Building Condition Surveys: A Guide
Our RICS Chartered Surveyors explain what a building condition survey is, what it includes and when you should have one.
What is a Building Condition Survey?
- A building condition survey is a comprehensive evaluation of the physical state of a commercial building.
- They are often carried out for schools, academies and universities, but can be done for any commercial property, from factories and warehouses to offices and apartment blocks.
- The inspection is non-intrusive. The surveyor will visually examine all aspects of the building, both inside and outside, and the building’s grounds and external elements such as car parks.
- The surveyor will look for structural defects, and for any issues with the condition of the building and its fabric.
- This ranges from structural cracking to decorative elements.
- Information from the condition survey report will allow you to budget and prioritise work.
- This can incorporate planned budgets over set periods, often 5–10 years.
- A building condition survey report also includes consideration of issues concerning compliance with legislation. This can include building regulations, planning and listed building legislation, conservation area status, workplace safety legislation, fire protection and means of escape and disability discrimination legislation.
What do Surveyors check on a Building Condition Survey?
- A building condition survey is a thorough inspection and assessment of the physical condition of a commercial building, including:
- Structure and fabric
- What the building is made of, how it was built and how that affects its use and maintenance requirements
- Any structural elements that could be a cause for concern (e.g. RAAC)
- Any structural defects that need to be fixed
- External elements
- Including walls, windows, roofs, chimneys, vents, rainwater goods, windows, doors, damp-proof course, grounds, hard-standings, drains, and access.
- Internal elements
- Including walls, floors, ceilings, stairways, windows, fittings (e.g. kitchen and bathroom facilities), finishes, lighting, attics, basements, accessible insulation
- Inspection of electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems. Recommendations on further investigations by electrical and plumbing professionals if needed
- Evaluation against current accessibility regulations
- Recommendations for upgrading and improvement where relevant
- Fire safety
- Assessment of current fire protection measures, fire separation and detection measures. Recommendations for improvements to meet current standards
- Comments on evident vulnerabilities and suitability of existing alarm systems
- Building Regulations
- Any breaches of building regulations will be highlighted. Listed building legislation and conservation area regulations will also be considered where appropriate
- Dangerous and hazardous materials
- Such as asbestos and lead
- Environmental hazards
- For example, flooding, tree root proximity, radon, electromagnetic fields and microwave exposure, vermin (rodents, birds, insects), Invasive vegetation (Japanese Knotweed/Giant Hogweed), and Legionnaire’s Disease.
- Structure and fabric
When to get a building condition survey
You should get a building condition survey when:
- You need to understand the repair and maintenance needs of your commercial property or properties, and how to prioritise works
- You want to make sure that your buildings are safe and fit for purpose
- You are planning budgets for running and maintaining your buildings over the coming years and need a planned preventative maintenance schedule
Even if your property is in good condition, a building condition survey can provide invaluable data for planning and budgeting for future repairs and maintenance.
- Preventative maintenance often proves to be an excellent financial investment, saving many times the investment in the survey. It can help avoid minor issues escalating and requiring expensive, reactive maintenance down the line.