Building Regulations: Overview

A more in-depth look at the details of the UK’s Building Regulations.

new-home

When undertaking any building project, it is compulsory that your construction is built to meet a particular set of minimum standards. Theses minimum standards are set out by the Building Regulations.

Building Regulations (otherwise known as Building Regs) ensure that buildings are constructed to be safe and structurally sound, energy efficient, and that they provide access to people with disabilities.

Building Regulations differ from planning permission in that they are completely objective. A building passes or fails the regs depending on whether it does or does not meet the required standards. The regulations are slightly different depending upon where you live in the UK (whether England, Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland) but relate to the same principles across the country:

  • 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, and water efficiency
  • Part H - Drainage and waste disposal
  • Part J - Heating and 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

What buildings do the Building Regulations cover?

Building Regs cover new buildings and extensions as well as considerable alterations to services, underpinning, and alterations of use such as barn conversions.

Any alterations made to existing structures should not cause the adjacent fabric, services, or fittings to be dangerous or less compliant with Building Regulations than they were before.

When are Building Regulations not required?

Building Regs are not necessarily required if constructing a detached single-storey building less than 30m² or any building less than 15m² if no sleeping quarters are included, and conservatories of less than 30m² are also exempt. Repairs do not require Building Regs approval assuming that materials are replaced like for like. If any more advice is required on whether Building Regulations apply to a project, more information is available from your local building control officer.

Obtaining Building Regulations approval

Approval can be obtained from the building control services of the local authority or an approved inspector. There are advantages to using your local building control officer if he is drafted into the project as early as possible. Working with your local building control officer, two types of application are available:

  • Building Regulations Application: The Building Regs application requires that you submit a form, fee, and full building plans detailing all of the construction elements and your intended methods of meeting the regulations. This submission should be made far in advance of when you intend to start work.
  • Building Notice: This application is simpler in that it simply sates the address and description of the work to be carried out. It gives building control a 48 hour notice of the intended beginning of work and avoids the ‘red tape’ and preparation of the full plans required for the Building Regulations application. Building can begin sooner, with inspections taking place throughout the project. This is usually used for smaller scale projects which can more easily make any necessary alterations should the build not comply.

Both application types are valid for three years from the date they are given to the local authority and are automatically voided if work does not begin within the three year window.

It is not necessary to wait for approval of the application before work begins, as long as the local authority has had 48 hours’ written notice of the intention to begin the build, following a successful full application or the issuing of a building notice. The work carried out is monitored as it continues. In Scotland, work must not begin before the plans are approved, whilst in Ireland the system is based upon total self-certification.

Building Regulations Inspection

The inspection of the build aims to keep the project within the guidelines of the Building Regs. Inspections take place after the completion of various stages, and each stage requires particular notice to be given to the local authority:

Build stage Notice required
Commencement 2 days
Excavation of foundations 1 day
Foundations laid 1 day
Oversite preparation 1 day
Damp proof course 1 day
Drains testing 1 day
Occupation prior to completion Within five days of occupation
Completion Within 5 days of completion

Once the build is complete, an approved inspector issues a final certificate to the local authority declaring the construction is complete, properly inspected, and compliant with Building Regs.

Building Regulations Certification

When undertaking a build project, as well as complying with Building Regs it is important to show compliance. If the inspections are not carried out and the final sign-off made a fine of up to £5000 can be incurred and/or the work may need to be re-done. It will also be difficult to sell the property without the proper certification. It is possible for a contractor to self-certify for some, but not all, elements of the build.

The owner of the property is the person ultimately held accountable for compliance with Building Regulations after accountability is passed on from the builder six months after completion.

The completed build must be inspected and is certified by the building control officer if the construction is of good enough quality. The certificate confirms that the building complies with Building Regs and is of great importance where re-mortgaging or selling of the home occurs in future.

The certificate should be procured before making the final payments to the contractors.

The Scottish system deems it necessary that the owner submits a completion certificate for the work and awaits its acceptance.

Image: geograph.org.uk

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