Today I’m talking to Oliver Goodyear, Senior Structural Engineer about the specialist structural surveys that Michael Aubrey Partnership carry out on properties that have had oil leaks.
What Type Of Properties Do You Attend?
“Mainly residential properties, although last month I attended a public house that had an oil spill.
Do You Work Directly For The Homeowner Or The Insurer?
Neither, we normally work for Environmental Consultants, they are appointed by the insurer and we get involved to provide specialist professional structural engineering advice
What Types Of Projects Do You Work On?
They vary quite a bit, sometimes we are brought in on simple jobs, for example where a wall is being removed and a structural design is needed to prop the wall.
Other times it’s more complicated and we may be designing extensive underpinning where the oil leak has spread across the whole property
Every oil spill is different, and the impact of a fuel leak can vary from site to site.
We are there to make sure that no more damage will occur from underpinning activities and making sure that the building is structurally safe whilst the works are carried out.
Our Reports Typically Include;
- Our survey observations; foundation and wall construction
- Ground conditions
- Extent of remediation
- Soil removal works; depth of underpinning required for each affected wall and underpinning layout
- Wall reinstatement – propping layout
- Floor reinstatement works
- method statement
- Temporary works layout
For speed, often our reports include hand drawn sketches.
How Do You Support The Environmental Consultants?
Often when they are carrying out the remediation work, they will stumble upon other issues, or something unexpected will be found. We try to be flexible and can often attend sites several times, at short notice.
We make ourselves available answering emails and phone calls to provide engineering support and advice.
Dealing with an emotional homeowner who has just been told that their house is severely contaminated and they may have to move out for an unknown period of time, sometimes years, it can be quite a stressful job for them.
Our role is to make it as easy as possible for the environmental consultants .. at least the areas that are within our control!
Oil Spill Case Study
A lot of the properties that we report on are older properties, in remote locations, with the oil tank in the garden and the boiler in the house.
Often the pipe connections deteriorate in winter due to frost and there is movement in the summer when it’s dry. The oil line connects both and we usually find the point of failure is somewhere in the pipe.
One property we attended recently was an old building, made slightly more complicated as it required listed building consent before any work could be carried out.
There was a large open plan kitchen /dining room and the spill happened in the dining room
The dining room was in the middle of the house, surrounded by other rooms
Existing footings on three sides of the room were 150mm below ground, we recommended extensive underpinning – soil need to be excavated to a 2m depth
The contractor had to dig down to 1m in bays, then another 1m. This further complicated as there was a cellar on one side going down to 1.2m – we had to make sure the cellar was propped sufficiently.
If there is a heavy amount of excavating, or a lot of brickwork repairs, the work can be quite damaging, so sometimes the Client requests a Pre-condition survey.
We provide independent photographic and documentary evidence of any cracking before works start on site.
Good Relationship with Contractors
Over the years we have probably carried out over 50+ structural reports and have developed a good relationship with contractors on site.
It’s very much a collaborative approach as we are all working together for the best outcome for the homeowner.
Why Are Structural Engineers Appointed in the Case of Oil Spills?
A lot of the remedial works require structural input and therefore fall under the scope of the Building Regulations.
The homeowner wants to know that no more damage will occur by excavating and underpinning and also that their home will be structurally safe whilst the works are carried out.
We design the best underpinning solution and propping for the removal of loadbearing walls
A well thought out engineering solution can save thousands overall”.
Are you an Environmental Consultant? Do you work with homeowners affected by oil spills?
Get in touch for an initial discussion to see how we might be able to work togethercontact us