CDM – Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015) came into force in Great Britain on 6 April 2015. These Regulations supersede the CDM Regs 2007. They set out what people involved in construction work need to do to protect themselves from harm and anyone the work affects.

Whatever your role in construction, CDM aims to improve health and safety in the industry by helping you to:

  • sensibly plan the work so the risks involved are managed from start to finish
  • have the right people for the right job at the right time
  • cooperate and coordinate your work with others
  • have the right information about the risks and how they are being managed
  • communicate this information effectively to those who need to know
  • consult and engage with workers about the risks and how they are being managed
  • CDM 2015 is subject to certain transitional arrangements, for construction projects that began before 6 April 2015 and continue beyond that date.

Virtually everyone involved in a construction project has legal duties under CDM 2015. These ‘dutyholders’ are defined as follows.

Client – Anyone who has construction work carried out for them. The main duty for clients is to make sure their project is suitably managed, ensuring the health and safety of all who might be affected by the work, including members of the public. CDM 2015 recognises two types of client:

  • commercial clients have construction work carried out as part of their business. This could be an individual, partnership or company and includes property developers and companies managing domestic properties
  • domestic clients have construction work carried out for them but not in connection with any business – usually work done on their own home or the home of a family member. CDM 2015 does not require domestic clients to carry out client duties as these normally pass to other dutyholders

Designer – An organisation or individual whose work involves preparing or modifying designs, drawings, specifications, bills of quantity or design calculations. Designers can be architects, consulting engineers and quantity surveyors, or anyone who specifies and alters designs as part of their work.  They can also include tradespeople if they carry out design work. The designer’s main duty is to eliminate, reduce or control foreseeable risks that may arise during construction work, or in the use and maintenance of the building once built. Designers work under the control of a principal designer on projects with more than one contractor.

Principal designer – A designer appointed by the client to control the pre-construction phase on projects with more than one contractor. The principal designer’s main duty is to plan, manage, monitor and coordinate health and safety during this phase, when most design work is carried out.

Principal contractor – A contractor appointed by the client to manage the construction phase on projects with more than one contractor. The principal contractor’s main duty is to plan, manage, monitor and coordinate health and safety during this phase, when all construction work takes place.

Contractor – An individual or business in charge of carrying out construction work (eg building, altering, maintaining or demolishing). Anyone who manages this work or directly employs or engages construction workers is a contractor. Their main duty is to plan, manage and monitor the work under their control in a way that ensures the health and safety of anyone it might affect (including members of the public). Contractors work under the control of the principal contractor on projects with more than one contractor.

Worker – An individual who actually carries out the work involved in building, altering, maintaining or demolishing buildings or structures. Workers include: plumbers, electricians, scaffolders, painters, decorators, steel erectors and labourers, as well as supervisors like foremen and chargehands. Their duties include cooperating with their employer and other dutyholders, reporting anything they see that might endanger the health and safety of themselves or others. Workers must be consulted on matters affecting their health, safety and welfare.

 Transitional arrangements

CDM 2015 recognises that there will be construction projects that start before the Regulations come into force on 6 April 2015 and continue beyond that date.  For these projects, the following transitional arrangements apply.

Where there is, or is expected to be, more than one contractor on a project:

  •  where the construction phase has not yet started and the client has not yet appointed a CDM co-ordinator, the client must appoint a principal designer as soon as practicable
  • if the CDM co-ordinator has already been appointed the client must appoint a principal designer to replace the CDM co-ordinator by 6 October 2015, unless the project comes to an end before then
  • in the period it takes to appoint the principal designer, the appointed CDM co-ordinator should comply with the duties contained in Schedule 4 of CDM 2015.  These reflect the duties placed on CDM co-ordinators under CDM 2007 rather than requiring CDM co-ordinators to act as principal designers, a role for which they may not be equipped

Other transitional arrangements are:

  •  pre-construction information, construction phase plans or health and safety files provided under CDM 2007 are recognised as meeting the equivalent requirements in CDM 2015
  • any project notified under CDM 2007 is recognised as a notification under CDM 2015
  • a principal contractor appointed under CDM 2007 will be considered to be a principal contractor under CDM 2015

In all other circumstances, the requirements of CDM 2015 apply in full from 6 April 2015.

New BRANDING launched

Early in 2015 the owners decided, following a review of the business, that a re-branding of the company was necessary. A search for a new brand image started, as the initial step in a planned programme of rapid growth of the core business with new services being added to the portfolio.

The new branding followed an extensive re-branding exercise by the brilliant Apparition Marketing & Design based in Halesworth in Suffolk. They offer a friendly yet very professional service –

The new branding was developed over the early part of 2015 was recently tested on it’s first outing at the Property, Home & Investment Show at Trinity Park in Ipswich in May 2015 (Photo of banner with new branding).


Following final approval, June 2015 saw the full launch of the new company branding with new vehicle livery (photo below), advertising and corporate stationery.




PPN Ipswich June 2015

Our owner Jim Campbell recently gave a talk entitled “Refurb like a professional” to a mixed audience of new and experienced property investors at the popular PPN (Progressive Property Network) event in Ipswich hosted by Halstead Ottley. An event well worth a visit if you are at all interested in property!

“Refurb like a professional” – Jim Campbell 

Jim runs his own successful construction company based in Halesworth. The company was formed in 2008 and has a Commercial Services Division and a Residential Services Division. The company carries out their own developments and refurbishments and have contracts with a number of Councils.

A civil engineer by profession, Jim has worked in senior management roles on several large projects throughout the UK, Sizewell B power station and the Jubilee Line Extension to name a couple. He has been a Project Manager on numerous multi-million pound projects and latterly a Contract Manager for 12 years running multiple sites across the UK in specialist disciplines before concentrating full time on his own business. Jim has an extensive knowledge of commercial & residential refurbishments and specialises in areas such as building defects and fire protection. 

 Jim also completed Progressive Property’s VIP programme in 2013.

The talk highlighted our systemised approach to carrying out our refurbishment projects. We use the same tried and tested management process for all of our projects.

The talk was well received and updated the audience on the requirements of the recently introduced CDM (Construction, Design & Management) Regulations 2015. Since 6th April 2015, there are specific duties that the client and contractor must do in relation to Health & Safety on site. If you want any further information on this please contact our office for advice on your next project.

Jim is available for talks at events however these opportunities are limited due to his other commitments.

PPN Ipswich June 2015

The evening also saw another great speaker, Tracey Woods, impressing the audience with her knowledge of HMO’s. Tracey finds and converts properties for her growing list of clients.



Housing Crisis – 2014 to 2018

 Housing crisis “to spread across the South of England”

By 2018 the South of England will face a combined shortfall of at least 160,000 homes a new report from international real estate adviser, Savills has claimed. The report identifies that local planning authorities are simply not planning enough new homes to meet the growing housing need.

In a new report, Planning: Countdown to the Election, the Savills planning team has examined locally planned targets across the South East, South West and East of England. Their analysis found that these regions will be short of 91,323 homes when targets are compared to need. Furthermore, this number does not take into account the additional demand that will continue to spill out from London.

The difference between house prices in London and the South East is now higher than it has ever been and this is expected to translate into increased demand overflowing into the Home Counties and to locations as far afield as Cambridge, Brighton, Reading and Oxford.

Savills has identified key migratory hotspots around London and concludes that the majority are already facing their own local housing shortfalls. The firm is calling for local planning authorities to form an ‘arc of cooperation’ around London, working towards solutions that look beyond individual local authority boundaries to maximise housing delivery.

“Local planning authorities need to act with urgency and in cooperation with neighbouring authorities to plan for the scale of housing delivery now needed right across the South of England,” says Savills planning director, David Jackson. “Currently planned targets fall well below the projected need, without accounting for the issues of years of undersupply at a local level. Add to this the projected flows of demand from London and there is a real crisis looming.”

England currently needs 240,000 new homes a year according to Town and Country Planning Association estimates. Translating this national figure down to the local level, Savills has identified particular hotspots where planned levels of housing are well below levels of need: the annual shortfall peaks in Brighton & Hove at over 700 homes, followed by Luton at over 500, Epping Forest around 400 and Elmbridge at over 350 each year. Authorities within the more affordable, lower demand areas to the east of London (Thurrock, Dartford, Gravesham) are amongst the few planning to deliver relatively high levels of new homes. Conversely, in Surrey, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, where there is higher demand from Londoners, housing targets are well below the rate required.

“We need to plan larger scale developments as a matter of urgency to meet local need and anticipated London overspill,” says Savills planning director, Jonathan Steele, “Without this we face a growing housing shortfall, with affordability an inevitable consequence.

“The Chancellor’s recent commitment to a new ‘garden city’ in Ebbsfleet, with an initial 15,000 new homes is welcome, but it is a drop in the ocean – the equivalent of just four months’ requirement for housing in London. New towns or Garden cities alone are not therefore a panacea. A long term commitment is required by government and other agencies to unblock infrastructure and other constraints to ensure that rates of housebuilding achieve a sustained and substantial increase.”


Condensation is more common than you think!

Condensation is more common than you think and can become a significant problem in a property so it is important that people understand how it occurs and how to deal with it.


Condensation essentially produces moisture and therefore can also lead to a number of other defects in a property.

Source – Google

Most people will have seen damp in their homes in one form or another (such as on your window as in the photo above) however they may not realise what it is or the cause. Damp is one of the most common problems encountered in houses and can show itself in a number of ways such ‘wet patches’ on surfaces, “fluffy” mould growth and occasionally a musty smell.  If left untreated damp can lead to deterioration of internal surfaces and leave a very unsightly appearance. It can in some circumstances lead to health problems, with groups such as the elderly, young children and those with respiratory conditions such as asthma being most at risk. 

Condensation occurs naturally but can be more significant depending on how we live.All air contains a certain amount of ‘invisible’ water vapour.  As human beings we are emitting water vapour constantly. Water vapour is also emitted by the activities in the home such as washing, cooking, drying clothes, using portable heaters, etc.  Basically, there are large volumes of water vapour being emitted in your home and the amount of water vapour that is emitted is determined by the activites that we carry out and the number of people in your house at any particular time.  Condensation occurs when this water vapour comes into contact with cold surfaces and the air no longer has the capacity to hold any more water vapour.  This is also known as relative humidity which is explained below:

Relative humidity is described best as – the actual water vapour present in air to that which could be present and is routinely expressed as a percentage. The reason we refer to ‘relative’ humidity is because air has a varying ability to hold moisture vapour depending on temperature.  Warm air can hold more water vapour than cold air.  Once relative humidity reaches 100% it no longer has the ability to hold any more water vapour and it will start to condense on cooler surfaces (something referred to as ‘Dew Point’), which is the physical change into a liquid, ie. condensation.

An example of condensation would be your bathroom.  When you have a bath or shower large quantities of water vapour are produced.  Sometimes this will develop into a ‘mist’ in the room until you open the window or turn on an extractor fan.  Have you ever noticed that you get water developing on your windows and walls?  This is condensation. The same effect can be seen when cooking in your kitchen.  Have you ever wondered why this happens more readily on cold days, and in the warmer months it is hardly noticeable?  This is because the air in your bathroom or kitchen on colder days has less capacity to hold moisture than the air in your bathroom or kitchen during warmer days (warm air can hold more water vapour than cold air).  Windows are less thermally efficient than the surrounding structure such as the walls.  Therefore the internal surface temperature of the windows will be a few degrees cooler than the surface temperature of the walls.  This will mean that once dew point occurs (100% relative humidity), it will start to condense on the cooler surfaces first, i.e the windows, before it starts to condense on the surrounding walls.

Source: Google

Condensation can occur in any room in a house or within the structure of a house (interstitial condensation), including roof and floor voids, basically anywhere, where there is water vapour and cold surfaces.  If left untreated condensation can become a significant problem so it is important that people understand how it occurs and how to deal with it.  As condensation produces moisture it can also cause a number of other defects that can be found in buildings, namely timber decay such as wet rot or dry rot, as well as causing mould growth which can lead to potential health problems. 

You do not need to be a damp specialist to be able to deal with condensation or reduce the risk of it occurring.  There are numerous products on the market that claim to reduce or remove the risk of condensation in homes. These types of products may temporarily remove condensation mould that may have already occurred, or cover over damp mould. However the only certain way of reducing the risk of condensation, which will vary from building to building is to deal with the root causes.  The usual factors that result in condensation are poor thermal insulation, inadequate heating and inadequate ventilation, or any combination of these. If all of these factors can be improved then you are well on your way to reducing condensation and it’s side-effects. 




Copyright Ark Property Services Ltd 2013

Soundproofing Floors

Soundproofing Floors

Sound is an issue that affects most of us at some point even if we don’t realize it at the time. How often do you hear the noise of talking or TV from an adjacent room or some walking across the floor above? Soundproofing will greatly reduce these sounds however it must be done correctly.

We commonly come across this issue during refurbishment projects such as conversion of large houses into flats. Guidelines for reduction of sound in all types of properties (new build and conversions) are described in detail in Approved Document E of the Building Regulations. However this might not be how you like to spend your evenings reading such documents!

Sound is classified into two categories – Airborne or Impact. A simple way to determine what type of sound is affecting you is as follows:

1. If you want to stop the sound of a TV or conversation in an adjacent room then you are trying to stop airborne noise.

2. If you are trying to stop the sound of footsteps, objects being dropped or the noise of furniture being moved around then you are trying to stop impact noise.

Or a more technical explanation would be:

Airborne Sound – This occurs when a sound transfers directly from a source to the receiver. Typically this would be through small holes or openings in the construction, along ductwork, or through voids such as ceiling cavities. Airborne noises are conversation, TV noise, music, barking dogs.

Impact Sound – Impact noise is structural vibration, transmitted from a point of impact through a structure and experienced as radiated sound from a vibrating surface. This is commonly caused by an item hitting the floor, from where the impact results in vibrations being transferred through the buildings structure. The most common path for the noise is generally to the ceiling of the lower property or room. Impact noises are footsteps, dropping items on the floor, or children running.

  • a TYPICAL wooden separating floor IS constructed of timber joists and floorboards

This type of floor construction is used in most domestic properties; the typical floor construction will be plasterboard or lathe and plaster ceilings, timber floor joists and wooden floorboards or chipboard flooring over the top. Floors constructed in this way with little or no insulation and no absorbent or resilient layer on the floor will allow airborne and impact noise too easily pass between rooms from one room to another through the floor.

  • HOW WE Stop airborne sound transferring through a floor

Insulating between the floor joists with acoustic insulation will reduce airborne sound transmission through wooden floors. Building Regulations stipulates using 100mm 45kg/m³ insulation between the floor joists as part of a separating floor solution to comply with Part E. Generally we prefer an increased level of soundproofing and we recommend and install a minimum of 80/m³ acoustic insulation slab, the higher density will reduce more airborne noise. Compliance with Part E does not mean sound will not transfer between the floors. The higher density 80kg/m³ insulation slab will block and absorb more airborne noise. However we should note that acoustic insulation should not be confused with rolls of thermal insulation which are lower in density, therefore do not offer the same level of sound insulation.

An example of dense insulation slab  

When we install acoustic insulation between floor joists, we cut the slabs to size using a hand saw, cut them slightly larger than the opening so the slabs will friction fit between the floor joists, ensure the whole area is filled with insulation using any off cuts to fill any small gaps. Using acoustic insulation below the floor will reduce all types of airborne noise.

There are alternative materials available is the client does not want the hassle of lifting floorboards. An alternative material is a high density rubber mat that can be laid over the top of the floorboards to reduce airborne noise. It looks similar to carpet underlay however it is a much denser material….and more expensive!

  • Stop impact sound transferring through a floor

To effectively reduce impact sound through a floor you need to reduce the vibration caused as an item hits the floor. The level of noise that will transmit through the floor depends on the force of the impact, the vibration transmission characteristics of the floor structure and the floor covering.

There are two types of floor soundproofing solutions to reduce impact noise, acoustic matting or floating floors; both solutions will reduce impact noise transferring through wooden and concrete floor structures.

Deciding which type of flooring suits your requirements will depend on certain factors.

A. Floor finish

  • Carpet
  • Laminate
  • Tiled
  • Wooden

B. Height requirements

  • What is the height restriction?
  • What height can you raise the floor?

C. Building Regulations

  • Do you have to meet certain requirements?
  • Use acoustic matting to soundproof floors

Acoustic matting is the most common form of floor soundproofing used to reduce impact noise. These types of products are specifically designed to be used over any floor below most floor finishes including, carpet, wooden floors, laminates and tiled floors. Again similar to a carpet underlay just a denser material.

An example of acoustic underlay

NSSF7+ acoustic underlay mat

This type of flooring can be laid down quickly and easily. The mats are cut with a sharp knife, laid with joints staggered with the edges butted together. A strip of matting can be laid around the perimeter of the room if you are using carpet underlay and carpet.

If you are laying a hard floor finish over the mats you might need to use a layer of 9mm ply or equivalent over the matting to reduce movement.

Acoustic mats can be used to soundproof separating floors to meet the requirements of Approved Document E when combined with acoustic insulation and the correct ceiling construction. We will cover ceilings in another blog post.

  • Floating floors reduce high levels of impact noise

A floating floor refers to flooring that is not mechanically fixed in place with nails or screws. Floating floors are normally supplied as interlocking flooring that has a tongue and groove edge that fit together locking the floor in place, soundproof floating floors have a resilient layer bonded to the underside, this layer is to isolate the floor from the buildings structure, this isolation will reduce sound transmitting through the floor and joists into the room below.

Floating floors can be laid over wooden and concrete floors to reduce high levels of sound and to ensure new build and conversions achieve the requirements of Approved Document E. Floating flooring can be laid either directly onto the joists or over the existing floor.

Install a floating floor in rooms that require the highest level of sound isolation. Floating floors can be used in specialist applications such as recording studios to reduce vibration along the floors from one room to another.

The flooring needs be isolated from the wall to reduce “flanking” noise. Flanking noise is where the sound finds the least path of resistance and travels behind skirting and under the floor down the room below. To prevent this, flanking tape or isolation tape can be fixed between the floor and the skirting to help isolate the flooring from walls. An alternative is to seal around the perimeter of the floor with an acoustic sealant.

Watch out for our next article on soundproofing walls………

Fire Doors – Why they are so important.

This article was published recently in Construction Manager a website of the CIOB. Correctly specified, installed and maintained, fire doors SAVE lives. Don’t gamble with fire safety, it WILL catch you out when you least expect it and when you are least prepared!


Why fire doors are so important?
• What to look out for when specifying them
• What the Building Regulations say

The Lakanal House disaster is a stark reminder of the dangers of fire in buildings – and the importance of correctly specifying and installing key products. John Fletcher explains what to look out for when it comes to fire doors.

Photograph: David Askham/Alamy

In July 2009, a terrible fire took hold in a 12-storey block of flats in Camberwell. Six people were killed and at least 20 people were injured. It was the UK’s worst tower block fire.

The inquest into the Lakanal House tragedy closed at Easter this year and legal action is continuing, so there is not much more that can be said at this stage about what went so badly wrong. However, a fire scientist from BRE was able to give some good insights into one of the areas of failure.

Commenting on the fire doors, he told the inquest: “The fire impacted on the front door and on the panel above the front door and on the boxing in under the stairs and on the escape door on to the corridor. The panel above the front door failed very quickly. The boxing in under the stairs failed within two to three minutes after being exposed to fire, and that happened at about 16.50 hours. The front door failed and collapsed into the corridor at about 17.19 hours.”

These facts are alarming and a stark reminder of the potential consequences of poor specification, installation or maintenance of a critical element in fire safety. To avoid a situation like this happening again, all building owners, contractors and construction managers will benefit from further understanding the role of fire doors as well as the demands of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, commonly known as the RRO.

The RRO replaced more than 70 pieces of previous fire legislation, including the old fire certificate. The law now firmly places responsibility for fire safety in commercial and public buildings, including the common parts of flats and houses of multiple occupation, to whoever has day-to-day control of the premises. Each business must appoint a responsible person, whether it be the owner, manager, facilities manager or an expert consultant, to manage the fire risk to the building, including protecting those using the premises and its immediate surroundings.

The emphasis of the RRO is on preventing fires and reducing risk. The Department for Communities and Local Government, which is responsible for the legislation, divides all non-domestic buildings into 11 sections, producing a detailed guide for each. The guides are developed to inform the responsible person on how to comply with the RRO, by helping them to carry out a fire risk assessment of the building and identifying the fire precautions that need to be implemented. The guides are available for download at

Why fire doors are so important

All of us who use or occupy any building have a right to expect that we will be safely protected should a fire break out. Fire doors are part of a building’s passive fire protection system, an essential requirement for all public buildings, offices and factories.

They are also a requirement in certain domestic situations, such as in flats, or where a door leads into an integral garage, or in any dwelling where there is a second floor habitable room such as loft conversions or a “room in the roof”.

All rooms in any of these situations are separated from other rooms, or “compartmented”, to keep any fire in the area in which it starts, to protect the occupants (and contents) of other compartments and to provide a safe, protected escape route. This subdivision slows down the spread of fire and smoke and allows occupants to either escape or wait for rescue within a protected area.

The walls, ceilings, entrances and exits are therefore designed to resist the fire for a specified period of time.

How to buy fire doors

Most doors are bought via builders’ merchants and distributors. But a fire door is actually a group of components that are required to perform correctly together in the event of a fire. These components include the door leaf, frame, seals and essential building hardware which are referred to in the door’s fire test evidence. Using the wrong components may have a significant impact on the overall performance of the fire door.

Correct signage is also required on all fire doors installed in non-domestic buildings. Signs should be put on both sides of the door and must clearly indicate that the door is a fire door and any further instructions required such as “Keep Closed” or “Keep Locked”.

Fire doors are rigorously tested and must be fitted with matching components

Doorsets or door assemblies?

Fire doorset BS EN 12519 provides the following definition: a “complete unit consisting of a door frame and a door leaf or leaves, supplied with all essential parts from a single source”. This means that a door leaf is factory pre-hung in its frame, with hinges, glazing system (glass, seal, bead and fixing), fire and (when required) smoke seals, and ironmongery. A fire doorset is a fully finished, engineered unit from a single manufacturer, with all components matched and pre-assembled in the factory and is covered by a single fire certificate. A whole doorset supplied in individual component parts for assembly on site is often referred to as a door kit.

Fire door assemblies BS EN 12519 provides the following definition: a “complete assembly as installed, including door frame and one or more leaves, together with its essential hardware supplied from separate sources”. This means that it is a fire door installation made up from loose, correct, compatible components — consisting of a door leaf, frame, architraves, glazing system, decorative finishes, seals, intumescents, ironmongery and door furniture, sourced from different suppliers and manufacturers, made up on site into the final door assembly. It is the only acceptable alternative to a fire doorset.

Is one better than the other? No. Properly certificated fire doorsets and fire door assemblies will have compatible components that meet the Building Regulations and will work in the event of a fire. So the decision depends on the user’s needs, budget and convenience.

What does matter, though, is that all the information relating to the fire doorset or assembly is handed over to the responsible person, since this will be necessary in future inspections and for any maintenance that may be required.

Fit for purpose?

Manufacturers often make claims that their products are tested and achieve a certain performance level. But there are three ways in which manufacturers can describe their compliance:

Self-declaration Where a manufacturer makes their own claim of conformity by stating that the door, doorset or door component “complies with” or is “designed to” or “tested to” a certain standard.

An increasing number of fire door manufacturers and component manufacturers are making such claims, but these are no guarantee that products will meet the right standards or that they will continue to do so.

Test certificate  A test certificate tells the purchaser that a company’s products have been tested and they have a certificate to prove it. But caution still needs to be taken with this information, as it provides only a snapshot of the product test.

Third-party certification Third-party certification tests and verifies a fire door’s design, performance, manufacturing process and quality assurance from manufacture to installation. The company is independently audited to ensure that all the management and manufacturing processes and systems are in place to ensure consistency with the product that was tested. The product is also subjected to regular scrutiny, with frequent testing taking place on standard products to ensure that the test wasn’t just a once-only event. In the BWF-CERTIFIRE Fire Door and Doorset Scheme, all manufacturers and companies that are licensed to cut an aperture and glaze doors are third-party accredited.

To ensure fire door safety, make sure you only specify or use third-party certificated and accredited doors, frames and components. Check that all components are compatible with the door’s test evidence. Check the certificate is relevant to the door and components that are fitted to the door. Never cut apertures on site.

Stick to the spec

Sadly, “value engineering” brings with it a whole set of new risks when it comes to fire safety. By compromising the original specification in any way, a fire door installation risks failure in the event of a fire. This is one of those areas where sticking to specification, and using only third-party certificated fire doors and components, will actually reduce risk and costs for the construction industry.

Minimum gap should be 3-4mm

There are four main areas where unwary construction managers and their clients may be most vulnerable:

Non-compliance with Building Regulation 38
Not all fire doors satisfy the Building Regulations in the way they might have done in the past.  Where a building is erected or extended, or has undergone a material change of use, and the RRO applies to that building or extension, Regulation 38 of the Building Regulations now requires that a package of fire safety information – “as built” information that records the fire safety design of the building or extension – must be assembled and given to the person responsible for the premises.

The fire safety information provided should include all fire safety design measures in appropriate detail and with sufficient accuracy to assist the responsible person to operate and maintain the building safely. Where a fire safety strategy or a preliminary fire risk assessment has been prepared, these should also be included.

The exact amount of information and level of detail necessary will vary depending on the nature and complexity of the building’s design. Appendix G of Approved Document B, Volume 2, 2006 edition (with 2007 and 2010 amendments) provides a guide for the type of information that should be provided which will depend on the complexity of the building. This information includes, among other details, the locations of:

  • Escape routes;
  • Compartmentation and separation;
  • Fire doors, self-closing doors and other doors with relevant hardware such as panic locks;
  • Specifications of any fire safety equipment, in particular routine maintenance schedules;
  • Any assumptions in the design of fire safety arrangements regarding building management.

Non-compliance with the RRO
Everyone involved in the life of a fire door, from its specification to maintaining it in use, is responsible for that product and its role in protecting property and saving lives. But increasingly it is the client, the building owner, who is receiving punitive fines and even jail terms for non-compliance with the RRO. Installing third-party certificated products, and then ensuring regular maintenance checks by a qualified fire door inspector, is the simplest way to comply with the RRO. Fortunately, the UK has Europe’s first fire door inspection scheme, FDIS, which can put you in touch with inspectors near you.

Lack of adequate insurance protection
Fire losses in the UK now run to £3.4m per day. Unsurprisingly, there is increasing scrutiny on building elements such as fire doors by insurers, brokers, surveyors and loss adjustors. Leading insurers follow
the advice of fire risk experts at RISCAuthority who now require all fire protection products to be third-party certificated and installed by adequately trained specialist installers. Clients are well advised to follow this advice too, to ensure adequate insurance protection and more affordable premiums.

Insufficient protection for life or property
Diligent fire door manufacturers work hard to design and test their products to ensure they perform in a specific way during a fire. Key to this point is that a fire door is not simply the door itself, but includes the associated ironmongery, windows, frame and seals. Any small change to any single component within this setup will impact upon the door’s performance. Attempt to save costs by fitting a fire door to an unspecified frame or to replace the ironmongery, for example, and the fire door will no longer be either compliant or fit-for-purpose.

John Fletcher is manager of the BWF-CERTIFIRE Fire Door and Doorset Scheme tel: 0844 209 2610

Fire doors and the Building Regulations

Approved Part B — Fire safety

Part B of the Building Regulations in England and Wales covers fire safety. The latest revision came into effect in April 2007 and is divided into two sections, differentiating between domestic and non-domestic buildings. Flats and apartments are now considered as non-domestic buildings. The Building Standards (Scotland) Technical Handbook takes a similar approach. In Northern Ireland, these issues are covered by Building Regulations Part E.

Part B identifies minimum fire resistance periods for various elements of construction, including fire doors. In a compartment wall that separates buildings, the fire door must match the fire resistance period of the wall containing the door with a minimum period of 60 minutes. In all other situations, a 30-minute fire door (FD30) is allowed. Part B also identifies the use of 20-minute fire doors (FD20) in some circumstances.

However, the BWF-CERTIFIRE Scheme strongly recommends that any fire door should be designed to last a minimum of 30 minutes, so FD20 is no longer manufactured by its member companies.

Approved Document E — Sound resistance

This document explains the minimum sound resistance performance recommended for buildings of multiple occupancy. Where a door separates the occupants of a building, for example the front door of an apartment, the door must maintain the sound performance requirements. Sound performance of a fire door is generally based on the weight, with higher density materials giving more resistance to sound. Acoustic seals may be required on a fire door, including at the threshold.

Approved Document F — Ventilation

In domestic buildings, a ventilation gap totalling 7,600mm² is recommended at the threshold of the door, to allow air movement throughout the building. This measurement is taken from the highest finished floor covering to the bottom edge of the door. For a 762mm wide door, this represents a 10 mm gap, (reducing to 8mm for a 926mm wide door). This can be achieved by making an undercut of 10mm above the fitted floor finish. The gap is likely to be around 3mm for smoke control doors (denoted with an “S” suffix). For non-domestic buildings, the ventilation requirements are likely to be the responsibility of the heating and ventilation designer. However, it is always very important to check the threshold gap details in the manufacturer’s instructions.

Approved Document L — Conservation of fuel and power

Where a fire door divides a heated and unheated area,
it will be required to provide a thermal performance (energy efficiency) that will control the heat leakage. Examples of this are flats with doors leading to common corridors, integral garages or external doors.

Approved Document M — Access to and use of buildings

This document introduces a number of recommendations to improve access to and movement through buildings for disabled persons, including minimum door widths, the use of visual contrasts between doors and their surroundings, minimum opening forces and the provision of vision panels.

Approved Document N — Glazing safety

Safety glass is required in a fire door when located under 1,500mm from floor level or if the smaller dimension of the glazing area is greater than 250mm. This applies to both domestic and non-domestic buildings.


With thanks to Construction Manager. Visit their excellent website at 

Loft Conversions

An interesting article on loft conversions. Although this article refers to London property, the same is true of most other areas in our experience. Where you cannot extend out from your property consider adding a touch of class on top of your property! Speak to us and let us help with your project.

Loft conversions: meet the new generation

Loft conversions used to be predictable and boring, but now interior designers are using them to add light, drama and value to our homes.

Stunning refurbished former church in Tower Hamlets is on the market for £4m through Knight Frank

In the black: a stunning refurbished former church with elegant attic space in Tower Hamlets.

“It can be the lightest, airiest room in the house,” says Tom Howard, an architect with Millar Howard Workshop. “It’s your chance to drink in the London skyline. But so many of them are just sweaty great boxes.”

Loft conversions have been in the London home expander’s armoury for decades, long before kitchen extensions became de rigueur or basements were all the rage.

“The loft conversion was the very first home improvement that one saw, going back 30 years,” says Lindsay Cuthill, the head of residential sales in south-west London for Savills. “Loft companies have designed thousands and thousands of them. They are in their second or third generation. There is no problem that they haven’t encountered.”

In addition, the men in overalls attack the conversion from the outside, via scaffolding, so you can continue to live at home during the process. Try that during the grind of a basement extension.

Provided it is quick and relatively hassle-free, a loft conversion is a good investment, too. Spending up to £50,000 on a standard job is, according to Cuthill, “a bargain”, considering the extra space you get and London property prices.

It could add up to to 20 per cent to the value of your home.

The space is the thing, of course. Two-bedroom Victorian terraces can suddenly become four-bedroom family homes.

Seven years ago, Louise Harris converted the loft in her Battersea home. It was an off-the-shelf design and, while she has no complaints, she now sees that it could have been done so much better.

Last year she moved into a near-identical house in the next street. This time, however, she was determined to do something a bit special. So she turned to Howard, and the result could not have been more different.

Instead of standard Velux windows, the design called for a folding glass panel that opens up an entire side of the house to the heavens.

It produced the kind of space and light that makes one want to lie and stare up at the blue skies. So Harris installed a roll-top bath underneath.

“With my friends, I am now evangelical about having lofts done really well,” says Harris. This time I feel like every inch of the space has been maximised.”

She even had soundproofing added to keep out aircraft noise.

But changes can also be made to keep noise in, rather than out. A loft that Howard created recently in Clapham was transformed into a recording studio. A drawer in a corner turns out to be a pull-out single bed “for whichever musician fails to leave after the session”.

All over the capital, imaginative use of glazing is transforming lofts into the lightest, largest room in the house. No wonder spaces that used to be children’s enclaves are now being reclaimed by parents as master bedrooms.

Of course, any plans for steel supports allowing big windows must be passed by planners. Even if the Government presses ahead with controversial plans to relax planning rules, the change will not apply to many parts of London, protected as they are in conservation areas.

But build something you are not allowed, and you will be asked to take it down.

A good guide is to look at your neighbours’ homes. Unless your house is listed, it is likely that you will be able to elevate both at the front and back of the house, or just at the back. That will create an area of flat roof, but these are not the worry they used to be, and come with long guarantees should the rain find a way in.

They also provide another canvas for your imagination. Instead of asphalt, some converters add sedum rooftops. These provide a habitat for bees and butterflies, and are loved by planners because they act as a sponge in cloudbursts, preventing sewer overloads and flash floods.

Whether the caravan or coupé type, all loft converters enjoy some common benefits. Among them is the fact that new space must meet modern insulation requirements, often improving energy efficiency. Renovated attic spaces keep things warm in winter and cool in summer: you are effectively putting a hat on top of the house.

With so many benefits to be gained from ultra-modern loft conversions, there is no reason not to raise the roof.

Tips for the top

Decide whether you are caravan or coupé – functional or flash. Opting for the latter will be up to £20,000 more expensive, but could be well worth it. Consult an architect for design and structural advice – see

Most domestic loft conversions do not usually require planning permission, provided certain strict conditions on the size are met. However, building regulations approval will be needed – check with your local authority.

Planning permission is needed if you are in a conservation area.

To comply with building regulations, the space must be at least 7ft 6in high at its highest point.

You will probably have to move your water tank, and the layout will be dictated by the position of the staircase and plumbing.

Consider using a specialist company to handle everything from planning to ordering the skip, and checking you have enough headroom.

If there are bats in your loft, you might have to think again: they are a protected species.


DIY knocks down property value.

Is this sufficient reason to have the professionals carry out your home improvements?

DIY knocks down property value.

Thousands of Britons have carried out home improvements in the hope of boosting the value of their property, but many may actually have reduced it, an insurer has warned.

Greg Wise's heaven and hell

Photo – Getty

Around 27pc of homeowners admit they have undertaken electrical jobs without professional help, while 22pc have attempted plumbing work, and 9pc have tried their hand at structural improvements, such as removing walls.

A further 6pc have even tried to carry out major building work themselves, such as a loft conversion, while 3pc have tackled potentially dangerous gas repairs, according to LV=.

But the group warned that while many homeowners had carried out the improvements in the hope of increasing the value of their property, if the work was done badly, it could actually reduce a home’s sale price by as much as 5pc.

John O’Roarke, managing director of LV= home insurance, said: “With house prices falling or stagnating in some parts of the UK, it’s understandable that many homeowners should try to bump up the value of their properties through DIY home improvements.

“But although nine out of 10 people in our survey recognised that jobs like gas work should only be left to the professionals, nearly 500,000 Brits are still prepared to give it a go.

Even if the work is done well, homeowners are likely to be disappointed with the impact it has on the price of their property.

A fifth of people thought redecorating would add most value to their home, followed by 14pc who though refurbishing the kitchen would, while 12pc thought improving the garden would have the most impact on their asking price and 6pc rated replacing the bathroom.

But seven out of 10 estate agents said redecorating a home would make no difference to the asking price of a property, while 64pc felt the same way about landscaping the garden.

One in five estate agents also thought putting in a new kitchen would have little impact on the value of a home.

Instead estate agents thought structural work, if done well, was most likely to boost a property’s value, with a good loft conversion likely to increase the asking price by around 8pc.

But even then, they warned homeowners were unlikely to recoup all the money they had spent on having it done.

Landlords and agents are ‘failing tenants over gas safety’

A recent article posted in The Guardian (9th May 2013) highlighting an issue that affects many people not just tenants!! Annual gas checks are a MUST for anyone with a gas appliance or boiler to ensure your and family’s safety. If you are a landlord….beware! You are breaking the law!


Despite the law requiring a gas safety certificate to be issued annually, Shelter says one in 10 landlords and agents have not carried out a check for more than a year

A blue gas flame

Simple gas safety tests tenants should be aware of include checking that pilot lights and other flames burn blue. Photograph: Bob Elsdale/Getty Images

As many as one in 10 landlords and letting agents could be putting their tenants’ lives at risk by failing to carry out compulsory gas safety checks, according to Shelter.

The housing charity, in conjunction with British Gas, asked more than 4,000 private tenants in England about the last time their landlord or letting agent carried out a check of their boiler for, among other things, a carbon monoxide leak. One in 10 said a check had not been carried out in their home for more than a year.

The law states that a gas safety certificate must be issued annually for each rented property. Gas safety checks can pick up a range of problems including faulty boilers, and are vital in helping to prevent gas leaks, explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning – all of which can kill.

“It’s shocking to think that in thousands of households across the country there are accidents waiting to happen because a simple safety check has not taken place,” said Shelter’s chief executive, Campbell Robb. “For households with children this is an even bigger concern. Renters have a right to know that the property they are living in is safe.”

Shelter cited the case of one tenant, Susan, and her 15-year-old daughter who have been living in their privately rented home for 11 years. Despite continual requests, no gas safety certificate was issued for the property until two years ago. During this time they had three gas leaks and long periods with no central heating or hot water.

“It is really horrible not to feel safe in your own home,” Susan said. “We had several gas leaks before we finally got a gas safety certificate, and now I’m having to fight all over again for the next one.”

The housing charity also found that one in seven (15%) landlords was unaware of their legal responsibility to make sure their properties have an annual gas safety check and certificate. Landlords who fail to meet gas safety regulations in the homes they rent can face fines and even imprisonment.

Research in 2012 from Gas Safe, the organisation that registers gas engineers to work on appliances in the UK, revealed widespread confusion about what the key symptoms are of carbon monoxide poisoning.

More than half of those questioned wrongly thought that a funny taste in the mouth indicated carbon monoxide poisoning, while a third thought a cough and 29% thought a sore throat were symptomatic. In fact the key symptoms are headaches, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness, collapse and loss of consciousness.

Andy Maddocks, a British Gas engineer, said simple gas safety tests that households could carry out include looking for signs of staining, sooting or discolouration on or around gas boilers, fires or water heaters, and checking that pilot lights and other gas flames burn blue.