Building Control - Should you be afraid?

For the unfamiliar embarking on a new project Building Control can be an intimidating concept, an unexpected level of authority and an unwanted additional expense. This article aims to lend some clarity to what building control is and dispel any myths or untruths. In answer to the above question, should I be afraid? The Answer is No, absolutely not. The process is straight forward and if used correctly building control can be a powerful asset to any building project and here's why.

Building control is a method of confirming compliance with building regulations. Building Regulations set standards for the design and construction of buildings to ensure the safety and health of people in or about those buildings and to help conserve fuel and power. To help people to comply with them the Government produces Approved Documents, which offer guidance and show ways of achieving compliance.

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Photograph of a few of the "Approved Documents" that form part of Building Regulations

Not all building work requires approval but if you are building a new home, extending your existing home, converting a house in to flats or making any significant alterations to your property you will need approval. The vast majority of projects BTL Property are involved in require approval for at least one aspect of the build and normally many aspects. It is wise to assume you will need approval. Your builder and/or architect, if you have appointed one, should be aware of the requirements and familiar with the process.

To achieve approval you will need to apply to a building control body (BCB), this can be a local authority or private building control body. Builders, Designers or Architects should be familiar with both and may have an opinion on which they prefer to work with. At BTL we work closely with our various local authority BCBs and a range of private BCBs. If you are not receiving the support you need from your appointed builders or designers both local authority and private bodies will be happy to help you establish the type of application for building regulation approval you need.

You can make 3 types of application.

A Full Plans application; your appointed BCB will review your plans in detail and confirm compliance or make recommendation for alteration. This is best done before your project starts to avoid any unexpected additional costs or time delays. A Building Notice; if your work is relatively straightforward and your Builder/Designer/Architect are aware of the requirements then you can submit building notice to a BCB. The advantage with this approach is that you can begin work within 48hours and full detailed plans are not required for submission before the project begins. Finally there is retrospective regularization, if your project has already begun or is complete and without proper consent through one of the other two methods of application.

Once your application has been processed your chosen BCB will appoint a building control surveyor. The surveyor will have reviewed your plans and will determine at what stages of the build they will need to visit site and what they need to review. You don't have to follow the exact guidance laid out in building regulations, in most cases an Architect or an experienced builder/designer can often suggest other equally acceptable solutions which will be agreed with your building control surveyor. This is where your building control surveyor can become a great asset and a valuable resource. Most surveyors are former tradesmen and all have a wealth of building related experience. Your Builder and Architect can use the surveyor to test and approve potential solutions and the surveyor may have experience with similar issues and challenges and be able to offer alternative solutions. The surveyor will let you know what falls within the scope of building regulation for your project. If you are refurbishing your home you may find that you are able to keep non-compliant features that fall outside of the requirement, your designer or architect may have recommended unnecessary amendments.

There are fees attached to the service and these are dependent on the size and complexity of you project. Local authority BCBs are structured on the cost of their work, you will be charged for each site inspection. A private BCB may operate similarly or may negotiate a fixed fee for the project.

Although principally appointed and paid to provide confirmation of compliance with building regulation a building surveyor consulted correctly and in a timely fashion can be great help to ensuring a project does not encounter unnecessary delay or expense putting things right. They are not there to catch you or your builders out, use them to help you get it right first time around.

If you have any questions relating to this article, why not ask our Build team?

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