineering qualifications and experience will need to determine the risks and to identify appropriate controls. The persons involved should justify their decsions and recommendations in terms of risk, rather than cost.

Evidence from recent HSE inspections indicates that the risk of harm to occupants of neighbouring buildings from fire during the construction phase is not always effectively managed through either of the options above, and that not all duty holders understand what is required of them.

For a proposed structure, the STA guidance enables minimum separation distances to be determined. Where space does not provide the separation distances required for a Category A structure, it provides guidance on selecting alternative timber frame structures to provide an adequate level of fire protection to neighbours during the construction phase. If a Category B or C structure or alternative fire engineered solution is needed, then it should be specified when the timber frame is being procured. Everyone in the supply chain has a responsibility to work towards this end. Anyone in the supply chain who makes a decision, which significantly affects fire safety during construction, should be prepared to justify that decision. If fire safety considerations are left to a late stage in the design development of the project, there is an increased potential that the solutions will be inconsistent in approach and less effective if there is a fire, and more time consuming and expensive to implement. Appropriate mitigation methods should always be developed before construction work starts on site.

In practical terms HSE expects:

  • An assessment of the particular site and its constraints when the method of construction is being considered.
  • For timber framed structures, assessment can be undertaken using STA’s ‘Design guide to separating distances during construction’.
  • The assessment should identify that where there is insufficient separation distance to allow a Category A structure, the appropriate level of Category B or C to match the site constraints (unless an alternative fire engineered solution is developed by a competent person) should be recommended.
  • The appropriate category frame should be specified to the manufacturers.
  • Timber frame manufacturers, including non-STA members have a significant role to play in ensuring appropriate specification and procurement of frames. Manufacturers should be advising their customers of the guidance and requirements. Use of the STA audit checklist may assist manufacturers in compiling records to demonstrate the steps they have taken to discharge their obligations under CDM Regulation 11 and record who has made specific decisions.
  • Any specific information and instructions that must be followed to guarantee the specified category or approved solution to be achieved on site must be passed to the Principal Contractor.
  • The Principal Contractor must adhere to the conditions required to achieve the specified category of structure.
  • The Principal Contractor must devise and apply appropriate fire precautions during the build, including control of hot works, provision of fire warning and extinguishing systems, provision of means of escape etc.

HSG 168 was published in October 2010 and version 1 of the STA’s (then UKTFA) guidance was published in Dec 2011. Sufficient time has elapsed that knowledge and application of the guidance should now be embedded. HSE inspectors expect duty holders to comply with CDM Regulation 11 using this guidance to assist. Where a duty holder chooses not to follow the STA guidance but to implement a fire-engineered solution, standards of the equivalence to the guidance should be adopted. Duty holders should expect that in the latter circumstances, if lower standards are adopted then HSE may consider there to have been a material breach of health and safety law attracting charges under our Fee for Intervention Scheme 


Simon Longbottom

Head of Construction Sector and Policy


2014 a year in review

Posted by Geoff Wilkinson on December 22, 2014 at 12:45 PM Comments comments (0)

2014 has been quite a year for us highlights of which have included being interviewed by Angela Rippon on prime time BBC TV, making the Finals of the West London Business Awards in 2 categories and retaining our 2013 title as AI Fire Safety Consultant of the Year again in the 2014 Legal Awards.


We have welcomed 4 new staff to our team in 2014 - Martin Jackson, Alba Perez, Graeme West, and Stuart Skilton, whilst Ron Woodhall has retired.


2015 looks to be a equally busy year as works commence on projects deposited prior to April 2014 in order to preserve the 2010 Part L approvals. We will be writing to everyone affected by this in January so you can mobilise contractors as necessary.


We are closing at lunchtime on Christmas Eve, and returning on 5th January so on behalf of everyone here can I wish you a Very Merry Christmas and look forward to working with you again in the New Year.