Friday, 7 June 2019

Party Wall or Boundary Wall

The redevelopment of urban brownfield sites and extending/altering properties within towns is something most of the adult population gets involved with at some point in their lives. Most people, albeit in a rudimentary manner, have a limited awareness of the process and generally know that Planning Approval may need to be gained from the Local Authority to legally facilitate the works.

Many people, if asked, would specify that Planning Consent for the works may be required and would at least check whether their proposed works needed consent or not. However, the Approval process does not stop there; contrary to ill informed beliefs!

Some slightly more informed on the process would specify that the construction works would also need Building Regulations Approval.

The majority of the population believe that if you have Planning Consent and Building Regulation Approval, that you can then legally proceed with the construction works, setting aside issues such as Listed Building Consent. The construction density within our towns and cities is intensifying to such a degree that this statement is rarely true and lawful. Many of you at this stage are saying; Why?

In the UK, in 1996, the Party Wall Etc. Act 1996 gained statute. However, the definition and legal impact of this piece of legislation is somewhat lost in its name; “Party Wall Act”. This Act does not only legislate and control works to walls which are shared by adjoining owners. It also puts controls and restrictions on works by an owner, even when carrying out works totally on their own land.

These works must be designed and constructed to a pre-agreed standard by both parties or their nominated and appointed Party Wall Surveyors/Engineers on each side of the boundary. The approved works must respect the boundary owned by others and their neighbours, nearby structures and buried services. It is a criminal offence by the owners instructing the works not to do so in situations where the Act has been enacted. These construction works can immediately be stopped by the adjoining owners gaining and serving a County Court Injunction/Summons against the owners of the works for not complying with the requirements of the Party Wall Etc. Act 1996.

It is strongly recommended that all proposed construction works are reviewed by a professional person to check whether a Party Wall Agreement is needed or not. It is suggested that an Agreement is needed on many more projects than one would realise.

Another passing comment to consider, which many householders and builders are not aware of, even when an extension does not need Planning Approval or a Party Wall Agreement, it may still need Approval from the Local Water Utility Company for works in the vicinity of their plant/apparatus! A blog subject for another day.

The “Google Age” self-administering approach by the general public on these items has made the potential for very costly oversights far more commonplace.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

The Ongoing Legacy of Legislation

The regeneration of new large scale housing schemes appear to be springing up around the country to meet the shortage of dwellings. Many of the schemes, from a cursory point of view, appear to be system timber panel type frames which are rendered or brick faced. Many of these schemes are being built on sites with are known to suffer from an increased flood risk.

It is believed that the reasons for timber construction are: increased speed of construction over traditional houses and a lower, more affordable price. These lightweight timber systems are compact, highly insulated and energy efficient in heating terms.

The pre-finished panels which form many of the standard systems are factory manufactured (MMC) and clipped together on site within a few days.

Building Regulations Standards dictate the fabric U values required and the high levels of air tightness of the built form. Government policy has dictated these changes to try to reduce carbon emissions.

It should be remembered that thermally lightweight buildings heat up very quickly, which is beneficial for buildings which have intermittent use but would question the logic for every day housing. The Government has funded many schemes to help homeowners of poorly insulated old properties to reduce their heating bills. It should be remembered that many of these properties are formed from traditional construction and would generally benefit from being warm in winter and cool in summer.

However, Building Regulations Standards have, in one way, been instrumental in increasing the energy consumption and carbon footprint of the built form in the UK. The highest energy demand for the country now exists in the summer period. The reason being is that it takes three times as much energy to cool a building per degree centigrade than to heat it. Therefore, with increasing mean global summer temperatures and the trend of building thermally lightweight properties which overheat rapidly in warm conditions, unless air conditioned, the dwellings become hostile environments for humans to live in.

An old, but well insulated traditional masonry and mortar type house, on an annual basis, is much lower in energy use terms than the new modern lightweight prefabricated ones. There are other limitations with MMC houses which can be discussed with and argued by anyone wanting to engage with this discussion on housing design: is there anyone there?


The question to ask: is the country invested in new housing which is fundamentally flawed in its design? Are we building “White Elephants” which will rapidly need to be replaced in the coming decades? In times of limited resource availability, should we not design and built houses with an expected service life of 120 years and which also run passively needing very limited technical fixes to make them serviceable?


Thursday, 10 January 2019

Skills, Training and Planning

The Blog section of the website has, for a while, become like the forgotten poor relation, we have spent so much of our time and energy talking and thinking about the impact of the “B” word! It has consumed not only our energies but most of the UK's as well and has become a two year Hokey Cokey! Are we near to the end of the dance yet?

The construction professions in the private and public sectors which design, develop and build the infrastructure for the country are trying to plan for the future whatever that might become. The construction sector has lost capacity and capability since the financial crash of 2008, irrespective of what level of funding is or may be available going forward for future projects, the UK needs to facilitate the training of people to fill the growing skill gaps within the construction and infrastructure sector. In many sectors of our market, the magnitude and scale of the loss of skills and experience is becoming critical, maybe to a point where many will not be able to be re-established as the ageing workforce is not able or being given the opportunity to pass on their trade or profession to apprentices. The fabric of the built and social environment depends on being viable and functional.

Industry needs to be helped to train much needed apprentices and technicians as school leavers are being unnecessarily encouraged by current trends to go to University, where at the end of their studies, many will have created themselves significant personal debt and probably will have little prospect of finding suitable or rewarding employment which will enable them to repay these debts. The current trend appears to be that many of these personal debts will become written off over time by the tax payer. A better and more realistically socially engineered government policy could easily limit and avoid this mounting problem.

Our private, business and national financial models need to be changed from growth based systems to sustainable ones. Planet Earth and humanity cannot continue to be be lead by short term financial gains, a new Era in our evolution needs to be “Born” and not just spoken about. Little has been achieved by Earth Summits over the last thirty years!

Friday, 5 February 2016

Flood Resilience

In the UK, and the World as a whole, the impact of Climate Change is becoming very significant and appears to be coming ever more so. Planet Earth is becoming subject to more extensive and extreme global weather patterns.

The weather in Britain over the last few winters has become wetter, several years ago the Somerset Levels were flooded for many months and now the north of the UK has been repeatedly flooded many times in a very short period. Rain intensities of 300mm per day have recently been recorded in the UK. This is many times greater than would have previously been considered possible. However, these figures are being eclipsed by new extreme values in the far east of over 1.2m in a single day!

The population of the UK has repeatedly written to the Government to highlight many issues of inadequate policies over many past parliaments. It is acknowledged that some flooding would still have occurred, if reasonable measures had previously been implemented. However, the rate of climate change on the planet is far beyond what even sensible house keeping measures would have controlled.

The tabloids have picked up on the word “Flood Resilient” and it has become a buzz word on most peoples agenda. However, continuing to allow the much needed new houses to be built in flood zones is not reasonable, sensible or sustainable.

Will the politicians and their immediate advisers, continue to allow new developments to be built in  flood zones?

The ruling Government time and time again only considers the short term policy impact, irrespective of the consequences. Decisions on the way forward, need to be made by groups of appropriately selected professionals, where holistic long term solutions are created, without the need to confirm to party edits. The policy decisions made by any Government must be tempered by sound advice from our Engineers and Scientists. The view from most town windows is almost totally controlled by  Design Engineers or Civil Engineers. The resolution of form must firstly follow function!

Society must become more aware of holistic ways of living and must become more self governing, using appropriately skilled design and engineering professionals to guide them. Engineers can help to solve problems but please do not let the politicians make the problems too big to solve for the benefit of all humanity.

The population of the UK can vote in the referendum on whether EU membership is sensible or not. However, alternatives to residency of Planet Earth are not available.

Friday, 3 January 2014

January Sole Soaking!

In this era and at the beginning of 2014 most city people will look out of their windows and only see man made objects, generally these are designed by Structural Engineers, Civil Engineers and Designers with only a few traces of the natural world present; an odd tree, a few blades of grass or a few patio pots are the only items which link them back to their roots. The day-to-day existence of most city dwellers is totally dependant on the performance of utilities infrastructure companies.

The extreme wet and windy weather patterns over the Christmas period within the British Isles has clearly demonstrated this point. The weather and environment factor is not an isolated phenomena but a global problem which Governments need to correctly understand and stop merely trying to pay voting lip service to and thereafter allow the financial institutions to carry on in a myopic manner.

In the modern world unless social/environment models significantly change it will become more difficult and much more costly to live on Planet Earth. Where will the prosperity come from to support this? The developed world's economic model based on continual growth cannot work in the longer term and the sooner that the G20 countries recognise this, the better the quality of life for the general public.

Societies must become more aware of holistic ways of life and must become more self governing and respectful of the piece of Planet Earth which they are inhabiting but benefit from knowledge sharing and accessible good global database stores. Humans must also learn, as the population density grows even further, to design places of habitation which provide homes for other forms of nature. Bees, birds insects alike need to be recognised as important species with which mankind cannot in the long term survive without, or do we evolve into machines and become extinct?

The time has come to be truly respectful of Planet Earth and all that dwell within its sphere. We need to learn to harmonise the needs of all and try to understand the Grand Design and from this learn to design respectively and sustainably. Resources are finite and we need to use them carefully and wisely.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Employment Vacancy

MLDE are looking to recruit a Civil / Structural Engineering Graduate with about two years post-University experience. In the first instance please send through a letter of introduction and CV for consideration, contact details can be found here.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Tellisford Mill - Nominated for LABC National Building Excellence Award

Tellisford Mill, near Bath, Somerset, which MLDE acted as Civil and Structural Engineers for, has been entered into the Local Authority Building Control, National Building Excellence Awards final. The awards ceremony will take place in London during November.

This follows on from the Regional Award received by the project in June 2012 in the LABC South West Building Excellence Awards in which Tellisford Mill won the “Best Small Commercial Building” Award.

The project, which involved the installation of a new 55kW micro-hydropower turbine producing clean, renewable energy and restoration of the mill to its original purpose incorporating contemporary accommodation/office spaces, also received four awards in Mendip District Council’s, Mendip Building Excellence Awards in March 2012.

mark lovell design engineers

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Structural and Civil Design Engineering Consultants based in Devizes, Wiltshire