Stay in control of the building process by understanding Building Regulations

Even after planning permission has been granted and you think you are ready to start building or rebuilding, the process is only beginning: any alteration or extension of an existing property still needs to comply with Building Regulations.

Grouped into categories from A (structure) through to P (electrical), Building Regulations are designed to ensure that the health, safety, welfare and convenience of people in and around buildings are not compromised.  They also cover energy efficiency factors in order to limit waste and environmental damage.  As of 1 October 2015 category Q (security) has also been introduced.  This applies to new buildings only in England and excepted energy buildings in Wales. It sets out the standards required for doors and windows to resist physical attack by a casual or opportunistic burglar.  Building notices and applications submitted before 1 October 2015 are exempt, as long as works are commenced before 1 October 2016.

Building Control procedures have been developed to ensure all these regulations are met.  The wide spectrum of building work which requires approval from a Building Control body includes extensions, loft and garage conversions, underpinning and cavity wall insulation.  Whilst the person carrying out the building work is responsible for ensuring that the work is compliant with Building Regulations, ultimate responsibility lies with the building owner, who may be subject to enforcement notices and fines if the work fails to comply with the appropriate building regulations.

Obtaining Building Regulation approval

Building Control approval can be sought in a number of ways.  You may submit your Building Control applications to your Local Authority Building Control office.  Alternatively, you can use an Approved Inspector, which are private sector companies also capable of carrying out the Building Control service. iApply, a new service from Idox, simplifies the process of identifying the local authority building control office and submitting an application to them.

iApply enables submissions to be uploaded via a single web portal and facilitates collaboration between all parties involved.  For example, the agent who is processing the Building Control submission can designate payment authorisation to the building owner.  The system also provides real-time notifications to all parties involved, enabling everyone to have a clear line of sight as to where an application is up to.  Due to the simplicity of the process, it is also possible for Building Control to process applications more quickly.

Applications – know your options

There are two principle types of application you will need to consider.  The preferred method is where full plans, drawings and other related information are submitted and a formal decision on the plans is given before work starts.  The other option is a building notice, where minimal information is required and no formal decision is given, as work is inspected while it is being carried out to be approved on completion.    A building notice has the benefit of being a much quicker process, as full plans are not required.  However, this is only suitable for some types of building work, often the smaller jobs, and it does not have the protection provided by the approval of ‘full plans’.

With either approach once work has commenced, a building control officer will make routine site inspections at various stages.  Notice should be given to allow Building Control adequate time to inspect the work. If suitable notice isn’t provided, the building control officer has the legal right to demand that completed work be opened up for inspection. If it is found that the work carried out doesn’t comply with Building Regulations, the Local Authority will not issue a completion certificate. If you are using an Approved Inspector, they will notify the Local Authority that they are carrying out the building control function.

Understanding the ins and outs of applying for Building Regulation approval will help make your building projects run as smoothly as possible.  Making use of innovative systems such as iApply, can only improve the process for everyone.

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