The Mystery of Building Regulations Explained!
Tips & Advice

The Mystery of Building Regulations Explained!

Building Regulations are the equivalent to the rules requiring seat belts in cars, hard hats on-site, and not smoking in cafes. However, unlike these rules (which were all considered inconvenient when introduced but now shock-inducing if ignored) some people still see Building Regulations as something to “get around”.

The Common Misconception

There is a lot of misconception surrounding building control and the involvement of building control officers in construction projects. This misconception appears to be perpetuated by hearsay and misinformation by poor quality builders. The misconception is based on two ideas:

1. the involvement of building control will prevent you from achieving the design you would like

2. the involvement of building control will result in an escalation of construction costs

I hope that this article will redress this view and explain some practical facts around this topic.

Building Control Can be Very Flexible

Building regulations are for the safety and benefit of building users. However, it is important to explain that unlike the rigidity of a no-hat, no-boots, no-work policy, building regulations have flexibility.

When looking at building regulations documents it is important to note that the very short part of the text highlighted in green is the building regulation. The rest is a guideline on meeting it. This allows for flexibility. For example, to meet “Part K – Protection From Falling”, it may be found that placing a bouncy castle next to a building is an adequate alternative to a 1100mm high railing around a balcony (important caveat: this MUST be approved formally in writing). Okay, this may be a somewhat far-fetched solution to complying with that regulation, but it illustrates that it is the regulation that must be met and not necessarily the guideline.

Building Control are Problem Solvers

If your building project challenges the conventional design for meeting a building regulation, I recommend involving the Building Control Officer as early as possible in the design stage. Your architect will have worked with many Building Control Officers many of whom are problem solvers who are happy to suggest and investigate alternatives with them. Working in this way, your architect can produce alternative designs that can be costed in advance of construction.

Be Aware of Costs

It is important to note that non-conventional solutions for meeting building regulations may have costs attached. For example, it is possible to remove walls from a secure fire escape route to create open plan living, but this may require the installation of mechanical smoke curtains and/or a sprinkler system. The cost of a mechanical smoke curtain will usually be higher than the cost of building a conventional wall.

It is, therefore, best to meet with Building Control and your architect as early as possible. Working collaboratively with them will highlight any issues and give your architect time to assess alternatives should the costs for the first solution be over budget. This is vital if you are to avoid costly surprises later on.

Do Not Use Anyone who says they will “Work Around” Building Regulations

It is required by the Architects Registration Board Code of Conduct that architects comply with all regulatory requirements. Not only do architects have a duty to follow building regulations, but so do other building professionals, including structural engineers and builders. Beyond their professional duty, there are two very important reasons to make sure everyone you work with complies with building regulations.

Firstly, and by far the most important factor, is that building regulations are there for your safety. It says something troubling about a builder’s attitude to health and safety if they are happy to proceed without telling building control. Putting yourself and other future users of the building at risk can never worth any short-term cost savings.

Secondly, when you come to sell your house, areas that don’t meet building regulations will be highlighted by a solicitor and it is very likely that you will have to put them right. Doing a retrospective building regulations application years down the road when you have lost touch with the architect, builder etc. will be timely and will all almost always cost more than simply meeting the regulations in the first place.

If you engage with Building Control from the start to design an elegant, cost-effective solution with your architect, you can then rest assured your project will be properly constructed and you have created a safe and wonderful place for you and your family to live in.

Tags building regulations, architects london, planning law, building control, architect your home, architects

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