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Client: Downing
Main contractor: Downing
Architect: Fielden Clegg Bradley
LABC team: Liverpool City Council and London Borough of Lambeth

Atlas student accommodation - local authority building control

Project Summary

Downing’s 32 storey ‘Atlas’ building in Vauxhall provides student accommodation, with 553 rooms plus roof gardens, a basement gym and pool.


Downing is a Liverpool-based, national developer and construction company specialising in mixed use developments, student accommodation, property management and construction.

The local authority building control team

A partnership exists between Liverpool City Council's building control team and Downing which was established more than 16 years ago. Liverpool City Council provided design advice and plans appraisal and the London Borough of Lambeth carried out the site inspections in London. By working in partnership, relationships have developed with key members of the project team including architects, fire engineers, structural engineers, mechanical and electrical designers, and landscape architects. This has helped the team deliver schemes quickly, easily and with a high level of understanding of the clients’ needs.

Key issues

A ‘tight’ triangular site with the UK’s busiest railway on one boundary and a major road on another caused a problem when trying to connect the existing sewers and services. Close proximity to the train line and road meant the environmental and acoustic surveys were required.

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Existing sewer location and depth meant that a bespoke pumped solution was required for the foul drainage. Liaison with the London Borough of Lambeth and Thames Water resulted in an acceptable solution being adopted. The restricted site also posed problems achieving the required area of basement smoke vents due to pavement locations, below ground service runs and rainwater attenuation requirements. The type of smoke vents proposed was determined by the thermal line and the risk of condensation from the swimming pool environment. Sewer plans didn't reflect what was found and connections required fast liaison between the construction team, building control, Lambeth highways team and Thames Water.

Building control inputs

Liverpool City Council worked with Downing and Fielden Clegg Bradley from conception to completion. Feedback was provided to all members of the design team particularly with regard to the fire strategy, evacuation and site access, working with London Borough of Lambeth who provided support on consultation with the London Fire Brigade, Transport for London and Network Rail. Lambeth also provided the site inspections and worked with the project and site management teams to match the construction programme.

Features of note

Because of the restricted triangular site, detailed planning and implementation of the groundwork, piling and excavation for the basement pool and gym was required. The building is in inner city London so roof gardens have been included to create a spectacular amenity.

What did local authority building control add?

A bespoke inspection plan was agreed and Liverpool City Council worked closely with the architects, quantity surveyor and project management team to provide design feedback and agree alternative solutions. During construction both LABC teams worked with Downing’s own site-based team to provide continuous contact throughout the project.

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The challenge

Plymouth City Council wanted to establish an outstanding sporting venue of regional and national significance for sport and recreation, health, education and culture which would be open and affordable to all. The aquatics facilities were to be the largest in southern England (outside of the Olympic park).

The objective

To design and built to high standards using modern technology, be sustainable and energy efficient and accessible to all. To involve the community from the very early design phase right through construction and to make sure the centre met the needs of its potential users and be a driver in addressing health inequalities within the city.

How local authority building control helped

Plymouth City council’s building control team worked very closely with contractors Balfour Beatty to make the Life Centre as environmentally friendly as possible – achieving the Building Research Establishment’s BREEAM rating of ‘very good’.

The centre has high levels of insulation and air tightness, reuses heat from the air conditioning, recirculates rainwater and water from the swimming pools for non-drinking use and has extensive use of solar-controlled glass – preventing the centre overheating in summer or getting too cold in winter. The centre also gets 20% of its energy from sustainably generated sources. All this makes it one of the most sustainable buildings of its type.

The focus on accessibility led to more than 30 community engagement events being held at the early design stage. These covered local community groups, sports governing bodies and particularly local disabled people and sports groups. And during the construction thousands of local people and groups visited the site along with local schools and colleges.

The results

A total of 450 jobs (80% from Plymouth’s travel to work area) were supported by the construction, 16 new apprenticeships were created, 200 college students given work experience and a dozen long term unemployed were given placements to gain experience in various building trades.

The use of the centre has exceeded all projections, with 100,000 users a month making it the busiest aquatics centre in the UK. This helped Plymouth increase local sports participation rates.

The centre was chosen as a training base for several Olympic watersports teams, hosted the Ability Games and has been awarded the Inclusive Fitness Initiative. The disabled bowling club with its purpose built facility has expanded to deliver Help for Heroes’ programmes for injured service personnel.

Building a sporting venue or leisure complex? Find out what your local building control team can do for you.

Published May 2013

The challenge

The £22 million scheme was to develop a new A&E department, linked to the existing hospital buildings and with a helipad on the roof for the local air ambulance.  The new three storey building is located at the front of the existing hospital which remained operational throughout the construction.

The objective

To build a new state of the art accident and emergency facility without disrupting the workings of a busy general hospital.

How local authority building control helped

Over a number of years Surrey Heath building control team had developed an excellent working relationship with Frimley Park Hospital NHS Trust. So when the Trust was planning the new building it put together a multi-disciplinary team including local authority building control, fire officer, architect, contractors and the hospital’s estates team.

This close working relationship allowed effective design and quick approval of the project with the building control team consulted at pre-application.  Their input was taken on board which lead to a quick approval of the application and any issues that occurred during construction being quickly resolved.

The results

The close collaboration between building control, the hospital trust and its contractors has led to the delivery of an outstanding, high quality building in just over a year from start to finish. This accident and emergency building is now one of the largest resuscitation units in the country, housing 22 patient rooms, two new operating theatres and a rooftop helipad.

Visit our Healthcare page to find out what your local authority building control team can do for you

Published May 2013

The challenge

The seven-storey, 215-bedroom, 29-apartment Wave Hotel at Butlins, Bognor Regis, cost £22.5 million to build and used a unique lightweight modular system to save on costs and materials. It opened in July 2012 and is a crucial part of the on-going redevelopment of the West Sussex resort. It is designed to look like an ocean liner, complete with a nautical theme throughout – even the lifts play nautical music!

The objectives

To build a fully accessible hotel using a unique modular construction system, while meeting all the latest building regulations, particularly structural integrity and fire safety. The hotel site was surrounded by existing accommodation on three sides and had to be constructed with minimal disruption to the resort and its guests.

How local authority building control helped

The delivery of the project required close cooperation between client, contractor, architect and Arun District Council Building Control to manage the project and deal with any issues around the modular construction. A key aspect of the design was ensuring the building could be accessed and used by all so ramped access provides routes from the High Street to the entrance and lifts and extra wide corridors give access to all floors.

The modular construction was highly sustainable, with excellent air tightness, high levels of recycled materials used and waste designed out. Traffic movements to and from site were reduced as the modules were delivered already fitted-out. This approach also shortened the on-site construction period which minimised the impact upon the resort.

But this lightweight modular structure pushed the boundaries of construction and needed the input of Arun District Council's building control team to help make sure the innovative approach met the latest building regulations – particularly regarding the strength of the modular construction as this was the first time the approach had been used in a non-standard way. Previous projects had only used modules in rectangular student accommodation blocks.

A bespoke solution was developed to enable the balconies to be supported from the lightweight structure without any visible means of support.And to make sure the building met fire safety regulations a single fire fighting stair was included along with an additional dry-riser and concerns about fire resistance in the voids between modules were addressed.

The results

The building’s iconic design is now a highlight of the Bognor Regis skyline, a key part of the town’s recent regeneration and has given Butlin’s a new hotel that offers their customers a 21st century holiday experience.  Its innovative modular construction sets new standards for lower cost, highly sustainable and flexible commercial buildings.

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The challenge

Office fit-out works over the ground to third floors, including creating new internal staircases, and 2nd floor external terrace.

The objectives

To consist of office fit-out from ground to third floor. Accommodation stairs to be added through existing compartment floors.

How the local authority building control team helped

These were major structural works, as existing 352mm deep beams needed to be trimmed to allow for proposed stairs. There were also fire safety issues when it came to uniting floors, which were dealt with by the introduction of fire curtains around stairs and changes to the fire alarm installation.

The logistics and sequence of works was complicated. An office floor was set up as temporary office space, then other floors fitted out, with employees moving to completed floors. A temporary floor was fitted out last.

Old carpet was re-used and furniture and glazed partitions from the office Lend Lease had vacated in Hanover Square (their old headquarters) was used for the temporary fit-out.

The local authority building control team carried out regular inspections at the client’s request - with a minimum once a week. The structural engineer and M&E officer also inspected the works at various stages. Pre-application meetings were held with local authority building control to iron out any problems, and site issues were dealt with immediately.

The results

The building and all facilities are fully accessible - the principals were dealt with under the base build and the principal of inclusive design included within the specification of the fit-out.

The job exceeded the requirements of Part L - with an effort made to use recycled and sustainable sourced materials such as; low volatile organic, content carpets, paint and silicone, durable core-ten steel to client suite areas, recycled rubber used in carpets and reclaimed French oak flooring used in reception area. All other wood is FSC rated.

Noticeboards were made from jute, rosin and linseed oil - all natural materials. All utilities - electric, gas and water are monitored, as are the zoned air conditioning units and lighting installations.

An existing roof terrace that wasn’t used was upgraded and a bio-diverse roof, wall and an insect hotel were introduced. The fit-out achieved BREEAM “Excellent” rating and a real effort was made to provide a high quality, environmentally friendly European Headquarters for Lend Lease.

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The challenge

The proposed Marks & Spencer store at Cheshire Oaks was set up as a flagship sustainable store

The objectives

Delivering a sustainable development was an important objective for this development, and aims to minimise the amount of CO2 emitted and waste sent from the construction site to landfill. M&S also hoped to make large energy savings and use a large amount of materials from sustainable sources. Additionally, they targeted an Excellent BREEAM rating and a high Considerate Constructors score.

The outcome

The Excellent BREEAM rating was attained and the Considerate Constructors score was an impressive 38 / 40.

A report by the Technology Board in 2013 found that the store in its first year had:

•    Achieved a 42% reduction in energy use compared to an equivalent store (thanks to the use of a biomass boiler plant and heat reclamation from refrigeration systems)
•    40% fewer carbon emissions
•    Excellent building insulation with less than one degree of heat loss overnight in winter
•    A rainwater harvesting system that was supplying a third of the store’s water

And pleasingly, the design features and successful build has resulted in positive feedback from both customers and employees.

How the local authority building control team helped

The size and complexity of the project warranted agreement from all parties in the early stages.

The scheme was being developed through a shell and fit out procurement. Two partner authorities were involved - the City of Lincoln approved the shell and Birmingham the fit out. Cheshire West and Chester were the inspecting authorities who had responsibility for site inspection.

It was decided to bring together the design team headed by the developer and contractor Simons, architects Aukett Fitzroy Robinson, Aecom the structural engineers and the building control team to a pre-application meeting.

The meeting provided an ideal opportunity to meet with colleagues from the other side of the country and explain the scheme and methodology of development.

The purpose of the early meeting was to set down principles for approval and inspection to help coordinate between the shell and fit out works. This enabled a smooth transition between the two and the success of this early meeting proved to be extremely useful.

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Find out what local authority building control can do for you

The challenge

The Co-op wanted to build a landmark building for its new headquarters. The 16-storey, 330,000sq ft building contains general offices, a call centre, meeting rooms, a restaurant, café and test kitchens. There is also car and bike parking, loading bays and ancillary accommodation. Built using a variety of innovative technologies it is one of the greenest buildings of its type.

The objective

To construct a high quality state of the art, iconic, but low energy use office building.

How local authority building control helped

With an iconic design, a very high environmental specification and a two plus year construction period, this was always going to be a challenging project.

But with close cooperation between the architects, contractors and Manchester City’s building control team, any identified problems were solved quickly.

Particular attention was paid on access for people with disabilities and the three evacuation lifts, in addition to fire-fighting lifts, helping 1 Angel Square meet the latest building regulation standards as well as BS8300.

Manchester’s building control team had been involved in the project right from the design stage, and as a result almost 20 different techniques were used in the building to reduce energy consumption and provide a sustainable working environment. Solutions included the use of natural heat and light, combined heat and power, heat recovery systems, high efficiency ventilation, grey and rain water harvesting and re-use, leak detection and shut-off and variable speed lifts.

The results

1 Angel Place is a UK benchmark for environmental sustainability and is one of the first buildings to gain an outstanding BREEAM rating – meaning it is 40-60% more energy efficient than other buildings of its type.

It has also gained an Energy Performance Certificate A rating and a Display Energy Certificate A rating making it the first building in the UK to achieve this standard.

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The Other Place, Stratford-upon-AvonProject summary: The Courtyard Theatre was completely refurbished and relaunched as ‘The Other Place’. Located on the banks of the River Avon in Stratford-upon-Avon, it is a creative hub for learning, research and development with excellent facilities including rehearsal rooms, a 200-seat studio theatre, costume stores and a café.

Client: The Royal Shakespeare Company, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, creates and produces shows for three theatres, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, the Swan Theatre and The Other Place. They design and build sets, create costumes and props, rehearse and perform shows before taking them on tour to audiences across the globe.

BC team: Having worked on the £112m refurbishment of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in 2010, Stratford-on-Avon District Council Building Control had a well-established relationship with the RSC as well as a wealth of knowledge and experience relating to theatre design.

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Key issues: The Other Place is built on a very tight site, bounded by a main road and residential properties. Part of the building was constructed in 2005 as a temporary home for the RSC but as the building had become part of the landscape and to reduce the environmental impact a decision was made to keep the façade, which was made of Corten steel sheeting. This meant that a new steel frame needed to be erected internally which was a challenge as large cranes had to be accommodated on the tight, and mainly residential, site.

Unexpected: The theatre and rehearsal rooms had to be sound-proofed so bespoke acoustic doors were specified by the design team. During construction the supplier ceased trading and the M&E contractor was unable to continue on the project. Despite this, the contractor still met project milestones, hit programme targets and delivered the scheme on time.

Building control inputs: During the initial stages LABC provided informed, pragmatic advice to the design team to ensure the scheme was compliant with building regulations long before planning permission was sought. The LABC team provided support throughout the construction phase through drawing on their past experience and knowledge of the local area. Their service included: consultation meetings; weekly visits; and flexible out-of-hours inspections (which fitted around rehearsal times).

Features of note: The building features modern efficient lighting, heating and ventilation which offer cost savings due to of better lifecycle costs and CO2 emissions. The costume stores house high value and historic costumes. Due to the location, the delivery of materials had to be well managed to minimise disruption to traffic and local residents. The lift, which was made from Polycarbonate, was innovative and offered opportunities for the teams to develop new skills and knowledge.

How can we help you?

Do you need to discuss your leisure project with our building control team? Get in touch by emailing our Commercial Director Martin Taylor at or find out more.

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Client: Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust
Main contractor: Integrated Health Projects, Vinci Construction
Sub-contractor: NG Bailey Ltd
Architect: IBI Group
LABC team: West Lancashire Borough Council

Wrightingtn Hospital

Project summary

The new £14.6m two-storey building at Wrightington Hospital includes two 28 bed post-operative wards, an innovative four bay orthopaedic ‘Barn Theatre’, an admissions unit and a recovery unit. This modern facility enhances patients’ post-operative recovery and ensures that the hospital remains a centre of excellence in orthopaedics.


Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, which is part of the NHS, is an acute Trust serving the over 300,000 population of the Borough of Wigan.

BC team

The Building Control team at West Lancashire Borough Council had two pre-submission meetings with the architects from IBI Group to discuss ideas and solve problems before they checked the detailed plans. Site inspections were carried out by the LABC at West Lancashire Borough Council.

Key issues

The designs for this Procure21+ scheme were produced using BIM Level 2. This provided an enhanced means of communication between the project team and informed the hospital’s facilities management team of the ongoing maintenance requirements.

This was a working hospital so construction had to be carried out with minimal impact on the daily running of the hospital. An access road was built which diverted construction traffic away from the hospital’s main entrance. The road is now used as a service route by the hospital, freeing up parking space.


Discussions took place regularly during design and construction stages so problems were identified and addressed at an early stage. At the beginning of the construction phase, a geotechnical engineer was employed to confirm the general geology of the ground. The Building Control team witnessed the excavation of trial holes so that they could advise on foundation levels, based on their experience and knowledge of the local geology.

Building Control inputs

The project team began working with the LABC team at West Lancashire Borough Council at RIBA Stage 2 before detailed drawings were produced and this helped the NHS Foundation Trust produce a fully compliant, high quality and cost effective building. Continual communication and liaison via client and Design Team Meeting workshops ensured the project was delivered as design, in advance of expected construction programme, and met the Trusts’ requirements.

Features of note

The original design included four separate operating theatres, however the design team challenged conventional thinking and provided evidence that clinical efficiencies could be achieved by having a ‘Barn Theatre’ where four operations could be carried out at the same time. This reduces the cost of each operation and enables more operations to take place thus increasing patient throughput.

The 56 bed post-operative ward is made up of single en-suite rooms and four bed cruciform configurations. The client adopted the use of ‘repeatable rooms’ in line with the Department of Health’s cost reduction programme selecting single en-suites and four bed clusters. The building is energy efficient and easy to maintain because of the emphasis on simplicity, quality, reliability and resilience.

At concept stage, the use of BIM enabled the project team to make informed decisions about the design of the building and the services in it, looking at U values, G values, Solar Shading and systems and working together to provide an economic and environmentally efficient scheme. The building was awarded a BREEAM ‘very good’ rating. By using BIM Level 2 all assets could be tagged and the Trust’s Facilities Management Team found this very useful.

What did LABC add?

The early involvement of Building Control and the collaborative nature of working during the construction phase provided a great benefit to the project, ensuring full compliance and a high quality build. During the initial stages of the build, Building Control visited the site daily to check the foundations and drainage but these reduced to weekly when they reached the internal fit-out stage.

Design team meetings, strong relationships and good communication between all parties ensured that the ‘as built’ project was true to the original design, delivered five weeks ahead of the planned handover.

Do you need building control guidance for your complex healthcare project? Get in touch!

Published September 2017

University of Liverpool Apex 2 - Local Authority Building ControlProject summary

Client: University of Liverpool
Main Contractor: Shepherd Construction
Architect: Fairhursts Design Group (FDG)
LABC team: Liverpool City Council

A new four storey research laboratory at the University of Liverpool which houses the University’s Institutes of Ageing and Chronic Disease, Translational Medicine and BioBank departments.


The University of Liverpool has been working with the LABC team at Liverpool City Council since 1989.

Following the completion of Apex Phase 1 in 2009, they were selected to help deliver Phase 2.

BC team

Liverpool City Council’s building control team used their specialist knowledge and experience of marrying the conflicting requirements of security and safety to help the project team deliver spaces that were flexible and adaptable yet secure and compliant.

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Key issues

This constrained site dictated the shape and location of the building. It has an in-situ cast concrete frame externally clad with high quality materials, such as metallic silver unitised curtain walling and bronze anodized rain screen cladding planks. The projecting entrance façade has full height curtain wall glazing and the mesh enclosures for the roof level discharge flues and the service rises were constructed off site and craned into position.


Towards the end of RIBA stage 3, the client introduced a requirement for the laboratories to reflect a new occupancy of university students and private sector companies engaged in applied research work. The design team worked together to find a secure but building regulations and RRO2005 compliant solution.

As the building was of modular design it could be adapted easily to accommodate the change. The future management of the building was also a fundamental consideration and a key part of the design and construction process.

Building control inputs

During RIBA stage 3, the LABC team at Liverpool City Council worked closely with Fairhurst's Design Group to identify any areas of concern that needed addressing before planning approval was sought. Throughout the process, the building control team worked closely with all members of the project team to assist with delivery of the project.

Features of note

This modular building has adaptable and collaborative working environments which incorporate support labs, write-up labs, a gait analysis laboratory, offices, meeting areas and a planar X-ray facility which are built to ACDP CL 2 standard. It is mechanically ventilated and air flow rates are controlled to meet demand and moderate energy consumption. Apex 2 achieved BREEAM Education 2008 ‘Very Good’ status Circa 13900m2 GIA. It also has a Combined Heat and Power plant and a high resilience water cooled adiabatic ventilation plant system which provides energy efficient cooling to 80 freezer silos.

The science labs are fitted with bespoke, state of the art, low energy variable volume fume cupboards which provide outstanding containment results at low velocities down to 0.3m/s face velocities. The electrical installation includes LED lighting, access control, highly resilient power supplies and backup systems which serve the critical freezer rooms. The building is heavily metered and is part of an ongoing energy study known as the BSRIA Soft Landings recommendations.

What did LABC add?

From the outset all parties understood the importance of creating a building which could be modified and altered in future by the University’s in-house facility management team. This formed part of the design brief and was considered throughout the entire design and construction process.

Good relationships, collaboration, mutual understanding, trust and communication between all parties was key to producing a building that was multi-functional, adaptable and would meet the needs of the University for years to come.

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