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messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by farfisamania 10 June, 2016 14:13

Responsibility for compliance rests with the contractor and client. You appear to be misunderstanding what BC are required to do. While BC may carry out periodic inspections, their principal approach is to ensure that the client, contractor and designer understand compliance. It is unwise for BC surveyors to become drawn into acting as, effectively, a clerk of works. That's the job of, er, a clerk of works.

Moreover in this case the majority of the issues listed by Wandle appear to be quality issues. This is not automatically a compliance issue and many will have to be treated as a contractual one between the client and contractor, or any contract administrators they employed.

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by LondonMix 10 June, 2016 14:17

I've actually worked with building control from Southwark on projects. They came and visually inspected the firing proofing had been installed as one example of how they work. They insisted upon seeing it before the drywall was fitted. Building control are not a live compliance manual.

The failing regarding fire safety compliance are the ones that most surprise me concerning building control's role in this Wandle fiasco.

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by LondonMix 10 June, 2016 14:23

In fact, here are some of the key visual inspections building control is responsible to carry out. This corresponds entirely with my experience working with Southwark building control in the past. Anyone saying building control is just a compliance advisory service is full of it:

[www.haringey.gov.uk]

"Building Control Officers will make statutory and routine inspections during the construction stage of the building; to ensure compliance with the building regulations and other allied legislation and guidance.

There are up to nine mandatory inspections, however not all nine are relevant to some jobs. Please note that all of the relevant stages of work applicable to the job must be provided, ie:

Commencement - This is the first statutory notification. We normally visit when the work starts. However, in certain circumstances we may agree not to inspect the site until a further notice is received.
Excavation for foundations:
For conventional foundations the foundation trench should be dug, levelled and cleaned to remove ground water before asking for an inspection.
For special foundations, such as a raft foundation or piled foundations, contact us to agree an inspection programme.
Foundations constructed e.g. concrete poured - Notice must be given when the concrete has been placed. It is advisable to have the corners of the building marked out to show the position of the walls on the foundations. Our Building Control Surveyor will be looking to see that the walls will be positioned correctly on the concrete. Sometimes it is possible to start building the walls before this inspection, but you should discuss this with your Building Control Surveyor.
Damp proof course laid - You must notify us before any damp proof course is covered up.
Oversite ready for concreting (with damp proof membrane laid if appropriate):
For solid ground bearing floor slabs it is the hardcore, insulation and damp proof membrane that we will inspect before concrete.
In the case of suspended timber floors it is the ground below the oversite concrete that we need to inspect before it is covered by the floor.
Structural members - We must inspect before you cover any structural members, for example floor joists, roof timbers or steel beams etc.
Drains laid and visible for checking layout and construction:
The drains must be inspected before they are covered up so we can check the layout and construction. All drainage work should be inspected. This includes foul drainage and surface/rainwater drainage to the building.
We also advise you to test the drains are watertight before you cover them up.
Drains testing - When the building is complete we will usually ask you to test the drains while we watch to check that they are watertight.
Completion:
You should request an inspection when the building work is fully complete (or for new buildings, before occupation).
Provided we have seen all the relevant stages of work, and they comply with the Building Regulations, the relevant certificates have been provided and the relevant fees paid, a Completion Certificate will be issued.
It is common for more than one inspection to be carried out on one visit. Inspections 1 and 2 often coincide, as do 4 and 5 and 7 and 9.

As well as these mandatory inspections, further inspections may also be necessary, as some jobs will require specific inspections such as Fire Protection and the Reinforcement of Concrete Structures. In addition, a Building Surveyor may call unexpectedly at other times to check on the work as it progresses.

Inspections 2-6 will be carried out on the next working day after notice has been given."



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit was 2016:06:10:14:34:00 by LondonMix.

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by farfisamania 10 June, 2016 14:44

As I said, inspections *may* be carried out by building control surveyors to ensure that compliance is understood. However they cannot inspect all work, it's as simple as that.

Most LAs have disclaimers along the lines of the following (Lincolnshire):

"Our service does not provide a guarantee of compliance or a quality control check, even where we have issued a decision notice, inspected work and issued a completion certificate. Our involvement does not remove the responsibility of the person undertaking the work and the building owner in meeting the requirements of the regulations."

I have also worked with building control officers in the past and I did not rely on them to ensure compliance. They can ask, for example, ask for a section of fire stopping to be revealed but that doesn't in itself ensure the whole area is correctly treated. Ultimately the client needs to ensure that the processes are in place to make this happen.

The focus on BC is, frankly, taking away attention from the client here. They will, after all, be in possession of a full report on the defects.

I agree that the fire safety issues are a concern but at present the information released by Wandle is insufficient to work out if we are dealing with a design issue (which, yes, BC should really have spotted), a case of the contractor skimping or of not using products according to spec, or of subsequent alterations which have impacted on the compartmentation.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit was 2016:06:10:14:59:50 by farfisamania.

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by LondonMix 10 June, 2016 15:19

The point of the required inspections is not that compliance is understood, it is that compliance with the code has been implemented correctly.

That is why there are stages for which work needs to be visually inspected for compliance. These involve the most critical elements of the build such as the foundations, plumbing, fire proofing etc. Its not enough for a builder to simply say what they've done, they actively need to demonstrate it.

This is your 5th post ever farfisamaia so I suspect you work for Southwark. The more Southwark try to obfuscate their responsibilities with respect to the building control process the more alarm bells keep ringing for me.

Thank goodness the national press is investigating this thoroughly.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit was 2016:06:10:15:21:43 by LondonMix.

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by farfisamania 10 June, 2016 15:35

My interest in this story is as a construction professional with a particular interest in fire safety: if you think I work for Southwark BC you are barking up the wrong tree, and it's quite telling that you make this assumption.

You're welcome to ignore my opinion but (as others like J Rixon have commented earlier in the thread) I feel you will find out very little from Southwark Building Control to advance the residents' case and I suspect that any newspaper reporter will have similar issues. Still, we shall see no doubt.

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by LondonMix 10 June, 2016 15:40

Okay, fair enough if you don't work for Southwark. I do believe you are intentionally (for whatever reason) misrepresenting the role of building control to a a forum on which you have mostly only ever posted on this particular topic.

If there were building control lapses in this horrible situation, it needs to come to light regardless of whether it helps the residents. We have two new schools being built in this community and its in everyone's absolute interest that building control is carrying out its statutory responsibilities appropriately.

Its about accountability and safety.

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by LondonMix 10 June, 2016 15:45

Anyone that doesn't think building control is supposed to verify rather than simply advise, please read this directly from the planning portal:

[www.planningportal.co.uk]

"A local authority has a general duty to enforce the Building Regulations in its area"


Also see: [www.homebuilding.co.uk]

"The Inspection Process

Although work on a new build or extension may proceed before any formal approval, nothing can proceed beyond the inspection stages without the approval of the inspector, and those inspection stages are: excavations for foundations; foundation concrete; oversite; damp-proof course; foul water drains trenches open; surface water drains trenches open; occupation prior to completion (second fix); and completion.

Completion Certificate

When the building is completed to the satisfaction of the inspector, a Completion Certificate will be issued. This is a vital document that must be retained alongside the written planning permission for use if you ever want to sell. It is also required in order to release final funds from lenders, obtain the warranty certification and in order to reclaim VAT (if applicable)."

I have personally seen building control insist that work be redone (more than once) before agreeing to sign it off as compliant. This was concerning the angle of drain pipes. Building control absolutely is certifying certain key aspects of the build have been done to code and to their inspectors satisfaction. This is an essential role in the building process for the safety and well being of the community at large.



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit was 2016:06:10:15:54:56 by LondonMix.

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by farfisamania 10 June, 2016 15:57

I am not misrepresenting the role of building control (what you linked to above is the enforcement process, not the approvals process). Please re-read the Lincolnshire disclaimer above:

"Our service does not provide a guarantee of compliance or a quality control check, even where we have issued a decision notice, inspected work and issued a completion certificate"

The fact of the matter is that building control should not be relied on to guarantee compliance. That is the client's responsibility. Yes, a local authority can take measures to enforce compliance, but they do it against the client. The client still has responsibility.

My particular bugbear is poor contract management - and contractors who take advantage of it. Perhaps this is part of the reason I am trying to downplay the role of building control. But more importantly is that sending FOI requests to a local authority is unlikely to reveal anything of value. What would be of greater value are the contract documents, the report that advised demolition, etc. Why aren't you asking for those?

As I said, we shall see what these 'investigations' come up with.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit was 2016:06:10:15:59:12 by farfisamania.

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by LondonMix 10 June, 2016 16:06

The journalist (not me) investigating this may very well have a broader set of questions. FOI only applies to the public sector and so there are limits to what can be found with that.

Can you please re-link the Linconshire disclaimer you refer to?

Building control is responsible for visually inspecting key work and using their best judgement in satisfying themselves the work they are signing off is compliant. They don't watch the build every day or inspect every aspect of the build; however, these staged inspections are to catch the most key aspects to ensure that the foundations are deep enough, damp proofing has been done, fire proofing has been done etc.

That of course is not a 100% guarantee that the entire build is 100% compliant; however, building control is not even close to an advisory role. Their role is stop non-compliant work and they have very strong enforcement procedures to do that. Yes they enforce against the builder and the client when appropriate because who else could you enforce upon?

If Southwark building control inspectors are not fit for purpose, that is a very serious failing within that body. That a building that has been signed off as compliant could need the level of remediation that these flats do is truly shocking.

I live in Southwark and this is a concerns me greatly.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit was 2016:06:10:16:13:17 by LondonMix.

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by rendelharris 10 June, 2016 16:28

LondonMix - didn't you say earlier in this thread that some builders can use a private building control service, is it certain that this was signed off by Southwark BC? Either way, as Southwark was agreeing to use the building for social housing they should have monitored more carefully and heads should roll, but I'd be interested to know if one of these private services you mentioned was involved.

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by farfisamania 10 June, 2016 16:32

The Lincolnshire example is here:

[www.e-lindsey.gov.uk]

Note also this from Devon:

[www.teignbridge.gov.uk]

This makes it clear that they "cannot, and are not, required to check every item" and goes on to detail an overall strategy similar to that I suggested above - such as providing input on plans - they even mention the danger of being treated like a clerk of works. While they will also inspect and have have a role in ensuring compliance they are careful to stress the client's ultimate responsibility.

Both of the above are rather small organisations so no doubt they are at pains to stress limited resources. But a London borough would probably have to deal with more and larger projects.

In the past I've made sure that building control have checked my sites, but I've also made sure that a fire engineer and surveyor have inspected and approved the work regularly before it's covered up. The contractor also has to provide accreditations for carrying out work of this type. That's a standard QA process. The client should demand no less.

There is also the fact that an inspector could be misled. It is uncomfortable to think about this but it could happen. Like you I am also concerned by what has happened, but frankly I'm more worried about lazy, non compliant contractors.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit was 2016:06:10:16:37:36 by farfisamania.

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by LondonMix 10 June, 2016 16:39

The contractor went insolvent so its pretty clear what happened there. Lazy, on the very on bankruptcy contractors unfortunately are part of the reality.

Wandle clearly was not able to monitor the build appropriately which is why concerns have been raised about their ability to continue operating in their current capacity.

Equally, there appear to be clear failings with building control. We agree that 100% of the build can't be monitored but major elements absolutely are and some of the lapses are very difficult to understand given that fact.

I sincerely hope whatever the truth of the situation is comes to light and whatever steps need to be taken happens.

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by LondonMix 10 June, 2016 16:41

rendelharris Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> LondonMix - didn't you say earlier in this thread
> that some builders can use a private building
> control service, is it certain that this was
> signed off by Southwark BC? Either way, as
> Southwark was agreeing to use the building for
> social housing they should have monitored more
> carefully and heads should roll, but I'd be
> interested to know if one of these private
> services you mentioned was involved.


Yes, I have said that and it is very much the case. About 20% of building control approvals are done by private companies. Southwark's story regarding who carried out the inspections has been changing. In the FOI request they are claiming it was a private company. However, that has not been their consistent story, the company who the claim to have used denies it and the journalist investigating this has declared she has good reason to believe Southwark are lying about that.

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by LondonMix 10 June, 2016 16:43

I hope its the private company because they could just have their license as an approved company revoked or suspended. If its actually a problem within Southwark, for me at least, it is a much scarier problem.

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by rendelharris 10 June, 2016 16:48

Agreed - just wondering if private companies are easier to, ahem, "persuade" to overlook defects...

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by spider69 10 June, 2016 16:57

Whilst the above discussion is greatly appreciated by all following this matter what is not being mentioned is how those Leaseholders and shared ownership people who have a financial interest and public sector residents will be able to fund legal action if wrong doing is discovered to get recompense,

Housing Ass are funded by us. The can keep legal action going till the other side runs out of money.

A silly question, what body approved these designs as acceptable and workable and now they are not.

Does Southwark not have a role in this process

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by hpsaucey 10 June, 2016 17:08

spider69 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Whilst the above discussion is greatly appreciated
> by all following this matter what is not being
> mentioned is how those Leaseholders and shared
> ownership people who have a financial interest and
> public sector residents will be able to fund legal
> action if wrong doing is discovered to get
> recompense,


> Housing Ass are funded by us. The can keep legal
> action going till the other side runs out of
> money.
>


Spot on Spider!

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by buddug 10 June, 2016 19:01

Londonmix. I agree with you. By the way, just to be clearer, southwark said in answer to my FoI 'approval of the scheme' was given by another council (which denies this) not a private company. Southwark also said 'certification' after their (48) site visits was provided by their building control. Southwark's use of language seems designed to confuse the layperson. However, their building control signed it off (their certification).

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by farfisamania 10 June, 2016 19:09

Approval and certification are two different steps in the process.

"Approval" generally refers to approval of the plans from a design compliance perspective.

At completion of work you get a completion certificate.

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by richard tudor 10 June, 2016 19:11

Pass the parcel comes to mind

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by Blah Blah 10 June, 2016 20:06

And I think it's also worth reiterating that council employees (doing these jobs) are seperate from councillors who we elect. Councillors in turn do not hire or fire council employees. It is very difficult to hold anyone to account who is an employee (unless they break the law) and councils tend to shuffle people who do bad jobs to other departments/ roles because that's easier than trying to fire. My instinct on this, if there is reason for blame with the council, is that individual performance is to blame. That's why it becomes so hard to find out exactly who or what has failed.

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by richard tudor 10 June, 2016 20:36

Blah Blah Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> And I think it's also worth reiterating that
> council employees (doing these jobs) are seperate
> from councillors who we elect. Councillors in turn
> do not hire or fire council employees. It is very
> difficult to hold anyone to account who is an
> employee (unless they break the law) and councils
> tend to shuffle people who do bad jobs to other
> departments/ roles because that's easier than
> trying to fire. My instinct on this, if there is
> reason for blame with the council, is that
> individual performance is to blame. That's why it
> becomes so hard to find out exactly who or what
> has failed.

Boom boom. Nailed it in one

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by buddug 10 June, 2016 22:01

Hi Spider. You're quite right. But my interest in Southwark Council's role in signing off this disaster - after 48 site inspections, for God's sake, yet not finding one single problem Exclaimation - is what interests me. I may be barking up the wrong tree, but if Southwark building control is liable for the sign-off of an obviously flawed development - and I'm not saying they are - then they would have to play a large role in reimbursing the beleaguered residents. It's the builders who screwed up and are also liable, yet they went into administration and are now dissolved. So no reimbursement there. Ashford Council worked with the architects, maybe because they were based in Ashford, and approved the plans - probably because they were bona fide - and then submitted them to Southwark. The big question at the moment is, how superficial are building control sign-offs, or approvals of works. Some are saying negligible, it's just advice, others are saying stringent.

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by rendelharris 10 June, 2016 22:21

buddug Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Londonmix. I agree with you. By the way, just to
> be clearer, southwark said in answer to my FoI
> 'approval of the scheme' was given by another
> council (which denies this) not a private company.
> Southwark also said 'certification' after their
> (48) site visits was provided by their building
> control. Southwark's use of language seems
> designed to confuse the layperson. However, their
> building control signed it off (their
> certification).

Why TF were Southwark using another council? It's on their patch, do the work! Thanks buddug for the continual updates on this.

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by richard tudor 10 June, 2016 22:30

As Clint Eastwood said in Heart Break Ridge

"This is turning into a real cluster fu.ck



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit was 2016:06:10:22:31:49 by richard tudor.

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by buddug 10 June, 2016 23:02

Hi rendelharris. It's normal nowadays for local authorities to work together under what is called the LABC (local authority building control) partnership - google it. One council outside the area - often where the architects or developers are based - approves their plans for the host council and submits them - i.e. in this case, to the host council Southwark - where the work is taking place, and then the host council takes over to do the building control and sign-off of the works. What that entails, who knows. In my experience of building control, with regards to a local restaurant I helped with, they are very stringent, as LondonMix said. Anything wrong, and you have to redo it. However, now, in this case, Southwark is claiming building control sign-off is all very airy-fairy. Very odd.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit was 2016:06:10:23:04:08 by buddug.

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by rendelharris 10 June, 2016 23:14

Thanks for the explanation, didn't know that - but from your previous you say Ashford denies giving approval? All very murky...

Kudos for all your hard work on this and for keeping us updated, much appreciated.

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by buddug 10 June, 2016 23:31

You're welcome. I feel for the residents, as I think we all do. And all the other victims of Southwark Council's leaseholders and tenants in general.

messageRe: Flats being demolished in Solomons Passage SE15
Posted by farfisamania 11 June, 2016 00:46

With regard to the restrictions on building control responsibility the important case is Murphy v Brentwood 1991. This is why remedies need to be sought from contractors (or perhaps the landlord in this case).

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