Welcome to Part 3 of our series on the building regulations!

So far we’ve looked at what the building regulations are, today we’re going to look at how you go about getting approval

There are two ways of getting your building works “signed off” by building control. The first is called a “Full Plans Submission” the second is a “Building Notice”

Full Plans Submission

Where planning stage drawings are looking to show what it is your intending to build, building regulations drawings are there to show how you intend to build it. In doing so, they show how and why the proposed works will comply with the regulations.

These drawings will include more detailed plans and elevations, showing details and locations of all sorts of things that may be required to show compliance with the regs, such as drainage, fire alarms, escape windows, structural members etc.

There should also be a cross section(s) /details of the building showing how the building goes together, showing things like wall/foundation details, wall/floor/roof insulation, waterproofing and so on.

In most cases, there will also be a set of “construction notes”, essentially a written specification that supplements the drawings and fills in any gaps that it’s not possible or practical to illustrate.

While your architectural designer will produce most of this information, it’s quite likely that there will also be input needed from other people.

For instance, in most cases building control will expect to see calculations and designs from a Structural Engineer for things like, foundations, steel beams, roof timbers etc.

If your extension has a lot of glass in it, building control may ask for a “SAP” calculation. This is a special calculation that is done by an energy assessor to ensure that the amount of glazing won’t have an adverse impact on the thermal efficiency of the building. The allowance is any windows or doors that are becoming “internal” plus 25% of the new floor area created can be glazed in the walls and roof of the new floor area. This is usually enough to allow for normal sized windows and doors. If you want to put more glazing in, then you have to do an SAP calculation.

Once all this information is available, it is submitted to building control for approval. They will look closely at the information to make sure it complies with the regulations and either issue a “plans approval certificate” or ask for any amendments that are needed.

You will then give the drawings and information to the builders to price and work from.

Building control will visit as the building work proceeds to check that the work is being carried out correctly.


Building Notice

 With a building notice, rather than employing your architectural designer to put together all the drawings and information shown above, you just send building control your planning stage drawings and inform them of the date you intend to start the building work. Rather than having drawings to check, they come to site probably more frequently than they would with a full plans submission and liaise with you and your builder to ensure that what gets built complies with the building regulations. Note however, that they will still ask for Structural Engineering designs or SAP calculations where necessary.


Full Plans or Building Notice?

 Ultimately the choice of whether to go for a full plans submission or a building notice is down to you the client, and which way suits you best. There are pros and cons to each, so I’ll discuss them below.

Generally speaking, a building notice is suitable for simpler works and a full plans submission is most appropriate when the work is more complex.

For example, I would normally expect any decent builder to be able to accurately price a straightforward single storey extension and then build it based just off the planning drawings and some input from a structural engineer, so a building notice would probably be the best way forward.

If the building work is more complex, for example, 2 storeys, or complicated structurally or otherwise, then it might be worthwhile doing full plans as this will give you and your architectural designer the opportunity to work out the details before the building work starts and identify and eliminate potential problems before the works start.

With a building notice you don’t have to pay your architectural designer to produce the more detailed drawings or wait for them to be completed and approved before you can get the builders moving, however, you are then relying on your builder’s assumptions to one degree or another and depending on the complexity of the work your builder may only give an estimate of costs rather than a quote due to the lack of information.

If you do go for a full plans submission then it gives you the opportunity to give the builder much more information, therefore narrowing the level of assumption, and giving them all the detail, they need to give you more of a fixed quote rather than an estimate. This is particularly important if you’re approaching several builders, as you will know that they’re all pricing the same thing rather than working off basic drawings and their assumptions.

When you come to make this choice, it’s worth considering all the factors and working out which you’re most comfortable with. Some people are happy to let their builder get on with it, others prefer to have things more buttoned down. Ultimately there is no correct answer, you could if you wanted, build a whole new house on a building notice, or you could do a full plans submission to knock down a wall.

Hopefully, you’ve found this useful, and if you need help getting your project moving, just shout! zak@aceyarchitectural.co.ukThe Building Regulations