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On Fire! Newly Qualified

Congratulations to Cathal Bradley, Tom Dean and Andrew Povey from our London office who have all recently qualified with the Institution of Fire Engineers as Members, giving them the post-nominal MIFireE.

Their success brings the total number of Members of the Institution of Fire Engineers in the Quadrant London team to six, alongside Carl Parkinson, Andy Travers and Ian Hardy.

We asked the newly qualified guys about their careers, and about working in London.

How did you get into Building Control?  

TOM: It was in 2002. I had just finished my A-levels and wasn’t sure what subject I wanted to study at University. So, I decided to take a year out, work part-time and save some money. Less than 2 weeks into my sabbatical, I saw an advert for a “Trainee Building Control Surveyor” job at my Local Authority which included a paid-for, part-time degree course in Building Control Surveying.  I applied, got the job and never looked back!

ANDREW: I graduated from my degree in Building Surveying at The University of Reading in 2004 and joined a Consultancy Firm in Oxford but didn’t relish the dilapidations element of the role.  I wanted to be involved more in the process of a project.  I was interested in Building Control element on the degree and got my opportunity with South Oxfordshire District Council in 2005.   I got varied experience in this area with listed projects and educational projects.  In this role I became a full member of the CIOB and CABE and undertook a second degree in Building Control Surveying at The University of Westminster and graduated in 2007.  Whilst on this course, I met Tom Dean who has been part of the Quadrant Team since 2018.   Its great to work with him here at Quadrant.   I then joined Wokingham Borough Council as a Senior Surveyor but felt I could offer more in my role as a Building Control Surveyor.  I joined the Private Sector in 2013 and never looked back.  I have been with Quadrant Building Control since March 2016 and have developed further within this company.  I have seen the company grow to its current position and know that the success and development of the company is due to its staff and proactive approach to Building Control.  This is what makes Quadrant what it is today.

CATHAL: During university I done a voluntary placement year at my Local Authority back in Ireland in 2013. When I moved to London in 2015 I worked for a housing association for a year but always knew that I would return Building Control and did in 2016 and haven’t looked back.

What did you write about in your submission to IFE?

ANDREW: I assessed and reviewed the decisions I had made on 3 very different projects.  Each project looked at a particular topic:

  • Open Plan Flats in single stair buildings and the guidance outlined in Approved Document B – Vol 1, & BS9991
  • Travel distances for the fire brigade where not being able to access all flats within 45m of the position for the fire appliance and the option to increase that distance with the implementation of suppression
  • An existing 5 storey assembly & office building (The Africa Centre) being refurbished with a single stair where part of the lobby was proposed to be removed at the ground floor level. After advising the client & design team of the issues under AD B – Vol 2 and the need to include smoke ventilation to offset the lobby protection and the extra design required to involve Fire Engineering and CFD Modelling, the team decided to implement the original proposal which I had explained out the outset not to adversely affect the building under a “Material Change of Use” and reinstate the lobby protection.  This was agreed by the Fire Authorities under a Regulation 12 consultation.    The Submission reviews your input, decisions and rationale behind the actions you took on the relevant projects.

TOM: In my submission, I wrote a Professional Development report and used a few projects which I had worked on which had presented some difficult scenarios in relation to fire safety.  This included:

A new-build 4-storey block of flats which had problems in relation to the provision of firefighting mains.

A conversion and extension of a 9-storey office block into flats which required sprinkler protection to justify extended corridor lengths. It also had issues with the proposed external cladding and fire stopping, which soon got rectified.

A new-build 3-storey office / workshop building which had excessive escape travel distances.

For all of these, I had to describe and demonstrate how I had met the Institute of Fire Engineer’s (IFE’s) specific objectives, which included problem-solving, communication skills, theoretical approach to fire engineering and implementation / evaluation of design solutions.

CATHAL: I wrote about 3 different projects within my report to show a broad knowledge over different types of buildings.

The first was a change of use scheme from an office block to residential to provide 96 apartments. There were a few complexities within this scheme with the main issue being a single stair building, this threw up problems in regard to travel distance. The scheme had to be fully CFD modelled which incorporated smoke extract systems, dry riser and AOVs .

The second was a new build office block spanning from basement to 6th floor level. The biggest issue with this scheme was single stair and the client was reluctant to lose any internal floor space. An external staircase was the solution. However this came with its own problems as a lot of the façade was glass and therefore needed to be fire rated. Another issue with this scheme was the smoke ventilation to the basement

The third scheme was a bit more straight forward and was a domestic dwelling where they wanted the ground floor open plan where a mist suppression system was provided as a compensatory measure.

If you had a magic wand, what would you change about fire / building regulations?

ANDREW: Where would you like me to begin??  I think in my opinion I would like to see plans approved prior to works commencing on site in relation to means of escape, compartmentation, external fire spread & fire brigade access.   This would provide a process and framework where clients/design team/consultants etc. can work to a constructive programme and structure.  Changes are inevitable but where works have commenced and, as a Building Control Surveyor, we raise issues regarding items that haven’t been addressed, it can lead to further costs, delayed projects and potential disputes with the clients/design team.  This is something as professionals we are all looking to avoid, as we want to be part of the process and not to be viewed as an obstruction to compliance.

CATHAL: Whilst I understand how difficult it would be to have a document that suits every building as they are all different shapes and sizes,  I feel that there are a lot of areas within the Approved Documents that could be written a lot more clear and concise.

TOM: Firstly, if I had a magic wand, changing the fire/building regulations wouldn’t be top of my priority list! 😊

Joking aside, I would probably make the Regulations more prescriptive. I think that the Approved Documents and other guidance leave too much “open to interpretation” which leads to inconsistency in how the Regulations and guidance is understood, used and enforced. This results in a lot of frustration and confusion across the construction industry.

What area do you cover?

CATHAL: I cover North/Central London and also have quite a bit of work in Kensington and Chelsea.

ANDREW: I cover the M3/M4/M40 Corridor from as far as Swindon, Oxford & into Central London.   It gives a varied portfolio of both residential and commercial projects.

TOM: I work out of our London Office and mostly cover projects in West, North West and Central London but do work with some clients who have projects elsewhere in the country, including a couple of upcoming jobs in Dorset and Exeter.

What is your favourite London street?

TOM: I would say Portobello Road in Notting Hill. It is quite a unique place on a busy day with the hustle and bustle surrounding its market stalls. I haven’t been there for a while but have worked on a few flat and shop refurbishment projects here over the years.

ANDREW: Fitzroy Square near Great Portland Street and Warren Street.  I have a current residential refurbishment project of a Grade 1 Listed property beneath the BT Tower which has been on site since Autumn 2018 and is nearing completion.  The original appearance as set out by Architect Robert Adam in 1790 is being restored along with the classical design.  It’s a real pleasure to work with an architectural practice who I have worked with since joining Quadrant and appreciate the input and cooperation from all sides.   Also, The Bishops Avenue near East Finchley…would love to live there but really can’t afford it!!!  But one day…who knows!! Or: – Great Suffolk Street near our office in Great Guildford Street.  Home to the local hangout for the London Office after work, The White Hart.

CATHAL: I wouldn’t say I have a favourite street in London as such, however I love Hampstead Heath, a touch of home with the open green areas and an amazing view overlooking the city.

Institution of Fire Engineers: https://www.ife.org.uk/

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