The first set of national building standards was introduced in 1965. The 'building regulations' established standards that had to be achieved in the construction of buildings. The 'approved documents' provide guidance for how the building regulations can be satisfied in common building situations. They are given legal status by the Building Act 1984.
In England, the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) is responsible for the Building Regulations 2010 and The Building (Approved Inspectors etc.) Regulations 2010. The regulations apply to most new buildings and many alterations to existing buildings.
There is no obligation to adopt the solutions presented in the approved documents. The building regulations can be satisfied in other ways.
 The approved documents
 Part A: Structure
Requires buildings to be designed, constructed or altered so as to be structurally safe and robust, and also so as not to impair the structural stability of other buildings. It stipulates design standards for use on all buildings and gives simple design rules for most masonry and timber elements for traditional domestic buildings. It incudes diagrams of structures such as roof frames and brick walls, and tables of material strengths.
Covers all precautionary measure that is necessary to provide safety from fires for building occupants, persons in the vicinity of buildings, and firefighters. Requirements and guidance covers means of escape in cases fire, fire detection and warning systems, the fire resistance of structural elements, fire separation, protection, compartmentation and isolation to prevent fire spread, control of flammable materials, and access and facilities for firefighting.
 Part C: Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture.
Incudes the weather-tightness and water-tightness of buildings, subsoil drainage, site preparation, and measures to deal with contaminated land, radon, methane, and all other site related hazardous and dangerous substances.
 Part D: Toxic substances.
This controls hazards from the toxic chemicals used in cavity fill insulation systems. Part C controls toxic hazards from ground contaminants and/or brownfield development.
 Part E: Resistance to the passage of sound.
Deals with requirements for sound insulation between buildings, including both new dwellings and the conversion of buildings to form dwellings. these cover sound reduction between rooms for residential purposes and designated rooms in dwellings, and acoustic conditions for common areas in flats and schools.
 Part F: Ventilation.
Includes standards for ventilation and air quality for all buildings. It also covers requirements for the prevention of condensation.
Lays down standards for the provision of sanitary and washing facilities, bathrooms and hot water provision. It also covers safety requirements in respect to unvented hot water systems.
 Part H: Drainage and waste disposal.
Requires that adequate drainage, and also deals with pollution prevention and sewage infrastructure and maintenance. Technical design standards cover sanitary pipework, foul drainage, rainwater drainage and disposal, wastewater treatment, and discharges and cesspools.
 Part J: Heat producing appliances and Fuel storage system.
Covers the construction, installation and use of boilers, chimneys, flues, hearths and fuel storage installations. Also requirements to control fire sources and prevent burning, pollution, carbon monoxide poisoning, etc.
 Part K: Protection from falling, collision and impact.
Set standards for the safety of stairways, ramps and ladders, together with requirements for balustrading, windows, and vehicle barriers to prevent falling. Also include are requirements for guarding against and warning of, hazards from the use and position of doors and windows.
 Part L: Conservation of fuel and power.
Controls the insulation values of buildings elements, the allowable area of windows, doors and other opening, the air permeability of the structure, the heating efficiency of boilers, hot water storage and lighting. It also controls mechanical ventilation and air conditioning systems, space heating controls, airtightness testing of larger buildings, solar emission, the certification, testing and commissioning of heating and ventilation systems, and requirements for energy meters. It also sets requirements for Carbon Index ratings.
 Part M: Access to and use of buildings.
Requires the inclusive provision of ease of access to, and circulation within, all buildings, together with requirements for facilities for disabled people.
(Withdrawn on 6 April 2013 other than in Wales where it still applies).
Lays down the requirements for the use of safety glazing to avoid impact hazard and for the suitable awareness and definition of glazed areas. Also included are safety requirements relating to the use and cleaning of windows.
Covers the design, installation, inspection and testing of electrical installations in order to prevent injuries from electrical shocks and burns, and to prevent injuries arising from fires due to electrical components overheating or arcing.
 Ongoing changes
A number of changes are being made to the building regulations and approved documents in 2013. Some of the key changes and the dates for their introduction are presented below:
- Approved document K was amended to include provisions previously in approved document N and some overlapping provisions of approved document M.
- Approved document N was withdrawn (although it still applies in Wales).
- Approved document P was amended to change the work that is notifiable and to allow third party certification of some works.
- Approved document M was amended to include guidance for alterations to non-domestic buildings, audience and spectator facilities, refreshment facilities, sleeping accommodation and switches, outlets and controls, educational establishments and access statements.
- Approved documents B1 and B2 had a large number of detailed changes (see P2 of the approved documents for details) including guidance on smoke alarms, wall coverings, lighting diffusers and rooflights.
- The approved document for regulation 7: Materials and workmanship, was amended to comply with the Construction Products Regulations.
- Approved Documents L1A, L2A, L1B and L2B were amended to take account of Energy Performance Certificates that came into force in January 2013.
- Regulation 23 (Requirements for the renovation or replacement of thermal elements) and Regulation 25A (Consideration of high-efficiency alternative systems for new buildings) of the building Regulations came into force.
- Approved document A: Structure, was amended to adopt Eurocodes in place of British Standards. British Standards are likely to continue to be used during an overlap period, and care must be taken to avoid confusion between the two.
- Approved document C: Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture, was amended to reflect new guidance on radon protection and to update references to the Contaminated Land Regulations and the CDM Regulations.
Approved document L
- Approved documents L1A, L1B, L2A and L2B have been scheduled for a major upgrade in 2014, with a 6% increase in performance standards for new dwellings and 9% for non-domestic buildings. In addition, a Dwelling Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard (DFEES) and Target Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard (TFEES) will be introduced which emphasise a 'fabric first' approach, and Target Emission Rates will be re-formulated. These changes will be introduced in April 2014. The new regulations will not apply to building work commenced before 6 April 2014, or where an application has been deposited before 6 April 2014 as long as work commences before 6 April 2015.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Approved inspector.
- Building Regulations.
- Construction Products Regulations.
- Energy certificates.
- Planning permission
- Statutory approvals.
- Statutory authorities.
- The Building Act.
- Blog: Delays to Part L: A Risk to Industry Growth, July 2013.