In England and Wales the Building Regulations comprise a series of legal requirements that focus on promoting, protecting and enforcing adequate quality standards for the construction of domestic, commercial and industrial buildings.
The Building Regulations are backed by the UK Government and are supported by a series of comprehensive documents collectively known as the “Approved Documents”.
These “Approved Documents” provide property developers, builders and those involved with the design and construction of buildings with detailed practical and technical guidance on compliance with the Building Regulations.
Purpose of the Building Regulations
The Building Regulations have three primary purposes which are:
The Building Regulations are a legal requirement and form an essential quality and regulatory compliance process for architects, engineers, designers, builders and property developers.
They are of paramount importance and if you plan on developing or altering any existing building in England or Wales you must conform to the rules and regulations outlined in these approved documents.
What are the Approved Documents?
The Building Regulations comprise a comprehensive set of technical documents known as the “Approved Documents”.
These “Approved Documents” cover a range of important issues relating to the design and construction of buildings including:
What is the Difference between Building Regulations & Planning Permission?
Often, many people get confused between planning permission and building regulation consent – both are aspects of construction compliance but are in fact independent of each other.
Planning permission is more about the exterior of a property and the impact that the development will have on the surrounding area.
Planning permission will look at things such as whether or not the use of land and buildings is to a suitable standard consistent with local planning regulations.
They will also evaluate whether the development in question will have an impact on the surrounding environment.
Building Regulations, on the other hand, are more about the construction of the building itself and will focus more on things such as building structure and services, safety, energy conservation, disability issues and ensuring that all building work is being carried out to the correct standard.
When do I Need Building Regulations Approval?
Most proposed buildings that are newly constructed, are to be completely renovated or practically re-built will have to meet the criteria set out in the Building Regulations.
The regulations are enforced, usually by the local authority building control department.
According to the rules, if you are erecting or extending a building; making alterations to the original building; installing major features; underpinning foundations of a building or inserting insulation into a cavity wall, you must get building regulations approval.
For a full definition of what is covered and what is not you should consult the Building Regulations directly or speak to the building control department at your local council.
What are Building Control Bodies (BCBs)?
Building control bodies, or BCBs as they are more commonly known, are responsible for building regulation enforcement activities.
BCBs continually monitor construction projects to check that all relevant guidelines are being met.
A building control officer is normally employed by the local authority to check on the status of the build at various intervals, but there are also private sector approved inspectors too.
Competent Person Scheme
Unbeknown to many property developers, if the building contractor who is carrying out the construction works on your behalf is registered with a recognised “Competent Person Scheme” then they may be able to self-certify certain aspects of the building works themselves.
Most of the time, however, compliance monitoring and approval will be performed local authority building control officers.
The Building Regulation Approval Process
Now we have established who needs building regulations approval, we now have to understand how to achieve approval should it be required.
In order to get building regulations approval for your project you will firstly have to appoint an approved building inspector or approach the local authority building control team.
The approval process can then be split in to two distinct phases.
The first phase is the pre-site approval; the second is the on-site approval.
Always bear in mind that there are prescribed fees set for both phases.
The fees are regulated, but they may vary between different local authorities… if in doubt you should check with the local authority building control department.
Pre-Site Approval Process
The pre-site building regulation approval stage is exactly how it sounds.
It is the first step in getting your construction plans and specifications formally examined and is required before any actual on-site building works can take place.
Generally, there are usually three alternative procedures that can take place during this pre-site approval stage.
The procedure that you have to follow will normally depend on the scale of the construction project and the building itself.
One procedure is the full-plans procedure.
Under the full-plans procedure, detailed construction drawings and specifications will be submitted to the building regulations inspectors, as will other pieces of information and these will be checked and formally approved or rejected by the building control team.
Then there is the building notice and the regularisation procedure.
The regularisation procedure will be applicable should you be applying for retrospective approval of construction work that was carried out previously without the knowledge or formal approval of the building control team.
The “building notice” method is the less detailed process of the three.
This is actually more about the work in progress as opposed to paperwork, plans and specification information.
On-Site Approval Process
The on-site building regulations approval method is pretty straight forward.
Once the pre-site approval stage is complete an approved building inspector will visit your site and inspect and monitor your construction works once everything is in progress.
You should expect building inspectors to visit at various stages throughout the building project, not just at the beginning or the end.
Inspectors must monitor whether you are maintaining agreed construction standards at every stage of the build process.
Consequences of Non-Compliance with the Building Regulations
Most experienced property developers understand the importance of complying with the Building Regulations “Approved Documents” – they stop people from abusing and significantly altering the look and appeal of existing buildings and also help to set construction industry standards so that everyone follows the same rules and regulations.
Some developers, however, think the whole building regulation process is just an added pressure and an unnecessary expense.
However, irrespective of personal perspectives, as a responsible property developer should never ignore the building regulation compliance procedures… they are in place for good reason.
They are also a legal requirement backed by the UK government, and failure to comply with the regulations can have serious consequences.
Local Authority Enforcement Notices
If you fail to follow the correct notification and Building Regulation approval procedures the local authority building control team have the legal right to ask for the building works to be opened up to inspection.
If the worst comes to the worst and they subsequently identify evidence that building work does not conform to the Building Regulations, you may be served with an enforcement notice by the local authority which can demand that you rectify, alter or remove the non-compliant building work.
Even though you are legally entitled to challenge the local authority decision it is far better to avoid such scenarios in the first instance and follow the correct building regulation procedures.
Mistakes around such non-compliance issues can be stressful, time consuming and very expensive.
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