If you are thinking of extending your home it is likely that you will require building regulations approval.
How you go about obtaining it, however, is usually a question that relies on an assessment of the complexity of your project, the laws surrounding your particular type of development, your timescales, considerations of costs and in some cases, your legal obligations. This article aims to help answer those questions, especially if you are building an extension to your home.
There is a lot that many people don’t understand or misunderstand about building regulations and their purpose. It can often be that homeowners are not aware of the building regulations, their value and if they need building regulations approval for their project.
Building Regulations vs Planning Regulations
It is worth noting that building regulations approval is different to planning approval and that you may need both for your building project.
To find out if your project will need planning permission you can read the article Do I Need Planning Permission For My Project? As with all building work, the owner/occupier should ensure that they have obtained the necessary statutory permissions i.e.planning permission for their work has been granted before commencing any building work.
What Are Building Regulations?
Building regulations are the minimum standards for design, construction and alterations to virtually every building. The regulations are developed by the UK government and approved by Parliament and can be found here.
How Can The Building Regulations Be Met
The building regulations can be met through Building Control Bodies (BCB) which can be either Local Authority or Approved Inspectors.
Who can authorise building regulations?
1. Local Authority (Public)
Every local authority has a building control department that you can contact directly and can be helpful in providing answers to some of your questions. To find the details for your local authority building control department, click here.
2. Approved inspectors (Private)
Approved inspectors are private bodies that are authorised under the Building Act 1984 to carry out building control work in England and Wales and can be an individual or a company. Approved inspectors do not have formal enforcement powers.
The Construction Industry Council Approved Inspectors Register (CICAIR) contains a list of the authorised approved inspectors.
How can I get Building Regulations Approval
There are two ways of meeting building regulations, either through submitting full plans or under a building notice. Either way, your work will need to be inspected during the course of the build. Both ways have their own set of pros and cons. For simplicity I have explained some of them below.
Building Regulation Approval - Full Plans
A full plans application is made when you submit a set of full plans to your local authority, who have five weeks (or 2 months with your consent) to make a determination to approve, approve with conditions or refuse. During this time you will have the opportunity to respond to any changes that the authority request. A full plans application can apply to any type of building work but must always be submitted for works including:
If the building control department approve your drawings this proves that your plans comply with building regulations. Following completion and successful inspection of the works, building control will issue you with a ‘completion certificate’ within 8 weeks which certifies that the works are in accordance with the approved plans.
Completion Certificate vs Final Certificates
It is important to note that only Local Authorities are authorised to issue a ‘completion certificate’ with full plans. Upon satisfactory completion of your build, an Approved Inspector will issue you a ‘final certificate’ providing formal evidence that the building works have been approved and that, in so far as it is reasonable to determine, the works have been carried out in accordance with the building regulations.
A ’completion certificate’ can still be requested by your Approved Inspector, however, they will need to submit your full plans. Your builder must ensure that the build is carried out in accordance with the approved plans. If you plan to do works and may sell your property in the future, you may be asked to provide a ‘completion certificate’ and within law a ‘final certificate’ may not be satisfactory evidence that the works are approved.
For the above reasons we always recommend getting a set of full building regulations plans drawn up and approved. The full plans option provides you with a set of technical drawings that show your project in great detail and how it meets standards including; structural stability, fire safety, energy performance etc. We have included some benefits below if you are still unsure.
Tells you exactly how your project will be constructed to the most recent standards.
Can be shared with builders and contractors to get more accurate and competitive quotes.
All works are authorised officially providing proof to potential buyers should you wish to sell in the future.
Cost for submission is less than building notice (however you need to take into consideration the costs to produce the plans).
Provides peace of mind as builders can be held accountable to the work.
Of course, for smaller works, and for works carried out under the certified persons scheme you may not need to go through this process, which could save you time and money.
Building Regulation Approval - Building Notice
A building notice is only used for smaller projects. We would always recommend full plans as this provides you with the most robust set of information for the build and is also useful in demonstrating how your building complies with law.
This added security cannot be overstated, especially when it comes to selling your home and proving the standard of your work.
The biggest benefit of a building notice is speed as it allows you to start on site within 2 days of an 'initial notice' being submitted to your BCB. When coupled with the appointment of a competent Approved Inspector, this could be the best solution for your project.
You should always be aware of the procedure, requirements and inherent risks and limitations when pursuing approval under a building notice before you begin work. More about risks and what happens if you fail to comply with the building regulations can be found here.
It is always advisable that you are confident that your builder is competent to construct your building to the most recent regulations and is familiar with the approval process. Your builder should facilitate site inspections with your BCB in accordance with an agreed schedule.
The notice can also save time as you may need to prepare less drawing information, however, again though this may be ok for simple projects it may be worth the additional expense to ensure you don’t risk costly oversights through lack of design certainty.
Building Regulation Enforcement and Failure
You can face enforcement action and unlimited fines if your construction work does not comply with UK building legislation.
You should also be aware that if the local authority or approved inspector consider that building work carried out is non-compliant with the regulations and is not rectified, you will not be issued with a completion/final certificate.
This is also likely to come to light through a local land search enquiry when you seek to sell your property.