Securing planning permission is only the first part of undertaking construction works in a legal manner. The second part is to ensure compliance with the building regulations. These are set out in the “Approved Documents”, which are essential reading for anyone involved in property development.
Property investors should also be aware of them since they are a crucial part of the building process and therefore investors are recommended only to part with their cash if they are sure that a developer has been in full compliance with them.
The basics of building regulations
The purpose of planning permission is to ensure that the proposed construction will not negatively impact on other people (at least not excessively). The purpose of building regulations is to ensure that the finished structure meets the standards expected of buildings in the UK. In particular, the building regulations addresses three, key areas, namely: health and safety; resource conservation and disability.
Health and safety
While the building regulations are separate to the various pieces of legislation covering health and safety in the workplace, there is some degree of overlap. The remit of the building regulations, however, is substantially broader. For example it covers design and construction procedures, the principles of good design, the principles of good practice and quality standards, all of which can influence health and safety in general, including workplace health and safety.
The building regulations are primarily concerned with the conservation of energy and water although it should be remembered that here, as elsewhere, the building regulations should be seen as a minimum standard which must be met, rather than a target to aim for. This is particularly true for energy conservation given that the government has already introduced minimum energy standards for rental properties and it is probably safe to assume that these are more likely to be tightened than relaxed in future.
This tends to be more of an issue for commercial and industrial buildings than for residential ones. The Equality Act 2010 requires companies to ensure that people with disabilities are not unfairly disadvantaged when it comes to using their goods and services and, likewise, it is illegal to discriminate unfairly against disabled candidates when recruiting for any role. What this means for the construction industry is that they need to ensure that all new commercial and industrial buildings have suitable adaptations for disabled people. This can also be a necessity for residential buildings, particularly apartment developments, where it is now expected that there will be an alternative to stair access for those who need it, however it tends to be less of a factor.
The practicalities of the building regulations
Generally speaking, there are two steps to ensuring compliance with the building regulations. The first step is to submit your plans and the second step is to pass inspections during the construction process (although under certain circumstances, it may be permissible for some work to be self-certified). Constructors should expect at least one on-site visit during the construction process as inspectors will wish to be assured that developers actually are sticking to the agreed plans.
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