Whether planning a self-build project, undertaking a renovation, or working as a contractor or other professional in the construction industry, you must ensure that any work you plan to undertake or commission complies with the relevant building regulations. The building regulations cover all aspects of the building project, from the foundations and stability of the structure to insulation, ventilation, heating, fire protection, and means of escape in case of fire.
Failing to meet building regulations in all areas could mean that you fail to secure building control approval, sending you ‘back to the drawing board’.
The building regulations are the statutory instruments used to ensure that legislation on the construction of new buildings and the alteration or extension of existing ones is properly applied. They are regularly updated, with the most recent version in the UK being the Building Regulations 2010.
The building regulations apply to the construction of new buildings and the extension of existing ones. They also cover some smaller alteration or refurbishment projects. Even if you plan to carry out the work yourself, you must meet any building regulations that apply. Remember that some work, such as working with gas pipes, should only be carried out by a qualified person.
The government’s website GOV.UK says that you might need building regulations approval for many types of alteration projects, including:
Part F, Part J and Part L are Approved Document which give guidance for compliance with the Building Regulations. Part F concerns ventilation in the building. Part J relates to combustion appliances and fuel storage systems, and Part L concerns the conservation of fuel and power.
Permission is usually needed for extensive building or renovation work undertaken on a building, as well as for work that involves potentially dangerous alterations, such as some of those listed above. There are two active different approval regimes, and some people may be confused about which one they need to follow. The confusion can increase when there is sometimes an overlap, and that some work must get separate approval for both planning permission and building regulations.
As a broad overview, building regulations concern the soundness of the structure, its general safety and, since the 2010 update, factors such as energy efficiency and ventilation. You can think of the building regulations as making sure that the building functions safely and effectively.
Planning is more concerned with the development of the built environment in our towns, cities, and rural areas. It might mean that the appearance of a building, and how it affects other people and the character of its surroundings, may be taken into account.
For internal alterations, it is likely that building regulations approval will be needed, while planning permission might not, as long as the work is not on a listed building. As noted though, there are some areas of overlap, and if you are in any doubt, you should contact your local planning authority and/or building control body.
There may also be other obligations under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015), which cover the management of health, safety, and welfare on construction projects. These apply to construction professionals but not to domestic clients.
First, it's important to understand when approval is needed and who is responsible for obtaining it. If you are employing a builder, they will usually get the relevant permissions, but any responsibility should be confirmed at the beginning. It is also worth noting that ultimate responsibility lies with the owner of the property. If the work does not meet the relevant regulations, the owner could be served with an enforcement notice.
You are likely to need building regulation permissions if you are putting up a new building, extending or altering a new one, or making alterations of a type covered by the regulations. Since 2010, various elements, such as ventilation, became what is known as a 'notifiable work'. It means that this falls under building regulations, must be fitted by a qualified installer, and signed off by Building Control.
There are some areas that do not usually need building control permissions. These include:
To get approval, you need to contact a ‘building control body’ (BCB). There are two types of BCB, and it’s up to you which type you use. These are Local Authority BCBs, where you apply directly to the council and private BCBs. Private building control officers, or Approved Inspectors, are fully licenced to inspect and sign off on building work and projects. The number of visits and inspections and the size of the team carrying it out, as well as the cost, may vary depending on the type of BCB you choose and the scale and type of your project.
Some professionals who work in the building trade as installers may also be registered as a ‘competent person’. It means they are able to self-certify their part of the work and do not need to have it checked by a building control officer. It may be in an area such as the installation of ventilation systems or electrical circuits. The competent person needs to be suitably qualified and to meet certain criteria.
When a ventilation system, boiler, electrical circuit, or other installation by an Approved Installer is complete, you will receive a Building Regulations Compliance Certificate, to show that a competent person completed the work.
You must decide on the type of application for your planned build, extension, or alteration work. These are:
This is the most thorough option and is generally required for major building projects. Your application should include plans and information showing all construction details, and be submitted in advance of work starting on site. Your chosen BCB must give you a decision within five weeks of the request being deposited, or a maximum of two months, with your approval. If they meet building regulation requirements, you will be given a notice of approval. If not satisfied, the BCB may ask for clarifications or amendments. You will also get a completion certificate within eight weeks of completion of the building work, assuming that it meets requirements.
This is only for smaller projects. You can start work two days after submitting your application to the BCB, and there is not the same formal approval process as with full plans.
This is retrospective approval for work carried out without consent. Only the local authority can grant this, not a private BCB. If elements of the work do not meet building regulations standards, the local authority BCB might ask for changes.
When it comes to making that sure you get your building control approval the first time, there is no magic formula. Different requirements apply to different projects, so it is important to understand what is required, either by consulting the regulations, which are freely available online or by hiring or consulting with experts in the building regulations as a whole, or in their areas of expertise.
BCBs are not out to reject applications for no reason, so consult with them at every stage of the process. Making sure that your plans and the work carried out meet the relevant requirements is the only certain way to ensure that you get building control approval the first time. Using the right contractors, installers, and other professionals can help you do that.
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