Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Part P: Making your Electrical Installation Safe

Part P is one of a series of documents approved by the Secretary of State (of the UK Government). Each document in the series is ordered by lettering; therefore Part P is the sixteenth approved document. The purpose of the documents is to explain to builders how to meet the Building Regulations 2010 for England. Although it not necessary to follow everything in Part P or any other approved document, you still have to comply with the Building Regulations, and the approved documents offer perhaps the best way of doing that.

Part P focuses on electrical safety; designing and installing electrical installations such that anyone who interacts with them is safe from injury.

Injury Risk Sources:
  • Electric shock. 
  • Fire hazards. 
  • Mechanical damage. 
  • Thermal damage. 

Electrical Inspections of Installation Work

One key part of the Building Regulations about electrical safety is that for an installation to be deemed safe, it has to be inspected by a ‘competent’ person. If you’re getting an electrician to do the job for you, then hopefully he is Part P certified (all of BPM Maintenance’s electricians are), because then he will be deemed a competent person and self-certify any work he carries out.

If whoever carried out the electrical installation isn't a competent person, then you’ll have to get certificate from a registered third party or a building control body, otherwise your DIY job will be breaking the Building Regulations 2010 legislation. That means if you do a DIY installation, then it turns out it isn't safe and someone gets injured, you’re going to have a bad time (not to mention your newly electrocuted friend).

Third Party Inspection

A registered third party could be an electrician who inspects your work when you’re done. If you’re going with this route, then you will need to arrange for this certification to happen within 5 days of work completion.

Building Control Body Inspection

If you want certification from a building control body, then you will need to arrange this before you start. A building control body will be part of your local authority. This body will ask you for your qualifications and competence with regards to electrical installations and then arrange for inspections to be carried out to ensure the installation is safe.

It’ll depend on your local building control body, but applications for electrical inspections can take weeks or longer to process with charges of £200+ or more.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Protecting Historic Buildings

The City of Bath in the United Kingdom is filled with historic buildings; the Government's Department of Culture and Media has over 2376 entries including over 5000 properties. Whilst these properties are lovely to live in, the downside is that residents are greatly restricted with regards to home alterations. What’s more, listed building owners have a responsibility to conserve the special characteristics of these buildings from degeneration and threats such as contaminants and moisture/dampness.

Protecting a Listed/Historic Building

The difficulty with this type of work is that you must balance alteration restrictions with the necessary changes to adequately protect the building from a different, more natural & unwanted 'alteration'.

Your local planning authority has a conservation officer who will know how best to handle this kind of balance, so it is definitely worth contacting them prior to carrying out work.

Protecting your Building from Radon Gas Seepage

Many listed buildings in Bath have a basement; the danger from this is that there is a large surface area in contact with the soil; i.e. the walls of the basement provide radon gas entry points from the soil as well as the floor. The primary gas entry points are cracks in concrete, floor-to-wall joints (where the walls of the basement and the floor meet), porous building materials and mortar joints (where two walls meet).

The key to dealing with gas seepage in a historic/listed building is by installing edge located sumps or sub-floor vents. Internal sumps or ducts will likely require the floor to be taken up, which should always be avoided in a listed building. If this is the only option and the floor of your building is flagged, careful recording of the position and layout of each stone should be carried out prior to the installation of the sump or duct.

Radon Sumps

A radon sump consists of an exhaust pipe from under the floor of your home for radon gas to escape through. It is the most effective way of reducing indoor radon levels and can be active or passive.
  • Active radon sumps are powered by an electric fan to propel gas out of the exhaust pipe.
  • Passive are not powered and are less effective, but they are sufficient for low radon levels.
One sump will be enough to protect the average home.

Sub-floor vents

An airbrick is perforated brick, with a grid of holes allowing air to flow through it. This can be an alternative to a radon sump when your building has a suspended floor; airbricks can be used to to allow air to flow beneath the floor.