A raft of legislation means extensive changes to the Building Regulations. John Boanson of NBS gives us a preview of the new Approved Documents
The building regulations in England and Wales are undergoing sweeping changes resulting from recent legislation such as the Disability Discrimination Act, Party Wall Act, and new HSE Regulations. There are also amendments to bring UK products and practices in line with Europe. Furthermore, sporadic changes to the regulations also come about from the findings of continuing research – and, of course, there is always the need to remove ambiguities and weaknesses from existing regulations. Here are the latest changes …

Part A: Structures
New regulations will be published late 2003 or early 2004, and are likely to include:

  • Omission from the Approved Documents of the timber tables, as they are becoming more difficult to keep up to date. The Timber Research and Development Association (TRADA) will probably publish them in future.
  • Guidance on cavity walls, wall ties, mortar mixes, cladding systems and defending against the House Longhorn Beetle.
  • Strip footing details to be aligned with NHBC/ Zurich Insurance requirements.
  • Clarification on control when reproofing buildings.
  • Guidance on the use of recycled and recyclable materials.

Part B: Fire safety
The new amendments came into effect on 1 March 2003 and introduced new test methods to harmonise British products with European Standards. The Approved Documents now quote both old British Standards and the new European Standards. After a co-existence period of 12 months, the European scheme will become dominant and fire tests under British Standards are expected to be withdrawn.

When subjected to the new test methods, most British products are likely to be classified lower than at present. Product performance to be increased rather than standards lowered.

Part C: Site preparation
Previously divided into four parts, the new Part C – currently out for consultation – now consists of part 1: site preparation and resistance to contaminants; and part 2: resistance to moisture. The proposed changes have resulted partly from climatic changes including the increased risks of flooding, drought, driving rain penetration, interstitial and surface condensation, and possible movements of ground contaminants through fluctuating water tables. Also, the greater use of brownfield sites has brought about increased measures to resist contaminants that may be present in or on the site – not just the building footprint.

Part E: Resistance to the passage of sound
Coming into force 1 July 2003, the new document has more detailed standards for the protection of transmitted sound not only from one dwelling to another, but also within a dwelling. Controls have been extended to include hotels, hostels, student accommodation and residential care facilities. Although the new values appear less onerous, current test methods are different and the new standards are about 5 dB lower than the previous standard.

Pre-completion and sample testing will be introduced although housebuilders may be able to avoid testing if they are allowed to use construction details developed by the HBF. The government will decide whether to accept the HBF programme in the summer. Although not always necessary, pre-completion testing can be demanded by building inspectors. It may be advisable therefore to consider the inclusion of a provisional sum.

E4 will also cover sound insulation, reverberation time and internal ambient noise in schools.

Part L: Conservation of fuel and power
Stage 1 changes came into force last April and further changes are anticipated. Stage 2 is currently in progress although its scope is limited to the provision of supplementary technical guidance. It is anticipated that stage 4 will be a comprehensive review leading to amendments coming into effect around 2005.

Part M: Access to and use of buildings
Currently out for consultation, the introduction to Part M is expected early in 2004. The document will incorporate recommendations from BS 8300:2001 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. Its scope will cover "parents with children, elderly people and people with disabilities". It will cover non-domestic and domestic new build, extensions, altered parts of buildings and changes of use.

Tactile paving at carriageway crossings and corduroy hazard warning surfaces adjacent to steps will be included. As the new document applies from the boundary of the site, not the building entrance, these requirements will apply to pavements crossing access, service roads and changes in level.

Part P: Electrical safety
This part, also currently out for consultation, states that domestic installations should provide reasonable protection against there being a source of fire or cause of injury. It excludes work carried out by an approved competent person (but does not define competent people), and work of a minor nature. That leaves us with major domestic work carried out by either unapproved competent or incompetent people.

Part Q: Electronic communication services
Currently out for consultation, this document proposes the provision of cable ducting for electronic communication services (broadband) from the site boundary to, into and around buildings.

Widespread application of bluetooth technology may supersede the need for ducts, and this part may never see the light of day.

Related files/tables