Annex D - Specific ESP & OTS Design Issues

Part of: Housing Association Guide, Development Guide, Design standards

Existing Satisfactory Purchases (ESP) Design Issues

Associations must first read the guidance provided in the main Design Standards Guide before proceeding to consider the following issues.

The Minimum Standards as laid out in the Department's Design Guide apply to all schemes. In considering any Existing Satisfactory Purchase opportunities Associations should carefully consider Guide compliance issues before entering into any form of commitment to the property. It may be more appropriate to reject ESPs with significant compliance issues. Associations must make this assessment before applying for Scheme Approval.

See Scheme Types for detailed criteria that must be applied to define an acquisition as an Existing Satisfactory Purchase for the purposes of DSD scheme approval.

Space standards   

As a general rule, Associations should aim to provide accommodation based on the TCI Area/Cost Band for 2-storey General Needs housing, applicable for the persons/bedrooms required at Design Standards. Two TCI area bands above the minimum standard may be considered for approval by NIHE (DPG) provided Associations can justify the additional expenditure in terms of value for money. This will not lead to an automatic approval but will be considered by NIHE (DPG) in the context of the whole scheme.

There may be cases where an ESP almost meets the TCI area bands standard for the occupancy level initially identified. In such cases, the Associations should provide justification with their submission to facilitate the assessor in applying a reasonable judgement to the specific case.  In order to comply with the Department's space standards Associations need to be realistic with their assessment of proposed occupancy levels.
The costs associated with the construction of en-suite bathrooms and utility rooms will be considered in the context of the area band assessment.

For more information on measuring unit floor area go to Calculating Grant - Explanatory notes for Measuring Unit Floor Area (TCI Base Table)]

Associations are reminded of the Decent Homes Standard requirements found at Property Maintenance - Decent Homes Standard when considering the extent and type of repairs/ checks/ upgrading works. It is in the Associations interest to maintain the stock levels achieving this standard.

Non-qualifying costs for properties where floor area is within the additional two bands allowable

  • the fitting out of any en-suite Bathroom is deemed as non-qualifying costs with costs identified by the Association’s costs consultant or suitably qualified and competent in-house staff
  • the fitting out of any Utility room - where all or part of utility is needed to meet kitchen requirements then all of the fitting out in utility is deemed as qualifying costs
  • the fitting out of any Utility room - where the kitchen by itself meets requirements all fitting out of utility area is treated as non-qualifying costs with costs identified by the Association’s costs consultant or suitably qualified and competent in-house staff

Qualifying Floor area band is assessed 'as existing' by the Association’s valuer.

Non-qualifying costs for properties where floor area is larger than additional two bands allowable

Fitting out rules apply as above.

The Association’s brief to its valuer should clearly direct the valuer to identify a cost for any non-qualifying Floor area. Therefore two valuations are obtained by the Association.

  • qualifying floor area valued up to and including the two area bands allowable
  • the remaining floor area, over and above the two additional area bands, has a value identified and recorded as non-qualifying costs

Repairs

In undertaking repair/ checks/ upgrading works this can be in the form of a number of relatively small items or perhaps include one large item such as re-roofing or new windows – dwellings that require extensive works, such as complete re-wiring, re-plumbing, extensions, structural alterations etc should be avoided.

The permissible cost threshold for ESP works is not to be considered as an ‘allowance’ to be spent in full. Works necessary to make the property meet requirements should be carried out. Other improvement type works are expected to be undertaken as part of the Associations property maintenance programme.

Whilst this guidance cannot list all the possible works, the following should be included /checked in all cases:

  • new locks front and rear
  • window Restrictors fitted
  • low-level glazing replaced with laminated safety glass
  • electric services, consumer unit, fuses, trips etc checked
  • hard wired mains/battery smoke detector installed
  • escape window from first floor
  • plumbing and drainage facilities
  • insulation of hot and cold water tanks
  • loft insulation thickness and coverage
  • heating appliance serviced/checked
  • flues swept/checked
  • property alterations having the relevant statutory approvals, and supplied by the Vendor to the Association

Bathroom or WC door

Associations must ensure that the bathroom door is outward opening and ensure that locks on WC and bathroom doors are ‘openable’ from the outside in an emergency. However, only where this is not practicable, the minimum acceptable alternative is for the bathroom door to be fitted with a suitable lock that can be opened from the outside.

See Safety in Design Standards for more information.
Also see Table 3: LTH Additional Departmental Requirements

It is assumed that the initial inspection of the dwelling by a suitably qualified consultant will identify all necessary repairs/ checks/ upgrading necessary.  

Further advice on the suggested Condition Report contents can be found in – Building Surveys of Residential Property; Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Books – Feb 2004. Consultants should be appointed in line with procurement requirements. The Condition Report submitted with the application for scheme approval must include a list of itemised repairs with associated costs per item for each dwelling. The Association must clearly indicate the actual work items that the Association intends to carry out and the total of these costs must tally with the works costs stated on the TA1/NT1 form.

Associations are reminded of the list of miscellaneous works/ measures necessary to ensure Health and Safety of tenants/ others, referred to in Housing Maintenance (particular attention is required regarding Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) for existing housing stock).

Tapered stairs

Although tapered treads are acceptable under current Northern Ireland Building Regulations Technical Booklet H, the HA Guide requires under LTH Additional requirements and in the Safety section 2.54 of the Design Standards Guide that the design should incorporate ‘straight flight, dog-leg or L-shaped stair construction for all new build units.

The rationale behind this is to promote Health and Safety within the home based on advice provided by a number of relevant sources e.g. BS 5395 Pt1:2000 (Code of Practice for Stairs, Ladders & Walkways)

Realistically when dealing with existing satisfactory purchases (ESP’s) where stairs are already constructed and in place there is no alternative but to accept the status quo.

It is deemed unreasonable to totally preclude these property types because of tapered treads where in essence they meet all other criteria. Subject to the Association being satisfied that the accommodation will present no significant Health and Safety issues and/or potential Management problems they should be accepted.

Maintenance profile

It is in the Association's interest to obtain from the consultant, a projected maintenance expenditure profile for the property, i.e. a 3, 5, & 10 year projection. This would assist the Association in the long term financial planning/control of maintenance expenditure and to comply with the guidance set out in Governance Guide and Finance Guide. For further information see Housing Maintenance

Schemes that do not demonstrate fundamental design compliance or where there are VFM concerns will not be afforded these facilities. 

Off the Shelf Schemes (OTS) Design issues

Associations must first read the guidance provided in the main Design Standards Guide before proceeding to consider the following issues.

The Minimum Standards as laid out in the Department's Design Guide apply to all schemes. In considering any Off the Shelf opportunities Associations should carefully consider Guide compliance issues before entering into any form of commitment to the project. It may be more appropriate to reject OTS schemes with significant compliance issues. Associations must make this assessment before applying for Scheme Approval.

See Scheme approval for detailed criteria that must be applied to define a scheme as an Off the Shelf transaction for the purposes of the Department's scheme approval.

Below are some typical areas where Off the Shelf schemes often fail to comply with the full requirements of the guide but where some departure from the minimum standards will be considered as part of the Scheme Approval process. The intention is to allow associations some limited leeway from the minimum standards for schemes that otherwise are broadly ‘fit for purpose’ and to build in some flexibility to facilitate NIHE (DPG) in making a judgement on such matters in the context of the whole scheme.  

Space standards

OTS properties are new build properties built to current regulations. There may be cases where an OTS almost meets the TCI area bands standard for the occupancy level initially identified. In such cases, the Associations should provide justification with their submission to facilitate the assessor in applying a reasonable judgement to the specific case.  In order to comply with DSD space standards Associations need to be realistic with their assessment of proposed occupancy levels.

Two TCI area bands above the minimum standard may be considered for approval by NIHE (DPG) provided Associations can justify the additional expenditure in terms of value for money. This will not lead to an automatic approval but will be considered by NIHE (DPG) in the context of the whole scheme.

The costs associated with the construction of en-suite bathrooms and utility rooms will be considered in the context of the area band assessment.

Non-Qualifying Costs for properties where floor area is within the additional two bands allowable

  • the fitting out of any en-suite Bathroom is identified as non-qualifying costs with costs identified by the Association’s costs consultant or suitably qualified and competent in-house staff
  • the fitting out of Utility room - where all or part of utility is needed to meet kitchen requirements then all of the fitting out in utility is deemed as qualifying costs
  • the fitting out of utility room - where the kitchen by itself meets requirements all fitting out of utility area is treated as non-qualifying costs with costs identified by the Association’s costs consultant or suitably qualified and competent in-house staff

Qualifying Floor area band assessed 'as existing' by the Association’s valuer.

Non-Qualifying Costs for properties where floor area is larger than additional two bands allowable

Fitting out rules apply as above.

The Association’s brief to its valuer should clearly direct the valuer to identify a cost for any non-qualifying Floor area. Therefore two valuations are obtained by the Association.

  • qualifying floor area valued up to and including the two area bands allowable
  • the remaining floor area, over and above the two additional area bands, has a value identified and recorded as non-qualifying costs

Bedrooms - furniture layout   

Flexibility will be applied to the minimum standards for furniture layout provided Associations are realistic in terms of the occupancy level assessment of the dwelling and provided Health & Safety is not compromised. Associations must clearly specify the reasons for any non-compliance with minimum standards. This will not lead to an automatic approval but will be considered by NIHE (DPG) in the context of the whole scheme. For more information see Calculating Grant - Explanatory notes for Measuring Unit Floor Area (TCI Base Table)

Kitchens - Unit and worktop provision

Limited flexibility will be allowed in terms of the provision of kitchen units and worktops. Associations must clearly specify the reasons for any non-compliance with minimum standards. This will not lead to an automatic approval but will be considered by NIHE (DPG) in the context of the whole scheme.

It is essential for Associations to note that the above potential flexibility will only be applied in the context of a scheme which:

  • is fundamentally Guide compliant
  • is designed appropriately to meet the needs of the intended occupants and
  • represents value for money (VFM) as demonstrated by the scheme’s economic appraisal and cost assessment

Bathroom or WC door

Associations must ensure that the bathroom door is outward opening AND ensure that locks on WC and bathroom doors are ‘openable’ from the outside in an emergency. However, only where this is not practicable, the minimum acceptable alternative is for the bathroom door to be fitted with a suitable lock that can be opened from the outside.

See Safety in Design Standards for more information.
Also see Table 3: LTH Additional Departmental Requirements

Tapered Stairs

Although tapered treads are acceptable under current Northern Ireland Building Regulations Technical Booklet H, the HA Guide requires under LTH Additional requirements and in the Safety section 2.54 of the Design Standards Guide that the design should incorporate ‘straight flight, dog-leg or L-shaped stair construction for all new build units. The rationale behind this is to promote Health & Safety within the home based on advice provided by a number of relevant sources e.g. BS 5395 Pt1:2000 (Code of Practice for Stairs, Ladders & Walkways)

Realistically when dealing with off-the-shelf (OTS) properties where stairs are already constructed and in place there is no alternative but to accept the status quo. Associations should, however, request that if feasible, any tapered treads are fitted at the bottom of the stairs.

It is deemed unreasonable to totally preclude these property types because of tapered treads where in essence they meet all other criteria. Subject to the Association being satisfied that the accommodation will present no significant Health & Safety issues and/or potential Management problems they should be accepted.

Schemes that do not demonstrate fundamental design compliance or where there are VFM concerns will not be afforded these facilities.
 

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