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Drawing the line – the pitfalls of shared spaces

07/12/20Drawing the line – the pitfalls of shared spaces

We all know how easy, or difficult, it can be to live with someone else. The multitude of multi-occupancy properties, apartments and flat conversions means that we are living in closer proximity to other people than ever before.

With more people seeking accommodation, there are many ingenious ways being employed to create more space. Sometimes, this zeal to generate as much separate living accommodation as possible results in mistakes being made. A qualified surveyor carrying out an appraisal of the property will easily spot shortcuts, design faults and poor workmanship.

Here’s our short guide to spotting spaces that really shouldn’t have been invaded.


Breaking the sound barrier

Sound travels. One of the biggest bones of contention between neighbours is sound travelling from one property or garden to another. It might be the result of people being deliberately inconsiderate, such as playing loud music or shouting. Or it could be inadvertent, such as a barking dog or children playing, or someone who is hard-of-hearing having the television at full volume. Whatever the reason, loud noise highlights poor soundproofing, especially in properties that have been converted into flats. If adequate sound insulation has been installed, it must comply with UK building legislation. All dwellings for residential use must meet Document E sound regulations. This states that the separating floor (i.e. the floor between two separate living spaces) must achieve sound insulation figures of 43dB for airborne sound and 64dB for impact sound. If you have converted a building into flats, Building Control will expect whoever is carrying out the conversion to show it complies with Document E 2003, by undertaking an independent sound test.


Fire precautions

There are a number of aspects relating to fire safety that are sometimes overlooked as a result of flat conversions. One of the most important is the lack of an adequate fire escape, especially if the building has a number of living spaces on multiple levels. There should always be a safe way to exit the building in the event of a fire, and this is often on the external aspect of the building. This highlights another aspect of apartment design, as adequate interior fire doors must be included. These are vital to containing a fire’s spread. There are also cases where there’s a lack of party or fire walls in the roof spaces of older terraced properties. These are the dividing walls that for the interior divide in the apex of the roof. But in old terrace buildings if they fall into disrepair, they are sometimes not replaced or maintained. A surveyor will note these aspects where the building may be lacking and make recommendations for improvement.


Outer space

The spaces that form the approach access to shared apartment blocks and flats can also cause problems with co-habitants. There can be inadequate pavement crossover for forecourt parking, for example, if the property wasn’t initially built as a multi-occupancy building. This may require the kerb lowering by the local authority, to allow greater vehicular access. More people in residence at the property may also mean more vehicles requiring parking and storage. This increase in volume can create problems with shared drives and private access roads, that now have to accommodate more vehicles that need to access and leave the parking area. Clearly allotted parking bays for each flat are the best way to do this, but problems can arise when properties have two or more vehicles, or larger vehicles such as 4x4s or vans. If there are inadequate parking spaces for the residents, this may impact parking on the main road, which itself can cause traffic issues.


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