09 Oct, 2020

For our latest feature in CABE magazine, we featured one of our Building Control Managers, Geoff Luker, as he gave us an insight into our work for the luxury property market.

About our Building Control Manager, Geoff Luker

Geoff Luker is the Building Control Manager for our Petts Wood and South London region. Geoff joined the company in March 2018. However, he has been in Building Control since 1989. Geoff also spent time seconded to the Local Government Association (LGA) as the Building Control coordinator for all 400 Local Authority Building Control departments for England and Wales. Previously, Geoff was involved in negotiations with the ODPM (now the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) on changes to the regulations and the Approved Documents.

We caught up with Geoff to discuss his involvement in a multi-million-pound project at Forest Ridge, Keston Park in Kent for a domestic client.

About the Forest Ridge, Keston Park Project

At Forest Ridge, Keston Park, the project is the largest single dwelling in a secure private estate of luxury houses. The estate is situated close to our Petts Wood office in Kent. There is constantly new works, acquisitions of land, and new dwellings erected in the area, some of which, like the Forest Ridge property, are nearing or over 20,000 square feet of living space.

What was our involvement at Forest Ridge?

“My involvement started at the plan check stage, advising on the design and relevant parts of the Building Regulations and associated legislation. Following the initial plan check stage, site operations began with the demolition of the existing property, and after that, the digging of the basement structure.

As basement structures are complex, the soil conditions and design of the basement walls and floors were vital as they’re usually deeper than the surrounding water table.

As part of a development like this, the inclusion of a 10-year warranty is standard. A ten-year insurance backed guarantee was required for the tanking (waterproofing) of the basement structure, the flat roofs and the natural slate roof tiles.”

How do luxury properties differ from other domestic dwellings regarding Building Control?

“Luxury properties differ from the more 'ordinary' works we assist with, usually with clients who have keen insight into the property’s design.

With properties such as this one, the client knew what they wanted, and it's the role of the architect, building control surveyor and other specialists to provide advice on achieving the dream while complying with the regulatory requirements.

For example, this sometimes involves innovative methods of protection for means of escape in the event of a fire or bespoke heating and cooling systems to provide the zoned areas of living space to the client's choice.

Properties such as this one requires careful consideration for means of escape in case of a fire. In particular, where there may be up to 7,000 square feet of living accommodation in large basement areas, including bars, swimming pools, gymnasiums, cinema rooms, wine cellars where either the client, family and friends, or staff could potentially spend considerable time. Means of escape, therefore, could be supplemented with visual alarms as well as audible alarms, fire curtains, and multiple staircases for fire escape.

One of the many innovative pieces I like about this property is the window (underground) between the basement bar area and the underground garage. The window is approximately 4 meters wide and around 1.5 meters high. The window can be opaque or transparent by remote control; it also has 60 minutes fire protection.”

Tell us a bit about the overall project team?

“The project team was overseen by the client, who took a very hands-on approach. The particular client on this project prides himself on quality and speed combined – a challenging combination that involved us and two site supervisors employed directly by the client.

I also recommended our colleagues at Stroma Built Environment to undertake the SAP calculations for this project. As a multi-disciplinary provider of environmental sustainability and compliance services, it's another benefit we can offer our clients.”

Were there any challenges on the project? If so, how did the team overcome them?

“To be honest, once the design is agreed on these types of projects, you usually have fewer challenges than an average single-storey side extension or a loft conversion. The reason for this is the specialised nature of every aspect of the construction.”

Which elements of the project did you enjoy the most?

“The overall competency of the entire team was fantastic, from the client to the bricklayers. Everyone is employed for their superior skills, making relationship building easier for regulatory bodies such as us. In addition, the speed and high quality of materials and finishes made this development stand out above all others.

From start to finish, the whole project took just 14 months to build such a high-quality development, even during the pandemic. Similar houses on the estate are 4 years into development and are still not finished, so it shows the level of commitment and attention to detail the client has overseen.”

What other luxury properties are the team working on?

“We are working on many other luxury properties on this estate, the nearby Farnborough Park estate, and other selective areas around our Petts Wood office. The numbers are steadily increasing as Stroma is seen as the company providing the type of service that clients want."

In addition, Stroma can offer clients so much more through complementary services where they can have everything under one roof. This tends to suit many of our clients as they don't want to spend their time chasing several different companies at the end of a project for certification to satisfy investors or financial institutions."

What are the benefits of working for Stroma Building Control?

"Working for Stroma Building Control is probably the best type of company a Building Control Surveyor could work for. We are very proactive about providing a professional, flexible type of service that meets the clients' needs and the ethos of supporting its people provides a secure background from which to thrive and grow.

In addition, Stroma can offer clients so much more through complementary services where they can have everything under one roof. This tends to suit many of our clients as they don't want to spend their time chasing several different companies at the end of a project for certification to satisfy investors or financial institutions."

Work on projects you love to talk about

Are you interested in working on some of the country's most prestigious projects?

Stroma Building Control is recruiting for a variety of positions. We're looking for Building Control Surveyors at all levels to join our teams across our offices in England.

Visit our new Careers Hub to learn more about our work and the people at Stroma Building Control and view and apply to our latest vacancies.