|Posted by wilkinsoncc on April 25, 2013 at 10:30 AM||comments (0)|
Two companies were today (24 April) ordered to pay a total of £794,658 in fines and costs after a driver was run over and killed by his own lorry.
Father-of-three Gary Walters, 51, was working for Gloucester-based contract haulier Larkins Logistics Ltd when the fatal incident occurred on 11 October 2010.
He was collecting a trailer loaded with structural concrete products from Bison Manufacturing Ltd in William Nadine Way, Swadlincote, Derbyshire. He failed to apply the brake in his cab and, because Bison’s drivers had not applied the brake to the trailer, the vehicle moved off as he was coupling the two parts together.
Mr Walters, of The Street, Crowmarsh, Oxfordshire, is believed to have gone round the front of the vehicle, possibly in an attempt to get into the cab and apply the brakes, but he was struck by the cab and run over. He died of multiple injuries.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that drivers working for Bison did not routinely apply the trailer brakes to ensure the units were safely parked. Following Mr Walters’ death, a police vehicle examiner examined ten other trailers at the site but none had the brakes applied, and no other manual system of restraint, such as chocks or hooks, was in place.
Both companies had identified the risk to workers, but had failed to implement appropriate control measures. Their method of working ignored published safety guidance, which meant that drivers and other employees were all at risk.
Following a trial on 8 and 9 April 2013 Larkins Logistics Ltd, of Dobbs Hill Farm, Staunton, Gloucester, was found guilty of breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was today (24 April) fined £350,000 for the Section 2(1) offence, £100,000 for the Section 3(1) offence and ordered to pay full costs of £23,317.
Bison Manufacturing Ltd, of Bridge Place, Anchor Boulevard, Admirals Park, Crossways, Dartford, Kent, admitted the same charges and was fined £233,000 for the Section 2(1) offence, £67,000 for the Section 3(1) offence and ordered to pay full costs of £21,341.
Mr Walters had three children with his wife Vanessa – James, who was 19 at the time of the incident, Joanna, 15, and Tanya, 13. Mrs Walters said:
"I hope that people learn from this tragedy and that today’s prosecution will go some way to changing the way people in the same industry work. I do not want this to happen to another family.
"Telling our children their dad had died was the worst experience of my life. I felt so helpless that they were hurting and that there was nothing I could do to make it better. As a parent you want to protect your children at whatever cost.
|Posted by wilkinsoncc on April 18, 2013 at 1:00 PM||comments (0)|
A client is an organisation or individual for whom a construction project is carried out.
Clients only have duties when the project is associated with a business or other undertaking (whether for profit or not). This can include local authorities, school governors, insurance companies and project originators on Private Finance Initiative (PFI) projects.
However domestic clients are a special case and do not have duties under CDM Regulations. Domestic clients are people who have work done on their own home or the home of a family member.
BUT that does not relate to a trade or business, whether for profit or not. It is the type of client that matters, not the type of property.
Local authorities, housing associations, charities, landlords and other businesses may own domestic property, but they are not domestic clients. Also if the work is in connection with the furtherance of a business attached to domestic premises (ie a shop) the client is not a domestic client. Sometimes groups who would otherwise be domestic clients form companies to administer construction work.
A common example of this is a company formed by leaseholders of flats to undertake maintenance of the common parts of a structure. In such a case the company is not a domestic client and will have duties under the regulations.
As domestic clients have no client duties under CDM which means that there is no legal requirement for appointment of a CDM-C or principal contractor when such projects reach the notification threshold. Similarly, there is no need to notify HSE where projects for domestic clients reach the notification threshold.
However, its often forgotten that designers and contractors still have their normal duties as set out in Parts 2 and 4 of CDM and domestic clients will have duties under Part 4 of the regulations if they control the way in which construction work is carried out. Designers and contractors working for domestic clients have to manage their own work and co-operate with and co-ordinate their work with others involved with the project so as to safeguard the health & safety of all involved in the project. The guidance in http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg344.pdf is a great starting point.
If you are unsure if the rules apply to your project contact email@example.com for general advice and prices for writing Health & Safety Files, RAMS etc
|Posted by wilkinsoncc on April 16, 2013 at 9:40 AM||comments (0)|
GUEST BLOG - Poorer people are more at risk of house fires
Natasha Sabin - Island Fire Protection
The Philpott case is a harsh reminder of how poorer children are at greater risk of dying in a house fire. While the fire was deliberately ignited in the Philpott case, there are many other poor children who are victims of accidental fires. Older housing, fewer precautions and overcrowding are all factors.
The NHS reports that domestic fires are more prevalent in low-income areas. CAPT charity reports that children are 38 times more likely to die in a house if their parents have never worked, or are long-term unemployed.
Poorer housing conditions
Those from a lower-income household are more likely to live in poor condition housing. This means that there are far more hazards that can lead to house fires, such as faulty wiring.
On top of this larger families tend to live in smaller houses, meaning there is more clutter that will help the fire spread.
Another problem is that people from lower-income households are more likely to live in rented accommodation, which is another risk factor. Cornwall council states that you are seven times more at risk of a house fire if you live in a rented property.
This is because rented properties tend to be more poorly maintained – occupiers are reluctant to invest in a property that is not their own, and owners are less inclined to maintain a building they are not occupying. While it is the landlord’s duty to ensure the home is fire safe, tenants may not be aware of this. Similarly, landlords may not be aware that one of their houses is in need of repair or maintenance, especially if that home has been occupied by the same tenants over a long period of time.
On top of this, lower income homes also tend to have fewer safety devices. CAPT report that lower-income households are less likely to own a working smoke alarm.
Overcrowding in homes, which is linked to low-income and poverty, is also a factor. Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) are buildings occupied by more than one family. This includes flats, hostels and sheltered accommodation.
The more people occupying a building, the greater the risk of fire is, simple because there are more sources of ignition and electrical appliances. Also, types of buildings that house a large number of people are more likely to be poorly constructed and be occupied by vulnerable people.
According to Bedfordshire council, you are six times as likely to die in a fire if you live in a HMO as you are if you live in a single occupancy home. You are also more likely to sustain a burn or scald. The risks are even higher if tenants don’t know each other.
There is a strong correlation between income and smoking. If you are poorer, you are more likely to smoke. Cigarettes and smoking materials, of course, are one of the leading sources of ignitions in all house fires. Ironically, smoking in the house reduces the likelihood of having a working smoke alarm.
Natasha Sabin is a fire safety enthusiast from Island Fire Protection, who specialise in providing a range of services to help make the business sector safer.
photo credit: jc-pics via photopin cc
|Posted by wilkinsoncc on March 25, 2013 at 1:10 PM||comments (0)|
The latest Annual Report from BCPSAG in respect of the 2011/2012 returns has now been published. This is the first set of returns on the revised Performance Indicators, which have generated a record number of returns.
The Report is available on our links page or on the BCPSAG website at: http://www.cic.org.uk/services/the-performance-indicators.php
The results provide indicators regarding the performance of Building Control Bodies measured against the National Performance Standards.
This analysis work was carried out and the report produced by ELJ Consulting on behalf of the Building Control Performance Standards Advisory Group (BCPSAG). Funding was provided by the Department of Communities and Local Government.
The key findings of the analysis are:
• 199 BCBs participated this year, more than double last year's response of 85. Of these 89 respondents took part in the survey for the first time.
• Performance in the Process Management Performance Indicator was good, with the majority of respondents covering 12 or more of the 14 areas questioned. Three areas were identified as having room for improvement; pre-application advice, checks on dormant jobs, and certification before completion.
• Responses to the Complaints Handling Process Indicator showed complaints rates were very low, with the average BCB receiving only one complaint per 236 applications. Half of the respondents resolved 80% or more of their complaints to customer’s satisfaction, though individual performance varied widely.
• The Building Control Work indicator clearly shows that whilst domestic alterations, extensions and improvements constitute an average 68% per cent of applications this generates only 56% of fees, conversely for other types of project fees generate a higher percentage than projects.
• Responses to the Building Control Staff questions showed that BCB's predominantly employed full-time direct staff over half of whom were fully qualified with corporate membership of relevant professional bodies.
• At just over 18% the largest proportion of staff had specialist experience in fire engineering and risk assessment, whilst the lowest area of expertise was acoustics which on average1 stood at 4% of staff.
• Women made up an average proportion of 24% of staff. Almost two-thirds (63%) of staff were between the ages of 41 and 60 with the under 24 proportion being low (3.2%).
• Over the past year more BCBs lost employees than gained, but the majority of respondents reported no change. This suggests a slight reduction in the size of BCB workforces over the last 12 months.
If you would like to know more about how we scored contact firstname.lastname@example.org
|Posted by wilkinsoncc on November 19, 2012 at 7:25 PM||comments (0)|
In the Guardian today (October 26th) the Government have announced another review of the Building Regs http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/oct/26/government-building-standards-review-regulation
Twitter has been awash with people condemning the move and blasting the Government, but actually I would support the move. Heres my top 10 'Regulations' to slash and burn this Halloween.
1) Local Acts - This is long over due, there really is no justification in requiring sprinklers in an office in an Inner London Borough such as Hackney, but not in an outer London Borough such as Waltham Forest.
2) Code for Sustainable Homes - CSH is often applied through Planning Consents by Planners who have no understanding of how buildings are constructed, and should be withdrawn.
3) BREEAM - In fact not only would I remove CSH, I would go further and break the link between Planning and Energy use completely, and also remove BREEAM, and all the other energy codes and models. The Building Regs Part L are the only regs we need, and these should also be updated to reflect Passivhaus standards
4) Warranty Link Rule - WLR prevents competition in the housing market by requiring a registered warranty with any new build house. This means that houses sold with an architects certificate cannot be signed off by Approved Inspectors and therefore must go through the Loacl Authority Building Control system.
5) Part G Water use calculations - This is a beaurcratic nightmare for small builders, the same effect effect could be achieved by local water metering of appliances in new buildings to show the actual cost to the consumer.
6) Approved Document D - An entire document devoted to preventing toxic fumes from Urea Formaldehyde. Cant remember the last time I actually saw UF in use, and certaintly doesnt warrant a reulation of its own.
7) Construction Design & Management regulations - These could be incorporated within the Building Regulations and over seen by a single body rather than requiring seperate notification as at the present time.
8 )The Scottish System - Currently there is no choice of service provider in the Scottish System. Introducing Licensed Approved Inspectors would mean builders north of the border would finally have an alternative to the current beaurcratic system.
9) Extend the Self Certification system - Competent Plumbers, Electricians etc can already self certify thier own work (EG under Part P). There is no reason why this could not be extended to other trades, services or even entire buildings, indeed there is already legislation to allow this (Appointed Persons) - it just needs to be enacted.
10) Secure by Design - Another standard that should simply be absorbed into the main building regulations.
|Posted by wilkinsoncc on September 10, 2012 at 2:50 AM||comments (0)|
The past few weeks have been dominated by the 2012 Paralympics which has almost certainly changed people's attitudes towards disability permanently for the better. For too long compliance with access regulation has been considered a burden when in fact it presents a huge opportunity if they are willing to grasp it. With the evolution of building automation technology, designers have the potential to make a huge difference to the lives of many people. The press coverage and controversy about 'blade runners' has shown just how advances in technology have transformed the lives of amputees and now enables them to compete (and even outperform) able bodied athletes.
The Paralympics have also done an excellent job of educating the public that disability comes in many forms and is not just about wheelchairs. Indeed there's now much greater recognition that most of us will be less than fully able, be it physically, sensory, or intellectually, at sometime in our lives – through birth, disease, accident or age. This is especially important to understand given the expanding aged population which is predicted to grow by 71%* by 2040 (*% increase in people over age 65 in 2040 compared to 1998 according to Joseph Rowntree Foundation).
From the regs perspective its now over a decade since the introduction of Access Requirements in Part M of the Building Regulations 2000, which were subsequently widened in 2004 to cover the needs of all people, including those with limited mobility, and other impairments.
The current principal route for compliance is the 'Access Statement' which has been a recommendation within the Approved Document since 2004, and under planning law, since 2006. The function of the Access Statement (AS) is to demonstrate how people are offered ‘reasonable’ access to buildings and their facilities. Developing an AS can allow flexibility from the guidance in the Approved Document, particularly when dealing with the constraints of existing buildings or historic environments, allowing innovative approaches to be explored and recorded. The AS also serves as an audit trail in case of future claim under the Equalities Act 2010 (which replaced the Disability Discrimination Act) and also give guidance for those responsible for the building.
AS can take various forms and the level of detail required will vary according to the size, nature and complexity of the proposed project. A proper AS should be project specific, although some elements, such as company policies, may be more generic.
Basically, there are four stages in the preparation of complete access statements:
Stage 1 - Overview
List relevant legislation, the basics of the project and existing conditions (where appropriate)
Stage 2 - Global/Site Level
Details of the site plan including transport links to the development and external landscaping,
Explain what access issues were considered when formulating the planning application.
Details of any consultations with user groups or the wider community
Stage 3 - Building Design
This should cover
Horizontal circulation within the building
Facilities such as toilets, changing areas, tea points etc
Ideally you should identify which standards and guidance were used.
Identify deviations and any assumptions made.
Stage 4 - Occupancy
This section should explain the proposals for on-going maintenance and consideration of future accessibility issues.
However, the use of AS has been subject to abuse and in December 2010 DCLG announced an intention to review existing guidance that promotes the use of Access Statements in order to consider whether they remain appropriate. This was prompted by a range of concerns expressed during the consultation on future changes to Building Regulations in 2010, and subsequent discussions with key parties.
• Access officers said that even where an AS is mandatory (at the planning stage) the quality and usefulness varied considerably and that there was confusion as to how planning and building control stages overlapped or were intended to work together.
• Groups representing disabled people believed AS should be more widely used in particular to address common errors in provision. They also expressed concern as to the level of priority given to access issues by building control bodies and designers and suggested that inclusive design training needed to be improved.
• Building control officers supported the view that the quality of Access Statements varied considerably and noted that they were typically poor
• and often misrepresented what was actually included in proposals.
The 2012 consultation document* proposed that guidance should be revised to move away from reliance on written documents and instead set out the need to agree an access strategy which ensures reasonable provision by focusing on key risks and issues. The revised approach is also intended to encourage a wider range of interaction between applicants and building control bodies which may be better suited to the skills and resources available to applicants.
The consultation also recognised that there continues to be confusion about which matters are best considered at the planning stage and which are best considered at building control stage. To address this DCLG are looking at how a clearer understanding of access considerations at a planning and building control stage can be promoted. This is likely to be based upon a campaign to improve skills and understanding amongst design professionals including building control officers, planners, access officers, architects, landscape architects, etc. Inclusive design should already form part of most continuing professional development programmesand educational curricula and extensive guidance are freely available, but are not seen as a priority by many.
Hopefully the Paralympics will encourage you all to undertake further training and raise the profile of technology as a way to further the design of accessible environments. For example 'sexy' features such as building automation are a way in which technology can improve the lives of those with disabilities, providing them with the independence to do simple everyday tasks, at the touch of a button. Technology now means occupants (able bodied or not) can benefit from a holistic solution to control everything from door opening/closing, TV or audio devices and lighting levels remotely from a simple keypad (or even a Smartphone). As a result the less able can be more self-reliant and architects no longer need to have discussions about the height of switches and sockets!
* the consultation can be seen at http//:communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/brconsultationsection1
We will be running Access Design CPD events in assocaition with Proudlock Associates at our offices in Portsmouth London and Kent - register your interest now by clicking on the enquiry page (link above).
|Posted by wilkinsoncc on August 8, 2012 at 5:25 PM||comments (0)|
Whilst the nation comes together in celebration of Britishness for the Olympics, the first stage of breaking up the national system of regulation for England & Wales has taken a step forward this month.
As previously reported the responsibility for setting Building Regulations in Wales transferred to the Welsh Assembly on 31st December 2011. The Assembly promptly announced its desire to push ahead of England in the race to zero carbon. After discounting a hugely ambitious 70% reduction they settled on a 55% reduction based on the 2006 standards in the Approved Documents for England & Wales, by comparision DCLG have a 44% reduction planned for England.
The Welsh Assembly has now published its proposals for the 2013 changes to Part L at http://wales.gov.uk/docs/desh/consultation/120731buildingregspartlpart2en.pdf.
The concepts remain the same as the English version (eg having a National Calculation Methodology (NCM))but will have different performance bench marks meaning that Architects will need to obtain two more software tools (available free from 14 August 2012 on the BRE Website). They are called cSAPw (consultation Standard Assessment Procedure Wales), and cSBEMw (consultation Simplified Building Energy Model Wales).
These will allow you to work out the effects of proposed changes to the Regulations and Approved Document ADL1A and ADL2A(NB These tools cannot be used to show compliance with the current Part L 2010 or to generate an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).
Within the Consultation document and underneath the headline 55% improvement over 2006 proposal there are 3 options being considered.
1. Low case – A 25% improvement in the energy efficiency of new domestic property compared to current Part L standards, an 11% improvement in the energy efficiency of new non-domestic property compared to 2010 standards, a tightening of standards for extensions to existing domestic and non-domestic property and the removal of the area threshold for consequential improvements.
b. High case - A 40% improvement in the energy efficiency of new domestic property compared to current Part L standards, a 20% improvement in the energy efficiency of new non-domestic property compared to 2010 standards, a tightening of standards for extensions to existing domestic and non-domestic property and the removal of the area threshold for consequential improvements. This is the Assembly's preferred option.
c. Hybrid case – A 25% improvement in the energy efficiency of new domestic property compared to current Part L standards, a 20% improvement in the energy efficiency of new non-domestic property compared to 2010 standards, a tightening of standards for extensions to existing domestic and non-domestic property and the removal of the area threshold for consequential improvements
Interestingly there is no reference back to 2006 and very roughly a 44% improvement over 2006 equates to a 25% improvement over 2010 (eg the hybrid case). Also I should point out that each option masks some significant differences in the results for the individual elements of the proposals. The overwhelming majority of the energy and carbon savings in each option in fact come from the proposed tightening of standards for existing property. Even more shocking is the admission that the net return for both the 25% and 40% improvement in energy efficiency of new domestic property is negative (i.e. the proposals represent a net cost to UK society) The reason for this is that existing building regulations already impose relatively high energy efficiency standards and further improvements cannot be achieved without incurring significant additional costs for new technology and renewables. It is only when these items become used in bulk or mass produced that the return becomes cost effective, for example the return for a 40% improvement is less negative than that for a 25% improvement. The reason for this is that the cost-effectiveness of solar PV panels improves as more panels are added (assuming the availability of sufficient suitable roof space).
The other elements covering extensions to existing domestic property, new non-domestic property and consequential improvements to domestic and non-domestic property, all demonstrate a net benefit to UK society.
The consultation is open until October and I haven’t yet heard the views of the UK housebuilders, however I think we can safely say that having differing standards to those in England will not be welcomed. I suspect that there is a very real risk that the increased capital costs associated with these (and other) policies may make building projects in Wales less attractive to developers from a financial perspective. I would expect that this will reduce the number of new building developments that take place, particularly in those areas of Wales where building projects are already at the margin of viability. Whilst I can understand the political attractiveness behind the devolution of power the last thing the construction industry needs at the moment is varying standards across its borders. As the Team GB success in the Olympics has proved there is a lot more that can be achieved by us all pulling together in harmony under a GB banner than by each nation going its own way.
|Posted by wilkinsoncc on December 13, 2011 at 3:40 AM||comments (0)|
Almost 2 years ago to the day AJ published my column warning of the changes to BS8300 and the need for Architects to look carefully at contract conditions to ensure that they don’t fall foul of the DDA (now Equalities’ Act)(http://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/opinion/the-regs-disabled-wcs/5211782.article)
In recent weeks I have seen increased awareness from clients, Councils and Access Officers pushing for the higher standards in new buildings as awareness of BS 8300 continues to grow. This has culminated in CLG releasing a circular letter on the 9th December 2011 on the subject (http://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/opinion/the-regs-disabled-wcs/5211782.article)
This letter clarifies for building control bodies the relationship between the Equality Act 2010 and Part M (Access to and use of buildings) of the Building Regulations 2010.
Compliance with the requirements of Part M does not signify compliance with the much broader obligations and duties set out in the Equality Act. This is a source of frequent misunderstanding.
Part M sets out minimum requirements to ensure that a broad range of people are able to access and use facilities within buildings.
The Equality Act requires reasonable adjustments to be made in relation to accessibility. In practice, this means that due regard must be given to any specific needs of likely building users that might be reasonably met. The letter sets out a 10 year exemption from the need to alter physical features in buildings completed under ADM.
However most Councils planning and access officers (and some private sector clients) are adopting BS8300 as the relevant measure for all new building projects to avoid the need for alterations in 10 years time . Be warned that the standards are much higher - for example the size of a single accessible WC cubicle should be 2.2m x 2m and have a standing height WHB rather than the 2.2 x 1.5m in ADM. If you havent got a copy of BS 8300 yet, theres still time to put it on your Christmas List
|Posted by wilkinsoncc on December 5, 2011 at 12:05 PM||comments (0)|
Its that time of year again when we get asked if its OK to concrete or lay bricks during during the cold and snowy weather. As general advice we would not recommend working when temperatures are below 5 degrees and falling unless additional precautions are taken.
Cemex have issued some excellent guidance about the need to protect concrete in cold weather. If young concrete is allowed to cool much below freezing point it will be damaged to such an extent that it will be unfit for use. It should also be noted that even if temperatures do not drop below zero the concrete will develop strength much more slowly than during the warmer months.
The key temperature for concrete is 5 degrees and the guidance can be found at http://www.cemexliterature.co.uk/pdf/Concrete_ColdWeatherConcrete.pdf
Cemex have also produced guidance on bricklaying during bad weather. Setting in mortar usually occurs at temperatures above 4 degrees C. If mortar is used below this temperature it may not set properly and if water is retained in the joint, frost damage can result.
Fortunately there are relatively few periods in the UK when the daytime air temperature remains below 4 degrees C and if it is below freezing it may be impractical to continue with masonry work in any case; not least because the outdoor water supply will freeze.
However, during the winter months all stocks of bricks and blocks should be covered to provide protection against rain, frost and snow. Bricks or blocks that become saturated should not be used until they have dried out and in cold weather they risk damage if they freeze.
Mortar likewise needs protection during very cold weather. If mortar freezes during storage any frozen material must be discarded. Neither should mortar be laid on frozen surfaces. Anti freeze agents for mortar are not recognised in British or European Standards.
As mortar hardens and develops strength more slowly in cold weather, new masonry, or areas under construction, should be covered and protected from the elements. This is likely to require two layers - thermal protection such as hessian or some form of quilting and a waterproof sheet to stop the under layer getting wet.
Protective covers should not be in contact with the face of the wall to avoid ‘sweating’ and consequent staining. The covers should be secure and kept in place until the mortar dries.
|Posted by wilkinsoncc on August 21, 2011 at 4:25 PM||comments (0)|
Recent incidents at Talybont* & Coombe Haven** have seen 4 deaths in caravan fires this summer, throwing the issue of fire safety on caravan parks back into the limelight.
We are pleased to feature a Guest Blog by the UK's leading expert on the planning and design of Caravan parks - Ian Butler. Ian is a Chartered Surveyor and Town Planner with over 30 years in private practice. He has been involved with all aspects of caravan park design, planning, development and licencing since the late 1970’s and in the emergence of legislation and control over all kinds of caravan park. He is a national associate member of the British Holiday & Home Parks Association (BH&HPA) and has been a national advisor to the caravan industry.
There’s no doubt about it, if a caravan catches fire it does burn well and usually there is little left at the end of the day. This doesn’t make caravans inherently dangerous though and in many ways they are often better protected in fire safety terms than bricks and mortar dwellings.
Caravans vary from the touring variety (that are often towed behind slow moving cars in country lanes evidenced by a long queue of other vehicles behind!) to the luxury mobile homes which remain sedentarily sited on a ‘Park Home’ estate. In the middle there is a multiplicity of static holiday caravans, generally used for holiday purposes.
All ‘caravan parks’ are subject not only to town planning controls, but to licencing by Environmental Health Departments under the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960. This Act imposes a requirement upon authorities to issue a caravan site licence which contains a series of ‘standards’ concerning the operation and environmental management of any caravan park. The Secretary of State issued Model Standards as a guide to authorities on those standards normally to be expected and these vary depending upon the type of caravan park concerned. It is open the an authority to set standards as they think fit, subject to such standards not being unduly burdensome. The current Model Standards for each type of caravan are referenced at the end of this article.
Amongst the numerous standards are a series of mandatory requirements for the provision of fire safety measures, both within the caravan and throughout the park as a whole. These originally involved fire buckets, hoses and alarm bells at regularly spaced fire points, but over the years has developed on many parks toward fire hydrants and more modern fire fighting features. The spacing between caravans is also an important element in ensuring that fire spread between caravans is contained.
The evolution of caravan manufacture was slow and largely based on the adaptation of three-ply constructed touring caravans. By the mid 1960’s the sheet metal constructed touring caravan emerged, together with its larger stablemate the static holiday caravan (static for obvious reasons), swiftly followed by a twin-unit variety which led to further dimensional controls being introduced. These larger units are generally used for residential purposes and tend to be of timber frame construction on a metal chassis.
In February 1989 – “Fire Spread Between Park Homes and Caravans” was published. The research was based on the testing of a conventional (contemporary) aluminium holiday caravan (primarily designed and generally used for holiday use) and a conventional single unit ‘Park Home’ designed specifically for residential use. The park home was of plywood construction on a steel chassis with a tiled pitched roof and was generally of more robust construction than the holiday caravan. The report notes that:
“The two units burned in notably different manners; in the holiday caravan the walls and roof were soon destroyed and flames passed upward through the roof; in the park home the body and roof remained intact for a while so that the flames jetted out of the window and door openings”
The FRS research gave rise to recommendations that the spacing distance between aluminium holiday caravans could be reduced from 6m to 5m. They also recommended that spacing could be reduced to 3.5m between aluminium holiday caravans at the corners with some intrusions into the 5m space for porches, awnings, disabled ramps etc. The metal caravans of today generally achieve a Class 1 Fire Rating.
For residential caravans the recommendations of the FRS research on conventional park homes required the retention of a 6m spacing between units, but allowed some incursions into this space for porches, drainpipes and bay windows (5.25 minimum space between adjacent units), disabled ramps, verandahs, stairs etc.(4.5m clear space).
Separate Model Standards (the 1989 standards) were issued between the two types of caravan unit.
In 2008 the Model Standards for residential caravans were updated and introduced a change in control with regard to fire safety. Following the introduction of the Fire Safety Order in 2005 a duty was placed on “the responsible person” to carry out suitable and sufficient assessments of the fire risks on the premises. The Order applies to holiday caravan parks (excluding privately owned units – unless they are sub-let) and the common areas of park homes (residential caravans). The latter criterion evidently excludes from consideration the residential caravan itself and its surroundings in private occupation. This has given rise to issues of interpretation which have yet to be adequately resolved. Some Fire Authorities are certain that caravan spacing is not within the scope of the FSO, whereas others consider it is. It is a moot point.
Do the Model Standards work in practice? Arguably yes. It was evident from the FRS research that spacing could be narrower for metal caravans, although the construction of timber based residential units required the maintenance of 6m (20 ft) or thereabouts.
There have been very few circumstances over 40 years reported where caravan fires have led to significant spread between units. And here is a good example. A metal caravan was deliberately set on fire by arson in the midst of a park where spacing was 5m between rows and only 3m end to end (as approved by a current and lawfully issued Site Licence). The photos (July 2011) illustrate that the fire burned exactly as noted in the FRS research and did not affect adjoining units, despite the non-standard spacing approved on this park.
Ian Butter FRICS MRTPI
The Rural and Urban Planning Consultancy www.ruralurbanplanning.co.uk