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An Office Building

commercial building survey

Mr Office

Prepared by:
GEM Associates Limited
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Firstly, may we thank you for your instructions; we have now undertaken a Building Survey (formerly known as a Structural Survey) of the aforementioned property.

The Building Survey takes the following format; there is an introductory section (which you are currently reading), which includes a synopsis of the building, and a summary of our findings.

We then go through a detailed examination of the property starting with the external areas working from the top of the property down, followed by the internal areas and the building‘s services. We conclude with the section for your Legal Advisor.

We are aware that a report of this size is somewhat daunting and almost offputting to the reader because of this. We would stress that the purchase of a property is usually one of the largest financial outlays made (particularly when you consider the interest you pay as well).

We recommend that you set aside time to read the report in full, consider the comments, make notes of any areas which you wish to discuss further and phone us.

We obviously expect you to read the entire report but we would suggest that you initially look at the summary, which refers to various sections in the report, which we recommend you read first so that you get a general feel for the way the report is written.

As part of our service we are more than happy to talk through the survey as many times as you wish until you are completely happy to make a decision. Ultimately, the decision to purchase the property is yours but we will do our best to offer advice to make the decision as easy as possible.


To help you understand our Report we utilise various techniques and different styles and types of text, these are as follows:-


This has been given in the survey where it is considered it will aid understanding of the issues, or be of interest. This is shown in “italics” for clarity.


Throughout the Report, we have endeavoured to define any technical terms used. This is shown in “Courier New” type face for clarity.


photo exampleWe utilise photographs to illustrate issues or features. In some photographs a pencil has been used to highlight a specific area (with this property we have taken approximately one hundred photographs in total and we have enclosed a sample of these within the report).





Any reference to left or right is taken from the front of the property, including observations to the rear which you may not be able to physically see from the front of the property.


We have used the term ACTION REQUIRED where we believe that there are items that you should carry out action upon or negotiate upon prior to purchasing the property.

Where a problem is identified, we will do our best to offer a solution. However, with most building issues, there are usually many ways to resolve them dependent upon cost, time available and the length of time you wish the repair/replacement to last.



This is a detached Freehold office building, with the original property to the front, which has been amended and altered over the years; of particular note is the alteration to the staircase area. To the rear of the property is a newer three storey extension.

There is parking around the property although the car park is unmarked; we would estimate that there are a dozen or so places.

We believe that the property was originally built at the start of the 19th Century, possibly between the war years. If the exact age of the property interests you your Legal Advisor may be able to find out more information from the Deeds.

Putting Life into Perspective!

Some of the things that were happening around the time the property was built:

1901 Queen Victoria Died

1903 First flight by Wright Brothers

1903-1928 The Campaign for Women‘s Suffrage

1912 The Beginning of the Motoring Age

1914-1918 World War I

1920s Television Invented

1927 Charles Lindbergh flies across the Atlantic

1928 Vote for Women aged over 21

1928 Alexander Fleming develops penicillin

1939-1945 World War II (6 June 1944 D-Day)


Front View

Front View

Right Hand Side View

Right Hand Side View You can see how close the adjoining office block is

Left Hand Side View

Left Hand Side View ‘‘Newish‘ Property

Left Hand Side View

Left Hand Side View Original Property

The right hand side of the property

The right hand side of the property was very difficult to view.


Ground Floor

The ground floor accommodation consists of:

  • Porch Entrance
  • Front Right Hand Office (3.92m x 3.95m)
  • Reception Area (6.5m x 3.5m)
  • Rear Office (10.15m x 4.98m)
  • Boiler Room
  • Male and Female W.C.s and wash hand basins
  • Associated Access Corridors

First Floor

The first floor accommodation consists of:

Old Part of Property

  • Front Right Hand Office (3.04m x 2.43m)
  • Front Left Hand Office (3.62m x 3.47m)
  • Rear Left Hand Office (3.98m x 3.93m)
  • Male and Female W.Cs

‘New‘ Part of Property

  • Kitchen (2.97m x 3.94m)
  • Office Three (2.8m x 3.9m)
  • Office Four (2.94m x 4.97m)
  • Associated Access Corridor

Second Floor

The first floor accommodation consists of:

  • Office (4.97m x 8.26m, up to cupboard space)

Note: All rooms have been measured as required by the ‘Standard Method of Measurements‘ used by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).


The following photos are of the internal of the property to help you recall what it looked like and the general ambience (or lack of). We have not necessarily taken photographs of each and every room.

Original Part of Property

Ground Floor


Front Right Hand Office

Gent‘s W.C.

Newer Part of the Property

Ground Floor

Ground floor

Ground floor

Original Part of Property

First Floor

Ladies W.C.

Gent‘s W.C.

Front Left Hand Office

Front Right Hand Office

Rear Left Hand Office

Newer Part of the Property

First Floor


Office adjoining Kitchen

End Office

Newer Part of the Property

Second Floor

Second Floor Office



Older Part of the Property

Three brick chimneys

A pitched main roof, clad with slate tiles and a flat lead roof to the bay window at the front of the property

Gutters and Downpipes:

Soil and Vent Pipe:
Cast Iron

Predominantly Flemish bond brickwork with painted render at high levels and some stretcher bond brickwork and cladding to the staircase extension, which leads us to believe it‘s newer (assumed)

External Joinery:
A mixture of painted metal windows and timber windows. Painted timber fascias and soffits

Newer Part of the Property

Roof Windows/ Skylights
Four purpose made plastic roof windows / skylights

A flat roof finished in felt

Gutters and Downpipes:

Soil and Vent Pipe:
None, all believed to feed into the older part of the property

Stretcher bond brickwork, probably on a steel frame? (assumed)

External Joinery:
Predominantly metal windows. Painted timber fascias and soffits


Older Part of the Property

A mixture of the original lath and plaster and plasterboard (assumed)

A mixture of solid and studwork (assumed)

Ground Floor: concrete (assumed)

First Floor:
Joist and floorboards (assumed)

Newer Part of the Property

Plasterboard (assumed)

Predominantly studwork (assumed)

Ground Floor: concrete (assumed)

First and Second Floor:
Joist and floorboards, possibly with steel beams (assumed)


We believe that the property has a mains water supply, drains, electricity and gas (assumed).

The above terms are explained in full in the main body of the Report. We have used the term ‘assumed‘ as we have not opened up the structure.


Summaries are dangerous as they try to précis often quite complex subjects into a few paragraphs. This is particularly so in a summary about someone‘s future business when we are trying to second-guess what their priorities are, so it is important the Report is read in full.

It is inevitable with a report on a building of this nature that some of the issues we have focussed in on you may dismiss as irrelevant and some of the areas that we have decided are part of the ‘character‘ of this property you may think are very important. We have taken in the region of 50 plus photographs during the course of this survey and many pages of notes, so if a comment has not been discussed that you are interested in/concerned about, please phone and talk to us before you purchase the property (or indeed commit to purchasing the property), as we will more than likely have noted it and be able to comment upon it. If we have not we will happily go back. Having said all of that, here are our comments:

Generally we found the property to be in below average condition for its age, type and style and there are some specific issues. The Executive Summary normally looks at ‘The Good‘, ‘The Bad‘ and ‘The Ugly‘ but in this case we have had to turn it around to ‘The Good‘, ‘The Ugly‘ and ‘The Bad‘, to help distinguish what in our mind are the main issues.

The Good

Survey reports often are full of only the faults and general ‘doom and gloom‘, so we thought we would start with some positive comments on the property!

  • This is a detached Freehold office.
  • The space has a good mixture of offices and open space to the newer extension, where the office space and size can be changed to suit requirements.
  • There is car parking space.

We are sure you can think of other things to add to this list.

The Ugly

We normally put here things that we feel will be difficult to resolve and will need serious consideration.

  1. Fire Requirements

    We spoke about the requirement for fire exits in the property. As we understand it the maximum distance allowed is 18 meters to a protected fire escape (the stairway area). Utilising the two staircases as fire exits the maximum distance travelled is approximately 10 meters, therefore not requiring a second fire exit.

    However, a general upgrade of the Fire Regulations in the property is required to protect the fire escape area/the staircase, which should have 30 minute fire doors surrounding it and 60 minute fire walls. The doors to the staircase should have vision panels; there should be photo illuminated signs utilising symbols; and the sides and the underside of the stairway should also be protected.

    There is also a need for fire extinguishers in the property and an alarm system linked between floors. We are suggesting wireless alarm systems, although we have not personally utilised these, as this reduces the need for wiring!

    ACTION REQUIRED: We recommend the property is upgraded to meet approved document B of the Building Regulations. Your Legal Advisor needs to confirm if the property has a Fire Certificate and advise us immediately if it does not.
    ANTICIPATED COST: We would expect costs in the region of £10,000 - £20,000, but quotations from a specialist company are required. Within this cost we have also allowed for asbestos testing, which looks to have been used on some of the doors. Asbestos was officially banned in 1999, although its use was much reduced in the 1990s when alternatives were used. We note there is an opening plaque stating that this property was re-opened in 1992 and we are therefore hopeful that this product may not be asbestos but a modern alternative. The only way to be certain is to test for it.

    Please see the Doors Section and Other Matters Section of this Report.

  2. High Level Work

    Roof imageThere is work required to the roof to make it watertight, particularly the flat roof over the newer part of the offices, although there is also water ingress via blocked gutters and deterioration to the chimneys to the older part of the property.

    Woodwool Slabs

    Ceiling in second floor officeThe main issue as we see it is that the roof construction in the newer part of the office block is in woodwool slabs. There is an area where the water has come completely through and we also expect there to be damage elsewhere. Woodwool slabs lose their strength when wet sometimes and we therefore feel that you should look at a worse case scenario where the entire roof and woodwool slab decking needs to be removed.

    ACTION REQUIRED: Remove existing felt finish and check the decking (allowing for complete replacement of the woodwool slabs), add an insulation material cut to falls with a high performance felt over it, increase the size of the hopper head to the rear of the property to cope with the water, check that the roof windows / skylights are watertight and replace if required.
    ANTICIPATED COST: In the region of £10,000 - £20,000. You do need to obtain quotations for this work and it will be considerably less if the woodwool slabs do not need to be replaced. As this is high level work scaffolding may be required.

    Please see the Roof Coverings Section of this Report.

  3. Drainage

    Drainage imageThe drains remain a mystery; we ran the taps for approximately an hour, as you saw we could see water into the first manhole, and also leaking from the surrounding pipes, but not into the second manhole leading to the road. There also look to have been repairs/replacement of the gutters both on the right hand side (all directions given as you face the property) and also on the left hand side.

    ACTION REQUIRED: We feel the first part of your negotiations and a very good test as to whether the current owners are willing to negotiate is a Close Circuit TV (CCTV) report on all the drains and carry out all recommendations. As discussed the big danger of leaking drains is that they undermine the foundations, particularly if sand has been used to infill below, as would appear to be the case from your solicitor‘s findings. Your solicitor should provide us with a copy of the report advising about the in-filling.
    ANTICIPATED COST: Assuming there is no foundation repairs required we would set aside £5,000 - £10,000 for renewal of the drains. We do not feel that repair or lining will be possible in this instance, but this view is taken on the condition of the ground surrounding the drains, which is hollow in some areas.

    Please see the Main Drains Section of this Report.

  4. Cracking and Possible Movement?

    Cracking to the brickwork under our hammer handle.There is cracking in the structure both to the render externally and internally to the plasterwork and also to the brickwork on the newer office block extension. We feel the render has been specifically painted over (painted to sell) to hide damage and deterioration (as you pointed out they have actually missed painting part of the render).

    Cracking to plaster internally.The cracking indicates movement to the structure. Having reconsidered this we feel the movement between the old and newer structures is over and above that usually caused by differential movement.

    ACTION REQUIRED: You need to specifically ask the present owners if they have made an insurance claim relating to the movement in the property or to the best of their knowledge if one has been made in the past. You should ask them to make a claim under their existing insurance policy. This again is a very good measure as to how willing they are to negotiate and help the sale.
    ANTICIPATED COST: The insurance company will need to register the claim before you should proceed with the purchase of this property. There will normally be an excess to pay; this should be paid for by the present owners. They will usually want to monitor this type of problem for a year before commenting and advising.

    Please see the Walls Section of this Report.

  5. Value of the Property

    If the property was in ‘average‘ condition we believe the £290,000 would be a high price; as it is with the various issues we feel the price is unacceptable. We would value this property as being worth between £225,000 - £250,000.

    Please see the Valuation document in the Appendices at the end of this report.

The Bad

Problems / issues raised in the ‘bad‘ section are usually solvable, but often need negotiation upon. However, a large number of them may sometimes put us off the property.

  1. High Level General Maintenance to the Roof

    Slipped slates.We noted to the older part of the property several general maintenance items at high level, for example we could literally see light coming in between the slates and that some slates have been displaced or slipped.

    Grass growing out of the gutters.We also noted that some of the guttering has grass literally growing from it; this of course needs clearing. As this is high level and awkward work in some areas you may need specialist equipment to gain access.

    We also noted that dampness is coming in through some of the chimneys; this also requires checking.

    ACTION REQUIRED: A close inspection of the high level areas and repair as necessary.

    ANTICIPATED COST: In the region of £5,000 - £10,000, as you are likely to need scaffolding and you are likely to find other things to repair when at roof level.

    Please see the Chimneys Section and Roof Coverings Section of this Report.

  2. Render Deteriorating - Painted to Sell

    In this age of property the render will be starting to deteriorate and will need fairly regular maintenance. There have already been some repairs carried out where there were once tiled drips (as can be seen on the rest of the property still). Thinking this through this is probably the area where the water has damaged the render most severely. This looks to have been a recent repair as dampness can still be seen to be coming into the property when tested with our electronic damp meter.

    RenderWe could also see cracking to some parts of the render and when we tapped it with the back of our hammer handle some of it was loose.

    ACTION REQUIRED: You need to accept that there will be general maintenance to the render and redecorating and also repairs needed to the plaster inside that is affected by the dampness coming through.

    We do need to establish whether the movement is progressive or not. Please see our earlier comments.


    Please see the Walls Section of this Report.

  3. Lead Flat Roof over Bay Window

    Roof coveringThis roof needs repair as holes are visible in it.

    ACTION REQUIRED: Repair / replace.

    ANTICIPATED COST: In the region of £500 - £1,000.

    Please see the Roof Coverings Section of this Report.

  4. Rising Damp

    To the majority of the property you have rising damp. There have been previous efforts to combat this with damp proof courses being added.

    Drainage sketch

    Rising damp to the front office.
    Rising damp to the front office.

    Dampness coming up through the floor
    Dampness coming up through the floor.

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