What are Building Regulations and Why are They needed?

Building regulations set the standards and quality for the design and construction of a building ensuring the health and safety of their future occupants. Even the most straighforward projects will require to comply with different building regs.

Building regulations are part of any construction, either is just an expension or a brand new dwelling. Building regs are created to ensure a minimum standard for any carried work on a property or land making sure the place will be habitable. 

For most alterations or new structural work carried out to any property you need building regulations approval. All brand new homes or constructions need to adhere to building regs and for this reason a building control inspector will visit at different stages of the build. He or she needs to confirm if the work complies to the current building regulations.

Some of this stages are: excavation of foundations, pouring concrete for the foundations, installation of building damp proof course, drainage and last, but not least, a completion visit.

Are cases, when a self-certify can be issue by a competent person to confirm the compliance of work standard. This can be for cavity wall insulation, or drainage or new electrics for example. Normally, on the completion stage a certificate of completion will be issued if the building is comfort to building regulations.

Depending on what works are carried out, different building regulations will apply and the finalised building or alteration needs to comply with. However, are some cases where you do not need to a building regulation compliance, for example if you build a porch (under 3sqm), a conservatory or a garage (under 30sqm floor area).

The documentation used to dictate the minimum of standard which needs to apply to different areas of a building are known as The Approved Documents of the Building Regulatons (ranging from A to R) and will cover anything from structure to fire safety.

These building regulations are getting modified once in a while and to be able to keep up with the correct one, we strongly recommend to check the local goverment site to make sure the latest Approved Document is used as reference.

Here are the main building regulations you need to comply with:

  • Part A – Structure
  • Part B – Fire Safety
  • Part C – Contamination and damp
  • Part D – Toxicity
  • Part E – Resistance to passage of sound
  • Part F – Ventilation
  • Part G – Hygiene
  • Part H – Drainage and Waste Disposal
  • Part J – Combustion appliances and fuel storage systems
  • Part K – On-site Safety
  • Part L – Conservation of Fuel and Power
  • Part M – Access to and use of buildings
  • Part P – Electrical safety in dwellings
  • Part Q – Security in dwelling
  • Part R – Physical infrastructre for high-speed electronic communications networks
  • Approved Document 7 – Materials and workmanship

There are two types of building regulation applications and before you start any work, you need to decide wheter you go for full plans application or building notice ones.

What is the difference between these two? For most construction projects you should opt in for a Full Plans application before you start working, as you will know from the start that the working drawings have been checked and approved by the building inspector and that the plans are fully complying with all Building Regs.

The second type of application – Building Notice application – offers a promise in advance that you will comply with the Building Regulations on site. This maybe be the best option for small domestic alterations or a very basic extension or conversion.

However, if the inspection from building control enveils a contravention from regulations whils it is being built, for example the wrong insulation have been choosen in a garage conversion or the windows height within a loft extension is wrong, thant the work it will be stopped to rectify the mistake before the rest of the project can move forward. 

In same cases, a reconstruction was required to add the right insulation which can be proved costly and disruptive. As a note, you still need to complete a form giving details of the building work together with a site plan showing the boundaris of site and drainage details even if you go for building notice route. In some cases, you will be asked even  to provide sketch drawings and structural engineer’s calculation and energy performance details.

We highly recommend going for a full plans application as if any issues arise regarding a non-compliance with the regulations can be easily fixed without any costs, as the work is just starting.

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As any service, it will depend on the size and complexity of the project (dictating to the number of site visits required), however the local authorities offer fee calculators on their own websites. Can be a couple of hundreds of pounds, but you should consider that you need to budget in other costs, such as:

  • the structural engineer’s calculations, which can be between £1,000 to £4,000 depending on project size
  • building regulations drawings, which can vary from £ 600 for a single storey extension, to £1,400 for double storey one.

A rough timeline will be around 3 to 4 days for a straightforward project, while a full application can take up to 5 weeks if no najor issue occur. In some cases, owerns started the site work before the plans got approved.

In order to approve the compliance with building regulations, a local authority inspector from your local authority and run through Local Authority Building Control (LABC) can be used or an approved inspector from a gonverment-approved private building inspection company.

The later is used in cases of self build in small, straighforward proojects, such a renovating a house, extension or loft conversion. These approved inspectors needs to be registered with the Construction Industry Council (they need to re-register every 5 years to ensure they oblige to Council’s high standards).

As note, only a building control inspector from local authority has the power to enforcement, therefore if an approved inspector cannot resolve an issue informally, he/she needs to hand the project over to local authority to enforce the building regs compliance.

Caveat: Most of builders will know the building regulations they need to comply with, however the responsability lies with the homeowner to make sure the development adheres to current Building Regulations standards (as an owner you are legally obliged to ensure that the construction complies with the adequate building regs).

Once the building is completed to the satisfaction of the inspector, a Completion Certificate should be issued which certifies that the development adhered to the correspondent Building Regulations.

This document is vital in the selling a property process along with the written planning permission. Also, the final funds from a lenders are relased on the base of this document along with obtaining a warranty certification. 

Normally, a Completion Certificate is issued only the final site inspection and the building control officer approves all the certificates, such as: electrical safety, SAP rating, air pressure test, boiler installation and water services, security, fuel storage, remediation of contamiated land, chimneys and open fluer appliances (these are just some example, ceritificates vary depending on the project).

In some instances, certain qualified fitters and installers are able to sign off their own work and report it to Local Authority, such as window or door fitters.

Under normal circumstances, during the purchase process, a solicitor will request any evidence of Building Regulations compliance, such as a Completion Certificate for any work carried out throughout the property. However, are cases when these records are missing.

In order to tackle this situation, a Regularisation certificate can be requested, which will involve a retrospective application – an inspector will check the alteration, construction but against the regulations at the time of when the work have been carried out.

Another solution, would be to ask for indemnity insurance – is a safeguard tactic used to  protect the new owner from any legal action from local authority (Building regs enforcement) to the new owner. Keep in mind, that this solution does not offer a piece of mind that the work carried out is safe, is offering just legal protection.

We hope that our “What are Building Regulations and Why are They needed?” guide will help you understand the importance of Building Regualtions compliance.

We highly recommend to do your research thouroughly before you start any work, especially when comes to needing building regulations approval. If you are in doubt, contact your local planning authority or a chartered professional.

Written by Danil P.
23rd Oct 2021 (Last updated on 8th Apr 2023)
8 minute read
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