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Why Do I Need A Survey For My Architect To Undertake A Project?

Why Do I Need A Survey For My Architect To Undertake A Project?

Are you thinking about making a planning application for your home extension project? Ever wondered why it would be best to have a measured survey prior to your architect proposing a design? This article considers some of the things you may need to think about and the cost implications before you get started.

As with many things, having the right foundations at the outset, really puts you in a great position going forward. Having a measured survey done prior to the architect preparing scheme options is no different.

A measured building survey is important because it provides detailed and accurate information about the dimensions and layout of a building. This information can be used for a variety of purposes, including architectural design, regulations, construction, building maintenance, and property transactions.

A measured building survey is different from a pre-purchase building survey, and not to be confused as they are both done by different types of building surveyors.

A pre-purchase building survey (you can have one done later but this is unlikely) can identify potential issues with a building, such as structural problems or statutory violations, which can help a property owner take steps to address them before they become a major issue to ensure that a building is safe, functional, and compliant with applicable statutory and legal regulations.

This type of survey tends to consider the condition of the property, including any visible signs of damage, wear and tear, or potential structural issues.
A measured building survey can help, assist in planning and design for new building projects and or renovations (home extensions and loft conversions).

Measured building surveys are important for the creation of accurate floor plans, elevations and sections which can be used for building control, planning and other legal requirements. Without it, it is difficult to develop an accurate design for the property.

The things a measured building survey would pick up and provide information about an existing building:

  1. Floor plans: Detailed and accurate floor plans can be created showing the layout, size and location of all rooms, walls, doors, and windows.
  2. Elevations: Exterior elevations of the building can be created, showing the height, width, and construction materials of the building.
  3. Sections: Cross-sections of the building can be created, providing information about the internal structure of the building and the location of internal walls, floors, and ceilings.
  4. Dimensions: All dimensions of the building can be accurately measured, including room sizes, door and window sizes, and floor to ceiling heights.
  5. Construction materials: The survey can identify the types of materials used in the construction of the building, including the type of walls, floors, and roof.
  6. Services: The location and condition of all services, such as electrical wiring, plumbing, and heating systems, can be identified.
  7. Accessibility: The survey can identify any accessibility issues, such as step-free access, ramps, and handrails.
  8. Additional features: The survey will identify any additional features of the building, such as trees or shrubs in close proximity of the building, fireplaces, skylights, and built-in storage.
  9. Where it is important, the survey may also record the location of any existing services.

On the flipside, having a measured building survey does come with a few drawbacks:

  1. Cost: measured building surveys can be an upfront cost before any work commences and may not have been factor in within the budget of upfront costs for planning.
  2. Time-consuming: measured building surveys can be time-consuming, and the process of surveying a building can take several days to complete. However, this would also be dependent on the size and scale of the building that is to be surveyed. A normal house will take about a day to survey, and about 2 weeks thereafter to process the information.
  3. Intrusive: measured building surveys can be intrusive and may require access to all areas of the house/building, including private areas.

When designing your home, having an accurate survey done will enable the architect through their professional training and experience to be able to explore creative design solutions for the project and to be able to identify and creatively design out any potential issues that could cause major issues during the construction process.

For example, you might be looking for your home renovation project to include a new single storey rear extension – which the measured building survey accurately locates an external manhole cover that has a public sewer pipe running beneath it that serves the neighbouring properties.

The architect, using the survey drawings, their knowledge and experience would be able to identify the problem and creatively make an informed decision on how best to design out the issue to ensure the new extension doesn’t impede on the existing system and advise on the required necessary statutory/legally compliant steps going forward.

You could be seeking to undertake a new loft conversion to add an additional bedroom and en-suite to your property to facilitate your growing family’s needs. How would you know whether it would be feasible without a measured building survey? Things the architect would need to consider as part of their assessment of the survey drawings to design a loft conversion:

  1. Does the overall scheme require planning permission, or could it be done under (GDPO) Permitted Development, or a combination of the two?
  2. Does the current loft space provide sufficient head height to facilitate such a conversion?
  3. Access – how will you gain access to the new space through a new staircase/loft ladder? Where will this be located to avoid being an impact and the relevant headroom relationship with the level below.
  4. Roof type – does the roof of your property have sufficient space to comply with volume allowance?
  5. Cost – depending on the size and complexity of the loft conversion what could be the potential cost?
  6. Services – how will the new loft conversion best facilitate any new services (electrical lighting, heating and plumbing) to connect back to existing/new mains?
  7. Compliance – statutory and regulation requirements needed to be designed in at the forefront of the architect’s initial scheme proposal.

Having a measured building survey would identify these through a series of drawings (floor plans, elevations and sections) of which the architect would use to help inform their design layout to provide you with an aesthetically pleasing space that is both functional and safe to use. Some of the positive aspects of having a measured building survey done, are as follows:

  1. Accurate information: A measured building survey provides detailed and accurate information about the physical characteristics of a building which then help with the architectural design development.
  2. Helps to allow for better decision making: With accurate information about a building, you can make more informed decisions about its use, maintenance, and potential improvements.
  3. Compliance: A measured building survey can ensure that a building is compliant with all relevant building regulations, avoiding costly fines or penalties.
  4. Safety: A survey can identify any potential safety hazards, such as structural issues or fire hazards, and provide recommendations for addressing them. At the very least a good set of existing drawings will allow for a structural engineer to establish what is viable.
  5. Cost-effective: A measured building survey can ultimately save you money by identifying potential issues early on, and by providing accurate information that can be used to develop cost-effective solutions. In parallel you will be able to have an accurate set of drawings that mean that you can measure quantities from the drawings for the purchase of finishes.
  6. Future planning: A measured building survey can be used as a basis for future planning and management of the building, providing a comprehensive record of its condition and characteristics over time.

So, to conclude, measured building surveys aren’t just lines on a piece of paper. They are in fact acting like an x-ray of a given building to help inform its structure, construction build-up and datum point in which to start. Overall, they assist an architect to ensure your home is designed to be safe, functional, and visually pleasing, while also taking into account your specific needs and budget.