Category Archive: Commercial

Fire safety in buildings: What has changed since Grenfell?

James Cullen, Associate and Head of Building Surveying at George F. White, talks the importance of Fire Safety through Risk Assessments and mitigating risk.

Grenfell Tower fire, one of the most significant fire events we’ve seen in recent years, led to 72 fatalities. Almost two years on and there seems to be very little change in attitude towards building fire risk assessments with many being overlooked, or worse still, not even considered.

fire safety


The facts

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 stipulates minimum fire safety standards and requires a ‘responsible person’ to be in charge of fire safety in non-domestic buildings, and also buildings where people are employed.

The responsible person will typically be the employer, or, any other person who has control to some extent; if the building isn’t a work place, then any person can be designated the ‘responsible person’.

The responsible person is required to carry out certain fire safety duties on a regular basis; these include ensuring general fire precautions are satisfactory and that there’s a fire risk assessment in place (with any action points raised being implemented). If more than five persons are employed, the risk assessment has to be a written.

In my experience, the fire risk assessment process, and fire safety as a whole in buildings, is often overlooked by those who are ultimately responsible. Despite this, the risks associated with fire safety negligence can be fatal. In light of recent tragedy, fire safety should be at the forefront of our minds and by following the auditing process correctly, risks can be mitigated.

Evidently, this is not the case. I often find that building owners and responsible persons leave themselves open to considerable risk of negligence and provide buildings which are not safe regarding fire. I am pleased to say the attitudes of social landlords have been positive in light of tragedy, ensuring the risk assessment process is carefully considered, yet, this proactive attitude has not been so apparent within the private sector. In my experience, fire risk in buildings spans far wider than combustible cladding, despite such a key focus on this construction element in the media, and it is important to) consider a wide range of building components and management issues as part of a compliant audit.

Advice and Action Points to Mitigate Risk:

  • Conduct a thorough fire risk assessment;
  • Action all points outlined in the risk assessment, ensuring any remedial works are inspected and approved by a qualified risk assessor. Note – action points will have a recommended implementation time/action by date;
  • Ensure the assessment considers all critical aspects of the structure and building management;
  • Review the risk assessment annually and following any indicant, near miss, fire or before and after any building works;
  • Always review and revise the fire risk assessment if a change of use is proposed in a building. The fire strategy and risk profile may often be different should the building use alter to some degree, impacting fire safety considerably;
  • Appoint the right people. It’s essential that the person conducting the risk assessment is skilled, trained and qualified to complete such a task. It’s often the case that individuals label themselves as fire risk assessors without having the above, leading to negligence, failings and non-compliance. Always look to appoint an RICS regulated chartered building surveyor with a supplementary qualification and experience in fire risk assessment in order to be sure you are advised correctly.

Remember, if the above process isn’t completed with due diligence, in the event of any fire you could be liable for all consequences involved, be it financial, building damage, reputation, injury or even fatalities. As a special offer, we’ll be offering 10 per cent off all fire risk assessments instructed in May.

Building Survey: Would you buy a property without one?

Buying a property is quite possibly the biggest financial investment you will ever make… James Cullen, Head of Building Surveying, explains why you should instruct a full building survey before acquisition.

What is a Basic Valuation Survey?

  • Required by the Mortgage lenders prior to approving a loan;
  • Confirm to the lender whether or not they can recover their investment if the property be repossessed;
  • This survey is not completed to provide detail on key structural and maintenance issues.

Pitfalls of Basic Valuation Surveys…

I have often been reminded that Basic Valuation Surveys are completed in less than 15 minutes… some of which do not incur a site visit or even involve entering the property or the roof space.

Similarly, with the rapid uptake of lump sum pension payments; there are a number of buyers on the market purchasing buildings outright without additional sources of finance. In this case, there is no minimum valuation survey requirement.

Consequently, purchasers are often exposed to a high level of risk. They are liable to commit the funds to maintain and repair the properties under their ownership. More often than not this liability is realised when it is too late to digest and plan for such issues.

Building Survey

Why Instruct a Full Building Survey?

According to research undertaken by consumer group ‘Which’; at a time when a purchaser is already expending funds, a survey can seem like another painful expense.

Typically, 20% of property buyers fail to commission a building survey prior to going ahead with a property transaction. This alarming figure identifies that the majority of property buyers run the risk of buying a property that could present major and costly defects which are unidentifiable to the untrained eye.

It is far better to be aware of any issues before purchasing a property so that informed decisions about how much the property is worth can be made and that the cost of any repair works can be considered at the outset.

This detailed survey can often be used to negotiate the purchase price down with the vendor, or can be set aside as a useful plan to target repairs, budget and recourse in the future.

Why instruct George F. White?

We pride ourselves on offering high quality, detailed and informed Building Surveys to reassure purchasers and identify the clear concerns with any building and where to target resources for repairs in the future.

Only the highest level of RICS compliant building survey is offered to our clients for the very reason that their security and protection is our highest priority. Moreover, this saves the unnecessary expense of revisiting and undertaking further investigation works which are often referred to in surveys such as a homebuyer’s survey.

For more information, a friendly service and advice tailored to meet your requirements, please contact James Cullen.

Commercial Growth for George F. White

We have strengthened our foothold in the North East commercial sector, providing a greater range of services and expanding the team with three recruits into our Newcastle office.


James Cullen has joined the team as Associate and will lead the Building Surveying team. James joins the team from a previous role at Building Surveyors Ltd and brings with him specialist surveying expertise in commercial building surveying, with a focus on acquisition and investment surveys, dilapidations, asset management and project works.

Speaking about his appointment, James said: “Establishing the building surveying service offering at George F. White represents a fantastic opportunity where Building Surveying aligns perfectly with the needs of its ever diversifying client base. I have always been passionate about building surveying and this role gives me a fantastic opportunity to establish a new team. I am delighted that within the first few weeks we have already established a market presence in Newcastle and the offering has been universally well received, with new work coming in already for private and corporate clients.”

In addition to James, the team has also appointed Victoria Huntley and Rhys Jones as Graduate Surveyors and to expand the team’s Commercial and Planning and Development team capability. Both are based at our Newcastle centre office.

Victoria joins the firm as a Graduate Commercial surveyor and will focus on commercial valuations, landlord and tenant and property management work. Rhys will be based within the our Newcastle planning and development team and his primary role there will be to assist with valuations of development property.

Richard Garland, Head of Tyne and Wear, added: “Since opening our Tyne and Wear offices last year, we have seen a great take up for our services, including the commercial property offering and have attracted a whole new client type. The ongoing evolution of the firm continues and I am delighted to now be able to provide a Building Surveying offering alongside strengthening our Commercial Property and Planning and Development teams. All three have shown fantastic energy and passion for what they do and a dedication to quality and client service which is the core of everything we are about.”

Glendale Paints: on the market after 44 years in business

Glendale Paints, an independent chain of quality paint and DIY shops in Northumberland and the Borders, is now on the market after 44 years in business.

Credit: Paul Driver Photo [BIRA – British Independent Retailers Association]

The family business is being sold as a trading business due to the forthcoming retirement of owners, Harry and Wendy Grant. Glendale Paints is made up of four stores located at Kelso, Berwick, Wooler and Alnwick. Over the years, the brand has become a local household name, supporting the community and the British industry; stocking everything from quality paints and wallpapers through to everyday DIY supplies.

Speaking about the sale of his business, Harry Grant said: “Glendale Paints has been my life and passion for 44 years. The team behind me, comprising my wife and amazing and loyal staff over the years, has made Glendale Paints into a thriving local high street business.”

We are marketing the portfolio of four retail properties as a well-established business and an excellent investment, we are inviting offers to the George F. White Alnwick branch. Three of the trading properties are owned freehold and one is held leasehold. They are available either as freehold or leasehold on terms to be agreed based on new 10-year leases with five yearly rent reviews on FRI (full repairing and insuring) terms.

Credit: Paul Driver Photo [BIRA – British Independent Retailers Association]

Simon Brierley, a commercial consultant at George F. White, said: “This is a rare opportunity to purchase a flourishing and well-established business portfolio with a wide customer base from North Northumberland to the Borders and we are thrilled to have introduced the property to market. Glendale Paints is a household name in the region and sells and stocks an exhaustive range of products. The brand is also used by the trade for supplying larger quantities of product. There is an element of flexibility with the opportunity to lease the four outlets or purchase on a freehold basis. I urge anybody with the intent to find out more to get in touch as we’re confident interest in the properties will be high and they won’t be on the market for too long.” interest will be high.”

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