What are Building Regulations?
Communities and Local Government is responsible for policy on the Building Regulations, which exist to ensure the health, safety, welfare and convenience of people in and around buildings, and the energy efficiency of buildings. The regulations apply to most new buildings and many alterations of existing buildings in England and Wales, whether domestic, commercial or industrial.
It is not necessary to employ the council to complete building regulation approval. One can employ approved inspectors to check, approve and issue building completion certificates. One of the best known companies to provide this service is the NHBC, but small companies are available.
With approved inspectors working directly for the client they are often better to deal with as they are more proactive and willing to provide advice and comment.
What is the purpose of the Building Regulations?
The Building Regulations are approved by Parliament and deal with the minimum standards of design and building work for the construction of domestic, commercial and industrial buildings. In addition, they set out the definitions of what is regarded as building work and the procedures for ensuring that it meets the standards laid down.
The Building Regulations also contain a list of requirements (referred to as Schedule 1), which are designed to ensure the health and safety of people in and around buildings; to provide for energy conservation; and to provide access and facilities for disabled people.
In total there are 13 Parts (A-H and J-N) to these requirements. They cover subjects such as structure, fire safety, ventilation, drainage, energy conservation, and access and facilities for disabled people. The requirements are expressed in broad, functional terms in order to give designers and builders the maximum flexibility in preparing their plans.
The Approved Documents
Each Part of Schedule 1 to the regulations is supported by a separate document called an “Approved Document” which contains practical and technical guidance on ways in which the requirements can be met. These documents can be viewed in full at www.planningportal.gov.uk
Each Approved Document reproduces the requirements contained in the Building Regulations relevant to the subject area. This is followed by practical and technical guidance, with examples, on how the requirements can be met in some of the more common building situations. However, there may well be alternative ways of complying with the requirements to those shown in the Approved Documents. You are therefore under no obligation to adopt any particular solution in an Approved Document if you prefer to meet the relevant requirement(s) in some other way.
What building work is covered by the Building Regulations?
The Building Regulations cover building work as defined in Regulation 3 of the Regulations. This means that if you want to put up a new building, extend or alter an existing one, or provide fittings in a building such as drains or heat-producing appliances, washing and sanitary facilities and hot water storage (that is, unvented hot water systems), the Building Regulations will probably apply. They may also apply to certain changes of use of an existing building even though construction work may not be intended. This is because the change of use may involve the building having to meet different requirements of the Regulations.
Do remember that although it may appear the Regulations do not apply to some of the work you wish to undertake, the end result of doing that work could lead to contraventions of the Regulations. You should also recognise that some work – whether or not controlled – could have implications for adjacent property. In such cases it would be advisable to take professional advice. Some examples are:
- removal of buttressing support to a party wall
- underpinning of a part of a building
- removal of a tree close to a wall of an adjoining property; the addition of floor screed to a balcony which may reduce the height of a safety barrier
- building parapets which may increase snow accumulation and lead to excessive increase in loading on roofs
Important: Whether or not the work is controlled due regard should, of course, be given to potential hazards arising and the need for safety precautions, for example to children in respect of the construction of a garden pond.
Do I have to pay anything for the services of the Council?
Yes. A charge is payable to the Council and will be subject to VAT. We set our charges according to the type of work involved and publish them in a Scheme, which is available upon request. The basis for setting and making the charges is contained in The Building (Local Authority Charges) Regulations 1998. Regulation 9 of these Regulations exempts from payment of a charge certain types of building work, which is solely required for disabled persons.
Is there any difference in cost between a Full Plans application and a Building Notice?
No. A full plans application involves a two stage payment – one of which must be paid at the time you submit your plans (a ‘plan charge’), and another following the first inspection on site (an ‘inspection charge’). A ‘building notice charge’ will amount to the same as would be payable for a Full Plans application plus a site inspection; and is payable when you submit your building notice.
What will the Council do?
- Full Plans Procedure: If you use the Full Plans procedure, we will check your plans and consult any appropriate authorities (such as fire and water authorities). If your plans comply with the Building Regulations you will receive a notice that they have been approved. If we are not satisfied you may be asked to make amendments or provide more details. Alternatively, a conditional approval may be issued. This will either specify modifications, which must be made to the plans; or will specify further plans, which must be deposited. If your plans are rejected the reasons will be stated in the notice. To complete full plans architectural drawings are required. Should you need an architect please contact us.
- Building Notice Procedure: If you use the Building Notice procedure, as with Full Plans applications, the work will normally be inspected as it proceeds; but you will not receive any notice indicating whether your proposal has been passed or rejected. However, you will be advised where the work itself is found by the building control surveyor not to comply with the Regulations. If before commencement or while work is in progress, we require further information such as structural design calculations of plans, you must supply the details requested.
When can I start work?
Once you have given a Building Notice or submitted Full Plans, you can start work at any time. However, you must give us a Commencement Notice at least two clear days (not including the day on which you give notice and any Saturday, Sunday, Bank or public holiday) before you start.
What happens if I do work without approval?
The Council has a general duty to see that building work complies with the Regulations – except where it is formally under the control of an Approved Inspector. Where the Council is controlling the work and finds after its completion that it does not comply, then we may require you to alter or remove it. If you fail to do this we may serve a notice requiring you to do so and you will be liable for the costs.
Will I get a completion certificate upon completion of the works?
Yes. When the work is completed (excluding decorating and furnishing) you must arrange for a completion inspection by your building control officer. A completion certificate will be issued providing the work is satisfactory. It is strongly recommended that this completion certificate is obtained before final payment is made to the contractor. Solicitors may also require a copy of this certificate, which confirms that the work has been completed in accordance with the Building Regulations.
What are the Construction Health & Safety regulations?
Construction Health & Safety comes under various government legislation. The most important of these is the CDM (Construct Design Management) regulations. Croft is fully committed to the regulations and produces risk assessments for all projects where CDM regulations apply.
To comply with the regulations planning supervisors must be appointed on all projects. It is the responsibility of the Client to ensure a Planning Supervisor with adequate experience is appointed. Croft does not undertake planning supervisor roles but we do have an organization we can recommend if required.
When do CDM (Construct Design Management) Regs Apply?
They apply to construction work unless:
- the work will last 30 days or less and involve less than five people on site at any one time; or
- the work is being done for a domestic client (that is someone who lives, or will live, in the premises where the work is being done). In this case only the duties to notify HSE and those placed on designers apply. However, in some instances domestic clients may enter into an arrangement with a developer who carries on a trade, business or other activity. For example, a developer may sell domestic premises before the project is complete. The domestic client then owns the incomplete property, but the developer still arranges for the construction work to be carried out. In this case the CDM requirements apply to the developer.
What are Party Walls?
The party Wall Act provides a mechanism with which a procedure is set out that allows works to boundary lines and shared walls.
A party wall it typically a wall which both you and your neighbour reply upon. A wall that should your neighbour removed re affect the stability of your property.
What is Subsidence?
Subsidence is the downward movement of the site on which a building stands – where the movement is unconnected with the weight of the building. Essentially, the soil beneath the building’s foundations is unstable.
The key element of the definition of subsidence which distinguishes it from “settlement” is the factor of the weight of the building. Where the property sinks “into” the site upon which it is built then this is generally indicative of inadequate design / construction. Where the site moves downward, and would have so moved even if there was no building upon it, then this is generally regarded as subsidence.
Subsidence in the South East of England is typically caused by the Clay ground swelling (Heave) or sinking (subsidence). This movement is typically caused by moisture entering and leaving the soil. Trees increase the rate of water removed in the summer months as they extract water from the ground. It is for this reason that trees may cause difficulties to a building.
Closely associated with “subsidence” although very much rarer is “heave”. This is often listed as part of the same insured peril in domestic insurance policies. Heave is the opposite effect of subsidence, that is to say when the site upon which the building stands moves upwards (and often has a sideways element to it). As with subsidence, the term “heave of the site” (as generally covered by insurance) is quite distinct from heaving of parts of the building itself rather than the site below it. Such most often occurs when parts of the building expand as a result of chemical reactions within the building materials such as floor fill and concrete, usually brought about by moisture penetration.
How do Trees affect properties?
It is widely accepted that under certain conditions trees can cause problems with building’s foundations and real difficulties and concerns for the ordinary house owner. These conditions are long periods of dry weather, with little, or no rainfall in areas, where the houses and buildings are built on a clay soil that shrinks in volume as it dries out. Trees and their roots can be very efficient at removing water from these types of soil and it is this simple relationship that causes a significant number of building subsidence cases to be tree related.
However not all trees cause subsidence and it is also practically impossible to predict which ones will or will not cause problems in the future. Many tree experts suggest keeping trees that are in close proximity to buildings on clay soils well pruned so that the leaves cannot remove more water from the soil than if it was just left to grow unchecked and unmanaged. There is evidence to show that this approach does work but that it must be done on a very regular basis to ensure that the tree does not continue to cause problems.
Increasingly and as a response to climate change the planting of trees is being promoted as a mechanism for dealing with the expected increases in temperature likely to occur in the future. These temperature increases will be exacerbated by the mass of the built environment in towns and cities. Central London is already some nine degrees warmer than the surrounding countryside on very hot summer days. In the longer term much of the traditional building stock like Victorian and Edwardian terraced housing and suburban buildings constructed during the 1930’s and 1950’s are likely to be particularly affected by this urban heat island effect due to their design and materials used in their construction.
What is a Root Protection Zone RPA
A root protection zone is an area around the tree where excavations could damage the tree. With TPO’s prevent the damage of trees and so one must review the guidance of how to prevent damage to the roots occurring during excavations.
The Root Protection Area (RPA) is defined in BS 5837 .
What is a Tree Preservation Order ( TPO )?
A TPO is a statutory protection afforded to trees under the Planning ( Northern Ireland ) Order 1991. All types of tree can be protected. The Order can cover anything from a single tree to woodlands. Normally, unless a Woodland TPO is proposed, only trees over 3.5m in height are considered for a TPO. Hedges, bushes and shrubs will not be protected.
Are trees in a Conservation Area protected?
Trees in a Conservation Area are also subject to protection as if a TPO is in place. In a Conservation Area anyone proposing to carry out works to trees must apply to the Department which has 6 weeks to consider the proposal and respond. Work can not proceed until the Department has responded or the 6 week period has expired. If the Department considers that the proposed works should not be carried out it will impose a formal TPO to cover the specific trees. In exceptional circumstances, where there is imminent danger, the applicant may proceed, at risk, with works immediately but must satisfy the Department by submitting evidence in the form of a report and photographs.
What happens if I carry out works to protected trees without consent?
It is a criminal offence to cut down, lop, top, uproot or wilfully damage a protected tree in a manner likely to destroy it, without the consent of the Department and on summary conviction you could be fined up to £100, 000 ( and on conviction on indictment, to an unlimited fine ).
How could I find out about the type of ground my property is on?
As engineers we are often organising soil investigations to determine the ground that a house is on. Bore holes are sunk to confirm the ground and its composition.
Many may believe that the ground is similar and homogenous. This is far from the case there are numerous occasions where ground investigations have been vital in highlighting ground problems. For example;
- Camden along the union canal; it appears that the canal through Camden was constructed by excavating the canal and dumping the spoil along the route on either side. We discovered this while working on a small house where there was a range of fill between 2m and 4m deep. The house had been constructed on top of the fill material.
- The Amy Johnson School in Carshalton appears to be a level area. The soil investigation highlighted that the chalk below the ground have large peaks and troughs within it. Some areas the chalk was 1m below the ground levels and others 3m. This knowledge changed the ground types used.
A good place to obtain information is from the British Geographical Survey. Their website has a great little viewer that shows the general ground to be expected.