Unsafe structures can arise due to neglected buildings, poorly executed construction work, extreme weather events, and many other causes. LABC explores the role building control teams play in combating dangerous structures

Building control is a professional discipline that works behind the scenes as part of the wider building design and construction team to help ensure compliance with building regulations and other standards.

Building Control surveyors also work with owners and the RMI sector, supervising restoration and renovation projects.

It is often forgotten, but as part of a local authority, the building control team also plays an important role in protecting the public, ensuring safety at sports grounds and public events, as well as administering demolition work requests and responding to hazard reports. structures.

Dealing with Dangerous Structures

Unsafe structures can arise from neglected buildings, poorly executed construction work, vehicle impacts, vandalism, extreme weather events, and many other causes, including fires and explosions. Most LABC Building Control teams routinely deal with multiple incidents and reports each week, although very few make the headlines.

Under the Building Act 1984 there are two broad categories of unsafe structures and different responses are required for each.

Those making the headlines are of course those considered to be in imminent danger of collapse, and which must be secured immediately for public safety.

The building control team works alongside the emergency services, assessing the structure, often in extremely dangerous conditions, to determine, for example, whether firefighters can safely enter the building, whether roads need to be closed and whether adjacent properties need to be evacuated. .

These events are often caused by fires, rapid collisions of vehicles with buildings, or buildings that are badly damaged in storms. The surveyor works with structural engineers, demolition contractors and adjusters from insurance companies, as well as with building owners, to establish the work to be done immediately as well as the medium and long term plans. long term needed to reopen roads and return neighboring properties. safe.

The owner or his insurers will normally be charged for emergency work carried out in these cases since the primary responsibility for the condition of a building or structure rests with its owner.

Frequently dangerous structures are identified and flagged as being classified as dangerous. These are often inspected and found to be unstable by surveyors, but they are not imminently dangerous and unlikely to collapse immediately.

The local authority takes steps to identify and speak to the building owner to give them a reasonable time to remove the hazard at their own cost.

Failure to respond may result in an order being obtained from the Magistrates Court, in which case the Council may undertake the work and recover all costs from the owner, with a charge being brought against the property if necessary. These are often relatively minor works such as removing or stabilizing garden walls, repairing roofs and chimneys, or adequately securing buildings to prevent illegal entry and abuse.

You can see images of dangerous structures the teams have been involved in here.

Facing a major incident

This week colleagues at Building Control were involved in a major incident in Chesterfield, Derbyshire. Following the partial collapse of a badly damaged building, amid local reports of an explosion believed to have been caused by a portable gas canister in the basement.

building control dangerous structuresDerbyshire Building Control Partnership (DBCP) LABC Building Control Surveyors worked as part of a multi-agency team with the Fire and Rescue Service and Police. The building was secured and fortunately no one was seriously injured despite people being trapped in the collapsed cellar.

David Pratt, building control manager, said: “It’s miraculous that everyone survived. Every part of the Victorian building suffered severe structural damage requiring shoring to be installed on the party wall and other parts of the building.

“The adjoining property was also badly damaged and cannot be occupied. Three roads were closed to allow all utilities and emergency services to access the site.

“The windows and doors have all been boarded up. Walls, floors and roofs will all need to be rebuilt, and it is not yet clear whether significant parts of the buildings will need to be demolished, although some areas had to be demolished overnight to make the building safe for services. emergency. ”

These events are extremely human resource intensive and DBCP’s building control team have spent around 25 hours on site so far, liaising with other agencies, contractors and insurance companies, writing reports and meaning legal advice, long after the emergency services have left the site.

David Pratt also commented on the collaboration of all the emergency services: “We all had a specific role to play, and communication was key to the success of the operation with regular briefings with the fire commander in charge of the scene.

“Building Control must ensure the safety of all emergency services personnel as well as the general public.”

If you own a building that is suffering from structural defects or possible failure, it is always wise to act as soon as possible to prevent it from becoming an unsafe structure requiring Council intervention, as this tends to to reduce your costs to a minimum.

If you are aware of a dangerous building or structure, you can report it to your local council. Some local councils offer a 24 hour service to report unsafe structures and will respond accordingly depending on the severity and level of danger.

To learn more about your role in protecting the public, visit the LABC Careers pages.