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Hot Topic Highlight - Building Regulations

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What is today's blog about?

This week, we are going to look at the basic principles of the building regulations. This will apply to a variety of pathways, including Building Surveying, Building Control, Quantity Surveying & Construction, Residential Property, Valuation and Commercial Property.

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What are the building regulations?

Building regulations compliance is required for almost all building projects. They provide minimum standards for design, construction and alterations in the UK and were introduced in 1965. In Scotland, they are known as Building Warrants. The current version is the Building Regulations 2010.

Who gives approval?

Approval can be sought from a local authority building control department inspector or an Approved Inspector. The latter are Government-approved and account for around 20% of all approvals in the UK.

Both effectively carry out the same role, e.g. check plans for compliance and carry out site inspections to check work on site at various stages. However, only a local authority inspector has enforcement powers, so in the event of a dispute a case may be handed over from an Approved Inspector.

Are they the same as seeking planning consent?

Building Regulations are completely separate to the planning approval process, which governs the principle of development, what you can build and the purpose(s) you can build for.

What are the key elements of the building regulations?

The building regulations are split up into the Approved Documents, or ‘Parts’, which are regularly updated in accordance with new modern standards.

  • Part A - Structure

  • Part B - Fire Safety

  • Part C - Site preparation and resistance to contaminates and moisture

  • Part D - Toxic Substances

  • Part E - Resistance to the passage of sound

  • Part F - Ventilation

  • Part G - Sanitation, hot water safety and water efficiency

  • 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

  • Part M - Access to and use of buildings

  • Part N - Glazing Safety (Withdrawn)

  • Part P - Electrical Safety

  • Part Q - Security

  • Part R - Physical infrastructure for high speed electronic communications networks

  • Regulation 7 - Materials and workmanship

What type of projects need building regulations approval?

  • New buildings

  • Extensions

  • Alterations which temporarily or permanently affect ongoing compliance of the building, service or fitting with the requirements relating to structure, fire, or access to and use of buildings

  • Installing replacement windows using a fitter who is not FENSA registered

  • Installation or extension of a service or fitting not controlled under the regulationsInsertion of cavity wall insulation

  • Underpinning of foundations

  • Change to a building’s fundamental use

  • Renovation of a thermal element

  • Change of a building's energy status

What is self-certification?

For certain types of service or fitting installation, e.g. some drainage, fuel burning appliances, replacement windows or WCs, you can use a registered fitter who can self-certify the works. This means that formal building regulations approval is not needed.

Are there any exemptions?

Yes, in certain circumstances relating to buildings which are not habitable, low risk (e.g. like-for-like replacement, relating to small buildings such as a conservatory), controlled by other legislation or where it would be unreasonable to exercise any formal control over the works.

How does the application process work?

A building regulations application, plus relevant fees, should be submitted to the local authority or the Approved Inspector. Once an application is lodged in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, work can commence on site within 48 hours. This is not the case in Scotland, however.

An application can be approved or, if it fails to confirm to the standards, it will be rejected. However, inspectors do have the power to negotiate in certain circumstances.

What types of application exist?

The application can either be on the basis of a Full Plans application or a Building Notice submission.

What is a Building Notice?

This is where minor works (without detailed plans) can be carried out without prior approval, although full compliance must still be ensured by the end of the project.

What are Full Plans?

This is where full working drawings have been checked and approved by the inspector prior to starting work. This means that full compliance will be achieved, providing the drawings are followed during the building works. If a building falls under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, the Full Plans process rather than a Building Notice submission must be followed.

What is a Regularisation Certificate?

In these circumstances, a Regularisation Certificate can be applied for to seek approval after the works are completed. This will require inspection of the work, which may mean exposing the structure.

How does the inspection process work?

Although work can proceed before formal approval is granted, it cannot proceed beyond the inspection stage until approved by an inspector.

The inspection stages include:

  • Excavations for foundations

  • Foundation concrete

  • Oversite

  • Damp-proof course

  • Foul water drains trenches open

  • Surface water drains trenches open

  • Occupation prior to completion (second fix)

  • Completion

What is a Completion Certificate?

Upon completion in line with building regulations, a Completion Certificate will be issued by the inspector. This should be retained alongside any planning permission for use in the event of a future sale of the building. A Completion Certificate is also generally required to release final funds from lenders, to obtain any warranty certification and to reclaim VAT if applicable.

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Stay tuned for our next blog post to help build a better you

N.b. Nothing in this article constitutes legal or financial advice.

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