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  • Writer's pictureLaurence Becker

The Importance of Building Regulations: Ensuring Safety and Compliance


Architect standing over plans

 Building Regulations are the equivalent of 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 are 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 about this topic.


Building Control Can be Flexible


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


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 guidance for meeting these regulations. This allows for a degree of flexibility.


It is important to caveat that any deviations from the approved guidance MUST be approved formally in writing.   


Bed under window

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. We have worked with many Building Control Officers many of whom are problem solvers who are happy to suggest and investigate alternatives with them. In this way, we can produce alternative designs that can be costed before construction.


Open plan living room and kitchen

Be Aware of the 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 an open-plan living space, 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 discuss the design with Building Control as early as possible. Working collaboratively with them will highlight any issues and give us 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.


view of open plan family room through double doors

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. Architects have a duty to follow building regulations, and 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 be 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 year down the road when you have lost touch with the architect, builder etc., will be timely and will 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, you can then rest assured your project will be properly constructed and that you have created a safe and wonderful place for you and your family to live in.


leather chair by large doors

 

For more information on how we can help with your renovation and obtaining building regulations, fill in our contact us form, and we’ll be in touch soon.

 

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