Six ways to avoid sinking your site investigation
We’ve all been there with that site investigation that’s not quite as good as it should have been. Here are some useful tips that we’ve learned over the years and which we try and apply on all of our projects. Maybe some of them will inspire you too?
1 – Choose a contractor who’ll guarantee timescales for reports
The last thing you need when you’re on a deadline is to be waiting around for site investigation reports that never arrive.
You’re probably under pressure to your own clients regarding this investigation and you don’t want to be the cause of delayed planning applications or missed project milestones. Consequently, it’s your responsibility to ensure the investigation process is under management.
It’s essential that you work with a company that is open and transparent about their timescales and their processes. It should be possible to produce Phase 1 reports within two weeks. Phase 2 reports take a bit longer, but, where gas monitoring or specialist testing isn’t required, you’ve every right to expect a four-week turnaround.
2 – Include geotechnical testing in your scope
Whilst it looks like a quick way to save money on the first investigation, excluding geotechnical testing from the initial scope is a sure-fire way to increase investigation costs further down the line.
Yes, it might be true that the fastest way to clear the planning condition is to limit the first investigation to some simple environmental testing that will deliver a fast result.
However, we’ve seen it over and over again – as soon as the structural engineer starts to consider foundations or floor slabs, they suddenly need the geotechnical data you skipped on the first investigation.
Allowing a small amount of extra money early on for geotechnical testing will save the expense of remobilising to site to carry out a second site investigation, which could run to thousands of pounds. Go with a company that will provide an appropriate level of all testing in the initial scope.
3 – Don’t select a cheaper quote that uses inappropriate investigation methods
Shopping around makes sense – in fact you’d be foolish not to get the best price for your site investigation. But just make sure you’re comparing like for like.
For example, site investigations using trial pits will always be cheaper than those using boreholes. The problem is they don’t include water sampling, gas monitoring or certain types of geotechnical testing.
And that’s a problem considering these things are often needed to keep on the right side of planning authorities, structural engineers or building control.
If your first site investigation doesn’t give you the details you need, you’ll end up wasting time and having to instruct a second investigation at additional cost
If you assess exactly what type of investigation you need upfront, you can then compare quotes effectively. You’ll get everything you need at the first time of asking and save yourself money in the long run.
4 – Remembering to allow for Waste Acceptance Criteria testing
You only get what you pay for and many site investigations exclude Waste Acceptance Criteria (WAC) testing because it’s expensive.
That’s great if you don’t need this level of information. But if you’re going to dispose of soil off-site, there’s a big chance you’ll need WAC test results. If you have this conversation upfront, you’ll be able to confirm whether you need WAC testing or not.
It’ll stop you from having to pay for second samples to be taken, which adds time and cost to your project.
5 – Don’t treat the investigation as a tick-box exercise for planning
Unwanted surprises can quickly turn into an expensive nightmare. If you can take potential issues out of the equation, you’ll be doing yourself a favour.
It’s easy to see site investigations as a routine obstacle you just need to get out of the way before you crack on with your development project. But if you focus on doing the bare minimum, you wouldn’t be the first to find you’ve underestimated what’s needed.
And if your investigation doesn’t meet the council’s requirements, it could trip up your planning application. It could also leave you liable to future charges or even prosecution if contamination is found at a later date, and you’re judged to have overlooked it because you didn’t investigate things appropriately at the time.
But if you complete a robust and thorough site investigation at the first time of asking, you’ll safeguard people, get all the information you need to press ahead with your development, and avoid unexpected liabilities at a later date. Here’s to a good night’s sleep.
6 – Consider the potential for remediation at the first opportunity
When you’re looking for answers, the last thing you need is more questions. But sometimes a ground investigation will identify contamination that requires remediation and leaves you wondering what to do next.
Most ground investigation contractors don’t offer remediation services. They just tell you what’s wrong and leave you to sort it out.
But some investigation contractors also understand and complete remediation work. Instead of leaving you scratching your head, they’ll outline the next steps, letting you move forward quickly and confidently.
If you need a Phase 2 investigation, check that whatever it finds, it’ll also include recommended next steps and indicative costs. If not, you’ll just have another question to answer.
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