Building regulations in the United Kingdom

Building regulations are statutory instruments that seek to ensure that the policies set out in the relevant legislation are carried out. Building regulations approval is required for most building work in the UK. Building regulations that apply across England and Wales are set out in the Building Act 1984 while those that apply across Scotland are set out in the Building (Scotland) Act 2003. The Act in England and Wales permits detailed regulations to be made by the Secretary of State. The regulations made under the Act have been periodically updated, rewritten or consolidated, with the latest and current version being the Building Regulations 2010. The UK Government is responsible for the relevant legislation and administration in England, the Welsh Government is the responsible body in Wales, the Scottish Government is responsible for the issue in Scotland, and the Northern Ireland Executive has responsibility within its jurisdiction.

The detailed requirements of Building regulations in England and Wales are scheduled within 14 separate headings, each designated by a letter ("Part A" to "Part R"), and covering aspects such as "structure", "fire safety", "access", "electrical", "protection from falling", "drainage", and so on. For each Part, detailed specifications are available free online ("approved documents") describing the matters to be taken into account. The approved documents are not legally binding; rather, they present the expectation of the Secretary of State concerning the standards required for compliance with the Building Regulations, and the standard methods used to achieve these.

Newer versions of Building Regulations are generally not retrospective, they are applied to each new change or modification to a building (or new part of a building) but do not require renovation of existing elements. There are general requirements for any change or improvement, that the building must not be left any less satisfactory in compliance than before the works, and areas worked on must not be left in unsafe condition by reference to current standards. The Regulations may also specify in some cases, that when enough work is done in an area (such as partial new insulation) the remainder of that area must be brought to an appropriate standard, however the standard required for an existing building may be less stringent than that required for a completely new building.

The Regulations also specify, that some types of work must be undertaken by an appropriate qualified professional (such as works on gas or certain electrical matters), or must be notified to the relevant local authority's Building regulations approval for certification or approval. Building regulations are distinct from planning permission; they control how buildings are to be designed or modified while planning permission is concerned with appropriate development, the nature of land usage, and the appearance of neighbourhoods. Therefore, both must be considered when building works are to be undertaken.

History and timeline of changes

From 1 January 2005 the term building work includes work on household electrics.

The Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Act 2006 made provision for microgeneration to be brought within the Building Regulations, and increased to two years the time limit for prosecuting contraventions of the regulations relating to energy use, energy conservation or carbon emissions. It also requires the Secretary of State to report on compliance with these aspects of the Building Regulations and steps proposed to increase compliance.

From 6 April 2006, the Building Regulations are extended by amendments to incorporate some of the Eurocodes requiring energy in existing and new buildings to be measured, etc. The core term building work was once again amended and extended in scope to include renovation of thermal elements, and energy used by space cooling systems as well as energy used by space heating systems. Both are now subject to efficiency limits, and energy use controls are required. New additional competent persons schemes were proposed and authorised, in respect of energy systems and energy efficient design.
New Approved Documents for Part F and Part L were issued along with specified 'second tier' guidance documents.

A total rewrite of Approved Document for Part P (Electrical Safety) was also issued in 2006.
A total rewrite of the Building Regulations was issued in 2010. However, this has since been amended several times again, in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 & 2016.
A total rewrite of Approved Document for Part K (Protection against Falling, & Glazing Safety, etc.) was also issued in 2012/2013. This new Part K now incorporates all that once was within Part N (Glazing Safety).

2015 - Part Q ("security") comes into force.

Approved documents and compliance

There are currently 14 parts (sections) to the building regulations and each is accompanied by an Approved Document. The Approved Documents usually take the form of firstly stating the legislation and then providing a number of means which are deemed to satisfy the Regulations.

The Building Regulations do not aim to stifle innovation. Compliance with the legislation is what is ultimately required and there may be many ways of complying, other than just using the ways set out in the 'deemed to satisfy' provisions within each of the Approved Documents. In reality, an innovative solution may be hard to validate and for most building work, the tendency is to take the regulations literally. (Is there a reference for this?)
For example, bathroom manufacturers produce a 'Doc M Pack' for disabled toilets, which reproduces exactly the diagram in Part M,[1] and most public disabled toilets are now designed around this layout.

Many innovative manufactured products have Agrément certificates issued by the British Board of Agrément (a construction products approval body),[2] certifying compliance with the Building Regulations. However, the BBA and Other Bodies (BSI, TRADA, DIN, etc.) may be able to test and certify to "CE" harmonised EU Standards. "CE" marking of all construction materials and products is now a legal requirement, since 1 July 2013.

Most of the detailed information on the building regulations is now available on where general public users can now access simplified building regulations guidance, and professional users have a better organised version of what was on the former DCLG building regulations website, including the full versions of the Approved Documents and associated guidance, previously held on the DCLG website (now a constituent part of the website).

Part A. Structure

This Part requires buildings to be designed, constructed and altered so as to be structurally safe and robust, and also so as not to impair the structural stability of other buildings.

It stipulates design standards that should be adopted for use on all buildings and additionally gives simple design rules for most masonry and timber elements for traditional domestic buildings.

The weight of the building from the walls, furniture and people in the building will be transmitted to the ground, so as not to cause instability to the building or other buildings.

Requires buildings to be built in a way ensuring no collapse will occur disproportionate to its cause.

Ground movement such as freezing of subsoil will not impair the stability of the building.

Part B. Fire safety

The Regulations consider five aspects of fire safety in the construction of buildings:

Requires safe means of escape from the building.

Requires the stability of a building to be maintained in a fire, both internally and externally.

Internally - The wall lining i.e. plaster, plasterboard or wooden boards on the walls and ceiling will resist the spread of flames and give off reasonable levels of heat, if on fire.

Internal stability will be maintained during fire and fire spread will be prohibited.

Fire and smoke will be prohibited from spreading to concealed spaces in a buildings structure.

Externally - The external walls and roof will resist spread of fire to walls and roofs of other buildings.

The building will be easily accessible for fire fighters and their equipment.

Building Regulation (16B) 38

This requires the designer and/or constructor to give the fire safety information (For a description of the information required - See Appendix G of AD B) to the Responsible Person, upon completion. So that a 'Fire Risk Assessment' can be carried out by a 'competent person'.

Other Fire Laws (England & Wales and Scotland)

Once a building is occupied the Fire Safety Order 2005 requires a Fire Risk Assessment to be carried out, to take into account how the users are actually using the building (and any fire risks that brings to the building) and the "Responsible Person" to provide and maintain "adequate and sufficient" General Fire Precautions
The Fire Safety Order 2005 is criminal law, and breaches of this law can result in the "responsible person" being jailed, for up to two years and/or £10,000 for each offence. See Regulatory Reform (fire Safety) Order 2005.
Enforcement is by the local Fire Authority. Note: Corporate offences may have unlimited fines. It may be necessary to exceed the minimal requirements of the Building Regulations, in order to meet the Fire Risk Assessment, that is required by the Fire Safety order 2005.

Part C. Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture

Nothing should be growing on the ground covered by the building.

Precautions must be taken to stop gases and dangerous substances from previous land use from entering the building and endangering the health and safety of occupants.

Subsoil drainage will be in place, if needed, to stop the passage of ground moisture to the interior of the building and to prevent damage to the fabric of the building.

The walls, floors and roof of the building shall prevent moisture passing to the inside of the building.

The building must have provision to prevent condensation occurring in the roof structure.

Part D. Toxic substances

Insulating materials inserted into cavity walls can give off fumes. Prevention must be taken to stop these fumes reaching occupants of the building. Now largely obsolete.

See Part C for controls on toxic hazards from ground contaminants and/or brownfield development.

Part E. Resistance to the passage of sound

Approved Document E 2003 plus amendments 2004 [3] should be read in conjunction with supplemental document 'Robust Details Part E - Resistance to the passage of sound' - available from

Separating floors and walls between domestic dwellings are required to meet a minimum sound insulation performance standard. This applies to both new 'purpose built' and converted 'material change of use' properties.

Purpose Built - The sound insulation value for each individual airborne test should be equal to or greater than 45 dB DnTw+Ctr. Each individual impact test should be equal to or less than 62 dB LnTw. Material Change of Use - The sound insulation value for each individual airborne test should be equal to or greater than 43 dB DnTw+Ctr. Each individual impact test should be equal to or less than 64 dB LnTw.

New internal walls and floors within dwelling-houses, flats and rooms for residential purposes, whether purpose built or formed by material change of use should achieve a minimum performance of Rw 40 dB when tested in a laboratory. Test data is to be taken from a UKAS accredited laboratory.

Pre Completion Sound Tests have been required since July 2003 to ensure compliance with Approved Document E, unless the Robust Details approach is adopted, see Part L below. Testing is to be undertaken by a UKAS registered test organisation or European Equivalent (e.g. ANC). A list of preferred UKAS accredited companies can be found at UKAS Organisation Search. A list of preferred ANC accredited companies can be found at

Care should be taken to ensure site conditions are appropriate before testing commences to ensure tests can be completed and that the best results are achieved.

Part F. Ventilation

Standards for ventilation and air quality requirements for all buildings are included in this part of the building regulations

Due to the increasing complexity of the Regulations, ventilation strategies and system design must be considered at the earliest stages of building design. The Building Regulations consider three ventilation types:

"Whole Building" (formerly referred to as "background") ventilation to provide fresh air to dilute and disperse low levels of water vapour and other pollutants, usually by the provision of background ventilators or mechanical supply ventilation.

"Local extract" (formerly referred to as "extract") ventilation in rooms where most water vapour or concentrated pollutants are released, usually by mechanical means such as extract fans.

"Purge" (formerly referred to as "rapid") ventilation for the rapid dilution and removal of high concentrations of pollutants from occasional activities, usually by opening windows. The requirements for Purge ventilation are set out in Appendix B of Part F1.

The performance rates for each of the "System" approaches set out in Part F are the minimum requirements needed to ensure that adequate air quality is provided for people indoors. The occupant’s health could be at risk if these ventilation rates are compromised.

The performance rates do not take account of summer overheating. Most Systems may be manually or automatically controlled (with manual override). For each System to be effective, air must be able to flow through the dwelling. The Regulations make provision for this via internal door undercuts to maintain a minimum gap of 10mm above the finished floor surface. This provides a 7600mm² permanent opening when a door is closed.

There are alternative methods to achieve compliance with Part F. The following explanations are simplified versions of the most common methods of interpreting the "Systems" approach set out in the provisions section of the Regulation. Background ventilators are now measured in equivalent area (mm² EA) which is a better measure of performance but does not directly relate to the physical size of the opening through the ventilator.

System 1 - Intermittent extract fans and background ventilators System 2 - Passive stack ventilation and background ventilators System 3 - Continuous mechanical extract and background ventilators System 4 - Continuous mechanical supply and extract with heat recovery

Part G. Sanitation & Hygiene & Water Efficiency

Adequate sanitation facilities i.e. toilet.

A house must have either a bath or shower with ability to heat hot water.

Unvented hot water storage systems - restrictions apply to who can install the system.

Part H. Drainage and waste disposal

An adequate system to carry water used for cooking, washing, toilet, bath or shower to a sewer, cesspool or settlement tank must be in place.

A cesspool or settlement tank must be impermeable to liquids and have adequate ventilation. It must also have means of access for emptying, not harm the health of any person and not contaminate water or water supply.

An adequate system to carry rainwater away from the roof of a building e.g. guttering carrying water to a sewer.

A place to put a wheelie bin or dustbin. The place must not harm anyone's health.

Part J. Combustion appliances and fuel storage systems

Must have an adequate air supply for combustion and for efficient working of a fluepipe or chimney.

Appliances shall discharge the products of combustion to the outside.

The appliance, fireplace and chimney shall reduce the risk of the building catching fire.

See Part B for general fire safety.

Part K. Protection from falling, collision and impact

Part K sets minimum standards for the safety of stairways, ramps and ladders, together with requirements for balustrading, windows, and vehicle barriers to prevent falling from floor edges, etc. Glass and Glazing Safety is also covered.

Also included are requirements for guarding where there is a risk of falling, pedestrian and vehicle barriers, and requirements to prevent injury from (opening) doors and windows.

Part L. Conservation of fuel and power

Approved documents L1 is specific to dwellings and L2 relates to all buildings other than dwellings.

As of 6 April 2006 (2010) (2014) split into four sections:

Part L controls the insulation values of building elements, the allowable area of windows, doors and other openings, air permeability of the structure, the heating efficiency of boilers and the insulation and controls for heating appliances and systems together with hot water storage and lighting efficiency. It also sets out the requirements for SAP (Standard Assessment Procedure) calculations and Carbon Emission Targets for dwellings.

Regulation 16 requires the advertising of the SAP rating in all new dwellings. Approved Document L1 is supported by a set of 'robust' construction details, now known as "Accredited Construction Details".[4] which focus on way of limiting air leakage and thermal bridging in construction. By using these tried and tested details, expensive on-site testing can be avoided.

In addition to insulation requirements and limitation of openings of the building fabric, this part considers solar heating and heat gains to structures, it controls heating, mechanical ventilation and air conditioning systems, lighting efficiency, space heating controls, air permeability, solar emission, the certification, testing and commissioning of heating and ventilation systems, and requirements for energy meters.

Air permeability is measured by air tightness testing for new dwellings (based on a sampling regime), all new buildings other than dwellings and large extensions to buildings other than dwellings.

These four Approved Documents must be read in conjunction with the supplemental official and industry documents (the 'second tier' guidance documents).

Transitional Arrangements 2010 Source:(Energy Rating There are a few areas that we would like to bring to your attention with regard to transitional arrangements.

Dwellings can be built according to the previous Building Regulations (2006) if:

• Work has already started on site before 1 October 2010 • Work done under a Competent Persons Scheme had a contract entered into before 1 October 2010 and work started before 6 April 2011 • A Building Notice, Full Plans Application or Initial Notice is submitted before 1 October 2010 and work on site starts before 1 October 2011

As long as a housing development application/notice has been made to Building Control bodies before 1 October 2010, and construction on some dwellings subsequently starts before 1 October 2011, then all dwellings in that scheme built after 1 October 2011 can still be built to the previous regulations. All EPCs will be based on SAP 2009 calculations from 1 April 2011. It is highly unlikely that many dwellings built to Part L 2010 will be completed before 1 April 2011. However, in the event that any are, the EPC will need to be produced using SAP 2005. Please note that all plots require a Building Control approval submission, regardless of how many identical properties are to be built in the same development.

Part L New Requirements Lighting, ventilation, solar heat gain and possible overheating will all impact on the potential to hit the 25% reduction target but until now have not really troubled us. As U-values falls (see table) and airtightness levels increases, heat loss through 'thermal bridges' becomes more significant. The new regulations give these issues more emphasis. They also require designs to avoid solar gains, leading to excessive summer temperatures. The need now exists to consider these issues at the design stage.

See also:

Part M. Access to and use of Buildings

Part M requires the inclusive provision of ease of access to and circulation within all buildings, together with requirements for facilities for disabled people.

Buildings should have reasonable provision:

Note: the DDA 5 - 2006 impose legally binding duties on service providers, schools and public bodies, and these are separate from, and additional to, the Building Regulations 2000 minimum access and facilities requirements.

However, the Part M Approved Document is NOT written as a means of ensuring compliance with these legal duties. It is written to ensure that the design of a building does not create physical barriers to a building's inclusive use, over its lifetime.

Part M of the Building Regulations relates to the 'Access to and Use of Buildings' and draws largely on the legislation covered by the 'Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and the Disability Discrimination (Employment) Regulations 1996.

This document is particularly relevant to new build where such properties must comply. If in any doubt as to whether your alterations are affected by this document, the local Building Control department will be able to assist further.[5]

Part N. Glazing - safety in relation to impact, opening and cleaning

(Note: These Measures were moved into a new Part K in 2013) Glazing that people come into contact with whilst in a building, should, if broken, break in a way unlikely to cause injury, resist impact without breaking or be shielded or protected from impact.

Buildings, other than dwellings that have transparent glazing which people come into contact with while moving around a building, must have features to make it apparent. Windows that can be opened must be operated safely and provision made for safe accessible cleaning. Part N also includes safety requirements relating to the use, operation, and cleaning of windows.

Part N was repealed in 2013, its content being moved into Part K.

Part P. Electrical safety - Dwellings

New rules for electrical safety in the home, the garden and its outbuildings. This part only applies to dwellings (in some cases, buildings that would be exempt but which take their electrical supply from a dwelling). Several government approved competent persons schemes support Part P.

Reasonable provision shall be made in the design, installation, inspection and testing of electrical installations in order to protect persons from fire or injury.

Sufficient information shall be provided so that persons wishing to operate, maintain or alter an electrical installation can do so with reasonable safety.

Installers who are members of a certified "Competent Persons Scheme" may carry out electrical work without the need to submit a formal building regulations application.

Part Q. Security

In 2015 a new requirement, Part Q, came into force.[6]

Exempt buildings

Exempt buildings include:

The Building Regulations 2000 have been amended five times since the original statutory instrument was published. A new consolidated edition was published in 2010 = Building Regulations 2010. These have also now been amended 5 times since 2010. It is good practice to have exemption confirmed by the relevant local authority prior to starting construction works or alterations. The latest Statutory Instrument gives the full conditions of exemptions (and newly controlled buildings, see below).

NOTE: "Crown Buildings" and "National Government Buildings" are no longer totally exempt, from control by the Building Regulations. All "Crown Buildings" and "National Government Buildings" must comply with the energy efficiency measures set out in Part L. This is due to the EU laws requiring higher energy efficiency in all buildings (new and existing) under European "climate change" measures. Ref:(EPBD & EPBD 2) The EU laws require "public buildings" to be "good energy practice" examples.

New Energy Regulations have been made to fully implement these EU laws, where they fall outside the scope of the Building Act 1984 and/or The Building Regulations, made under that Act.

See also


External links

Most of the detailed information on the building regulations is now available on where General public users can now access simplified building regulations guidance and professional users have a better organised version of what was on the DCLG building legislation and building regulations web pages*, including the Approved Documents and associated guidance, previously held on the DCLG website.

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