After gaining Planning Approval, the next mandatory approval we required for our project was a Building Regulations Application.
Whilst Planning relates primarily to the exterior of the building, materials used and the impact on neighbours etc. the Building Regulations are a technical standard required for structural work, drainage, electrics, heating and insulation etc.
The other key difference between the two approvals, is that planning approval is only granted by the local authority, whereas building regulations approval can also be granted by private approved inspectors, in addition to the Council.
Suggested ways of building in accordance with The Building Regulations are illustrated in a set of Approved Documents, and compliance with them can generally be achieved in one of two ways. A Building Notice can be submitted without detailed drawings for simpler projects, however this puts the onus on the Contractor to comply with the Building Regulations, as the Building Inspector will visit the site at key stages. There is a risk that work done is not acceptable to the Inspector, and the Contractor may have to make changes which could lead to additional costs or delays.
Alternatively, a Full Plans Application can be submitted in advance of work commencing, to confirm that proposals are acceptable or agree changes that may be required “on paper”. Whilst there is a cost in preparing these drawings and specification in advance, it reduces the likelihood of abortive work on site along with the associated costs. The other advantage of compiling the detailed information, is that this can form the basis of a tender package which can be issued to Contractors for the purposes of gaining accurate fixed prices.
We gained quotations from both the local authority and private approved inspectors, and after speaking with several local Contractors decided to use one of the private inspectors with whom many of them had a good working relationship.
Using our planning application plan drawings as a starting point, we increased the scale so we could show the proposed construction detail including insulation, timber partitions, new door openings, electrical and drainage layouts. We also prepared large scale section drawings, so we could show new floor and roof construction. Although the drawings are noted with key information, much of the work is best described in a separate specification. We therefore produce a 20-page word document, that detailed the project from drains to foundations, and floors to roof.
Our project is a mixture of extension, conversion, and refurbishment, so different Building Regulations apply to each scenario. For example, a wall in the extension is treated as “new constructed” so has to be insulated to a certain standard, whereas an existing wall that is being upgraded is considered more difficult to insulate so a lesser standard is usually accepted.
That said we were keen to fit as much insulation as practical to conserve energy, so surpassed the minimum requirement in several areas. Compared to the cost of heating a house, insulation is relatively inexpensive and soon pays for itself.
As we were proposing structural alterations, Building Control required calculations from a structural engineer, to confirm steel beam sizes etc. where we were removing walls or creating new door/window openings. Because we did not have the option of connecting to existing sewers, we also have to provide details of our package treatment plant, and calculations to show our surface water soakaways were suitably sized for the amount of rainwater collected from the roofs and our soil type.
After submitting our full plans application, the Inspector returned a few comments and requested some further details. After clarifying some insulation details and adding a fire escape rooflight, our application was duly approved.
At the time of writing this post, the Building Inspector has visited to see new drains before they were backfilled, utility / wet rooms floor insulation before covered with screed, and roof timbers before insulation started.
Next visit will be when main roof insulation is completed (before being boarded), and dining room floor insulation, with dpm below and steel reinforcement placed ready to be concreted.