How long will the structural design take?
A typical domestic extension or alteration will generally be completed within 2 to 5 weeks from confirmation that the fees are acceptable. The timescale mainly depends on our workload, and a large project may take longer. If you have a critical deadline please discuss this with us as we can often arrange to process your project more quickly.
Is a site visit necessary?
This is often a point of discussion. A site visit can be relatively expensive and we do not make a site visit as a matter of course. Some clients may consider that a site visit is essential, others try to avoid the need for as visit to minimise costs. We prefer to assess each case on its merits. We will consider what information we have on the building, how extensive the work is and the risks involved. Some architect’s drawings provide all the information we need and there is no need to visit site, especially for some widely used building types. We will always put structural safety first.
Will you design the steelwork connections?
Domestic extensions to form open plan spaces often require connections between the steel elements. Steelwork fabricators must obtain a design for this type of situation. As a matter of course we will include the details of the connection arrangements. If the connections are not shown then the steelwork fabricator will be obliged to employ another engineer to carry out the design, usually incurring additional fees. Where we have been employed for this work we have found that it is time consuming to pick up the design and complete it. On large steelwork projects it is traditional for the fabricator to design the connections because there are significant costs in the connections details which can be more suitably controlled by the fabricator. This type of approach does not work when for small domestic. We consider that it is for better service to provide all the details ourselves.
What is the difference between planning approval and building control approval?
Quite simply the planning process ensures that new structures are suitable for their surroundings, and the focus will be on size, shape form and function. The primary focus of building control approval is on safety. Structural safety is one of over a dozen construction aspects that are checked before giving building control approval.
Planning permission may or may not be required for a project, building control approval is always required when structural alterations are undertaken.
Do I need to use my Local Authority to obtain building control approval?
There are two methods available to obtain building control approval:
- Local Authority Building Control service
- Private sector Approved Inspector Building Control service.
Further guidance can be found on the Planning Portal
Can I have a full structural survey?
We are often asked for a “full structural survey”. This term is widely misunderstood and even websites devoted to the subject of home surveys incorrectly use this term. The RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) has three levels of surveys, the most comprehensive of which is the “Survey Level 3: RICS Building Survey” and will provide “an in-depth analysis of the property's condition and includes advice on defects, repairs and maintenance options”. In the first instance this is usually the type of survey that homebuyer will require. A structural survey will focus exclusively on the structure of the building, i.e. the main load-bearing elements such as masonry walls, roof and floor timbers and foundations. It will not report on the fabric of the building such as windows, drainage, electrics plumbing etc. For a full survey the structural engineer would need to see every part of the structure which may be perfectly possible for an industrial building or bridge. But, for the typical domestic home most of the structure is hidden, and in most situations it is not appropriate to remove the finishes to see the structure itself.
Therefore, we will quote to undertake a “structural inspection”, which means that we will inspect as much of the building as possible, we will not move large pieces of furniture, and we will not lift carpets unless there is a specific reasons to do so. But will look inside cupboards and in the roof space to look of signs of structural issues. We will primarily look for cracks, which are a very good indicator of structural problems. Other signs of problems are large deflections in timber members. We visit a large number of properties and so we have a good mental database of typical domestic properties and this can help identify modifications that have been carried out without the advice of a structural engineer. This level of inspection should be perfectly adequate to identify if there are any structural defects in a property; although there is always a chance that there is a latent defect, but without exposing every part of the structure it is not possible to rule out every defect.