Category: Architecture & Building Surveying

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2021 has seen construction works continue to be in high demand, albeit with limitations in respect of Covid and Brexit causing supply shortages for both skilled labour and materials. We have seen that raw material costs have significantly risen, driven by shortages and high demand for products as reported in our article in July here.

Our Architecture & Building Surveying department has been busy managing construction works onsite and have seen no let-up in new projects for commercial, agricultural and domestic development works.

We have surveyed and prepared drawings and building condition surveys to support in excess of a dozen applications for both residential and commercial change of use of agricultural buildings, where farmers are actively seeking to diversify ahead of the Agriculture Act and change to subsidies.

During 2021, our Building Surveying team has been involved in a large variety of specialist projects including:

Funeral Parlour in Letchworth

The Zimbabwean Ambassador recently opened the first UK based funeral parlour for our clients, who have similar facilities on several continents as well as throughout Africa. The CEO of Nyaradzo Funeral Services in his welcoming speech paid tribute to the creative talents of our Chartered Building Surveyor, Stuart Brown, in turning a disused 1930s printing factory into a bespoke funeral parlour.

Third Floor Office Attic Conversion

Work has recently commenced on converting the third floor storage space into an office for the principal in a solicitors’ office in Bedford Town Centre. The project, being in a conservation area, required planning consent for the formation of two lead clad dormers on the rear elevation. We are providing design and project management services for the project and have acted as Agreed Party Wall Surveyors for both the owners and the next door neighbour, where the party wall is being extended upwards for the dormer construction.

Church Redecoration

As the interior of Bunyan Meeting Church area had not been redecorated for over 30 years, it was beginning to look tired and several areas had suffered from flaking paintwork. The Church buildings, being Grade 2 Listed, required special consideration in the selection of breathable paints to maintain the historic nature of the building fabric. At the same time the Trustees took the opportunity to upgrade the lighting. Following this £150,000 project, the Church is now back using their worship space. Our building surveyors have been commissioned on various projects during the past 10 years including a £1,000,000 stonework and roof restoration project. In order to keep the Trustees updated on the condition of the building fabric, our building surveyors carry out a five year survey of the whole premises in order to formulate a planned maintenance programme.

New Highway Access and Driveway at Shuttleworth

Image taken by Darren Harbar Photography

We have also recently completed the contract administration and project management of the construction of a new highway access and driveway to the Shuttleworth site near Biggleswade. Shuttleworth consists of historic parkland housing the world renowned Shuttleworth Collection and Grade 2* listed mansion house.

The new 1.2 mile road has been needed for some time to manage the flow of traffic to the mansion house, visitor attractions and Shuttleworth College. It involved extensive consultation at an early stage with both the local authority planners and Historic England to produce a scheme that safeguarded the special nature of the site.

Further to obtaining planning consent, we have discharged planning conditions and managed the construction works from specification and tender to snagging and handing over the road.

The next work on the site will allow a section of the old driveway that crosses the Old Warden Airfield to be removed, involving removing 300 tonnes of concrete and macadam! This will be replaced with grass to enable the vintage tail dragging aircraft to safely land and take off, utilising a far longer area of the airfield.

David Sawford, Partner and Chartered Building Surveyor, comments “We have worked hard with all stakeholders to produce a scheme that allows the site to prosper without harm to the special nature of the historic site and we are delighted to see the new road in use and named ‘Alder Drive’ in honour of the retiring Shuttleworth Trustee, Mike Alder.”

If you are considering a building project and would like to discuss how we could help, then please contact David Sawford on 01234 362909 or email djs@robinsonandhall.co.uk or Stuart Brown, Chartered Building Surveyor, on 01234 362923 or email spb@robinsonandhall.co.uk

The opportunity to take advantage of funding available for heating your own home is shortly coming to an end.

As previously reported, the domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme finishes on 31st March 2022. This is a Government scheme which pays homeowners for heating homes by a renewable source, such as an air source heat pump, ground source heat pump or biomass.

There is not long to go before the current scheme finishes, therefore anyone wanting to apply needs to have their system commissioned and running on or before this date.

An investment in renewable technology usually requires a higher capital outlay, however the RHI payments are designed to repay this over a period of seven years. In the meantime, the occupants benefit from the technology as well as lower running costs for the property.

We have been involved in a number of domestic schemes which have already taken advantage of the tax-free annual payments which are also index linked.

One satisfied customer quotes “When my air source heat pump was commissioned, I arranged for the gas company to disconnect my gas meter. I was a little nervous about committing solely to electric heating, however last year my electricity bill was less than the previous year’s combined gas and electricity costs.” It just goes to show with careful planning and the right design, renewable technology can make a real difference.

All is not lost after March 2022. We are still waiting for the Government to announce what might take over from the current scheme. However, its rumoured not to be as financially lucrative as the current scheme.

If you are planning to carry out a major refurbishment then it will still be worth considering installing new renewable technology. This is also very timely given the Government’s goal to cut carbon emissions and the announcement that by 2025, all new homes will be banned from installing gas and oil boilers. Renewables are going to be placed at the forefront of people’s future schemes.

If you are looking to develop your property and incorporate renewable technology in your project, please contact Robert Franklin, Head of Architecture & Building Surveying, at Robinson & Hall, on 01234 362917 or email rjf@robinsonandhall.co.uk

As construction activity has surged in 2021, the availability of some materials has become extremely difficult. Many contractors are reporting issues regarding purchasing critical materials such as steel, cement, timber, roof tiles and plasterboard.

High levels of global demand have resulted in shortages in the UK, which is directly affecting availability and lead times and consequently many material costs are rising. Builders’ merchants and suppliers are warning that the situation is going to get worse before it gets better. If you are thinking about embarking on your own project then think carefully over the materials you wish to incorporate and order these in reasonable time wherever possible. If you have a completion deadline to meet, ensure you commence works sooner rather than later and factor in for expected delays. It would be advisable to enter into a suitable contract with your builder which makes provision for fluctuations in material prices and covers potential delays. Many solicitors are expecting a surge of disputes between property owners and contractors as tensions rise over delays.

It is a familiar story we have already experienced with one of our current projects in South Bedfordshire. With careful planning we have managed to keep delays to a minimum. However, it is still running late due to additional delays with delivering facing bricks (up to a staggering 12 weeks) and roof tiles (up to 9 weeks) causing issues with the contract programme. Many of the delays are outside the clients’ and contractors’ control but, with our close project management, things are just about on track. Having started earlier enough in the year, the works are still on course for the clients to move in for Christmas.

The project will provide clients with an ‘upside down house’ to take advantage of the great open countryside views to the rear. By reconfiguring the roof and internal arrangement, we have managed to create additional floor area which was previously unused loft space. We are also incorporating an Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP) to take advantage of the Renewable Heat Incentive which will enable the clients to benefit from a Government incentive to get paid for heating their own home from a renewable source.

If you are looking to develop your property and incorporate green technology in your building project, please contact Robert Franklin, Head of Architecture & Building Surveying, on 01234 362917 or email rjf@robinsonandhall.co.uk

In a very unusual project, Robinson & Hall was appointed to act for a client who identified a property in Letchworth suitable for their funeral business.

The initial enquiry was from the client’s solicitors who required an experienced RICS qualified building surveyor to advise upon the condition of the property and feasibility for conversion. Before the purchase of the property, our experienced building surveyor carried out a detailed building survey and although the property was generally sound, this identified a number of significant essential repairs, including leaks through roof lights and aspects of historic poor quality refurbishment work.

On the basis of the report findings, the client was able to negotiate a £75,000 reduction in the purchase price in lieu of the necessary repair work.

Before – Car saleroom

Alongside the purchase process, the client instructed Robinson & Hall to prepare a design and obtain planning permission for change of use from car showroom to funeral parlour. Our building surveyors measured the building and prepared plans, whilst our Planning department submitted a planning application for this special use under a Sui Generis planning class. North Hertfordshire District Council granted permission, much to the delight of our client, who has praised Robinson & Hall’s team for their dedication and perseverance in securing the change of use.

Under the direction of Senior Building Surveyor, Stuart Brown, the Architecture & Building Surveying department prepared a detailed design and specification, including works to rectify defects identified in the original building survey. The project was tendered to several local building contractors and one was appointed under a Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT) Contract to carry out the building works. 

After – funeral parlour

Refurbishment commenced in July 2019 but due to delays through Covid 19 restrictions was not completed until June 2020. The final cost of the building work was in excess of £600,000. We assisted our clients with contract administration and project management services through the build period.

Our client is now utilising the building with frequent on-site funerals and providing bespoke services to assist those arranging for burial in Africa.

Stuart comments “It was a very unique project and one which you do not get an instruction for every day. We were pleased to assist our clients in converting the building and adapting to meet their objectives. There were plenty of issues to overcome including navigating through the Covid pandemic. However, with careful planning, we managed to bring the project within the agreed timescales. Our client was very pleased with the completed works and the combined services Robinson & Hall provided.”

For more information or to find out how Robinson & Hall can help you please contact Stuart Brown, Chartered Building Surveyor on 01234 362923 or email spb@robinsonandhall.co.uk

The Government has announced to cut carbon emissions by 78% by 2035. With under 14 years to go, it is an ambitious goal which the Climate Change Committee says will require big changes.

This is a significant announcement and will have widespread implications for all building owners and the construction industry. It will also have huge ramifications for the whole property sector and how building projects (however large or small) are carried out over the next few years.

This will bring many legislation issues to the forefront and I summarise a few of the recent stories you may have read over the past few months:

The Future

The residential sector is one of the biggest emitters of carbon. According to a recent reports, almost 25% of the nation’s entire energy consumption is used to heat our homes. Therefore, retrofitting domestic properties and upgrading standards for new builds is recognised as a cost-effective route to achieving UK decarbonisation targets. This is in addition to all the health and social benefits derived from such a programme.             

If we are to meet net zero by 2050 then the construction industry will have an important part to play. Many existing owners may not share the enthusiasm of the Government when retrofitting requirements come to be addressed, however they may not have much choice if they wish to rent or develop their properties.

In the past, the Government has tried to incentivise owners with grants such as the Feed in Tariff, the Renewable Heat Incentive and, more recently, the infamous debacle of the Green Homes Grant. There has been lots of speculation on how the Government is going to meet these targets and we wait to see what changes it is likely to make through further incentives or enforced regulation.

What this all points to is that all new building works and construction projects will soon need to comply with more stringent fabric and energy efficient heating measures. More than ever it is critical you obtain the correct advice to ensure your development not only complies with current legislation but will also comply with the impending legislation in years to come.

For more information or to find out how we can help, please contact Robert Franklin, Head of Architecture & Building Surveying on 01234 362917 or email rjf@robinsonandhall.co.uk

We all hope the recent wintry weather is behind us and we can look forward to spring. However, with all the recent inclement weather, it is critical we ensure our buildings have survived and are maintained in good condition for the rest of the year.

It is not just snow that causes issues; it’s also freezing temperatures which can be equally damaging. Even after the wintry weather has passed, many issues can have damaging long-term effects to properties, therefore it’s important to remain vigilant. It’s even more important the older your property is, as historic properties are more susceptible to ongoing repairs and maintenance.

Issues to look out for:

Prolonged wintry weather is quite unusual in this locality and our properties are not always capable of dealing with these extremities. Ironically, properties with better insulated roofs may be at a higher risk as properties with poor insulation tend to thaw snow and ice more quickly.

Many of the above issues can be hidden and difficult to see so getting professional advice is critical. If maintenance has been neglected, any prolonged snow or freezing temperatures can lead to significant structural issues. Checking key areas, such as roofs, will help to ensure your properties are well maintained for the remainder of the year.

To check your property is sound and weathertight or to coordinate a regular maintenance plan then please call Robert Franklin

construction

The last twelve months has seen a turbulent time for the construction industry (as with most sectors) with the effects of COVID 19 being felt, causing staffing interruptions and material availability issues.

It was well publicised that the national housebuilders took the decision to shut construction sites in the first lockdown of 2020 and many suppliers and smaller contractors followed their lead. The supply chain has taken some time to recover.

The industry gradually restarted but some interruption is still happening with intermittent staffing issues due to self-isolation and home-schooling. Material availability has become easier but longer lead times on some materials is occurring, which has been compounded by uncertainty and more bureaucracy being experienced in the short-term resulting from Brexit.

What has happened at Robinson & Hall?

At Robinson & Hall we have continued to assist clients with their projects, fed a steady flow to the local planning authorities, prepared working drawings and sent work for tender.

What can we offer?

We can offer a one-stop shop for project design, planning applications and advice, construction drawings, specification and tendering of construction works, project management and contract administration.

We currently have in excess of three million pounds of construction work which we are project managing on site. This work has not been immune to the construction industry delays but with careful planning, the works have been able to move forward to minimise delays and additional costs.

What to do if you have a potential project?

If you have a potential project, then please be aware that under the current COVID 19 and early Brexit transition conditions, some delays are being experienced so planning for this at an early stage is advised. We will be happy to discuss and help you to plan for your project.

For more information or to find out how we can help you, please contact David Sawford.

Whether you own a single domestic property or have a diverse portfolio of commercial properties, it’s essential your assets are insured for the correct amount. In the financial wake of the pandemic, the last thing you need is to realise a shortfall in your insurance cover.

Don’t be left out of pocket

If your property is underinsured and you make a claim, your insurance company can reduce your claim based on the level of the under-insurance. This means that you won’t get full compensation for the reinstatement of damage.

That’s the peril of owning a building that’s potentially underinsured. Also, you do not want to underestimate the additional delays in resolving the claim. This will potentially affect future occupancy and will ultimately place additional pressure on your finances.

On the other hand, over insurance may make you pay unnecessarily high premium payments. This will be made worse if you have more than one property or manage a large portfolio, which is why a reinstatement cost assessment is so important.

What Is A Reinstatement Cost Assessment (RCA)?

It’s important to understand that the reinstatement cost of your property is not the same as its market value. The value is the cost incurred when you completely rebuild the building together with the added costs of all materials and labour.

Each site is unique so in addition to this, the demolition cost of clearing the site, professional fees and any other exceptional features are all taken into consideration.

The value is calculated using recognised up to date industry figures from the Building Cost Information Service (BCIS). This comprehensive assessment includes an inspection of the property and all surrounding boundaries, drains and other relevant features.

We generally advise you should carry out a full reinstatement cost assessment every three to five years or whenever appropriate.

Don’t Get Caught Out By The Neighbours

On some occasions, it may not be your fault. You may think the chances of ever needing to submit a claim are slim, however a fire or flood in a neighbouring property may inadvertently cause damage to your property.

Other factors which people also often overlook are:

Don’t forget all the above factors will have an impact on property reinstatement values.

How can we help?

Our expert team of chartered surveyors at Robinson & Hall is well-equipped with the knowledge, market insights and resources required to provide you with an accurate evaluation of your property’s reinstatement costs.

Whilst it may be tempting to guess, it’s clearly false economy to under-estimate your reinstatement value. If you needed to make a claim, how would you make up the outstanding deficit if a situation actually arose?

It’s essential to get your insured value correct. Act now and please contact us to discuss your requirements.

The Party Wall etc Act 1996 has been applicable to building projects outside London for over 23 years. Our expert in party wall matters, Stuart Brown, has been involved in administering the Act since inception.

Despite the pandemic, 2020 saw Stuart involved in over 100 party wall Awards and related matters. These ranged from re-roofing projects in Milton Keynes to loft conversions throughout Bedfordshire and a cinema in Luton converted into 66 apartments.

Recent experience has shown that owners intending to do building work can often overlook the implications of the Act and not leave enough time for the procedure to be dealt with and this has, in some instances, delayed building works.

Some of the most frequent areas where Stuart Brown’s expertise has been required include:

Extensions

Where work is being carried out close to a neighbour’s house, boundary wall structure or outbuilding. It may be necessary to change foundation design in order to minimise the potential for damage to adjoining structures.

Loft Conversions

Loft conversions appear to be more popular than ever. These often involve building in beams into a party wall and the neighbour must be notified of your intentions. One aspect often overlooked in loft conversions is that the Act does permit extending up the party wall for the side wall of a dormer extension, which can be beneficial to both owners. The building owner can have a wider dormer extension and exercise the rights of access granted under the Act to clad the side wall of the dormer with proper weatherproofing to the neighbour’s roof covering. In the longer term, if the neighbour wishes to construct a similar dormer, this can be done using the same wall without leaving a small inaccessible gap to the neighbouring dormer.

Neighbour’s Concerns

Often a neighbour is uncertain how to respond to a Notice and who to seek advice from:

If you are intending to carry out building work close to your neighbour’s property or if your neighbour is about to build, please call Stuart Brown to obtain advice on whether the Act applies and what procedures are involved. Our Party Wall webpage can also be found here.

If your property has been affected following the recent inclement weather, it can be a very traumatic and stressful experience.

For any significant claim following a fire, flood or structural damage, your insurance company will appoint a loss adjuster and their own surveyors to investigate the details of the damage and manage the claims process. However, many people do not realise that they can employ their own surveyor to manage the reinstatement works on their behalf. These costs, along with all other reasonable expenses, are included under their claim. Assuming you are adequately insured, it will not cost you a penny to get impartial, qualified, quality advice and management for the duration of the insurance reinstatement works.

Why choose Robinson & Hall?

Should you have the misfortune of suffering a significant insurance claim, I recommend you appoint an independent chartered building surveyor to oversee the reinstatement works.

If you choose to appoint Robinson & Hall, you can be sure that you are using a qualified construction professional, who understands the construction industry and has you and your building’s best interests as our primary concern.

If your loss adjuster has asked you to find a surveyor, or if you would like to exercise your right to appoint your own surveyor to work on your behalf, we can help.