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Last edited 05 Apr 2022
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 Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities 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 that buildings are designed, constructed or altered so as to be structurally safe and robust, and so as not to impair the structural stability of other buildings. Part A 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 cover means of escape, 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.
This controls hazards from the toxic chemicals used in insulation and relates the use of urea formaldehyde (UF) foam.
 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. It covers 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, discharges and cesspools.
Covers the construction, installation and use of boilers, chimneys, flues, hearths and fuel storage installations. Also requirements for the control of fire sources and the prevention of burning, pollution, carbon monoxide poisoning, etc.
Sets standards for the safety of stairways, ramps and ladders, together with requirements for balustrades, windows, and vehicle barriers to prevent falling. Also included are requirements for guarding against and warning of, hazards from the use and positioning 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 openings, 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, nad the certification, testing and commissioning of heating and ventilation systems, and requirements for energy meters. It also sets requirements for Carbon Index ratings.
 Part O: Overheating
 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.
 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 the 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.
It is important to ensure that a completion certificate is sought from the approving body as evidence that the works comply with the regulations. NB: Under changes to the building regulations made in December 2012, Local Authorities must give completion certificates, they do not need to be requested.
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.
It is possible to appeal against building regulations decisions if:
- The applicant considers the project should not have to comply with building regulations.
- The project is refused building regulations approval and the applicant believes the decision is unfair.
In Scotland, Scottish Ministers are responsible for the Building Regulations (Building Standards) and associated guidance (Ref. The Scottish Government: Building Standards). The 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.
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.
In December 2021, Approved Document L was revised to help UK deliver net zero and to require that new homes produce around 30% less CO2. In addition, a new Approved Document O was published setting new requirements to control overheating. Ref https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-homes-to-produce-nearly-a-third-less-carbon
- ACM cladding.
- A guide to installing thermostatic mixing valves: what, why and how.
- Approved documents.
- Approved inspector.
- Building codes.
- Building control body.
- Building control performance standards.
- Building notice.
- Building regulations appeal.
- Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC).
- Building regulations completion certificate.
- Building regulations inspection.
- Building warrant (Scotland).
- Competent person.
- Competent person schemes.
- Do the building regulations apply to existing buildings?
- Failure to comply with the building regulations.
- Full plans.
- Hot water safety in health and social care settings.
- How long it takes to get building regulations approval and how long it lasts.
- Independent review of the building regulations and fire safety.
- National Calculation Method.
- Northern Ireland building regulations.
- Planning permission.
- Simplified Building Energy Model.
- Scottish building standards.
- Standard Assessment Procedure.
- Statutory approvals.
- Statutory authorities.
- The Building Act.
- The difference between planning permission building regulations approval.
- 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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