The process of Building Control is a legal requirement that must be obtained that ensures any building work complies with minimum standards for Health and Safety requirements. This is upheld by the Building Safety Act and Building Regulations, which guarantee consistency across building control and maintain high standards in the industry.
Building Control is not synonymous with planning permission, and they should not be confused with each other. Building Control deals with the technical aspects and constructional details of a building to ensure the health and safety of people. On the other hand, planning permission deals with the appearance, and its effect on the environment and surrounding properties.
Origins of Building Control
Building Control originated as early as the 1100s in London with the densely packed housing causing continuous issues. After a fire in 1212, thatched roofs were banned, leading to an increased amount of building and renovation. Soon after, most cities followed London’s lead with the risk of fire being the most important factor influencing changes in buildings.
Timber framing remained a popular building material for centuries and as the population grew, space between buildings was at a minimum. After the Great Fire of London destroyed most of the city, officials decided to introduce the London Building Act of 1667 which provided regulations for surveyors to follow. These included specific building materials, number of storeys and width of walls, and streets acting as fire breaks.
Further Building Acts have followed since, all aiming to make buildings safer for the public. Building regulations were last reviewed after the tragedy at Grenfell and the updates were passed in 2022.
Functions of Building Control
- Ensure buildings are accessible and usable for disabled, sick, young, and elderly people. Under the Equality Act, equal access to buildings became law which means building control teams will check buildings are accessible to everyone regardless of ability or age. Accessibility features include wheelchair access, lifts and dropped kerbs.
- Encourage production of energy efficient and sustainable buildings. Building regulations help improve the conservation of fuel, protect the environment, and promote sustainability when building. Things like solar panels, insulation and efficiency are all checked to ensure they meet the required standards.
- Educate building professionals and tradespeople. Building Control teams work with builders, designers, and property owners on projects. Training sessions provide them with knowledge and understanding which they are able to share with anyone they work with throughout the process.
- Protect people from dangerous structures. Where dangerous and unsafe structures are reported, building control teams will visit the site and advise on what action should be taken. Emergency services may be involved to ensure the safety of the public and the building owner or a contractor may be required to carry out any works necessary. Demolitions may take place in some circumstances.
- Ensure public venues are safe for large crowds. Building control teams must ensure that venues for large crowds adhere to regulations and recommendations for public safety. Things that are often inspected include crowd control, exit and escape routes and emergency procedures.