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23 Mar 2023 < Back

The role of the Waterproofing Design Specialist

The practice of using underground space to maximise the footprint of our buildings, particularly in urban areas, continues to increase. However, creating spaces below ground presents a challenge. As well as structural loads from the ground, the developer must also think about keeping groundwater out, permanently.

Historically it had been the Architect's role to draw up and design Structural Waterproofing schemes for below ground projects. However, the majority of Architects will readily acknowledge that they do not have the specialist training or expertise to undertake this function. The only reason they were doing this work was because there were few people recognised to undertake this specialist role.

However this has not been the case for sometime and unfortunately and all too frequently, the wrong people are relied upon for waterproofing design.

Every design must incorporate a Waterproofing Design Specialist

When the British Standard for Waterproofing was revised in 2009 (BS 8102:2009 Code of Practice for protection of below ground structures against water from the ground), it recognised this problem and addressed it by recommending that every design team must incorporate a Waterproofing Design Specialist. This document was revised in 2022 but the message remains the same and Section 4.2 of BS 8102:2022 under the heading “Design Team”, states:

"A waterproofing specialist should be appointed as part of the design team so that an integrated waterproofing solution is created. The waterproofing specialist should:

  • be suitably qualified and experienced, commensurate with the type and size of the proposed project
  • be capable of devising solutions that accommodate the various project constraints and needs with an understanding of construction forms and sequencing
  • provide the design team with information and guidance that assists with and influences the design, installation and future maintenance of the waterproofed structure"

What is a Waterproofing Design Specialist?

Waterproofing design specialists can, in theory, be anybody who is able to provide expertise in structural waterproofing. However, identifying those that have the appropriate skills and knowledge from those who don’t can be difficult and daunting. Even the most experienced Architects and Building Developers can struggle to single out those that can be trusted to give the correct information.

BS8102:2022 guidance advises that the Waterproofing Design Specialist should have knowledge of the following:

  1. The waterproofing systems available
  2. An in-depth understanding of the requirements of BS 8102
  3. Sources of water and how it flows through the soil and interacts with the structure
  4. Sufficient structural knowledge to be able to discourse meaningfully with the structural engineer
  5. Sufficient Geotechnical knowledge to be able to understand the implications of a soil report, and to discourse meaningfully with the Geotechnical Engineer

Where to find a Waterproofing Design Specialist?

To help those looking for a design specialist the PCA has put together a register of those with the necessary skills to help. This register of recognised Waterproofing Design Specialists is accessible via the PCA website, where you will find a list of WDS members, together with a description of their expertise. Developers, architects, builders and other professionals can search this register to quickly locate properly vetted and approved waterproofing design specialists who can assist in the design and planning of below ground or structural waterproofing.

Further peace of mind can be provided by the fact that all on the register must be a member of the Property Care Association (PCA) individually or be employed by an existing member of the PCA. This means they have been audited and checked regularly to ensure they are meeting our expected standards.

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