Homeowners commonly misunderstand the difference between building regulations and building control. It is important to know the difference so that you are better informed about the house extension process, and able to keep pace with some of the more technical conversations and decisions pertaining to the progress of your home extension.
Let’s start with building regulations. Building regulations are the legally enforceable rules describing the minimum standards to which buildings (including extensions to buildings) must be designed and built, with the objective of keeping people healthy and safe. Building regulations cover every conceivable aspect of a build, from excavating foundations, all the way up to fitting cowls to chimney pots and everything else in-between. The regulations are scrupulously detailed and leave the reader (typically the Architect, Engineer and Builder) in no doubt as to how a particular activity should be executed, with precision.
The regulations only set out minimum expected standards, and buildings can be designed and built to exceed these. Without regulations, buildings, homes and extensions would be disposed to dangerous, possibly deadly, construction practices. Building regulations act as a first line defence barrier against slap-dash plans and shoddy workmanship, to provide a base level of quality for the aspects of the build they govern.
The building regulations are organised by construction activity type and set out in a suite of approved documents, which are freely and easily available for anybody to view online.
The regulations are periodically updated to reflect advances in material technology, evolving construction practices, changing environmental conditions and in response to real-world events in the built environment, such as the tragic 2017 Grenfell disaster.
The difference between building regulations and building control is this; building regulations are the building standards, and building control is the function of enforcing those standards.
It is the job of a Building Control Inspector to assess whether or not a project complies with building regulations. The Inspectors may either be employed directly by the local authority or work privately, but what they do is the same.
The ‘control’ function will happen both on plan and on site. On-plan compliance to building regulations is checked when the extension drawings are submitted (usually by the Architect) to the appointed building control authority. There are different types of plan check, but in short the Inspector will scrutinise the drawings and structural calculations to ensure the designs adhere to minimum quality and safety standards. If they do not, the Architect and/or Engineer will be asked to update the plans with the feedback provided by the Inspector. If they do comply, initial notice is issued and building works are allowed to commence.
On-site, the Building Control Inspector will make periodic visits to the building site and will check that specific aspects of the build (more on these later) have been carried out to the required standard. If they have not, the Builder must re-do the work to bring it up to scratch. Once all on-site checks have been carried out successfully and the Building Control Inspector is in receipt of any installation paperwork requested, a final completion certificate is issued and the building work is officially signed-off.
To recap, although the difference between building regulations and building control is often confused, the distinction is dead easy to understand. Building regulations are the set of national minimal standards to which buildings must be designed and built. Building control is the function by which inspectors actually check that they have done so.