The end for building regs as we know them?
The government has taken the first steps to ‘significantly’ cut back ‘complex and confusing’ building regulations in a bid to kickstart development
According to The Guardian, the Department for Communities and Local Government has set up a four-man ‘challenge panel’ with a ‘free rein’ to look at how to rationalise ‘the entire framework of building regulations and national and local housing standards….to make homebuilding easier’.
The move, which comes just weeks after the government mooted a temporary ‘planning free-for-all’ for home extensions, could potentially spell the end for standards relating to structure (Part A), fire safety (Part B), energy use (Part L) and disabled access (Part M).
A department spokesman told the AJ: ‘The government is determined to support developers and councils to get on with the job of building the high-quality new homes the country needs.’
He added: ‘The current system of overlapping, different standards is complex and confusing to local residents and developers. This review brings the Government together with house builders, planners, councils and architects to establish what the unnecessary measures are that we can cut out of the system. This will make way for simpler set of housing standards that ensure buildings are still made to exacting standards.’
Architect Sam Webb, who surveyed hundreds of tower blocks across the country in the early 1990s, said: ‘Building regulations are only minimum requirements and they are there for a reason - the public has every right to expect that the buildings they enter are safe.
‘Waiving building regs and health and safety is not the way to produce more homes. All that will do is produce a UK equivalent of Priory Hall in Dublin [evacuated last October].
He added:’Self-regulation seems to be the mantra of this government which cites unnecessary burdens being placed on business by regulations. So their solution is to tear up the rules. We have seen where that has got us with the banks.’
The Guardian reported that the review group is expected to report to ministers by the spring (2013) and that the review only applied to home building standards.
Geoff Wilkinson, the AJ’s building regulations expert and managing director of approved inspectors Wilkinson Construction
‘I don’t think that anyone is seriously suggesting the repeal of Building Regulations, and the Guardian report is a touch sensationalist.
‘However there is an enormous amount of duplication, confusion and unnecessary regulation within the current system, and it would be great if this was removed into a more sensible and streamlined Building Control system.
There is an enormous amount of duplication, confusion and unnecessary regulation
‘For a start there are local acts which date back to the 1930’s which require sprinklers in tall office blocks in central London for example. These rules predate current building regulations and reflect an age when buildings over 10 stories where unusual. Experience since the 1930’s proves that this is not an issue, so why should offices in Hackney require sprinklers when those in neighbouring Newham don’t? If it is necessary to sprinkler all offices over 25m then it should be in the main building regulations, not in separate Local Acts. Another area where great strides could be made is the removal of standalone ‘guides’ such as the Code for sustainable homes, and BREEAM, again if these are appropriate they should be within Part L/Part M and not in separate guidance enforced under planning.
‘There’s a great deal that can be done to streamline the current system ,and if you dig beneath the headlines, a lot that architects and building control surveyors would support.’
Paul King, CEO, UK Green Building Council
‘This review has gone from being a sensible look at rationalizing and updating some voluntary standards for house building to a full blown de-regulation frenzy – what the Government itself is calling “rationalizing the entire framework of building regulations and national and local housing standards.”
This new upheaval creates a fog of uncertainty
‘Housebuilders have not been calling for a bonfire of building regulations, what they really need is mortgage finance and institutional investment to get the industry moving and policy clarity to deliver the homes we urgently need. This new upheaval, following hot on the heels of the biggest shake up of the planning system in living memory, instead creates a fog of uncertainty, and is much more likely to act as a brake on housing delivery, than an accelerator.’