1: What are building regulations?
A: They are the legal and technical requirements laid down by Parliament for controlling the construction of building and building works in England and Wales. Please remember that Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own sets of Building Regulations. They apply whenever controlled building works are carried out, unless the works are specifically exempt (click here for Gateshead Council's Guidance Note on Controlled and Exempt Building Work) by the Building Regulations or the Building Act 1984.
The Great Fire of London (1666) prompted the government of the time to issue building byelaws to prevent the spread of fire between buildings in London. Later Acts of Parliament expanded their scope to deal with sanitation and public health. The Public Health Acts of 1936 extended building byelaws to the whole of the England and Wales.
In 1965, these local building byelaws were replaced by national Building Regulations, which exist to this day. The 1965 Building Regulations were regularly updated and re-issued in full in 1972, and 1976.
A New legislation framework set out in the Building Act 1984 provided the background to the current format (Simple Regulations plus Approved Documents giving technical guidance) of the Building Regulations that were created in 1985.
The Building Regulations are divided up into 'Parts' with each 'Part' dealing with a specific technical, constructional or design topic.
The modern Building Regulations were fully updated and re-issued in both 1992 and 2000. The technical guidance in the various 'Approved Documents' have also been amended and updated regularly since 1985.
On 1st July 2003 a new Part E (Sound Resistance) was introduced. Extending the range of (new and extended) buildings that must offer users relief from excessive noise. Both from noise sources within a building and from adjoining buildings noise sources. All New (and extended) Educational Buildings must also design out excessive noise, to give acceptable acoustics in teaching areas within schools. The Building Regulations will require mandatory Sound Resistance testing of all new houses constructed after 1st July 2004.
The current Building Regulations were issued by Parliament in December 2000 and they have been recently amended. The Building Regulations (have extended the range of the Building Work that is now controlled) with effect from 1st April 2002.
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Q2: What is their purpose?
To provide minimum standards for building work in order to safeguard the health and safety of people in or around buildings. They also include minimum standards for easy access and facilities for disabled people, and for the conservation of energy, and water use and disposal.
However, it should be remembered that the current Building Regulations only specify and require construction standards that are considered a decent minimum standard.
Therefore any sustainable building's designs and specification should, in order to set themselves a "Good" or "High" standard for both today and for tomorrow's future, be aiming to far exceed the modest minimum targets set by the current Approved Documents of the Building Regulations.
In general the Building Regulations do not offer specific advice on how to design 'green' buildings. However 'green' drainage design and 'green' water disposal is encouraged and illustrated in Part H (2002 edition).
The Building Regulations do not prevent the building of "ECOHomes" and "sustainable design solutions" so long as these 'green' designs meet or exceed the minimum requirements of the current building regulations. Early pre-application advice (which is available free of charge) is recommended with your local building control officer if you are considering this design method.
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Q3: Who administers the Building Regulations?
Local Authorities administer and enforce the regulations, but private sector Approved Inspectors can also administer them. However, the private sector Approved Inspectors must pass back to the Local Authority any job where the building regulations are not being complied with for enforcement action.
At present, most of these private sector professionals only have insurance cover for the inspection and supervision of commercial buildings and new build houses. The Government plans to extend the insurance cover to encompass a wider range of building works, including small scale and domestic works.
For more information on Approved Inspectors and the limited services they offer see www.cic.org.uk/
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Q4: What do the Building Regulations cover?
The erection of new buildings, the extension and internal alteration of existing buildings and the provision of "controlled services" such as new and replacement windows and doors, structural alterations, drainage and "heat-producing appliances".
They control the formation of one or more rooms within a roof space - "loft conversions". They also control "storage platforms and floors" in roof spaces. The use (as a "study", "bedroom", "computer room", "games room", "playroom", "hobby room", etc.) of a room in a roof space never exempts the "structural alteration" to create that room within the roof void from control by the Building Regulations.
See the Council's "Thinking about a Loft Conversion?" leaflet
They also apply to certain changes-of-use of existing buildings such as the conversion of a single dwelling to flats, the conversion of a pair of flats into one dwelling and the creation of a shop, etc. within an existing building. They control the creation of any non-habitable space into a habitable room (e.g. Converting a dwelling's Garage into bedroom or study or dining room, etc.).
They also control:
* Any alteration that would affect a building existing means of escape in case of fire.
* Structural alterations and the opening-up and/or re-use of old chimneys, fireplaces, and flues.
* Liquid fuel storage (LPG, and/or Oil storage tanks) within a dwelling's land.
* Solid waste storage facilities.
Some minor building works are exempt from the (full control under the) Building Regulations.
See the Council's controlled and exempt work Guidance Note
To read the Government's Guidance booklet on the Building Regulations [2002 edition 62 pages] click here.
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Q5: What about new or replacement windows (and glazed doors) - Do I need to comply with the Building Regulations?
YES, new structural openings for new window openings have always been controlled. And the Building Regulations were extended to control both all new and all replacement window frame work, with effect from the 1st April 2002. (click here for more details)
If no structural work is involved, then you may use a FENSA registered Installer to avoid the need for a formal application under the Building Regulations.
If your window installer is NOT FENSA registered then You MUST submit a "Building Notice" to the Council and pay the building regulations fee.
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Q6: Where can I get a copy of the building regulations?
A: The building regulations (known as a Statutory Instrument) and the associated Guidance Booklets (called Approved Documents) can be bought direct from The Stationery Office or you can order them online at www.tso.org
To browse without buying, try your local public reference library. Or look at the various official "Approved Documents" online on the national government website at www.odpm.gov.uk under "Building Regulations". The list of Approved Documents below has links for you to click on to download the approved document.
IIf your proposed building project is within Gateshead, please contact your local Building Control surveyor on (0191) 433 3142 or (0191) 433 3144, for your free pre-application advice. If you have more detailed questions, you should always ask, your own local building control officer on www.labc-services.co.uk
The Approved Documents are published separately in booklet form called 'Parts'. Each "Part" deals with a specific design or technical subject area. The Part X - Title in list below includes web links for you to click on to download the approved document, from the national government website (www.odpm.gov.uk).
Structure (Part A has been consulted on for revision)
Fire Safety (Edition 2000) (Part B (2003 Edition) - date of effect 1 March 2003)
Site Preparation and Resistance to Moisture (Part C is subject to consultation for amendment and revision)
Toxic Substances (Cavity Insulation)
Sound Insulation (Part E Sound Insulation (2003 edition) will come into effect on 1st July 2003 together with the Mandatory Sound Resistance testing of new houses that are constructed after 1st July 2004)
Resistance to the passage of sound (1992 edition) (now only valid for approved applications where the building commenced onsite before 1st July 2003)
Hygiene (Sanitary Conveniences, etc)
Drainage and Waste Disposal (Edition 2002)
Heat Producing Appliances (Edition 2002)
Stairs, Ramps and Guards
Conservation of Fuel and Power in Dwellings
Conservation of Fuel and Power in Buildings other than Dwellings
Access and Facilities for Disabled People
Glazing - Safety in relation to impact, opening and cleaning
Electric Safety (a draft for consultation has been issued) (Electrical Safety is not controlled by the Building Regulations in England & Wales at present)
Electronic Communications Services (a draft for consultation has been issued) (Electronic Communications Services are not controlled or required by the Building Regulations in England & Wales at present)
Regulation 7 - Materials and Workmanship
All above titles are linked to pages which contain free downloadable copies of the respective documents on the "ODPM" website.
Self Builders, Developers, Builders and other construction professionals may also wish to read the following guidance: The "Manual to the Building Regulations" - General Overview (3rd Edition is Available from the TSO website http://www.tso.org/
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Q7: How do I get permission under the building regulations?
1. By depositing a 'Full Plans' application to the local authority (Click Here for FULL PLANS application form)
Where you wish to obtain a prior approval of your detailed scheme before you are going to start the work, please allow up to five weeks for the Council to check in detail your FULL PLANS application. The Council will try to give their decision as fast as possible, but statutory consultation with other bodies do delay decisions. A FULL PLANS application will receive a formal approval certificate - the work will be inspected on site and if satisfactory a Completion Certificate will be issued.
2. By submitting a 'Building Notice' to the local authority (Click Here for BUILDING NOTICE application form)
You may use a simple "Building Notice for minor work. You may still be required to submit to the Council some drawings and further details of the work.
Note 1. A Building Notice will not get a formal approval certificate - the work will be inspected on site and if satisfactory a Completion Certificate will be issued.
Note 2. You can not use a Building Notice for a workplace, or Hotel, Boarding House or any "Designated Premises" under the Fire Precautions Act 1971.
Note 3. You cannot use a Building Notice where a building (or piling work) will be built over or within 3 metres of any sewer shown on the public network map.
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Q8: Are there charges involved in making an application?
Yes - unless your work is exempt from the Building Regulations. Each local authority has a public and regularly reviewed 'scale of charges', and you can get advice on Building Control Fees when you collect the Application Forms or Building Notice, etc.
The Building Work specifically and solely for the benefit of a disabled person in his or her own home is not fee chargeable. Other building work NOT solely for the benefit of that disabled person is fee chargeable.
Gateshead Council has, as have all other local authorities, to recover its costs in enforcing the Building Regulations within its Borough, from those who use its comprehensive Building Control services.
Fees Guide 2004-2005
If you're employing a private sector "Approved Inspector", then the fees should be negotiable, between parties.
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Q9: How long will I wait for permission?
With a Building Notice, there's no real delay once your Notice is accepted. You have to inform the Council at least two days before you intend to start, of the start date for the work. So work could be underway within a few days.
With a Full Plans submission, the situation's a little different, as the plans have to be thoroughly examined before an Approval Notice is issued. However, You could still start to build, if you wished to take the risk of abortive work, before the issue of a decision, under the Building Regulations.
A council must give a decision on a 'Full Plans' application within 5 weeks of receiving it - this can be extended to 8 weeks with your written consent. If this "Full Plans" decision deadline isn't met, the council loses some of its enforcement powers and is liable to repay 25% of their Building Control fee.
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Q10: Once approval's been granted, what's the deadline for completing the work?
Once you have started work there's no time limit laid down. But - if you do not start the work within three years, the Council can serve you with a notice declaring your plans to be "of no effect", which means they're out of date. If you want to go ahead after receiving one of these "Section 32 Notices", you'll need to submit a fresh application, and comply with all new or amended building regulations, applicable at that future date.
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Q11: If I apply for building regulation approval, will the council consult with my neighbours about the plans?
No. Councils aren't obliged to consult adjoining owners about building regulations applications (as they normally do with planning permission applications). If a proposal interferes with a neighbour's property or legal rights then it's up to the neighbour to safeguard those rights.
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Q12: But what about "Party Walls" and building work near or on (astride) the plot boundaries?.
No. It is the legal obligation of the person having the works carried out to check, if the proposed works are controlled by the Party Wall etc Act 1996. And to serve the statutory notices required before Party Wall etc Act 1996 controlled work commences. So, If you are proposing works near or on your common boundary with your neighbours you should consult the National Governments free guidance on the Party Wall etc act 1996.
If the proposed work is subject to the Part Wall etc. Act 1996 then, the person wanting the works carried out, must serve advance statutory notice on their neighbours, as set down in that act. Note. The Local Authority Building Surveyors do not administer this civil law statute. However, it's always advisable to let your neighbours know about any proposals that may affect them before any work starts.
Q13: I've heard that the building regulations are amended from time to time. What happens after receiving a Full Plans Approval when the building regulations are altered to require a higher standard of work?
It's true - the building regulations are regularly amended. All amendments and revisions follow public and construction industry consultation. However, there is usually a clause, in the amendment regulations, which states that the new technical requirements are not retrospective or applicable on building work or any building that has already commenced on site before those amendments or revisions come into effect. So on a phased development this may mean that amendments will only apply to some of the buildings.
Q14: After obtaining a Conditional Full Plans Approval. What happens if the regulations are altered to require a higher standard of work?
Where you only have a CONDITIONAL (or partial) APPROVAL of your Full Plans application then unless that is converted into a non-conditional approval before the amendments come into effect. The new revisions and amendments to the building regulations will apply to your building project (unless it starts on-site before that date). If you have specific questions on a particular building project - please contact your local building control office for advice. Tel. (0191) 433 3144
Q15: Can I appeal if I'm refused building regulations approval?
If your plans are rejected because they don't meet the regulations technical requirements, you'll be informed and given the chance to amend your plans and re-submit. Resubmission's and minor amendments do not incur any additional fees.
If it's the case that you do not agree with the council's interpretation of the building regulations, you can refer the matter to the Secretary of State for a 'Determination'. Further national government guidance is available on the "appeals and determinations" procedure see http://www.safety.odpm.gov.uk/.
In all such cases an additional 'determination' fee is payable to the Secretary of State. Do let the Council know you want to take this course of action, and you'll be advised of the necessary procedures.
Q16: Are there penalties for not complying with the building regulations?
A: Yes. If your council considers that your work doesn't comply with the regulations, it has powers to order you to pull down or alter the work, so that it will then comply with the Building Regulations.
Click here for more on the enforcement of the Building Regulations
In the case of serious and persistent contraventions, you could be fined by the local magistrates' court for failing to comply.
Q17: I've carried out some building work without getting regulations approval. Is it too late to apply? or The property has had some building work carried out before I purchased it with out getting approval. Is it too late to apply?
No, not always. Recent amendments to the building regulations have made it possible to apply to regularise work that has been carried out without formal permission. You will need to get an application form for a 'Regularisation Certificate', and you might have to 'open-up' some parts of the work for the Council's inspection. You may need to obtain 'expert' reports and or checked carried out.
To sell your property you may be asked to obtain a regularisation certificate by your purchaser (because they in turn are being asked for it by their mortgage lender before they will consent to lend on the security of the property and its unauthorised work). To ask for advice and on how you may apply for a "regularisation certificate" - contact your local Building Control office. Tel (0191) 433 3144
Click here for the Application for a Regularisation Certificate Form Council's Application for a Regularisation Certifciate Form
Click here for the Council's Regularisation Certificate Guidance Note
Q18: When is "unauthorised work" too old for the "Regularisation Certificate" legislation?
Please note that very old work (i.e. work carried out before 11th November 1985) cannot be dealt with by a 'regularisation certificate'. (Or where the work was carried out before 1st Feb 1966 the even older local building byelaws.) Anyone with very old unauthorised work (that work that is believed to be carried before 11th November 1985) would have to obtain privately an "architects certificate" stating that the building/dwelling was built in accordance with the old building regulations requirements.
The Council may be able to offer a "letter of comfort" to explain this to purchasers, etc.
Q19. What other laws should my building work comply with?
A: Your work must comply with the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974. And the "development" must also comply with the Town and Country Planning Acts and General Development Order (Planning Permission).
All building work (even building work that not controlled by the Building Regulations) must be carried using safe working methods. The public and workforce must be adequately protected from the hazards of the operations being carried out.
The commencement of a large building project is required to notified to the Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) regional office. For full guidance on this wide subject - this please consult the HSE webpage http://www.hse.gov.uk/ for advice on complying with the Construction and Design Management (CDM) regulations.