Last edited 02 Nov 2020

Do the building regulations apply to existing buildings?

The building regulations set out requirements for specific aspects of building design and construction. This includes; fire, structure, access for people with disabilities and so on. A series of approved documents provide general guidance about how specific aspects of building design and construction can comply with the building regulations.

For more information see: Building Regulations.

The regulations apply to new construction work, and do not require that existing buildings are brought up to standard. However, where new work is being carried out to existing buildings, such as alterations, extensions, loft conversions, window replacement, insulation and so on the regulations do apply. The regulations may also apply if the use of a building is changed.

However, under certain circumstances, it may be impractical to comply with all of the requirements of the regulations. For example, it may not be practical to make an existing bathroom accessible and useable by a person in a wheelchair, or to achieve required levels of air-tightness in a historic building.

So the Building Regulations do apply to works to existing buildings, but the extent to which requirements must be complied with will depend on the type of building and the works that are being carried out.

In very broad terms, the regulations state that:

Ref P7

In addition, some detailed requirements are set out specifically for existing buildings, such as Part L: Conservation of fuel and power, which includes requirements for existing dwellings, and existing buildings other than dwellings. There are also some specific exemptions from aspects of the building regulations, for example temporary buildings, and listed buildings.

This situation therefore is not straight-forward, and if there is doubt about whether the building regulations apply, or which building regulations apply, or what they apply to, advice should be sought from the local building control body (typically the local authority).

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki


In most cases it could be understood both ways:

  • Building is allowed to not comply with the latest regulations when alterations are limited / confined to its materiality only and when there are no changes to its functionality.
  • Building is allowed to not comply with the latest regulations if unaltered building areas comply with the regulations it complied earlier.

Both are true, but it is complex.

Maybe it is worth saying – All refurbishment projects must comply with the latest regulations with the exception to buildings where alterations do not compromise its critical aspects of access and safety?

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