The latest round of updates to the Building Regulations (England) come into force on 1 October 2015.  As well as raising performance requirements in a number of areas, this update is unique in that, for the first time, the Building Regulations in England will differ for three key reasons:

  • Some regulations will have ‘optional’ levels of performance
  • The performance requirements of some regulations will vary from region to region
  • Some performance requirements will be dictated by the Local Planning Authority.

The principle of regional differences looks set to be broadened as further amendments in 2016 will continue to roll out the concept in other Parts of the Building Regulations.  In addition, the long-anticipated new Part Q, dealing with domestic security, also comes into force.

Here we take a look at some of the key changes within each of the Approved Documents in turn:

Approved Document G – Sanitation, hot water safety and water efficiency

Part G of the Building Regulations is one of the parts that now contains ‘optional’ levels of performance.  Section G2, paragraph 2, now sets two levels of performance for water consumption – either 125 litres per person per day (the ‘baseline’ standard) or an ‘enhanced’ standard of 110 litres per person per day.  The requirement for this reduced level of consumption will be set by the Local Planning Authority and be implemented as a condition to the granting of planning permission.  For this to be required, however, the LPA will first have to enshrine the requirement in the form of a new policy in their Local Plan.  Until this is carried out, the ‘baseline’ 125 litres per person per day will apply.

There is also now an alternative ‘fittings’ approach offered, whereby the consumption of each appliance (WC, bath, sink, dishwasher etc.) must not exceed a specific value.  For WCs, the maximum consumption is 6 litres (4 litres for dual flush), whereas a dishwasher must be limited to 1.25 litres per place setting, and a washing machine to 8.17 litres per kilogram load.

Also included, in Table 1 of Appendix A, is the water efficiency calculator that used to be in the Code for Sustainable Homes, and has been incorporated as a result of the withdrawal of the Code.  References to the Code have also been deleted.  The calculator can be used to demonstrate compliance with the maximum daily water consumption figures of either 125 or 110 litres per person per day, if the ‘fittings’ approach has not been used.

Finally, the Annex which listed the various ‘Competent Person’ self-certification schemes has also now been deleted.  As the guidance on page 9 of Approved Document G now notes, “these schemes may change name, or new schemes may be authorized; so the current list on the website should always be consulted”.

Approved Document H – Drainage and waste disposal

The increase in number of ‘wheelie’ bins across the country has been seen to result in an issue of ‘nuisance’ by virtue of their perceived unsightliness and obstruction to safe passage on footpaths, particularly where storage areas are deemed inadequate or insufficiently well screened from view.  In response to this, the guidance in section H6 has been amended to place greater emphasis on the provision of suitable solid waste storage facilities.  The performance paragraph point a. at the start of the guidance to H6 (which states that solid waste storage should be ‘designed and sited so as not to be prejudicial’) is now extended to include ‘local amenity’ i.e. public areas.

In addition, paragraph 0.3 has now been re-written to omit the exclusion of waste recycling, and to include the ‘erection or extension of a building and all material changes of use’ within the scope.  Also, the ‘Design’ section now has additional guidance, with more weight being given to the enclosure of bin storage in publicly-accessible areas.  The final paragraphs of H6 have also been updated, to reflect the revised version of BS 5906:2005, the scope of which now includes recycling.

The final amendment of Approved Document H is a consequential revision to the reference to Part M of the Building Regulations in section H3, which has been updated to reflect the revision of this regulation also.

Approved Document M – Access to and use of buildings

In common with other parts of the Buildings Regulations, Approved Document M has now been split into two volumes, distinguished as:

  • Volume 1: Dwellings
  • Volume 2: Buildings other than dwellings.

To reflect this change, sections M1, M2 and M3 have now been retained in Volume 2 only, and sections M6 to M10 inclusive have been deleted.  Section M4 has been replaced by Volume 1, requirements M4(1), M4(2) and M4(3).  These are categorized as:

  • M4(1) Category 1: Visitable dwellings
  • M4(2) Category 2: Accessible and adaptable dwellings
  • M4(2) Category 3: Wheelchair user dwellings.

As might be inferred, M4(1) now sets a ‘baseline’ standard and is intended to make adequate provision for access to and use of dwellings on a periodic basis.  In contrast, M4(2) and M4(3) set successively more onerous requirements for more frequent at higher levels of accessibility.  In common with Part G, these latter two are ‘optional’ requirements that can be set by the Local Planning Authority as a condition of planning permission.  This will only be possible once the Local Authority in question has written such policy into their Local Plan, and is likely to take the form of a requirement for a certain percentage of dwellings in a new multi-house development to meet one of the higher levels of performance. Smaller developments may be exempt, but this will be at the discretion of each Local Authority when they set their policy.

To put these new categories in context, Category 1 reflects the standard of the previous version of Part M of the Building Regulations, while Category 2 is approximately the equivalent of the Lifetime Homes externallink standard.  Categories 2 and 3 require more circulation space around beds and in corridors and kitchens for example, as well as in bathrooms.  More significantly, space provision for wheelchair/ mobility scooter storage and charging is required, as is space for the potential installation of a through-floor lift in two-storey dwellings.  Minimum space standards are also set, in respect of living/ dining/ kitchen areas per number of bed spaces.  These will need to be read in conjunction with the Nationally Described Space Standards externallink, where applicable.

Approved Document Q – Security – Dwellings

2015 has also seen the publication of a new Approved Document, Q – Security: Dwellings.  This now enshrines the requirement for the provision of appropriate security protection of external doors and windows in domestic dwellings.  Doorsets and windows that have been manufactured to PAS 24:2012 are noted to be acceptable to meet the requirements of Part Q, as are other standards, including the following:

  • STS 201 issue 5:2013 (doorsets only)
  • STS 204 issue 3:2012
  • LPS 1175 issue 7:2010 security rating 2 (doorsets) or security rating 1 (windows)
  • STS 2012 issue 3:2011 burglary rating 2
  • LPS 2081 issue 1:2015 security rating B (doorsets) or security rating A (windows).

Paragraph 1.2 notes that further guidance is available in ‘New Homes 2014’ by Secured by Design; while Paragraph 1.6 requires a resilient layer to be incorporated in lightweight partitions that include a door for which Part Q applies.

Comment

The levels of performance required by Parts G and M of the Building Regulations are now going to be dependent on conditions to the granting of planning permission, which for the first time will result in regional differences in performance across England.  The reasoning behind this departure is to address climatic differences across the country, where the risk of drought is generally higher in the south and east than in the north and west.  This trend looks set to continue with Part L likely to include regional variation to thermal insulation standards in future revisions, reflecting the temperature and exposure differences across the country.

With regard to Part M in particular, there is likely to be a significant impact on housebuilding, as any condition requiring a percentage of a new residential development to comply with part M(2) or M(3) will certainly increase dwelling size, with a resultant decrease in density (and hence profit) on any given new housing site.

However, for these enhanced performance requirements to be set, Local Authorities will first have to incorporate relevant policies in their Local Plans.  This process in itself can take upwards of a year, and will be subject to funding and prioritization by each Local Authority.  At the time of writing this article in mid-2015, not all Local Authorities have implemented policies in line with the National Planning Policy Framework which was published in March 2012, so the real impacts may not be felt for some time to come, and in the meantime, in respect of Parts G and M, it may well be simply a case of ‘business as usual’.

Useful links and references