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Dangerous structures – an unexpected guest for dinner!

Van through wall - dangerous structure attended by Central Bedfordshire Building Control team

Although most people park their cars and vans on the road, occasionally we have to deal with an unexpected guest who arrives in their vehicle through the wall. 

When this happens it’s usually Building Control who’ll visit the site following a call from the emergency services to assess the structural implications that have been created. (The incident above was dealt with by one of our Central Bedfordshire team members - no one was injured, thankfully!) 

Building Control teams around the country have delegated powers under section 77 of the Building Act to deal with dangerous structures and, as in this instance, section 78 – Emergency Dangerous Structures.

This call can be at any time of day or night and while more common than you might think, it’s unusual to have two incidents like this within the same month.

You may have read the articles in the press or seen similar ones where it just states ‘a structural engineer’ or ‘a council officer’ attended the site.

In reality it’s Building Control who'll take the decision on whether it’s safe for the fire service to go into the building, whether the vehicle can be removed safely, what needs to be done to stabilise the building and arrange for this to be carried out so that they can leave the site safe having removed the danger. 

Often the residents need alternative accommodation, the building needs to be left secure and watertight, remedial work requires supervision and in some cases legal enforcement needs to be considered separately to any criminal investigation by the police.

This can sometimes take months to resolve before residents can return to their properties.

What do we do when we’re confronted with a dangerous structure like this? 

Well often it’s a deep breath first and then work through issues like isolation of gas, water and electric supplies, assessment of structural walls and damaged lintels, direction of supported floors and loads.

Work can then begin with the fire service to safely clear areas to allow temporary props to be installed to prevent further collapse. Once done the vehicle can be carefully removed to permit any additional propping and security hoarding to be installed.

Decisions are then made around how best to repair the building.

This part of Building Control's work can be complicated, dangerous and decisions need to be taken quickly to ensure conditions don’t get any worse.

So well done to the two building control teams involved in the photos, and the next time you see a similar photo in the newspapers spare a thought for the dedicated LABC officers out there helping to keep you safe.

View some of the dangerous structures our Building Control teams have dealt with.

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Also read Builders and property owners feel the pinch and Fire doors in the dock

Published October 2017