July 12, 2009

An Introduction to Building Regulations

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So, maybe you’ve just taken on a project for the first time and you’re unsure whether you need to apply for building regulations approval? More fundamentally, perhaps you have been asked to deal with paperwork for the first time and you’re not even sure what the building regulations are, let alone how you go about complying with them? Well, worry not. Although the building control system may seem daunting and somewhat confusing, it’s all very simple…

What are the Building Regulations?


The building regulations are the fundamental mechanism by which standards for the design and construction of buildings across England and Wales are controlled. Fundamentally, they are used as a means of ensuring the health and safety of occupants and anyone who may be potentially affected by the building although the regulations have more recently encompassed standards for environmental awareness, energy conservation and access. The types of buildings governed by the regulations include residential dwellings, industrial factories and facilities as well as commercial properties.


Projects concerning the construction of new buildings or the alteration and extension of existing buildings may also require planning permission, however this is dealt with entirely separately to building regulations approval. Generally speaking, applicants will ensure planning permission is in place before undertaking the necessary design works to enable them to obtain building regulations approval.


The regulations themselves are divided into 14 sections, each addressing a different aspect of building design or construction:


  • Part A: Structure
  • Part B: Fire Safety
  • Part C: Site preparation and resistance to moisture
  • Part D: Toxic substances
  • Part E: Resistance to the passage of sound
  • Part F: Ventilation
  • Part G: Hygiene
  • Part H: Drainage and waste disposal
  • Part J: Combustion appliances and fuel storage systems
  • Part K: Protection from falling, collision and impact
  • Part L: Conservation of fuel and power
    • L1 Dwellings;
      • L2a New
      • L1b Existing
    • L2 Buildings other than dwellings
      • L2a New
      • L2b Existing
  • Part M: Access and facilities for disabled people
  • Part N: Glazing – safety in relation to impact, opening and cleaning
  • Part P: Electrical Safety

I am undertaking Building works: How do I apply for Building Regulations?


Using a Local Authority (LA), there are two methods of procedure:


Full Plans Submission: Full details are provided to the LA who then issues a formal pass notice if compliance is shown. This process usually takes anywhere from 5-8 weeks depending on the project. Of course, this service is not free: Charges for a full plans submission are divided into;


  • Plan charge (usually 25% of total), which should accompany plans and particulars;
  • Inspection charge, paid when work starts (whereby an inspector will visit works to check work is being carried out correctly).


For details of the fees associated with your project, and for advice regarding the most appropriate application procedure, contact your local authority for more information.


Building Notice (Note: this method is only available for domestic works): Where a building notice application is made, the applicant is only required to provide a written notice of the proposed works, providing an accompanying site plan (minimum scale 1/1250). As the review of full drawn plans is not required before commencement, work on site can begin straight away (2 days notice required). Building notice applications are only recommended for experienced applicants as any completed work deemed not to comply when visited will have to be altered or possibly completely removed and rebuilt, resulting in significant implications on project budget and schedule. The full fee is paid at the time of giving notice, and the LA is entitled to request any further information they require to allow them to ensure compliance.


Applicants are now also able to submit building regulations applications directly to their local authority using an online service hosted by the planning portal (www.planningportal.gov.uk), allowing applications completed quickly and conveniently as well as reducing the cost of submitting hard copies of the forms and supporting information.


What constitutes ‘building work’?

The works governed by the building regulations include both the construction of new buildings as well as extensions and alterations to existing buildings such as cellar conversions. Such works may also include the installation or alteration of services or other appliances and fittings controlled by the building regulations such as heating and lighting systems. Certain works do not require building regulations approval including sheds, summerhouses, porches etc. However, always contact your local authority to confirm whether approval is required – any work undertaken without approval may have to be removed and legal action could follow!

Other Considerations:


It is worth noting that Local Authorities are non-profit making and are not permitted to charge for pre-application advice. In addition, interpretation of the regulations often varies from LA to LA.


Certain works also require the notification of the local fire officer who is required to ensure satisfaction of Part B in addition to other measures not incorporated by the building regulations (please contact your local building control department for details).


The building regulations are periodically updated to incorporate new standards and to ensure continual improvement of existing regulations. At present, the most fundamental additions have been, and are likely to continue to incorporate, measures to tackle energy consumption and climate change, in line with strict government targets. Make sure your documents are up to date and check any standard details or designs regularly to ensure the latest standards are adhered to.


A number of technical guidance documents are available setting out the requirements of the building regulations in addition to information on how to comply with them. In addition, publications are also available regarding the compliance of specific project types and the regulations governing them. All approved documents are available to buy or to view free online at http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/


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