Top Six Points To Consider Before Beginning Your Self Build Home, we were contacted on Linkedin by David Narro, Structural Engineer to suggest that perhaps we could have expanded our discussion some more on the role of the engineer during the self build project.
Every year block architects undertake in excess of a dozen self builds for our clients all of which involve the requirements of an engineer to deliver a successful project. The extent of the role of the engineer in a self build project really depends on the engineering complexity of the design and site constraints however on a 'typical' self build there is a few issues that the engineer must advise on.
1. The Desk Top Study
At the start of each project, subject to location, then it is often worthwhile getting a desk top study done by an engineer. This traditionally would include the obtaining of historical site date from e.g. local library and would allow the engineer to form a considered opinion about the potential ground conditions i.e. whether or not the site has mining problems, potential for foundation of former structures to be unearthed, gas or contamination issues. This study including obtaining the services records for the site and surrounding area would allow the engineer to advise the architect on any potential issues related to getting out of the ground.
See additional information - Planning Information
2. The Trial Pits
Following the desk top study the engineer would then inspect trial pits on site. A trial pit is a single or multipe pits or holes dug within the location of the foundations. The engineer typically likes to be present on site as these are being excavated. This will allow the engineer to inspect soil and ground make up with a view to establishing how deep the foundations must be taken to allow for a suitable ground bearing pressure. In an ideal world we want to be down about 600mm to cast a traditional concrete strip foundation.
3. The Design & Specification of Engineering Issues
Prior to lodging the building warrant the engineer would be required to assess the architect's drawings and then advise on the structural matters. This could be anything from specifying foundation depths, lintels, steel beams and columns, advising on roof designs regarding wind and snow loadings. It's quite often the case that the engineer's drawings and specifications seem minimal relative to the quantity of information prepared by the Architect but don't underestimate the amount of calculations done behind the scenes all to prove the structural stability of the structure particularly where SER Certification is required.
4. The SER Certificate
This is a bit of a beaurocratic requirement through the building control process and many engineer's that we consult with have mixed views on this however in essence it's a certificate by which the engineer can certify that he has had his designs and calculations checked by virtue of his registration in the SER system. Alternatively building control would need to issue the engineer's design calculations and specifications to a tender process to be checked by a third party engineer appointed by the Council. Don't understimate the length of time this can add to the building control process. It's definitely a better route to get your engineer to produce the SER Certificate for your prior to or during the building warrant process.
See additinal Information - Building Control
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