The “Building Regulations” is a catch-all term for various regulations and items of legislation all of which has the aim of making sure that the construction industry works to appropriate quality standards and thus to ensure that all buildings in the UK are as safe, sustainable and accessible as they can possibly be.
As the name suggests, the Building Regulations are regulations which relate to the actual building work and as such, they cover the following subject areas:
Definitions – this area sets out what is (and is not) considered to be building work
Design and construction – this area sets out the procedures which must be followed
Good design – this area promotes certain aspects of building design and engineering
Quality standards – this area covers both the use of materials and the commissioning of services
Conservation – this area covers both water and energy sustainability, the latter now being hugely important in the light of the UK’s zero-emissions target.
Good practice – this area is essentially about workplace management
Planning Permission relates to the relationship between the building and its environment. It can cover everything from ensuring that the exterior of a building is consistent with local norms to ensuring that the building can be developed without unreasonable inconvenience to other people, e.g. through loss of access to light or amenities or excessive strain on local services.
While the core aims of the Building Regulations are the same throughout the UK, each of the different areas may have their own version of them. This article will henceforth refer to the building regulations as they apply in England and Wales.
The general principles are likely to be the same for Scotland and NI, but the specific details may vary. On a similar note, this article refers to the building regulations as they stand at this point in time, i.e. 2019, regulations and laws can and do change, so it’s always important to check what they are at the actual point in time when a property developer is planning their development.
In principle, failure to follow any aspect of the Building Regulations can lead to an entire building having to be taken down. In practice, this is very unusual, although it does certainly happen.
It is more likely that an enforcement agency will require the developer to rectify the situation in some way, for example by altering or removing the non-compliant part of a building.
Even this, however, can be a major inconvenience, since making any kind of meaningful changes to a building is usually a significant undertaking.
For this reason, experienced property developers tend to aim to work closely with all relevant authorities right from the initiation of the development project so that mistakes are avoided at all possible and so that any mistakes which are made are caught as early as reasonably possible, when they are at their easiest (and least expensive) to rectify.
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