What is Building Control?

As in any industry, we all expect the best quality services. However, for construction services, the safety requirements are more than vital; they are demanded by law.
A ‘building control body’, commonly Building Control, is an organ that verifies that building work complies with applicable legislation and regulatory requirements to ensure the safety and well-being of people. This is created by The Building Regulations supported by Approved Documents, which guide how to meet the building regulations. You can understand them as a set of minimum standards for buildings’ designs, their construction, and alterations to their existing structures. These ‘technical requirements’ specify almost every detail of the project, beginning from adequate materials through buildings structure, fire and electrical safety, ventilation, drainage, and soundproofing, all the way up to facilities for the disabled visitors or occupants.
Chiefly, Building Control’s role is to check if every single project, from its design to its completion, is carried out following the Building Regulations and associated legislation. It is essential to know when the approval is required as the Building Regulations cover a wide range of works. On another note, building regulations approval is not the same what planning permission. For certain developments, you may need planning permission issued by your local planning authority.

Type of Building Control – to whom you can apply

There are two types of Building Control: local authority BCs (LABC) and private BCs, i.e. approved surveyors registered with the Construction Industry Council (CIC). The choice is yours. If you need building regulations approval, you can apply to your local department or approved private inspector. Naturally, there are some differences as always when it comes to the public and private sector. Some people trust only LABC, and other people prefer private inspectors. While you chose to engine private BC, you will jointly submit an ‘Initial Notice’ to notify your local authority about intended works and the chosen professional. They will then have five working days to reject the notice and raise any concerns on further proceeding. You may commence work once accepted. At this point, the responsibility for the project in respect to drawings checking and site inspections is officially assigned to your chosen private BC.

When you require Building Control and exemptions

Most building work requires building regulations approval. Naturally, there are exceptions to this rule. To name a few most common examples, this will be:

Approval required:

  • new building and house extension
  • loft conversion/ garage conversion into a habitable room
  • basement construction/extension
  • installing solar panels
  • balconies and roof terraces
  • structural alterations to existing structure (such as removing chimney breast or load-bearing wall)
  • some plumbing and electrical works

Exceptions:

  • minor repair, replacements, and maintenance work (for example, painting, flooring repair, like-for-like replacements of sanitaryware or kitchen appliances)
  • work on garden walls, fences, and gates
  • most of greenhouses and agricultural buildings
  • some small detached single story buildings such as a garden shed or summerhouse (max. 30m2 with no sleeping accommodation and subject to used materials/location)
  • small outbuilding (max 15m2) with no sleeping accommodation, for example, garden shed
  • glazed conservatory or porch (added at ground level, less than 30m2, with a door between the existing dwelling and the new building)
  • garages (less than 30m2 floor area and at least one metre from any boundary unless constructed of non-combustible materials)
  • carport (open on at least two sides)

Type of application

First things first – you must decide on the application that works best for you. Basically, there are two types: building notice and full plans. There is also a process called regularisation, but it works retroactively, and therefore can be only applied to works already carried out without building regulations consent.

The first option, Building Notice, is quicker, and it aims to speed up smaller, less complicated domestic projects. The work can commence without need of providing full plan and specification package. There is no formal pr-approval that the project will meet the statutory requirements. Work may begin 48 hours after submitting your Building Notice. Once work has commenced, compliance with regulations is assessed through on-site inspections. Although it is a less complicated type of application, it requires confidence on your end that work things go in line with the applicable regulation. Otherwise, there is a danger that something has gone wrong, and you will have to make adequate corrections.

The full plan application is your second option. As part of the application, you will need to provide detailed drawings of the intended work for verification with applicable regulations. This process is, naturally, more time-consuming choice, but may be necessary for more complicated building work. Under this procedure, you have a chance to make the required modifications to your project prior to work commencement, which may save you the risk of errors and omissions in construction and therefore delays. Nevertheless, the Building Notice is the most popular option for common house developments.

Inspections & Certificate

As the project progresses, there are certain work stages in which to arrange an inspection. There are a few stages of statutory inspections during the course of construction:

  • commencement – general meeting between surveyor and client and/or building team to go through the project
  • foundation excavation – inspection prior to pouring concrete to confirm the sufficiency of the bearing capacity
  • oversite – ‘oversite’ refers to the underneath area of the ground floor, i.e. layers of hard-core, damp-proof membrane (DPM), and adequate insulation
  • damp-proof courses (DPC) and membranes – to confirm that floor/walls damp proofing is suitable to prevent water from infiltrating a property
  • Drainage – check the layout of drains (their fall and line, access points, materials)
  • Pre-plasterboard – inspection prior to installing plasterboard to check ‘hidden elements’ such as joist frame structure or structural steelwork
  • Drain Test – you should carry out a water test to check the performance
  • Prior to Occupation – only if you intend to occupy the building prior to full work completion
  • Completion – once the works are completed (finishing touches maybe be in progress) to approve the overall of carried out works. If everything is found to be satisfactory, a certificate will be issued.

As might be expected, the inspection regime depends on various factors such as scale and complexity of work, for example. Their frequency and scope are also determined by the speed of build and individual need of the project. Upon completion of work and subsequent inspection, your BC will issue a completion (final) certificate. It is official evidence that the building work has been formally approved as complying with the building regulation. If no approval exists, when it should, you may be asked to make the required alterations or remove the work.

Brief Conclusion

As you can see, Building Control has an essential role in overseeing the construction projects for the safety of people in and around buildings. Majority of us do not have sufficient knowledge and qualifications to control building prosses themselves. The risk and consequence of errors are too high to leave building process uncontrolled.

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