The Importance of Good Building Design, Experience & Time…Observations

Our multi qualified and experienced Principal Designer, Building Surveyor and Building Engineer Jason Sandland takes a quick look at our busy changing built environment world and shares some experiences and notions found on the importance of good building design, experience and time, that can often have cost or other implications for clients, developers, purchasers, Landlords and Tenants, involving all sorts of buildings, if ignored.

Yes, Architecture is a subjective matter, what may be thought of as innovative now may become obsolete a few years down the line or say ugly to others and I suppose in a general way, it may be as a consequence of ‘taste’ or to what an individual has been exposed to in the past, that may shape and form their opinion now. (Hence why I do try and keep an open mind.)

Wearing my Building Surveyor’s hat, I also get to see some good building wonders (which there are many in the South West) and some real blunders, as defects raise their heads over time. Or can be the case found from changing tastes/ needs/ space planning or legislation area changes to users’ requirements.

I can see why the poor old designers of buildings from all backgrounds (architects, surveyors, engineers, technicians etc) may fall into the ‘trap’ although the planning system, allowing white boxes in one area but then insisting in replicating Victorian spender just down the road, may also have a ‘wagging finger’ from the criticism of the public?

In recent years, it’s not just older buildings that defects are seemingly coming to the fore, we are seeing a wave of defects or poor workmanship possibly being created on newer developments of all types, as developers possibly try to keep up with demand or use untested basic designs, building design skills are whittled down with a quick swap on elements for standard components for example, with usual demands on Surveyors and Engineers of defects found from different time eras of construction or previous legislation ‘up-grades’ now also failing… not even mentioning ‘Asbestos Containing Materials’.

Equally, in my opinion, it is important that any design changes, from the intended design stage to the construction stage get vetted or vetoed by someone that is empowered by the client to do so, to ensure that a good quality building, of a safe and credible nature is delivered. The lessons possibly yet to be fully understood on the tragedy of Grenfell.

On a lighter note, I was asked in more recent times to survey a new build dwelling for a client, the client occasionally in his retirement had the need for a wheel chair and the new property on a development by a large housebuilder was just what he was looking for, deposit down ‘off plan’ and recently completed. People asked him, why have a survey?

On arrival and a quick measure of the new brick boundary wall with gateway, it became obvious the new gateway wouldn’t accommodate a wheel chair! Then what the building regulations and demonstration in Approved Document part M shows, a level entry threshold was also missing, on a very gentle sloping area. (part of why the client was purchasing the building due to its good design seen), a quick check in the site office for the plot and yes, drawings clearly showed a ramp to the door, now in reality replaced with a couple of steps. The changes back, once reported and picked up all had a cost and time factor to correct, and inconvenience to the customer.. who did see the funny side and confirmed to his old neighbours why he had a Survey!

I expect the future set of failures may come about from a number of sources, such for example, as people trying to up-grade their properties for higher Energy Performance, but without appreciation of the design or construction, to test whether for example interstitial condensation is now being introduced or the ‘dew point’ in the construction altered to provide yet more defects if not properly considered or other options?.. or when in an aim for energy efficiency, we in reality introduce ‘sick building syndrome’ with sealing up all the air flow pathways that aided the occupants to work/rest or play in a healthier way?

Therefore in a snap shot, I have found over the years, that mainly well designed buildings are robust, created with care and often can be good value for money long term, if suitable time is allocated. They often have been designed to allow some flexibility without compromising their main use or function.

This however needs suitable time and resources to be recognised both at the design outset and competent experienced persons in place throughout their building life, to aid the seller / buyer/users of such properties to make best use of their potential, which can take the form of appropriate people from all sorts of backgrounds to appraise, survey, value, plan and advise with experience to guide and maintain the asset in a sustainable way and comply with a raft of ever changing legislation, to avoid risks of enforcement or worse.

Poorly designed buildings, in my opinion and experience, often have a short life, or can provide on-going problems, taking up money, which without understanding and experienced hands, can evolve into poor experiences. Here at Stratton Creber Commercial, we have a mix of professionals that can help people whether appraising, purchasing, valuing, altering, extending or selling their buildings to recognise the buildings potential/options, or may be able to or provide design or other technical solutions to assist.

One of our experienced team members would be pleased to discuss any project you are considering, as we have offices in Plymouth, Truro and Exeter.

Jason Sandland. DipSurv(BS) MRICS. FCABE. CBuildE. MASI. MSc. DipHI. FAPS. MIFireE. MCIOB.

Tel: 01752 670 700