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We will abolish Building Regs, say Tories

Conservatives would replace current Building Regulations regime with ‘non-prescriptive standards’

The Conservative Party has said it will revolutionise the regulatory regime for architecture by abolishing Building Regulations and replacing them with a simple set of ‘non-prescriptive outcome-based standards’, aimed at delivering zero-carbon housing.

The chairman of the party’s Quality of Life policy group, John Gummer MP, who came up with the proposals, said the Tories would introduce a bill that would include changes to Building Regulations early in the next parliamentary session, should they win the general election.

‘We would abolish Building Regulations because, at the moment, we have very prescriptive standards, which tell you how to do things,’ Gummer told the AJ. ‘We think that they should be changed to outcomes that tell you the standard to achieve, but not how you do it. The current Building Regulations are based on techniques rooted in the past.

‘I want to give architects the opportunity to use their skills to meet the Code for Sustainable Homes Level 6, and they are much more likely to do this without prescriptive regul­ations laid down by civil servants.’

Architects agreed that radical change was needed – but would be better delivered within the Building Regulations regime.

Paul King, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council said: ‘John Gummer is right to stress that we need radical change. The historical approach, with incremental changes to Building Regulations every couple of years, is not good enough. A fresh look at Building Regulations is a good idea, but scrapping them would not be in the best interests of anyone.’

Peter Caplehorn, technical director of Scott Brownrigg, said: ‘The Building Regulations as they stand could do with some reform but that reform is on its way. They are already structured for encouraging innovation. The current regulations do allow flexibility, but they should be simplified.’

Tim Hall, a director of Lewis and Hickey, agreed: ‘I completely agree with this sentiment, but abolishing the regulations will not help to achieve this. There is plenty of scope to build with innovation and different methods within the current regulations.’

Gummer said the new standards to replace Building Regulations would be ‘self-regulatory’, but, should schemes be found not to have complied with the new standards, the building would be ‘pulled down’. Developers would also be required to take out insurance to ensure against their schemes not meeting the standards.

‘The good builders would get lower premiums and the bad builders would find it hard to get insurance, so it would drive quality,’ he added. AJ news desk

Readers' comments (5)

  • What a terrible, reactionary policy. The idea of Architects using their skills to meet code 6 would be great, but is completely idealistic. In reality one of the only ways that architects can persuade clients to invest in sustainable design is through regulations which mean that penny-pinching developers cannot value-engineer good design. This policy would put more pressure on architects to do the government's job of making sustainability an intrinsic part of the construction industry.

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  • The current building regs are already non-prescriptive - the approved docs are only suggestions as to how to meet the standards, although these are often mistakenly taken as gospel. I don't disagree that the process needs a shake up, but this sounds like it will replace one animal with another of exactly the same species.

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  • "Laid down by civil servants." What a numbskull. Mr Gummer doesn't even have a technical construction background. Following South London's tragic fire at the weekend you would have thought now, with the industry in the public eye, would be a time to ensure Building Regulations are correctly enforced, not abolished. Revisions and reviews with progressing culture and technology, yes. Wasting time and effort, no.

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  • I suspect the first tragic building collapse following the implementation of this policy will cause it's replacement shortly after, yes the regulations need (and currently are) being updated in line with the Code for Sustainable Homes but to abolish them is a very bad idea.

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  • Mr Gummer needs to get out into the real world. If he did he would find that in one of the worst regulated industries in the country where anyone can set up as a builder and leave a trail of disaster behind them we certainly need to remove Building Control!!! Of the 2500 Building Regulation applications my authority receive each year less than 10% are submitted by qualified architects. The current Building Regulations are already non-prescriptive but most Builders and customers want direction as to how to comply not more uncertainty. We have the Tories to thank for Approved Inspectors and look how that has improved standards, but then again they would also find themselves out of a job?

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