Applying for Building Regulations
Peter Eade, builder, project manager and author
To carry out most building projects for human habitation it is a legal requirement to have Building Regulations approval. This needs to be done before any work can begin and can be completed by either depositing a full plans application or submitting a Building Notice.
In addition, there is a Competent Person Scheme where certain jobs, such as electrical and window installations, can be undertaken by an approved contractor without requiring Building Regs approval.
Full plans application
To make a full plans application, detailed drawings need to be prepared which clearly demonstrate that the proposed construction fully complies with the Building Regulations. These drawings must illustrate that each phase of the build will conform so it is advisable that they are prepared by a competent person.
Typical Building Regs-approved drawings showing the level of detail required.
Building Regs drawings are much more detailed than those submitted for planning, and once approved by Building Control, will become the single reference for all your contractors. It is advisable therefore to keep the official copy safe for your records and make print-outs for on-site reference and for putting the project out to tender. It is likely that whoever dealt with the planning application will be able to do these drawings. Most architectural designers or technicians will also be able to provide this service.
Building Regs plans include:
• Structural stability – how the proposed structure can safely carry the imposed loads without collapsing.
• Fire precautions – fire resistance of the construction materials and how the building is to be evacuated in the event of a fire.
• Prevention of dampness and condensation.
• Sound resistance between dwellings.
• Ventilation of habitable rooms.
• Drainage, hygiene, and sanitary appliances.
• Heating appliances and the safe discharge of flue gases.
• Stairways, ramps, risk of falling.
• Fuel and power conservation, including thermal insulation.
• Disabled access and facilities.
• Safe glazing for windows and doors.
• Electrical safety.
Once the drawings are prepared you will have to decide who you are going to engage to undertake the building inspection. The options are either your local authority building control body or an approved inspector. Either way, the application will require the same documents although the fees may vary.
If you are making the application to your local Building Control the documents will include an application form, plans, possibly structural calculations, and a location block plan, plus the initial fee. Building Control will require up to five weeks to check the plans and may come back with questions requiring clarification. If unable to check the plans within five weeks, it may ask for an extension of up to two months.
The fee that you pay upfront is for the inspector to check the plans, and further payments are required for each site visit by the inspector. Once your application has been approved you will then be able to put the job out to tender from builders and trades.
Before engaging anyone, it is important to check that they are fully competent to satisfy the requirements of the Building Regulations. It is the responsibility of your contractors to inform Building Control that the work will be starting and also with ensuring that site visits are made to check the various stages as work proceeds. The inspector will check the following:
• Excavation for the foundations prior to placing concrete.
• Damp-proof course and damp-proof floor membrane.
• Oversite concrete or block and beam flooring.
• Drains, including visual checks and testing.
• Structural timbers, steelwork, or concrete.
• Thermal insulation.
Once the project is finished the inspector will sign off the work and issue a final completion certificate.
A Building Notice is an alternative to making a full plans submission. When the notice has been served the local authority may ask for further information before the work can begin. Once any queries have been answered and agreed the work can be started within three days.
The local authority is not required to either pass or reject a Building Notice but you will not have the protection of having your plans passed by a building inspector.
If the work is later found not to comply with the regs the local authority can require it to be altered or removed. A Building Notice doesn’t require detailed plans or structural calculations but Building Control will still need to inspect the work at the same stages as a full plans application.
With a Building Notice, you take on the full responsibility of ensuring the work conforms to the Building Regs and If you get it wrong the inspector will order that any non-compliant work is corrected. Another issue with not having detailed working drawings is it is almost impossible for builders to provide accurate quotes. They will only be able to supply an estimate which could well turn out to be over-priced. In reality, a Building Notice should only be used for minor works where detailed plans are not required.
Competent Person Scheme
Some jobs can be carried out under the Competent Person Scheme. This work can include electrical and window installation, work to gas boilers, and some re-roofing work. By engaging an approved tradesperson there is no need to submit a Building Notice or full plans for the work. The competent person will notify the local authority and issue you with a completion notice.
This Beginner's Guide to Building Control is from the January 2021 issue of SelfBuild & Design magazine.