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Building Regs changes – what you need to know

On 1st October 2015 further revisions to the Building Regulations for England came into force.

Following the Housing Standards Review, as expected, the Code for Sustainable Homes is effectively abolished, and a number of requirements for sustainability and accessibility are being incorporated into Building Regulations. Planning authorities will no longer be able to impose additional technical standards or performance requirements for new dwellings (although they will still be able to impose energy performance standards that exceed Part L until late 2016).

Approved Document Q (Security)

A new Part Q – Security – requires new dwellings to resist unauthorised access by opportunistic or casual burglars. Accessible doors and window must be physically robust and fitted with secure hardware. Approved Document Q lists relevant security standards.

Optional Requirements - Part G2 and Part M4 - Dwellings

With effect from 1 October 2015 the Building Regulations in England are amended with the introduction of 'optional requirements' in respect of Part G2 (Water Efficiency) and Part M4 (Access to and use of dwellings). These optional requirements impose a higher level of provision than the Building Regulations default requirements, but will only apply where they are specified as a condition of planning.

A planning condition may specify a proportion or all of the dwellings on a site must comply with an optional requirement. Optional requirements, so specified, are enforceable by the building control body.

The duty to tell the building control body that an optional requirement has been imposed falls on the person carrying out the work, this may be the developer, builder or applicant.

Part G2 (Water efficiency)

The default requirement for Part G2 (Water efficiency) remains at 125 litres per person per day. A more stringent optional requirement (requirement 36(2)(b)) has been introduced which is set at 110 litres per person per day and applies where specified as a condition of planning.

Guidance on how to comply with both the default and the optional requirement can be found in the new Approved Document G 2015 edition (Sanitation, hot water safety and water efficiency). The guidance now includes for a 'water fittings' approach in addition to the existing 'water calculator' approach.

  • There is now an optional requirement for a lower level of wholesome water consumption of 110 L/person/day, which may be imposed instead of the default of 125 L/person/day.

  • Compliance with G2 may now be demonstrated using a fittings approach: provided all water fittings meet specified consumption rates there is no need to use the water consumption calculator. A full calculation will still be required if one or more water fittings exceed the specified consumption rate.

  • The water usage calculator has been revised and is now included as Appendix A of Approved Document G.

Part M4 (Access to and use of dwellings)

Part M has been revised to introduce three categories of provision for accessibility in dwellings:

  • Category 1 – Visitable dwellings: enables most people, including wheelchair users to enter the dwelling and access rooms and sanitary facilities on the entrance floor.

  • Category 2 – Accessible and adaptable dwellings: enables most people to access the dwelling, which has features making it potentially suitable for a wide range of occupants, including those with reduced mobility.

  • Category 3 – Wheelchair user dwellings: suitable for wheelchair users, either at completion or at a subsequent point.

Categories 2 and 3 are optional requirements, which only apply if imposed as a condition of planning consent. In all other cases Category 1 applies.

In order to accommodate the additional guidance for Categories 2 and 3, Approved Document M has been divided into two volumes: volume 1, dwellings and volume 2, buildings other than dwellings. There are no new requirements for buildings other than dwellings.

Minor Changes

There are minor changes in other parts of Schedule 1:

  • E4 – acoustic conditions in schools: reference is now made to the latest edition of Building Bulletin 93.

  • F1 – ventilation: a new guidance document from the Building Control Alliance presents recommendations for dwellings that, on testing, are significantly more airtight than predicted.

  • H6 – solid waste storage: the design of bin storage should address its impact on visual amenity.

Transitional arrangements

The revised regulations come into effect on 1 October 2015.

The new Part Q does not apply to building work that is subject of an initial notice, amendment notice, building notice or full plans submission served before 1 October 2015, provided that the work is commenced on site before 1 October 2016. (see definition of 'commencement of work' below)

The changes to Part G2 and Part M4 do not apply to building work that is subject of an initial notice, amendment notice, building notice or full plans submission (relevant notice) served before 1 October 2015.

Where a relevant notice has been served for the building work prior to 1 October 2015, planning conditions attempting to apply any of the building regulations optional requirements to the work will not be enforceable by the building control authority.

What is Commencement of Work

The English and Welsh Government have confirmed that in their opinion commencement of work would usually be marked by work such as;

  • excavation for strip or trench foundations or for pad footings

  • digging out and preparation of ground for raft foundations

  • vibroflotation (stone columns) piling, boring for piles or pile driving

  • drainage work specific to the building(s) concerned.

In their opinion, the following sorts of work would not be likely to constitute the commencement of work;

  • removal of vegetation, top soil or removal/treatment of contaminated soil

  • demolition of any previous buildings on the site

  • excavation of trial holes

  • dynamic compaction

  • general site servicing works (e.g. roadways)

In some cases applications will be in respect of a number of buildings on a site, for example a number of houses. In such cases it is the commencement of work on the first of the buildings within the application which determines whether all the building work can take advantage of the transitional provisions, not each individual building.

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