A Guide to Building Regulations

What are building regulations?

In general terms, the Building Regulations are a set of 14 statutory documents, part A to P which set minimum construction standards for the design and building work applying to most buildings and many alterations to existing properties.  They include consideration of materials and workmanship requirements, structural matters, fire safety, sound insulation, energy conservation and access to and use of buildings. 

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Basement conversion and basement extension guide — in depth information on how to successfully tackle basements

What do you do if you want to extend your home, but your garden is too small to allow it, or your loft is unsuitable for conversion? You may think the only way to get extra space is to move house. However, there is another possibility. Consider a basement conversion, excavating below ground to build a basement. Basements are slowly becoming more popular in the UK as people look for more space and don’t have the ability to extend wider, longer or higher. Sometimes, the only way to get more room without moving house is to go down into a basement. This is you ultimate guide on basement conversions and basement extensions to help you toward a basement that works for you. 

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building project Insurance guide — for domestic self builds, renovations and extensions

"93% of homeowners doing extensive renovations works are not properly insured. If you do not tell your home insurer about works then you could invalidate your home insurance!”

When you undertake a project involving the structure and fabric of your property, as opposed to simple renovation without any alteration or addition, you are putting your biggest asset under increased risk. It only takes one misfortune to produce consequences which could jeopardise the value of the building. Increasingly, therefore insurance providers are demanding proof of the existence of a suitable policy. Building sites are full of potential misfortunes — all of which need to be insured against.

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Asbestos and domestic projects

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is used generically to describe six minerals that share similar physical characteristics, specifically being natural strong mineral fibres, all with a high melting temperature but which are chemically different.

Up until the 1980's three of the six have been extensively used in construction, these were:

  1. Crocidolite (blue asbestos);
  2. Amosite, (brown asbestos);
  3. Chrysotile, (white asbestos).

Amosite and Crocidolite are the ones most closely associated with health issues and were typically used in pipe lagging and fireproof coatings.

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How do the Construction Management Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015) apply to domestic clients?

For many years’ people having work carried out on their homes, whether that means a small extension or a large brand new self-build project, have been happily able to ignore health and safety regulations, which were formerly known as the Construction and Management Regulations (CDM), as they have traditionally only applied to contractors, commercial schemes and large scale projects homeowners being exempt.

All that changed on the 6th April 2015 when the revised CDM regulations came into force. Now, homeowners are subject to these revised regulations which have been altered in an impetus to place responsibility on the private domestic extender, renovator or self-builder.

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Party Wall Act of 1996 — what is it and what are your obligations under it?

The Party Wall Act of 1996 may sound like an unnecessary hassle, but its objective are to prevent disputes arising between neighbours. It sets up a legal right and a framework to undertake certain works that might otherwise constitute trespass or nuisance. It is nothing to do with planning permission or building regulations but a totally separate bit of legislation.

You can understand neighbours not being overjoyed at the prospect of having their homes foundations undermined by builders in mini diggers, excavating alongside them or knocking into the party wall at loft level, and even potentially coming through the wall into the loft. The Party Wall Act is designed to assist both sides in negotiating this potentially challenging affect of building and restoration projects.

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How much does it cost to build a house or extension — estimating costs for domestic building projects

Estimating small building projects can be a complex process because build costs depend on so many factors. The reality is you will only get an accurate idea of the price for your project when all drawings and schedules of work have been completed. These outline your particular requirements, the type of house construction and any other factors specific to your project.

The problem is, people want to know about building costs before they know about the project specifics or have a clear project brief. Although this is is understandable, it’s difficult to be accurate on build costs at an early stage of a project idea. This is because details of what is being included and what is not is usually quite vague at initial stages of the project.

We recommend you are careful of ball park figures that may be thrown at you early on as these can vary significantly. You can only begin to get some price certainty when you have a building design and plan, and the project is split into its various elements, which can then be measured and costed out. 

This article explains how we help clients through this difficult first stage of building projects. 

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House design and refurbishment guide — internal alterations for more space

The most obvious way to improve your home and solve frustrating house design problems is just to add extra space. This preconception may lead you to believe that you need a loft conversion or house extension. But before launching into major building works we advise clients to take a step back and ask an important question. Can you get what you need without major structural alterations or additions?

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Open plan kitchen design — top 10 tips

The open plan kitchen gives the modern household a space that is flexible, relaxed and open. Clearly, what we want from our living space and our buildings has changed significantly. Formal dining rooms and kitchens cut off from the rest of the family are no longer popular.

These open plan kitchen design tips are for ordinary suburban houses and are well suited to the many semi detached homes in the UK.

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House extensions guide — in depth information on how to successfully tackle your house extension

Well-designed extensions can transform even the humblest of homes by maximising the floorplan and adding to the market value. Considering today’s house prices as well as tallying up the costs of moving (think solicitor's fees, stamp duty, house movers and van hire), improving what you've already got can be a more appealing and affordable route to creating a living space that meets your family's needs. Use this guide to help you maximise your property's potential.

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Read the ultimate guide to enhancing properties in Cambridge

As experienced and knowledgable local Cambridge architects we have written the ultimate guide on enhancing properties in Cambridge. This must read article contains:

  1. Our view on the Cambridge attraction
  2. Our view on the growth of the Cambridge property market
  3. An overview of local and historical architecture styles and recommendations for making the most of your Cambridge property
    1. The birth of Cambridge City Centre
    2. Cambridge's grand Georgian properties (1715 - 1810)
    3. Victorian houses in Cambridge (1810 - 1870)
    4. Late Victorian houses in Cambridge (1870 - 1901)
    5. Edwardian houses in Cambridge (1901 - 1920)
    6. The popularity of the Semi to the North of Cambridge (1930's)
    7. Mid century modern post war housing in Cambridge (1945 - 1960's)
    8. Public and private housing in Cambridge (1965 - 1990)
    9. The developing character of Cambridge's surrounding villages
    10. Cambridge city and properties in the new Millennium (1990 - 2015)
  4. Useful Cambridge property links

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How to make planning applications — a step by step guide

Whether you need planning permission will depend on a number of variables, including the size of the project and the level of permitted development (PD) rights that apply to your property. If you do need planning permission, you will quickly realise that planning applications can be rather tedious complex! You can use this guide to help you make a successful planning application.

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Permitted development rules for extensions, loft conversions, porches and outbuildings

This guide provides a detailed list of Permitted Development Rules for single-storey extensions, two-storey rear extensions, loft conversions, roof extension, porches and outbuildings. Use these lists as a reference tool to check if your project plans are within the planning permission exempt Permitted Development Rights. 

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Loft Conversion Guide — in depth information on how to successfully tackle a loft conversion

Loft Conversion Guide — in depth information on how to successfully tackle a loft conversion

This guide provides everything you need to know about loft conversion design considerations, costings, planning and building regulations. A loft conversion is an ideal way to gain more space. There may be scope for one or two extra bedrooms possibly even with a bathroom or home office. 

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Planning permission – Do You Need It?

Home improvement is big business these days.

Rather than moving house, many people are opting to stay put and build extensions or add loft conversions to increase their living space and the value of their home.

But before you start building, you need to be aware of any building regulations, planning permission for house extensions or other legislation that you need to conform to.

The good news is that planning permission laws have undergone a massive period of change recently, which means that not all house extensions need planning permission.

But don’t automatically assume that you fall into that category!

Never start a house extension without checking on the relevant regulations first and whether you need to put in aplanning application before starting work.

To help you determine whether your planned extension will require planning permission, here are five frequently asked questions:

#1 - Do I need planning permission?

As we said above, there are plenty of situations where planning permission is not required.

For example, you don’t need permission to build as long as your extension conforms to strict guidelines on height in comparison to the existing property. So a side extension that is a single storey would have to be a maximum height of four metres and no wider than half the width of the original house.

Where the extension is positioned is also important. For example, two-storey extensions cannot be within seven metres of the rear boundary of the property.

There are lots of other designations and compliance requirements for a house extension to qualify as a ‘permitted development’, so an hour invested in your own research will be time well spent. And remember: these requirements are only applicable for certain parts of the UK.

#2 – Okay, I’ve checked all that – so I can just go ahead and build, right?

Even if you apparently comply with all the requirements to qualify your house extension as a permitted development, you still have to ensure that your plans meet all building regulations.

This can include everything from ensuring that there is adequate drainage included in the plans, through energy efficiency and glass to floor ratios right down to the colour of the doors.

#3 – My extension is internal – do I still need permission?

Extensions into loft spaces, attics or cellars may not need planning permission, but again they must comply with all relevant building regulations. 

They are normally regarded as permitted development according to most planning permission legislation, however, there are size restrictions on loft extensions.

For a terraced property the extension can be no more than 40 cubic metres, and for detached and semi-detached houses it’s 50 cubic metres. Remember that any previous roof space additions must be included in that volume allowance.

There are also restrictions on the materials you use, and verandas, raised platforms or balconies are not included as part of a permitted development because they alter the external appearance of the property.

#4 – What if I share a party wall with my neighbours?

A party wall is the partition or dividing wall between two properties, and ownership is shared by the two property owners on either side.

Alterations to a property that may impact on the integrity of the party wall will be covered by The Party Wall etc Act 1966, which was introduced to help deal with disputes between neighbours.

If you are planning a house extension that will in impact on a shared party wall you may need to check the building regulations and the Party Wall Act to ensure that your plans comply.

#5 – I live in a conservation area. What do I need to know?

Conservation areas are designed to preserve the character and look of an area of special note. It may be that the buildings in the area are unique or play an integral part in the formation of the landscape.

If you live in a conservation area you will be covered by strict regulations on what you can and cannot do without permission.

Even something as simple as changing the windows or doors may breach building regulations in conservation areas. This means that any external house extensions will almost invariably require planning permission.

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Planning Your House Extension – 10 Things You Need To Know

With a slow housing market that doesn’t show any signs of picking up soon, many people are opting to stay put and extend their existing home, rather than up sticks and move.

This may seem like a great idea and a good way to save both money and time, but before you jump in and start buying breeze blocks to get started on that house extension, there are a few things you need to consider.

So here, produced with the benefit of over 25 years of continuing experience in the business of planning and managing property extensions, is the Harvey Norman Architects 10 Point Guide to what you need to know before heading off towards your new house extension:

#1 – What’s your budget?

This is probably one of the most fundamental questions – and it’s usually the first thing we have to ask our clients.

So before you do anything (and ideally before you call in your architect) sit down and decide exactly – or if you can’t be exact, come up with a good idea – of how much you have to spend.

Don’t forget to include extras such as your architect’s fees and the costs of your planning application if necessary. Also most architects and many builders will quote net of VAT, so don’t forget to add the 20% on if need be.

Once you’ve given yourself a budget, stick to it – it’s all too easy to let costs creep up on that house extension.

#2 – What do you want to achieve with your property extension?

Are you looking for a new living area that the whole family can enjoy, an extra bedroom for a new arrival or a home office?

What you want to use your extension for and what you want to do in it will determine what kind of alteration you make to your home.

#3 – How long will it take?

House extensions don’t happen overnight – and even getting planning permission and building regulations approval can sometimes take months. So be patient, and expect some upheaval and interruption to normal family life while the building is going on.

You may want to consider the time of year, factor in things like holidays, family events and other occasions for which you will want full use of your house without the builders being in.

Once you do decide the best time window for you property extension to be built, the secret is to plan it ahead as far as possible.

#4 – Do you need planning permission?

For some property alterations such as loft conversions and single storey extensions, or certain types of sun rooms, you may not need planning permission.

But you are well advised to check all local planning regulations and requirements first before making any definite plans to proceed.

Check with your local planning officer for more information – or just ask your architect.

Harvey Norman Architects offer a Kick Start Consultation meeting that covers everything from planning permission, building regulations and how to go about finding the right type of builder to the smallest questions. The Kick Start Consultation can save weeks of your own time in researching everything yourself.

#5 – Does your property extension mean you need an architect?

It’s not just because we’re architects that we say you should use a professional.

Big projects such as loft conversions or external home extensions are not simple DIY jobs, and we’ve seen them go wrong too many times when even skilled DIYers have had a go themselves.

You will need the services of an expert if you are planning on making major alterations to your property, and in fact part of the planning application may have to include plans produced by a qualified architect and other consultants such as structural engineers.

You will need to factor in the cost of an architect and, if required, an engineer, to your overall budget.

#6 – Will your plan impact on your neighbours?

This is a particularly important consideration, especially if you are making major alterations to your property.

Do you share a party wall with your neighbours, and will your alterations potentially damage their property?

There is also the social aspect – your plans may impact on their quality of life during the construction period, so it’s wise to keep your neighbours fully informed of your intentions right from the start.

Once again, your architect will be able to advise on any potential issues.

#7 – Are you in a conservation area?

If your home is in a designated conservation area or is a listed building, there may be very strict controls governing what alterations you can and cannot make.

You may not know if you’re in a conservation area, so check with your local council – or use your architect’s local knowledge – for further details.

#8 – Up, down, or out to the side?

Where you put your house extension is the next decision. Loft conversions are increasingly popular – so if you have the option of converting your attic space into a new room without any external signs of extending the property it’s definitely worth considering.

The most common option for simply gaining extra space either is either a single storey or two storey extension, for which you may want to build out to the side of your home.

Again, talking to an architect will help you decide which is the best option for you.

#9 – Know any good builders?

Unless you’re an experienced builder yourself, the likelihood is that you will need to get a professional building firm in to do the work – even if it’s a smaller job like a loft conversion.

Choose wisely, and take note of the recommendations of friends who have had work done on their properties, or see if your architect can provide contacts.

Word of mouth is often the best indicator of a quality tradesman, but make sure you have a first-hand look at examples of their previous work before taking the plunge.

#10 – What’s your timetable?

As we said earlier, it’s wise to plan well in advance.

Set yourself a strict timetable for completion. The chances are that it will over-run, but if you lay down the ground rules for completion at the very start of the project you can avoid living on a building site for months on end.

Don’t underestimate the impact that building an extension can have on your quality of life, and try to minimise that impact.

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5 Steps To A Greener Home

Although you might be able to build your house extension without planning permission, you still need to comply with building regulations on (among other things) energy performance.

There’s a good reason for this: the Government wants to see us all living in greener homes, because the average UK household currently emits more carbon than the average UK car.

That means if you are building or extending, it makes sense to go for an eco friendly house design because doing so will save you money.

At Harvey Norman Architects we practice sustainable architecture for greener homes.

So here are our 5 Steps To A Greener Home – and an eco friendly house extension.

1. Start here: do the simple things first

Before you start Googling the latest green technologies, start your journey to a greener home by limiting your current use of water, heating, electricity and gas.

Simple things like switching lights off, fixing leaking taps and turning off radiators in rooms you don’t use are obvious places to start. Investing in thermostatic heating controls will benefit you in the long run too.

2. Check the energy ratings of your electrical goods

If your kitchen and other electrical appliances are over 10 years old, it is advisable to think about replacement with more energy efficient models.

As part of its drive for greener homes, The European Union has developed an energy labelling system to help us make an informed choice when buying electrical items.

If your house extension means you’re going to buy a new dishwasher, fridge or oven, check their energy ratings, especially if they’re ‘included’ in your new kitchen price.

3. Install double-glazed windows and doors

It’s almost unthinkable for new builds or house extensions not to have double glazing, and in fact for most people wanting a greener home this is a good starting point.

If you live in – or want to add an extension to – a period or listed property, you’ll need double a glazing solution that combines the aesthetically acceptable with the highly eco-efficient. Ask your architect to specify a suitable make.

4. Insulate wherever you can

Insulating your hot water tank, heating pipes, roof space and wall cavities and draft proofing your external doors are all good routes to a greener home.

When designing your new house extension, your architect should consider insulation as part of building regulations requirements. But you always have the option to exceed the requirements if you want to go a step further towards a greener home.

5. Invest in solar & renewable energy resources

Renewable energy from wind turbines, solar panels and ground source heating is increasingly popular in greener home and eco friendly house design. But beware: rapid development of sustainable technology means that whatever you invest in may quickly be out of date.

Installing renewable energy solutions in your existing home is not as easy as designing them into a new build or house extension, but it’s still well worth considering.

Will renewable technology you save money as well as contributing to a greener home? Almost certainly.

Will your renewable energy investment pay for itself quickly? Almost certainly not.

But don’t be deterred.

Just be sure to choose your renewable technologies carefully according to your circumstances and try to avoid being an ‘early adopter’. If in doubt, always ask your architect for advice.

After all, that’s what we’re here for.

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