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When Experts Get it Wrong

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contemporary self build cottage

With the self build exhibition season getting into full swing, it’s a busy time of year for me. First up was the January show at the National Self Build & Renovation Centre (NSBRC) in Swindon, which was a great success.

Next were Build It Live’s events in the south east and north west, which attracted almost 12,000 visitors across two weekends. In June, Build It Live will be returning to Bicester to develop the success of last year’s launch event.

It’s a real pleasure to be able to help readers and visitors with their queries at these events. It’s also quite a responsibility for us experts, as people rely on our advice and can often make important choices based on what we say. Every day is a fresh learning experience in the world of self build and renovation, and rarely a day passes when I don’t acquire knowledge of something new.

Occasionally, I find out something that totally changes my understanding of a process or product, and I find myself giving different advice based on the new info I’ve gleaned. As a result, I realise that we’re not infallible and that even experts can get it wrong, albeit with the best intentions. In fact, it makes me recall an incident that occurred during my own build.

I moved into my self built home when the plaster was still wet in March 2002. The completion certificate was issued by building control in May that year. Between those two dates a new Building Regulation (Part M) was introduced covering inclusive access. It called for level thresholds, ramps up to the front door and a clear, level approach from the point of entry to the highway.

Neither myself nor my groundworker were aware of the changes, but my building control officer insisted that before he could issue a completion certificate, I had to install a ramp in the porch and bypass two steps from the driveway with a level path up to the road. With lots of grumbling and protestations, and a wallet £1,200 lighter, all was upgraded and the certificate was issued.

Knowing what I know now, however, I’d be £1,200 better off.  My plans had been approved by building control against the earlier version of the regs that didn’t include Part M. As work had already started, I shouldn’t have been asked to incorporate any new amendments that had been added since then, so the extra work was completely unnecessary.

The building control officer should have been aware of this, but he wasn’t, and my own lack of knowledge was such that I was unable to challenge him. I had trusted an ‘expert’ who, sadly, was not living up to his name.

It was probably an honest mistake on his part, but it still rankles with me. I try to bear this experience in mind when I’m offering advice. If I know the answer for sure, I’ll tell you – but if I don’t know, I’ll tell you that I don’t and will offer to find out and get back to you.

So, if you suspect you’re being fobbed off by someone or being told porkies, or perhaps you simply think a second opinion would help, there’s nothing wrong with double-checking. It costs nothing but time, and could end up saving you money.

Image: Kaner Olette Architects

First published: May 2017

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