Building Regulations

I’ve been skirting around UK building regulations since the start of the conversion of the barn, with building control sign-off looming, I thought I should get a better handle on the regulations, their scope, breadth and depth…

In general terms, building regulations approval is required for most building work in the UK, the exemptions are listed at the end of this post.

In England & Wales, the Building Act 1984 is the legislation underlying building regulations, the equivalent in Scotland is the Building (Scotland) Act 2003 and in Northern Ireland the Building Regulations (Northern Ireland) Order 1979 (amended 1990 and 2009).

I’ll focus on the regulations that apply in England & Wales. As a starter for 10 for those outside of England & Wales, the Scottish equivalent of building regulations, known as building standards can be found on the Scottish Government website, Northern Irish building regulations can be found on the buildingcontrol-ni site.

The 1984 act, opens with these words that explain the purpose and scope of building regulations:

Power to make building regulations.
(1) The Secretary of State may, for any of the purposes of—
(a) securing the health, safety, welfare and convenience of persons in or about buildings and of others who may be affected by buildings or matters connected with buildings,
(b) furthering the conservation of fuel and power, and
(c) preventing waste, undue consumption, misuse or contamination of water,
make regulations with respect to the design and construction of buildings and the provision of services, fittings and equipment in or in connection with buildings.
(2) Regulations made under subsection (1) above are known as building regulations.
(3) Schedule 1 to this Act has effect with respect to the matters as to which building regulations may provide.

The purpose of the regulations is to promote standards for most aspects of a building’s construction. The full collection of building regulations runs to fourteen parts as set out in Schedule 1 of the Building Regulations 2010, each has an Approved Document that suggests methods by which the regulations could be satisfied. In full, the parts are:

> Part A (Structural safety)
> Part B (Fire safety)
> Part C (Resistance to contaminants and moisture)
> Part D (Toxic Substances)
> Part E (Resistance to sound)
> Part F (Ventilation)
> Part G (Sanitation, Hot Water Safety and Water Efficiency)
> Part H (Drainage and waste disposal)
> Part J (Heat producing appliances)
> Part K (Protection from falling)
> Part L (Conservation of fuel and power)
> Part M (Access to and Use of Buildings)
> Part N (Glazing safety)
> Part P (Electrical Safety)

The Approved Documents are not definitive, nor are they intended to be applied in a draconian manner. They contain guidance for typical building situations. There is no obligation to adopt any particular solution contained in an Approved Document, alternative ways of achieving compliance may be preferable.

The most recent versions of the Approved Documents for the each of the fourteen parts of the Building Regulations can be found on the Planning Portal site.

Building regulations approval
There are two routes to achieving building reg’s approval – either via the Local Authority or an Approved Inspector. I’ll deal with each separately:

Local Authority
There are three routes through Local Authority approval:

1. Full Plans.
This is the route we took with the barn. I had a full set of plans drawn up that noted all relevant features and that were accompanied by full SAP calculations.
After receiving approval of the plans work commenced and the site has been visited a number of times by our allocated building control officer (see Site Inspections below for more details).
We’re currently at the stage of finalising work on site to allow the issuing of a completion certificate that confirms that the Local Authority are content that the completed work complies with the Building Regulations.

2. Building Notice
Best suited to smaller building projects, the building notice route avoids the need for full, detailed plans. This is basically the same route as that for Full Plans, but without the plans. You engage the Local Authority, they visit during the build and ensure the work complies with building reg’s. As there’s been no preconstruction communication there may be aspects of the build you’ll need to change if they don’t conform to the regulations. The Local Authority doesn’t have to provide a building certificate if this route has been taken.

3. Regularisation
If you need to seek retrospective building reg’s approval (which shouldn’t happen as it’s been compulsory since the 11th November 1985) this is the route to take – enough said! You’re very naughty.

Approved Inspector
Third party inspectors are authorised by the Construction Industry Council (CIC).
Both you (as the builder) & your appointed inspector must jointly notify the Local Authority as to who is carrying out the building control function on the build. This is called an “Initial Notice”. The Approved Inspector will then work with you to ensure that your build conforms to the reg’s.

Site inspections
There are a standard set of site inspections that you’ll need to arrange with your planning control officer, they are:

> Commencement: at least two days before the work is commenced.
> Completion: not more than five days after the work is completed.

In respect of other stages, the notice required is (in practice) at least one whole day and relates to:
> excavation for a foundation (before covering up),
> the foundation itself (before covering up),
> any damp proof course (before covering up),
> any concrete or material laid over a site (before covering up)

When these stages are reached the work should pause to give the authority time to make an inspection. They will advise you if the work does not comply with the Building Regulations.

The responsibility for checking the Building Regulations have been met falls to Building Control Bodies (BCBs) – either from the Local Authority or the private sector as an Approved Inspector. The person carrying out the work has the choice of where to get approval for the building work.

Certain types of buildings are exempt from the application of building regulations, exempt buildings include:
> Class I Buildings controlled under other legislation for example, a building subject to the Explosives Act 1923.
> Class II Buildings not frequented by people (unless close to an existing building).
> Class III Greenhouses and agricultural buildings (unless used for retail purposes).
> Class IV Temporary buildings (less than 28 days).
> Class V Ancillary buildings.
> Class VI Small detached buildings (garages, garden sheds etc.) less than 30 square metres floor area with no sleeping accommodation.
> Class VII Extensions (porches, conservatories etc.) less than 30 square metres floor area.

I’ll follow this post up with some more detail of the fourteen parts set out in Schedule 1 of the Building Regulations.






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