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Last edited 21 Oct 2021
The first set of national building standards was introduced in 1965. Now known as the Building Regulations, they set out:
- What qualifies as ‘building work’ and so falls under the control of the regulations.
- What types of buildings are exempt (such as temporary buildings).
- The notification procedures that must be followed when starting, carrying out, and completing building work.
- Requirements for specific aspects of building design and construction.
 The regulations
In England, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) 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.
Requires buildings to be designed, constructed or altered so as to be structurally safe and robust, and 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 includes diagrams of structures such as roof frames and brick walls, and tables of material strengths.
 Part B: Fire safety
Covers all precautionary measures 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 of 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
Includes 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
 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
 Part G: Sanitation, hot water safety and water efficiency
Requires that adequate drainage is provided, and also deals with pollution prevention, sewage infrastructure and maintenance. Technical design standards cover sanitary pipework, foul drainage, rainwater drainage and disposal, wastewater treatment, and discharges and cesspools.
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.
Set standards for the safety of stairways, ramps and ladders, together with requirements for balustrading, windows, and vehicle barriers to prevent falling. Also included 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.
(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.
 Part P: Electrical safety
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.
From 1 October 2015, for use in England, it provides that reasonable provision must be made to resist unauthorised access to any dwelling; and any part of a building from which access can be gained to a flat within the building.
 Part R: Physical infrastructure for high-speed electronic communication networks
 Regulation 7: Materials and workmanship
Building Regulations approvals can be sought either from the building control department of the local authority or from an approved inspector. In either case, a fee will be payable, relative to the type of building and the construction cost. Fee schedules can be obtained from the building control department of the local authority. It is now also possible for competent persons to self-certify that their work complies with the building regulations without submitting a building notice or incurring local authority fees.
On small projects, or when changes are made to an existing building, approval may be sought by giving a 'building notice'. In this case, a building inspector will approve the works as they are carried out by a process of inspection. This does leave the client at risk that completed works might not be approved, resulting in remedial costs.
Full plans approvals are also subject to inspection during the course of the works at stages decided by the local authority (typically during the construction of foundations, damp proof courses and drains and perhaps other key stages), but as long as the work is carried out in accordance with the approved design, the risk of problems is very much reduced.
In the event of disagreement about an approval, a ‘determination’ can be sought (before the works start) from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government or from Welsh Ministers in the Welsh Assembly Government. It is also possible to seek relaxation or dispensation of the regulations from the building control department of the local authority under certain circumstances (see Department for Communities and Local Government guidance).
A full plans approval notice is valid for three years from the date of deposit of the plans. This can be very important given the speed at which the regulations change, meaning that a building which has been approved, but not built may require re-design and further approval if construction is delayed and the regulations change.
Failure to comply with the Building Regulations can result in a fine and/or an enforcement notice requiring rectification of the works. There is also a regularisation process for getting approval for works that have been carried out without approval.
In Scotland, Scottish Ministers are responsible for the Building Regulations (Building Standards) and associated guidance (Ref. The Scottish Government: Building Standards). The 32 local authorities administer the Building Standards system and are responsible for granting permissions (Building Warrants) and Completion Certificates.
In Wales, Building Regulations that previously applied to England and Wales continue to apply, but from 1 January 2012, any revisions to the English regulations apply to England only. New regulations and guidance are the responsibility of the Welsh government. Approvals are granted by the local authorities.
In Northern Ireland, the Building Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 are made by the Department of Finance and Personnel (Ref. Building Control Northern Ireland). They are administered by the 11 District Councils.
On 14 July 2017, following the Grenfell Tower Fire, the BBC reported that a full review of the building regulations would be undertaken, although it is not clear when this will be officially announced, and it is likely to be complicated by the ongoing police investigation and public inquiry. (Ref. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40602991)
On 19 July 2017, the Local Goverment Association (LGA) called for the review to be “urgent and immediate”. Lord Porter, LGA Chairman, said; "We cannot wait for the result of the public inquiry or coroner’s report before this review is started. We have to act based on what we know now". (Ref. https://www.local.gov.uk/about/news/lga-calls-urgent-and-immediate-building-regulation-review)
On 28 July 2017, Communities Secretary The Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP announced an independent review of the building regulations and fire safety. See Independent review of the building regulations and fire safety for more information.
In April 2020, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government published the Final report of the expert group on structure of guidance to the building regulations. The report considered the structure of the current guidance that supports the building regulations and identified 8 high level recommendations for reform.
- ACM cladding.
- All eyes up to plastic rainwater systems.
- Approved documents.
- Approved inspector.
- Building codes.
- Building control body.
- Building control performance standards.
- Building notice.
- Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC).
- Building regulations completion certificate.
- Building regulations inspection.
- Building warrant (Scotland).
- Changes to Building Regulations Part F.
- Competent person.
- Competent person schemes.
- Do the building regulations apply to existing buildings?
- Failure to comply with the building regulations.
- Flexbury Church.
- Full plans.
- Future Buildings Standard shortcomings raised.
- Getting zero carbon done.
- How long it takes to get building regulations approval and how long it lasts.
- Independent review of the building regulations and fire safety.
- Making the case for sprinklers and dispelling myths.
- Micro dwelling.
- National Calculation Method.
- Northern Ireland building regulations.
- Planning permission.
- Room acoustics.
- Safeguarding at school.
- Simplified Building Energy Model.
- Scottish building standards.
- Scottish housing standard.
- Special educational needs: an analysis of the necessities for inclusion.
- Specify with caution to new BS 8579:2020.
- Standalone: The new way forward in non-domestic ventilation.
- Standard Assessment Procedure.
- Statutory approvals.
- Statutory authorities.
- The Building Act.
- The difference between planning permission building regulations approval.
- The effects of subframe systems on the overall thermal performance of external rainscreen walls.
- Thermal bridging and the Future Homes Standard.
- Welsh building regulations.
- What approvals are needed before construction begins.
 External references
- Approved documents can be downloaded from the Planning portal.
- The Communities and Local Government Building Regulations website.
- Department for Communities and Local Government: Building Regulations, Explanatory booklet. (now archived)
- Local authority building control guidance.
- The Building Regulations in full.
- Department for Communities and Local Government.
- CLG: Determinations and appeals.
- Free online version of Approved Documents from SpecifiedBy
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