Last edited 28 Sep 2015

Building control officer BCO

The building regulations set out legal requirements for specific aspects of building work and notification procedures that must be followed when starting, carrying out, and completing building work. The regulations set standards for aspects of building works such as; energy use, accessibility, fire, acoustics and so on. In England, the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) is responsible for the building regulations.

The building regulations require that a project's compliance is independently verified. Building Control Bodies (BCB’s) are responsible for checking building work to verify it complies with the regulations. This includes new buildings, alterations, installations and extensions.

Historically this verification could only be carried out by local authorities, however, it can now also be provided by privately appointed approved inspectors.

The individuals that check building works compliance are sometimes referred to as ‘building inspectors’, or ‘building control surveyors’. The term ‘building control officer’ generally (although not always) refers to an employee of the local authority, whereas ‘approved inspector’ is a private sector individual or organisation.

The role of a building control officer might include:

  • Providing clients, architects, engineers and contractors with advice on the building regulations during the design and development of a building project.
  • Giving advice regarding the information that needs to be submitted as part of an application.
  • Checking and commenting on proposals for compliance with the building regulations.
  • Inspecting work at key stages as it progresses.
  • Keeping records of project progress.
  • Issuing a final certificate.
  • Assessing damaged buildings and approving demolition.
  • Authorising entertainment licences.
  • Checking safety at events, theatres, cinemas and so on.

It is an offence to contravene the building regulations, or to start work that requires a building regulations application without submitting an application, or occupying or using a new building without approval. Applications can be made by a 'full plans application' in advance of starting the works, or for some projects by a 'building notice application' where approval is given as the works progress.

If works are carried out without an application, or if they are not carried out in accordance with the approved scheme, building control officers may commence proceedings to stop the work, or pull down, alter or remove any works that do not to comply with the regulations.

A maximum fine of £5,000 can be imposed with an additional fine of £50 per day if offence continues.

If plans have been approved, and works are carried out in accordance with the approved plans, enforcement action cannot be taken, even if the regulations are contravened.

Regularisation certificates can be issued for works that have been carried out without approval, but comply with the building regulations.

Approved Inspectors are registered with CICAIR Limited, a subsidiary of the Construction Industry Council. However, there is no specific accreditation body for local authority building control officers, and no specific qualification requirements, although qualifications on built environment courses and degrees accredited by bodies such as the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Chartered Association of Building Engineers (CABE) or the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) are likely to be appropriate.

The Building Control Performance Standards Advisory Group (BCPSAG) has established guidance and performance indicators to prevent competition between approved inspectors and local authorities driving down standards.

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