General Introduction

1.1 This booklet provides an introduction to the Building Regulations in England and Wales and is intended for anyone proposing to carry out building projects. It is not a statement of the law but is intended to help you to understand the system.

1.2 To help you understand more about the subjects referred to in the booklet, sources of assistance and information – including documents, publications and addresses of organisations – are listed in Annex B at the back.

1.3 The booklet deals only with the Building Regulations. The work which your project involves may be subject to other statutory requirements such as planning permission, fire precautions, water regulations, licensing/registration and the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 (see Annex B: ‘Sources of information’).

1.4 You should particularly bear in mind that complying with the Building Regulations is a separate matter from obtaining planning permission for your work. Similarly, receiving any planning permission which your work may require is not the same as taking action to ensure that it complies with the Building Regulations. A free guide is available for householders which explains the planning system. In addition, there is extensive information available about the planning system in general and how to go about obtaining planning permission on the internet site ‘Planning Portal’ (see Annex B: ‘Sources of information’).

What the building regulations do

2.1 The Building Regulations are made under powers provided in the Building Act 1984, and apply in England and Wales. The current edition of the regulations is ‘The Building Regulations 2000’ (as amended) and the majority of building projects are required to comply with them. They exist to ensure the health and safety of people in and around all types of buildings (i.e. domestic, commercial and industrial). They also provide for energy conservation, and access to and use of buildings. 2.2 The Building Regulations contain various sections dealing with definitions, procedures, and what is expected in terms of the technical performance of building work. For example, they:

  • define what types of building, plumbing, and heating projects amount to ‘Building Work’ and make these subject to control under the Building Regulations (see paragraphs 3.1-3.2);
  • l specify what types of buildings are exempt from control under the Building Regulations (Annex A gives examples of the more common types of building which are exempt);
  • l set out the notification procedures to follow when starting, carrying out, and completing building work; and
  • l set out the ‘requirements’ with which the individual aspects of building design and construction must comply in the interests of the health and safety of building users, of energy conservation, and of access to and use of buildings (see paragraphs 2.5 and 2.6).



2.3 Anyone wanting to carry out building work which is subject to the Building Regulations is required by law to make sure it complies with the regulations and (with some exceptions – see paragraph 4.2(i)) to use one of the two types of Building Control Service available, i.e:

  • l the Building Control Service provided by your local authority (see paragraphs 5.5-5.22); or
  • l the Building Control Service provided by approved inspectors (see paragraphs 5.23-5.29).

You will be charged for either service. The Building Control Service you select may offer advice before your work is started (see paragraphs 2.10 and 2.11). 2.4 The primary responsibility for achieving compliance with the regulations rests with the person carrying out the building work. So if you are carrying out the work personally the responsibility will be yours. If you are employing a builder the responsibility will usually be that firm’s – but you should confirm this position at the very beginning. You should also bear in mind that if you are the owner of the building, it is ultimately you who may be served with an enforcement notice if the work does not comply with the regulations (see paragraph 6.3). So it is important that you choose your builder carefully (see paragraph 2.11).



2.5 The final bullet point in paragraph 2.2 above refers to the ‘requirements’ with which building work must comply. These are contained in a schedule (Schedule 1) to the Building Regulations and are grouped under fourteen ‘parts’. The ‘parts’ deal with individual aspects of building design and construction ranging from structural matters, fire safety, and energy conservation – to hygiene, sound insulation, and access to and use of buildings. All the ‘parts’ are listed in the table opposite. 2.6 The ‘requirements’ within each ‘part’ set out the broad objectives or functions which the individual aspects of the building design and construction must set out to achieve. They are therefore often referred to as ‘functional requirements’ and are expressed in terms of what is ‘reasonable’, ‘adequate’, or ‘appropriate’. Not all the functional requirements may apply to your building work, but all those which do apply must be complied with as part of the overall process of complying with the Building Regulations. THE APPROVED DOCUMENTS 2.7 Practical guidance on ways to comply with the functional requirements in the Building Regulations is contained in a series of Approved Documents which are to be read alongside each of the fourteen ’parts’ in Schedule 1 to the Building Regulations.
Each document contains:

  • l general guidance on the performance expected of materials and building work in order to comply with each of the requirements of the Building Regulations; and
  • l practical examples and solutions on how to achieve compliance for some of the more common building situations

The Approved Documents are all listed in Annex B: ‘Sources of information’.


The fourteen ‘parts’ of Schedule 1 to the Building Regulations

A: Structure
B: Fire safety
C: Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture
D: Toxic substances
E: Resistance to the passage of sound
F: Ventilation
G: Hygiene
H: Drainage and waste disposal
J: Combustion appliances and fuel storage systems
K: Protection from falling, collision and impact
L: Conservation of fuel and power
M: Access to and use of buildings
N: Glazing – safety in relation to impact, opening and cleaning
P: Electrical safety


2.8 The guidance in the documents does not amount to a set of statutory requirements and does not have to be followed if you wish to design and construct your building work in some other way, providing you can show that it still complies with all the relevant requirements which apply. The guidance will be taken into account when your Building Control Service is considering whether your plans of proposed work, or work in progress, comply with particular requirements. In addition, there is a legal presumption that if you have followed the guidance, then this is evidence that your work has complied with the Building Regulations. However, it is the job of the Building Control Service to consider whether your plans and work comply with the requirements in Schedule 1 to the Building Regulations – not whether they necessarily follow the specific guidance or a specific example in an Approved Document.

2.9 Some building work will involve work to buildings which are either listed nationally or locally in some way for their historic or architectural interest, and/or are buildings located in sensitive urban or rural environments such as Conservation Areas or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Approved Documents for Parts ‘B’, ‘E’ and ‘L’ acknowledge that in these circumstances it is reasonable to meet these requirements with greater sensitivity and more flexibility. In addition, English Heritage have produced an Interim Guidance Note on how to balance the needs for energy conservation with those of building conservation (see Annex B: ‘Sources of information’).


2.10 Unless you have a reasonable working knowledge of building construction it would be advisable before any work is started to obtain appropriate professional advice which is relevant to the building work you want to carry out (e.g. from an architect, a structural engineer, a building surveyor, a heating engineer or replacement window specialist) and to choose a registered builder, or a registered installer, to carry out the work.

2.11 The Office of Fair Trading publish two leaflets which may help you to find builders, and other tradesmen, who have the skills and resources to do the job properly. These are entitled “Need a plumber or builder…? A step-by-step guide to getting work done on your home”, and “Need a plumber or builder…? Organisations which can help you get work done on your home”. Details on where to obtain the leaflets are noted under ‘Free Literature’ in Annex B: ‘Sources of information’. Information on each of the registered installers’ schemes can be obtained from the approving body, also listed in Annex B. Alternatively, your local authority Building Control Service may be able to offer some advice.