Will building work next door cause structural damage to my home?
You property query answered
A ‘safety statement and risk assessment’ will have been undertaken by the designers and contractors before any construction works started and such works must be notified to the Health and Safety Authority.
Q I’m living beside an office building that’s undergoing significant works as they are building a large extension at the back. The noise from the piling work (the driving of steel/concrete columns into the ground to support the structure) is a big disturbance but I’m more concerned about the vibrations from the piling work and whether this will create structural damage to my home, which is in very close proximity, only 20 meters away. What do you advise I do?
A Whenever significant construction takes place, and especially if demolition or excavation works are to be undertaken near neighbouring buildings, it is essential that the developer engages with adjoining owners to undertake “condition surveys” in any property that could feasibly be affected by the proposed work prior to it starting.
A condition survey will establish the precise state of the property before any work commences and will identify and record any deficiencies in the property such as cracks or maintenance issues. It will be used as a base line in the event that the works cause damage to these adjoining properties. Importantly for the developers, it establishes what liabilities might be incurred by them and any special provisions or limitations they must consider about the way the works are carried out.
This is especially important if the adjoining properties are elderly or fragile in some way such as being constructed in masonry with lime mortar or if settlement has already taken place. For example, when the Port Tunnel was proposed a detailed examination of every property above the proposed route took place well in advance of the tunnelling. This provided surety for both the owners and the contractors that the work they were doing was not having any negative effects.
It appears in your case that no survey has been undertaken so in the first instance you should advise your insurance company, asking them to approve getting your own condition survey carried out by a building surveyor. As soon as possible take your own dated detail photographs of any damage you have already noticed and record as much as you can with notes.
Next, you or your solicitor should write to the contractors and the developer to voice your concerns, putting them on notice of their liability to repair any damage and cover costs. If the vibration is significant then a vibration monitor can be installed in your home to record vibration and assess if structurally significant movement is taking place, this should be fitted and paid for by the developers once you have advised them of your concerns.
If the developer takes no notice, then in extreme cases it is possible that your solicitor can threaten or even obtain an injunction to stop the construction works until appropriate acceptable actions have been taken. That will be costly to the developer and usually they will seek to reach an amicable solution before the matter escalates to such a level.
A “safety statement and risk assessment” will have been undertaken by the designers and contractors before any construction works started and such works must be notified to the Health and Safety Authority. If you are getting nowhere with the developers then you can advise the matter to the HSA, who will investigate and who have the power to have works stopped if they consider there has been inappropriate consideration of risks to adjoining property.
Usually noise levels and timing will be conditioned in a planning grant and there is a wide range of legislation that deals with noise control. The environmental health department in the council or the Environmental Protection Agency can be notified, and again the HSA can get involved if the work is causing you nuisance.
Fergus Merriman is a Chartered Building Surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, scsi.ie