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Building Regulations

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This page was last updated on 29th May 2019

The Building Regulations are minimum standards required in the design and construction of buildings. Their aim is to ensure the health, safety and ease of access of all people, including those with disabilities, in and around the building. More recently the aim has been extended to include security and sustainability.

The Building Regulations are secondary legislation set out by the government and are released as Statutory Instruments (SI). The responsibility for meeting the requirements laid out in the regulations lies with the person carrying out the building work and, if they are not the same person, the owner of the building.

Browse the BSRIA library and discover a number of useful books detailing, describing and explaining the Building Regulations and what impact they have on the industry.

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A Brief History of The Building Regulations

This Ancient Babylonian code of laws is the earliest known example of written building regulations. The Code of Hammurabi, written in 1754BC, contains 282 laws, of which 6 specifically relate to the construction of buildings. In Britain, there were a number of local regulations set in London to avoid blocking sunlight to other buildings or for the proper siting of privies and gutters, which existed as early as 1189. However, it was the destruction caused by The Great Fire of London, in 1666, which accelerated the need for more formal regulations. The fire was able to spread so rapidly because of the densely built timber housing which filled the city. To help prevent such devastating fires from occurring in the future the Rebuilding of London Act was passed. In it were requirements that all housing was to include some fire resistant material and that streets and roads must be widened to allow fire crews better access.

In the following years a number of cities throughout Britain adopted similar laws but these were still largely localised. The journey towards a set of national building regulations took off during the Victorian era as more and more people became aware of, and concerned by, the state of housing for the poor. A series of public health acts and The Local Government Act of 1858 saw wider powers given to local authorities to regulate and control the planning and construction of buildings; primarily with the aim of preventing the spread of disease. Similar acts were passed in Ireland and Scotland in 1878 and 1897 respectively.

It wasn’t until Scotland, in 1959, created The Building (Scotland) Act that a formal set of national regulations was passed; the regulations themselves coming into effect in 1964. England and Wales followed with The Public Health Act of 1961 with subsequent regulations coming into force in 1966. Northern Ireland enacted a similar system of regulations under The Building Regulations (Northern Ireland) Order in 1972.