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ICE’s expert panel guidance gives engineers a better steer on party walls

The ICE’s structures expert panel has published a short guidance note for engineers regarding the Party Wall etc Act 1996.

Common approach

Panel’s note to engineers new to the dealing with the Act

The guidance explains how the Act affects engineers and emphasises the importance of understanding it.

A large proportion of complaints against engineers to disciplinary panels come from their unfamiliarity with the Act.

Outlining the possible roles of the engineer, the note offers a starting point for those seeking information on party wall issues. It describes the rules applying to structural work on a boundary, on existing party walls and on excavations, such as basements, that could affect nearby buildings. The purpose of the Act is to prevent or resolve disputes in these areas.

Engineers are playing an increasingly important role in party wall matters, either when acting as client’s design engineer or when advising an adjoining owner’s party wall surveyor.

Professionals need to know, for example, that excavations up to 6m away from a party wall may be covered by the Act. They also need to have some knowledge of the notice periods required before work can begin and what constitutes “special foundations”.

“The legislation is very specific and has to be followed precisely,” said ICE Structures Expert Panel member Paul Bell.

“Written with engineers in mind, this guidance note will help engineers avoid some of the problems when working close to party walls. Since the Act first passed into law, a greater proportion of engineers have had to deal with the technicalities of party wall matters. For example, the extension of the Act from London to the whole country in 1997 - and the more recent fashion for basement ­developments in expensive locations - has contributed to the increased number of engineers affected by the legislation.

“New methods of construction do not always fit easily into the framework of the Act, so there might be slight difference in opinion between engineers on some of the note’s aspects.

“Even so, our note tries to reach a common approach, providing engineers new to party wall matters with clear, concise guidance.”

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