Beginner’s Guide to Building Regulations

What are building regulations?

Building regulations are a set of standards for design and construction that apply to alterations of existing buildings and most new builds. The standards are very in depth and include consideration of materials and workmanship requirements, structural matters, fire safety, sound insulation, energy conservation and access to and use of buildings. You can download the full documents for free at gov.uk.

How do building regulations differ from planning permission?

Building regulations look in detail at the construction and materials used for any building works unlike Planning Permission which is used to guide the way places are developed, the appearance of buildings, the impact to the environment, highway access and use of the building.

What’s the difference between building regulations drawings & planning drawings?

Building regulations drawings are more detailed than planning drawings due to the level of information required to explain how things are constructed. This can make them more difficult to understand if you are not used to reading drawings. A good set of building regulation plans should have a high level of detail & include detailed construction notes to explain the proposed construction methods of your project. This extra detail can make it easier to price a job more accurately so more accurate estimates can be obtained from a good set of building regs plans.

When would I need to apply for building regulations approval?

Nearly all types of building work require approval. Typical examples of works that require approval include:-

  • Building a new home
  • Erection, extension or alteration of a building
  • Change of buildings use
  • Internal structural alterations
  • Loft & garage conversions
  • Forming a structural opening; e.g. new window or through room
  • Installing cavity wall insulation
  • Underpinning a house
  • Installing a WC

Please note this list is not exhaustive. As a general rule of thumb if the work is structural then it probably requires approval. If in doubt you could check with your local building control department (or contact us).

Can I extend my home without building regulations?

There are certain types of small extensions that are exempt from building regulations. These include:-

  • Conservatories, Porches or other Covered Passages / Yards
  • Carports with at least 2 open sides

There are some conditions that still apply. The new floor area must be less than 30m2 and any glazing in conservatories & porches must still meet the requirements of Part N Building Regulations. Conservatories must have at least 75% glazing on the roof & 50% glazed walls and maintain existing walls, windows & doors from the existing house.

Are there any other exemptions from building regulations?

Detached single storey buildings (such as garages, sheds & greenhouses) are exempt if less than 15m2 floor area and containing no sleeping accommodation. Buildings between 15 – 30m2 floor area are still exempt if built at least 1 metre away from your site boundary or if within 1 metre of your site boundary & built of mainly non-combustible material.

How can I get building regulations approval?

There are two main ways to obtain building regulations approval, a full plans application or a building notice.

A full plans application will need to include a completed application form, the correct fee and a detailed set of plans with enough information to explain how your proposed work will meet the regulations. If you already have a set of planning drawings for your project you should also include these as part of your application. The application will be approved, refused or approved with conditions.

The other option is called a building notice. No plans need to be submitted for a building notice, all that is required is a completed application form & the correct fee. Building notices are more commonly used for small works such as DIY alterations.

With either route to approval a building control inspector will make site visits at certain key stages to check that completed work meets the regulations and if you submitted a full plans application you will receive a completion certificate after the work is completed.

How much does a building regs application cost?

The costs will vary depending on nature of the work & your local authority. If you are building a new home you can expect to pay around £240 to submit a full plans application & around £510 for the required inspections. Works to existing houses such as extensions, conversions or renovations will cost around £180 to submit the plans & a further £200 – £550 for inspections. If using an approved inspector the costs are usually similar to using your local authority building control department. An approved inspector may require all of the fees paid up front which differs from the local authority’s approach. Your local authority or approved inspector can advise on the latest schedule of fees. Click the following links to find your local authority building control department and a list of regional approved inspectors.

Is it cheaper to submit a building notice?

The application fees should be around the same as a full plans application. You may initially save money on design fees as you do not need any drawings or plans to accompany a building notice. Depending on the type of work you are planning, you may still need drawings for a planning application or at least to obtain more accurate builders quotes. Whilst a building notice might seem like the cheapest option, a good set of drawings or plans can make it easier to calculate build costs and reduce problems on site. This can reduce build costs and will often save you more money than the cost of the plans.

What happens if my full plans application is approved with conditions?

An approval with conditions means that, in principle, your proposals meet the regulations but there may be certain minor changes required in order to fully comply. The conditions may also request additional information such as structural calculations or extra detail to fully explain the construction.

Can building regulations approval be applied for retrospectively?

Yes, although we always recommend applying for approval before building work starts. If you have done building work that should have had building regulations approval then you are at risk of prosecution. You are able to submit a regularisation application through your local authority to have the unauthorised work approved. Depending on how the work has been done, remedial work may need to done to expose elements of structure, inspect the work and to ensure compliance with the regulations. This can be costly and very frustrating.

Can I prepare building regulations plans myself?

You could certainly have a go although we wouldn’t recommend it. There are resources available online including many building regulations notes and details. Whilst it’s easy enough to find notes and details online, it requires skill to know what notes are relevant and what construction methods are most suitable for an individual project.

Can Complete Architecture provide building regulations notes for my project?

Of course. We can write a tailored building regulations specification for you including all the relevant notes for your project. The specification can accompany your existing plans (if you have any) and can help you obtain full plans approval. Our specifications are also an ideal tool for contractors who’ve been asked to quote for work or build from planning drawings only. Prices start from just £95. Contact us now to find out more.

Can Complete Architecture produce building regulations plans for my project?

Yes, we can do that too. We produce detailed building regs plans to ensure you meet current building regulations requirements. The level of detail can be adjusted to suit the complexity of your project so any drawings we produce will be fit-for-purpose. Get in touch if you’d like to find out more.

We’ve used another Architect to prepare planning drawings. Can Complete Architecture produce building regulations plans from our current planning drawings?

We certainly can. We’ve produced building regulations plans for clients across the country who started out with another Architect or designer. Often they have been quoted a very high fee for ongoing work or have just had a poor customer experience. Feel free to email your planning drawings to our Chartered Architectural Technologist. He may be able to save you money and improve your customer experience.

We can provide building regulations plans tailored to your project.

If you have any questions please do get in touch.

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