Everyone knows that Building Regulations exist as the minimum standards that construction must follow to comply with health and safety legislation – but not everyone knows that Building Control offices are responsible for enforcing them on a local level.

Building Control teams assess construction work in their area to make sure that it follows approved plans and have the power to stop non-compliant construction, keeping people safe in potentially dangerous built environments.

Here are 7 of the top reasons why Building Control is an important part of building functionality and safety in England and Wales.

1) Ensuring that Building Regulations are followed

Any type of construction work creating a habitable building is subject to legal checks. The individual or company overseeing the building work is the responsible party for ensuring that their project meets the relevant legal standards – which includes applying for Building Control approval.

If the local Building Control office signs off on the plans, construction work can go ahead. However, to ensure that the work is complying with the approved design, using the right materials and methods, a Building Control inspector will conduct site surveys at key intervals.

Building Control surveyors will check on aspects including (but not limited to):

  • Foundations and damp-proofing
  • Floor joists and roof timbers
  • Insulation and ventilation
  • Heating and sanitation
  • Energy efficiency and fire safety

Building Control inspections encompass a range of standardised checks to ensure that buildings are fit for purpose, allowing people to live and work in them safely.

2) Protecting people against ‘cowboy builders’

Unfortunately, some so-called professionals like to cut corners wherever they can to reduce costs and increase their profits – whether that’s by using low-quality materials or failing to make sure that every element of building work is completed properly. 

You’ve surely heard horror stories about people who were left high and dry by ‘cowboy builders’ either failing to complete projects or carrying out poor construction work, resulting in endless problems that cost the victims a fortune to fix. 

Building Control can provide guidance for contractors and property owners alike to help them avoid falling foul of dishonest construction workers, as well as advising builders on how to meet the necessary standards for their specific project. 

If Building Control uncovers unapproved or non-compliant building work, the Building Act allows them to issue notices and fines for the adjustment or removal of the structure. Not only could they have to pay to undo or fix the faulty work, but if they fail to take the required action, then they may be prosecuted and face unlimited fines or up to 2 years in prison.

3) Educating contractors and tradespeople

There are so many regulations to stay on the right side of when it comes to working in the construction industry, and so many parties working on different parts of the same project that it can be complicated to get everybody on the same page.

Building Control can help those working in construction or planning to understand the rules that apply to their work and the responsibilities they have to adhere to. This helps tradespeople, contractors, and property owners to be more active and effective in their roles.

Surveyors and anyone working on a Building Control team have to stay up to date with new developments in the law, such as the Building Safety Act 2022, and their proximity to other local authorities allows them to access and exchange information. 

From training to achieve accreditation to attending courses and workshops to stay abreast of the latest changes, Building Control officers have the knowledge needed to advise anyone carrying out a new build, extension, or conversion project on how to this to current legal standards.

4) Promoting sustainable building practices

Another role of Building Control is to promote sustainable developments by encouraging energy efficient building processes. This involves planning the design and materials in a way that conserves the most fuel possible, minimising the impact on the environment both during construction and the lifetime of the building.

This is especially important as the government continues to take steps towards carbon neutrality in hopes of reducing the negative effects of climate change. This includes adjustments to Building Regulations Part L, which focuses on the conservation of fuel and power.

Since 15th June 2022, Building Control has been enforcing the enhanced standards in Part L , ensuring that new buildings and renovations are doing their part to help the UK reach net zero in the future. These new measures include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Reducing carbon emissions by 30% for new homes (27% for extensions/other buildings)
  • Improving minimum thermal resistance values for doors and windows
  • Providing infrastructure for charging electric vehicles
  • Reducing maximum flow temperatures by 20°C for heating systems

Building Control teams can advise and oversee the use of energy efficient insulation, lighting, and more for both homes and non-domestic buildings.

5) Improving equal access to buildings

Part M of the Building Regulations covers the access to and use of buildings, which is also influenced by the Equality Act, setting the minimum standards for making buildings accessible for people of all abilities, regardless of age or other factors.

Public buildings, workplaces, healthcare facilities, and shops are among the types of buildings required to provide accessibility features. These include the use of:

  • Dropped kerbs and ramps 
  • Automatic doors 
  • Communal lifts
  • Accessible toilets

Building Control makes sure that approach routes, entrances, circulation areas, internal doorways, sanitary facilities, and all interior spaces are accessible for wheelchair users, as well as vehicle parking facilities or drop-off points where applicable.

6) Managing fire safety and crowd control

Not only do Building Control’s responsibilities include ensuring adequate fire protection in homes and commercial buildings, but they also involve applying Building Regulations to large venues such as sports stadiums and music arenas.

They help to ensure public safety at events that draw large crowds of people by recommending and reinforcing measures such as: 

  • Fire safety
  • Emergency exits
  • Barriers
  • First aid provision
  • Accessible facilities

Of course, this is on top of assessing the structural stability of the venue, and assigning maximum capacities in line with load-bearing limits and crowd control procedures. 

Every time you go to a concert, a theatre show, or a football game, the public venue will have been thoroughly assessed for safety and crowd management measures will have been put in place.

7) Helping people to re-mortgage or sell homes

Before a freshly constructed building can be sold and/or occupied, Building Control must have carried out a thorough final inspection of the structure and confirmed that it meets the minimum requirements of UK Building Regulations by issuing a completion certificate.

This document is crucial for proving that all elements of the building are safe and of good quality. Solicitors and estate agents are just some of the authorities who will require a completion certificate before assisting with the sale of a newly built, converted, or extended property.

Similarly, homebuyers will find it difficult to get a mortgage or to re-mortgage their existing property if they don’t have this certificate to prove that it complies with Building Regulations.

The same will apply for leasing or selling commercial properties, as this involves even larger investments, and leaseholders or buyers will be cautious about potentially substandard buildings.

Do you need to apply for Building Regulations approval?

As you can see, Building Control do extremely important work – often behind the scenes – to keep building quality high and prevent dangerous structures from posing a health and safety risk to people and the environment. 

The consequences of skipping steps and not following Building Regulations can result in tragedy, so it’s never worth it just to try to save a bit of time or money. If you are responsible for planning, developing, or constructing a building, then you need to consider Building Control approval requirements before any building work can begin.

When it comes to booking Building Control inspections, you can either contact Building Control directly following their approval of your proposed building plans, or set up a series of site inspections with an approved independent Building Control inspector.

The more closely you work with Building Control representatives, the more likely you are to complete your project and receive the completion certificate on schedule – which can actually make your project more cost-efficient, as well as giving everyone involved peace of mind. 

Claire Preece