Approved Inspectors are professional and specialist private sector building control bodies that offer guidance and support to developers, designers and contractors to help them through the complex nature of the building regulations to achieve compliance and approval on almost any construction project. Approved Inspectors provide a cost-effective and client-friendly alternative to Local Authority Building Control.

We asked our newly appointed Regional Manager Andrew Bullen, an experienced Building Control Surveyor with 29 years’ experience in the construction industry, to describe a typical day on site as a Building Control Surveyor.

What are the typical daily duties on site for a Building Control Surveyor?
Building Control Surveyors make sure that building regulations and other legislation are followed when buildings are constructed, extended, altered or converted. They do this daily by examining plans, drawings, specifications and other documents submitted by our clients to ensure they comply with building regulations. During this process, they provide the client with advice regarding what needs to be submitted, together with offering guidance on any alterations that might need to be addressed to ensure compliance. On complex projects, this may involve providing pre-application advice on the design and any fire safety issues.

In addition to checking plans, they also undertake regular site inspections at key stages as the building work progresses to ensure that it complies with buildings regulations. During these visits, they will check the building works and methods, keep records and write reports to keep the client up-to-date with progress. They will also advise if the work does not comply with the building regulations, working collaboratively with the client to offer guidance on what measures need to be taken to achieve compliance and advise on the implications of any non-compliance. Whilst this normally enables resolution of the issue, should the contravention not be rectified, they will follow statutory procedures, preparing a Notice of Contravention, etc. and in exceptional cases, they will cancel the Initial Notice and revert the application to the Local Authority should the need arise.

What are the most challenging aspects of this role?
All Building Control Surveyors are required to understand the intricacies of numerous pieces of legislations, as well as the practicalities of achieving compliance with these on real-world construction projects. They are also expected to have expert knowledge of some highly technical areas, including mechanical, structural and fire engineering. The biggest challenge however is ensuring that clients, their designers and contractors view us a valuable member of their team, enabling the construction of safe and secure buildings and that they do not view us simply and solely as enforcers of the Building Regulations, as may have been the perception in the past. Whilst we remain enforcers, our role is not just to find fault, but to work with the design and construction teams to overcome any issues identified to ensure compliance with the Building Regulations. It is important for us to develop a sufficient level of trust with the architects and builders so that can appreciate that we are acting in best interests of all concerned and ultimately, in the best interests of the building and it’s end users when we identify issues.

Another significant challenge faced is that we are not a ‘Clerk of Works’ service monitoring every stage of the construction process on site. We only see a snapshot of the work and as such, it is important that we see works before they are covered up, which can be a challenge on a site where works are progressing rapidly. If upon inspection, a defect is identified, remedial works can be costly and involve delays, and being the bearer of bad news is never a welcomed one. However, the unique service now offered by BRCS and Hickton should help to ensure that defects are identified at the earliest opportunity, avoiding any programme delays and lessening the need for intervention.

What contraventions (if any) are encountered?
A contravention of the Building Regulations occurs where building works do not comply with the Building Regulations. We regularly identify such contraventions through feedback on plans and advice on site and would normally see our bringing of these to the attention of the architect or builder as an ‘intervention’, where we provide advice on how these can be addressed. In some respects, this is could be considered to be informal enforcement, where discussion and sometimes, persuasion avoids the need for instigating formal enforcement procedures. Although we have always done so, post Grenfell, the benefits of a pro-active and responsive building control service and the identification of contraventions and our resultant intervention to remedy these at the earliest opportunity has become more apparent and welcomed by clients than ever before.

In terms of the contraventions encountered, the most common reason to intervene during a plan check would generally be in relation to means of escape, ensuring this is always satisfactory, whereas on site, such interventions generally relate to structure, although closely followed by fire safety. One of the most common issues on site relates to foundations and these not being found to be deep enough, or no regard having been paid to the proximity of trees or drains, etc. Fire protection of openings and fire stopping is another area, that although not always visible, can be a problem if not undertaken correctly. The integrity of compartments can be compromised by a lack of, or inadequate sealing of gaps and openings for pipes, etc. In such cases, advice is always given as to the additional works required, so that these can be remedied. Such interventions can prevent immediate or future high and moderate risk problems both in relation to the construction of the building and the safety of the occupants.

Can you provide examples of what kind of mistakes you most commonly come across?
There are a number of mistakes that are routinely identified on plan, but these can normally be traced to a mis-interpretation of the guidance contained in the Approved Documents. It is our job as Building Control Surveyors to identify such mistakes, bring them to the attention of the architects and builders and if possible, provide constructive guidance as to how compliance with the Building Regulations can be achieved.

Common mistakes regularly identified include a lack of sub-division to corridors serving two or more stairs, the omission of smoke ventilation in certain residential schemes, a lack of disabled access and facilities on new or altered buildings or the specification of inadequate insulation are others regularly identified. Such mistakes are however easily remedied at plans stage, whereas they may be extremely difficult to remedy during construction and as such, the need for a detailed appraisal of the plans upon submission is paramount.

How do you ensure that you are adding value?
We can add value to a project by working closely with our clients, their design teams and contractors at the earliest opportunity to help avoid building regulation problems – which saves time and helps reduce construction and lifetime building costs right from the very start of a project. We aim to provide a proactive service with a practical interpretation of the building regulations to offer advice and ideas wherever possible help find solutions to any building regulation reacted problems. By building a strong and effective working relationship with our clients, we believe that we can deliver measurable benefits and added value at every stage of a project.

What do you enjoy most about this role?
Personally, I enjoy meeting the various people involved in the construction project from the client, designer to the contractor and working as part of a team that has turned a designer’s vision into a reality. I like to feel that the completed building has benefited from my involvement and that it has resulted in a building that is not only well constructed, energy efficient and accessible, but also safe for those who live, work and visit it. It is a satisfying feeling to have worked on a project that will form part of the city scape or the community for years to come.

BRCS (Building Control) Ltd

Amber Court
51 Church Street
S74 8HT

01226 743959