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Compliance with building regulations in England and Wales

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Abstract

Purpose – This paper is based on a research project sponsored by the DTI, with contributions from construction industry partners. The principal objective of the research was to generate data (based on a sample of new-build housing schemes) about the levels of compliance with Building Regulations and standards typically achieved in England and Wales. Design /methodology/approach – The field research consisted of a triangulation of three research methods. A series of observations of 11 speculative housing projects (in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire) during construction. A questionnaire survey of occupants of recently completed speculatively built houses. A total of 200 questionnaires were distributed in eight housing developments completed 9-15 months previously. Semi-structured interviews with six building control inspectors, both local authority and approved inspectors. Findings – The general conclusions are that levels of compliance were not always sufficient, though there was no evidence of systematic and purposeful non-compliance with building regulations. Faults were largely due to lack of skills and knowledge of the required standards on the part of the operatives, and shortcomings in site management and toleration of sub-standard workmanship. Research limitations/implications – The surveys were limited to projects by national or regional scale housing developers on mainly medium-large size house developments that included semi-detached, detached and townhouses. Practical implications – The recommendations point to the need for more initial and continuing training of tradesmen, both in trade skills and knowledge of the provisions of building regulations, and more rigorous site management procedures adopted, particularly when pressure for completion is at its greatest. Originality/value – The value of the paper is linked to the originality of the research; prior to it, reliable evidence of the scale and extent of non-compliance with Building Regulations in the UK was not recorded in any publicly available source.
Structural Survey
Compliance with building regulations in England and Wales
Bousmaha Baiche Nicholas Walliman Raymond Ogden
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To cite this document:
Bousmaha Baiche Nicholas Walliman Raymond Ogden, (2006),"Compliance with building regulations in
England and Wales", Structural Survey, Vol. 24 Iss 4 pp. 279 - 299
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Compliance with building
regulations in England and Wales
Bousmaha Baiche, Nicholas Walliman and Raymond Ogden
Department of Architecture, School of the Built Environment,
Oxford Brookes University, Oxford UK
Abstract
Purpose – This paper is based on a research project sponsored by the DTI, with contributions from
construction industry partners. The principal objective of the research was to generate data (based on
a sample of new-build housing schemes) about the levels of compliance with Building Regulations and
standards typically achieved in England and Wales.
Design /methodology/approach The field research consisted of a triangulation of three research
methods. A series of observations of 11 speculative housing projects (in Oxfordshire and
Gloucestershire) during construction. A questionnaire survey of occupants of recently completed
speculatively built houses. A total of 200 questionnaires were distributed in eight housing
developments completed 9-15 months previously. Semi-structured interviews with six building control
inspectors, both local authority and approved inspectors.
Findings The general conclusions are that levels of compliance were not always sufficient, though
there was no evidence of systematic and purposeful non-compliance with building regulations. Faults
were largely due to lack of skills and knowledge of the required standards on the part of the operatives,
and shortcomings in site management and toleration of sub-standard workmanship.
Research limitations/implications The surveys were limited to projects by national or regional
scale housing developers on mainly medium-large size house developments that included
semi-detached, detached and townhouses.
Practical implications – The recommendations point to the need for more initial and continuing
training of tradesmen, both in trade skills and knowledge of the provisions of building regulations, and
more rigorous site management procedures adopted, particularly when pressure for completion is at
its greatest.
Originality/value – The value of the paper is linked to the originality of the research; prior to it,
reliable evidence of the scale and extent of non-compliance with Building Regulations in the UK was
not recorded in any publicly available source.
Keywords Local authorities, Building specifications, Construction industry
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
This paper is based on a research project sponsored by the DTI, with contributions
from construction industry partners including the National House-Building Council
(NHBC), the Building Control Division at the Cherwell District Council (initially), the
Building Control Department at the West Oxfordshire District Council, the RICS
Building Control Forum, and the Building Control Research Associates. Monitoring on
behalf of the DTI was conducted by W S Atkins.
1.1. Building control
Regulations and standards are a central part of the UK government approach to
maintaining and improving quality and performance of new construction. Building
Control Bodies (BCBs) have the often difficult role of ensuring that provisions of
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Building
regulations
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Structural Survey
Vol. 24 No. 4, 2006
pp. 279-299
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
0263-080X
DOI 10.1108/02630800610704427
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Building Regulations are met in all building projects to which the regulations apply.
Scope within a normal building programme for non-compliant details to be concealed
by subsequent building operations, or for defects not to be identified, is considerable,
given the complexity, speed and variety of modern construction methods and
unpredictability of construction programmes. Little reliable data exist on the levels of
compliance typically achieved. Such data, however, would be extremely useful.
Each BCB has its own inspection procedures. There is a balance to be struck
between number of visits to site and need to achieve high levels of compliance. The
competitive marketplace for building control services requires the approach to be
optimised.
As competition between Local Authorities and Approved Inspectors to carry out the
building control function has increased, there are fears that economic pressures might
have a deleterious effect on the quality of inspections. According to the DETR report
on Building Control and Performance Standards, “The acid test of effective building
control is its success in achieving conformity with Building Regulations, so that
reasonable standards of health and safety are secured for the building users” (DETR
et al., 1999, p. 8).
The guidance set out in “Building Control Performance Standards”, says that, in
order to be effective, the building control process requires an inspection regime of
appropriate intensity and frequency (DETR et al., 1999, p. 15).
1.2. Evidence of non-compliance with building regulations
Non-compliance with Building Regulations concerns authorities not only in the UK but
in other countries, including Canada and Australia (Akroyd, 1968; Arimah and
Adeagbo, 2000; Barclay, 1987; Battersby, 1985; Burby et al., 2000; Meijer and Visscher,
1998; O’Sullivan, 1994).
In 1990, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and the Ontario
New Home Warranty Program (ONHWP) undertook a study to document and evaluate
incidence and magnitude of failures in 44 buildings. In 2000, CMHC undertook a second
study to gain a better understanding of current key failure areas.
Results indicated that the greatest frequency and cost of deficiencies was in walls
(precast), windows/doors, masonry veneer walls, EIFS walls, balconies and parking
garages. Recommendations were mostly about necessary improvements in technology
and building practice, but also stated that a higher level of Building Code enforcement
was required (Rousseau, 2000).
In Australia, the Joint Select Committee on the Quality of Buildings instigated by
the parliament of New South Wales published a Report on the Quality of Buildings in
July 2002 (JSCQB, 2002). The Committee was asked to determine whether enough
checks and balances existed to ensure consumers were guaranteed that their new
homes were safe, properly certified, and built to satisfactory standards (JSCQB, 2002,
p. 1).
During the inquiry, the Committee heard and saw first hand the sorts of things that
were contributing to poor quality buildings. A key concern was the decline among
builders in knowledge of the Building Codes. Although most builder organisations had
newsletters and updates on new issues, the majority of builders were not members of
these organisations and therefore did not access this information (JSCQB, 2002, p. 44).
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Reliable evidence of the scale and extent of non-compliance with Building
Regulations in the UK is not recorded in any publicly available source. Sommerville
and McCosh (2006), for example, discussed general snags in newly-built house, but did
not identify those defects which were related to non-compliance with the Building
Regulations. Despite extensive research through databases of publications and of the
Internet, no survey or data from dependable sources has as yet been discovered. The
only comprehensive and authoritative source identified was the “Official complaints
lists” produced by the Construction Industry Council Approved Inspectors Register
(CICAIR) for the Building Control Performance Standards Advisory Group (BCPSAG).
Access to these complaints lists was requested but was refused, on account of their
confidential nature.
However, a case study carried out on a single detached four bedroom house, located
in a small speculative housing scheme developed by a well known national
house-builder, revealed a catalogue of faults. This, together with a review of web-sites
of complaints about poor quality house construction, led to the idea that a systematic
research project to investigate the levels of compliance with Building Regulations was
needed in order to ascertain whether this case study and the web-site complaints were
typical of present day speculative housing construction (Baiche and Walliman, 2004).
An indication of the range of building failures found in speculative built housing
projects in the UK could also be gained from the list of complaints gathered in this web
site, dedicated to publicising problems with newly built homes, (New Build Inspections
Ireland, New Build Inspections UK, New Build Inspection Spain, 2006). Many of the
faults mentioned have clear indications of lack of adherence to building regulations. It
must be stressed, however, that this information is circumstantial and was verified in a
professional or scientific way in only some instances, as recorded on the web site.
Most of the faults might have been outside the remit of building regulations, and it
was notable that the web site was mostly concerned with the faults encountered in the
developments of one particular speculative housing company. However, there were
links to other web sites that feature complaints about other speculative developers and
their houses. The lists sent in by these house-owners were similar in nature.
Just one study relating to building acoustics was found. This study investigated 40
complaints about poor sound insulation between dwellings. Its purpose was to
determine the types of noise that caused complaint and whether the dwellings had
sound insulation below the level generally regarded as reasonable. The study showed
that, in the main, complainants did live in dwellings with sound insulation below the
standard generally regarded as reasonable in the Building Regulations (Grimwood,
1997).
2. Research methodology
This research did not intend to inspect dwellings in multiple occupancy; this was
beyond the scope of this project.
The field research consisted of a triangulation of three research methods:
(1) A series of observations of 11 speculative housing projects (in Oxfordshire and
Gloucestershire) during construction. The inspection followed a survey protocol
that provided a list of aspects of building regulations to be checked for
non-compliance. Rigorous inspection procedures and techniques based on
agreed checklists were undertaken, with guidance from building control
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members of the project steering group. Recording of non-compliance was
mainly photographic, with some descriptive sentences. In certain
circumstances, non-destructive remote inspection techniques using suitable
instrumentation were employed (Hollis and Gibson, 2000).
(2) A questionnaire survey of occupants of recently completed speculatively built
houses. 200 questionnaires were distributed in eight housing developments
completed 9-15 months previously. Follow-up calls were made in cases where
building failures were reported to ascertain their exact nature, cause and
seriousness (Peterson, 2000).
(3) Semi-structured interviews with six building control inspectors, both local
authority and approved inspectors. Interviews were carried out with members
of Building Control Services in Local Authorities and Approved Inspectors
involved with both the projects surveyed and numerous other schemes, to
establish particular issues or difficulties relating to particular cases and
particular parts of building regulations (Drever, 1995).
The project steering group decided to make the project broad-based, involving as many
surveys as possible, rather than based on a smaller number of detailed surveys. It was
also thought best to look at indicators of non-compliance rather than at levels of
compliance, and concentrate on areas detrimental to health and safety, which are of
greatest interest to relevant government departments. One of the main objectives of the
project was to identify repeated patterns of failures, to highlight the sections of
building regulations that tended to non-compliance, and which should be given more
attention during inspections. The results are outlined below.
3. Results of the inspection of houses during construction
3.1. Introduction
The observations during the survey were made by using a checklist of issues
addressed by building regulations. It should be noted that the survey was not in any
way intended to be a systematic numerical survey of instances of non-compliance.
All of the houses inspected were based on designs that had received building
regulations approval on the basis of the drawings and specifications. No access to this
documentation was given; the inspections were therefore limited to assessing the work
and workmanship relating to building regulations compliance on a mainly visual basis.
Although repeated visits were made to almost all of the case studies, it could not
usually be ascertained whether the faults observed were rectified at a later date, or
whether they persisted in the finished building.
The evidence suggested that many of the cases of non-compliance with building
regulations were occasioned by shortcomings in workmanship, rather than evident
flouting of the rules to take short cuts to economise on materials and labour. Others
could be attributed to omissions caused by failures in site organisation or to
insufficiently rigorous checking procedures.
3.2. Deficiencies identified in the surveyed houses
Shortcomings that should be considered the most serious are those difficult or
impossible to rectify at later stages in the work without serious expense and
disruption, or even rebuilding.
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Shortcomings in the construction of cavity walls are of this category, and were not
uncommon in the case studies. Particularly serious are instances where wall ties are
insufficient in number, poorly installed and where the building-in of the insulation
layer within the cavity is faulty. A significant reduction in the structural and thermal
performance of the wall system can be the result; as it is likely to be hidden from view
at an early stage in construction, this makes it difficult to put right later in the project.
It must be noted, however, that these faults were not observed to be widespread, but
occurred generally in small areas, particularly at junctions and where the configuration
of the walls was complicated. Also difficult to rectify are instances of poor
workmanship leading to missing or faulty weep holes, and excessive debris on cavity
trays and wall ties, which were noted with some frequency. These can lead to a
reduction in the weatherproofing capacity of the external wall. Special attention should
be given to these aspects while the walls are being erected (Plates 1-8).
The installation of wall and roof restraining straps was not always carried out
according to building regulations, though this shortcoming is more easily checked and
put right during the project. The use of built-up timber floor joists has simplified floor
Plate 2.
Wall tie is not properly
bedded in the outer leaf,
possibly due to the use of a
tie too short for wide
cavities
Plate 1.
An example where there
are insufficient wall ties,
which might reduce the
structural performance of
the wall
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construction work, but some problems still remain at the bearing points, especially in
building-in of joist ends when joist hangers are not used (Plates 9-12).
It is the junctions between walls and windows and external doors that cause the
greatest problems in relation to continuity of insulation, air-tightness and continuity of
damp proofing, vertically and horizontally. The use of cavity closing sub-frames at
openings, built in by the bricklayer, affords a simple solution to these problems. When
these are not used, faults tend to occur at the interface between trades. Damage to
DPCs and insulation between the finishing of one trade and the commencement of
another is one cause of problems (Plates 13-15).
The frequent occurrence of landscaping and paving around the completed buildings
at a higher level than anticipated causes problems in ensuring that the DPC in the outer
leaf is at least 150 mm above the finished ground level. This appears to be unresolved
in numerous cases. However, the need for a level entrance is generally achieved
without technical shortcomings (Plates 16-17).
Plate 3.
An example of insulation
batt in a poor condition;
the wall tie wheel
squashes the insulation
panel, thus reducing its
thickness and its
insulation value
Plate 4.
Omission of weep-holes at
lintel level, as in this
example, can result in a
build-up of water in the
cavity at horizontal cavity
trays
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The frequency of damaged underground drainage pipework where it emerges and is
exposed above ground for connection is notable. It is assumed that this can be repaired
when connections to above-ground drainage is made. However, adequate precautions
against the ingress of rats is not maintained, and the drains are vulnerable to blockage.
The policy of final testing of underground drains after completion of landscape work is
recommended, subsequent damage or blockage being then unlikely (Plates 18-19).
4. Results of the housing survey using questionnaires to occupants of the
houses
4.1. Introduction
A survey, using questionnaires, was carried out on some then new and some recently
completed (between one and two years old) housing schemes in Oxfordshire and
Gloucestershire. This was complementary to the previous survey in which houses
Plate 5.
Proprietary weep holes
units inserted wrong way
up, with the result that
they might let water run in
instead of out
Plate 6.
Weep-holes damaged and
blocked; build-up of water
in the cavity, leading to
damp on the inner leaf, is
possible
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under construction were inspected with the aim of detecting any breach of building
regulations.
The intention of this later survey was to check whether any problems in completed
houses, which could be traced back to building regulations transgressions, had
developed. For this purpose, 200 copies were circulated at random in five housing
estates in Gloucestershire and three housing estates in Oxfordshire. A total of 43
completed questionnaires were returned, i.e. a response rate of 21.5 per cent. Precisely
100 copies were circulated randomly within the five housing estates in Gloucestershire;
26 copies were returned; i.e. a response rate of 26 per cent; 100 copies were also
Plate 7.
Excessive mortar
droppings on horizontal
cavity tray leads to
blocked weep holes and
causes build-up of
moisture that might get
onto inner leaf
Plate 8.
Excessive mortar
droppings in the cavity
can cause bridging of the
cavity, particularly at the
wall ties, leading to
ingress of moisture to the
inner leaf
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Plate 9.
An example where the
holding down straps at the
wall plate are at more than
2 m centres, probably
because of the wide window
Plate 10.
No evidence of any straps
at wall plate level; these
will be difficult to fix after
the roof structure and
covering are in place
Plate 11.
Although the noggins are
in place, the lateral wall
restraint strap is not
sufficiently secured to
them to be effective
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distributed at random in the three housing estates in Oxfordshire; 17 copies were
returned; i.e. a response rate of 17 per cent.
4.2. Faults and deficiencies reported by the questionnaire respondents
The returned questionnaires were analysed manually, since no advanced statistics,
correlations or cross tabulations were required, i.e. no statistical analysis package was
used. The distribution of the different faults reported in the 43 questionnaires returned
is summarised in the Table I.
Just less than half the total of respondents claimed that they had not experienced
any fault of any kind in their houses. On the other hand, for the majority of the
respondents reporting faults, cracks (either internally and/or externally) on house
walls, were most common defects. The scale of this type of problem seems to be worse
in the Oxfordshire housing estates than in the Gloucestershire housing estates. In
general, the cracks were repaired later by the developers who had built the scheme. A
few respondents mentioned heating systems not functioning properly, draughty doors
or windows, water leaking from pipes, and/or faulty electrical systems. In addition, a
Plate 12.
In this example, the floor
joists are not fully built in;
this could result in
twisting and movement of
joists
Plate 13.
Missing DPC at thresholds
to the outside. If rectified
later, it is difficult to
achieve the necessary
overlap with the existing
DPC; lack of continuity
could cause rising damp
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very few respondents reported either blocked drains, wobbly or uneven floors, and/or
damp patches on walls. Other faults were also reported by different respondents. These
faults, however, either single or part of a group, tended to be restricted to individual
houses rather than common to groups of houses. The evidence from the analysis of the
reported faults suggests that, overall, these faults are a result of poor workmanship
and a consequence of non-compliance with building regulations during construction of
the houses. A member of the steering group notes that the faults reported by the
householders indicate typical problems occurring in newly constructed houses. He
insists that some of the issues raised by the photographs of the inspected houses under
Plate 14.
Damp proof course cut
short of opening and the
line is erratic – no possible
continuity with window
frame. Water ingress is
likely. The cavity is not
closed, which can lead to
air ingress
Plate 15.
Continuity of insulation on
the inner leaf is broken,
which could create cold
bridging
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Plate 16.
An example in which the
air vent to the under-floor
void is partially blocked
Plate 18.
Damaged soil pipe
connection, and blocked
with debris and building
material
Plate 17.
A case in which the DPC is
only one brick high above
ground level, instead of
the minimum height of
150 mm
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construction may still be unresolved in completed properties, but may not cause
failures within the two to three year period after their completion. He also adds that
some of the problems relating to insulation continuity may never be discovered
without specialist surveys.
5. Results of interviews with building control inspectors, both local
authority and approved inspectors
5.1. Introduction
Interviews were held with six building inspectors, both local authority and
independent, to explore their own experiences of the problems of compliance on
housing development sites. The interviews were semi-structured. The whole building
sequence was reviewed and comments invited on issues raised at each stage. More
general questions were asked about the characteristics of site management, dynamics
of the work process and technical issues, including awareness of the operatives of the
details of building regulations, specifications of materials and building practices. The
inspection regime and priorities were also discussed in relation to the needs of the
particular projects. Although there was a consensus, meaning unanimous or near
unanimous agreement between the inspectors on the majority of the issues, there were,
however, a few areas of disagreement where opinions tended to be divergent.
5.2. Practicality of building regulations
All the inspectors interviewed agreed that overall none of building regulations is too
impractical or difficult to put into practice, and that there are no particular difficulties
in enforcing them. The regulations are specifically written and clearly codified there
are really no grey areas. Building inspectors know the regulations, know where they
will be, what they need to do and why, and are familiar with the ways of builders.
5.3. Foundations
All inspectors reported that there were two aspects relating to foundations that could
be the source of problems, and these should be considered carefully in their design.
Plate 19.
Soil pipe not covered
during building works.
This will provide entry for
rats, and lead to potential
risk of blockage
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Gloucestershire five
housing estates
Percentage of 26
questionnaires returned
Oxfordshire three
housing estates
Percentage of 17
questionnaires returned Total
Percentage of total 43
questionnaires returned
Damp patches on
walls 1 4 1 6 2 5
Damp patches on
floors –
Damp patches on
ceilings –
Draughty doors or
windows 7 27 7 16
Cracks in walls,
inside or outside 7 27 7 41 14 33
Heating not
functioning
properly 6 23 1 6 7 16
Water leaks from
pipes 3 12 3 18 6 14
Wobbly or uneven
floors 2 8 1 6 3 7
Leaky roofs
Condensation on
walls or ceiling
Blocked drains 2 8 1 6 3 7
Electrical faults 4 15 2 12 6 14
Other faults 9 35 4 24 13 30
No faults 9 35 9 53 18 42
Table I.
Distribution of the
different reported faults
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These are the ground sub-soil conditions, particularly with shrinkable clays, and
proximity of trees, also particularly in areas of shrinkable clays.
5.4. Ground floor
Although all inspectors stated that there were no serious problems of compliance with
regulations in ground floors, they mentioned some problems that could occur at this
level of construction. These include ineffective or lack of protection against radon,
changes in thermal requirements and their effect on thermal insulation, and misplaced,
missed or damaged DPM and DPC.
5.5. Superstructure
The inspectors agreed that most of construction work usually took place at the
superstructure stage, including building external walls, openings, upper floors, roofs,
and provision of supply services, mechanical ventilation and fire prevention. As faults
are likely to occur, discretion must be used as when to make the inspections. Inspection
after first fix stage was generally recommended.
5.6. Underground drainage
According to the inspectors, drainage tends to be relatively unproblematic; most
builders and ground workers are familiar with the requirements, and drainage design
has not changed much over time. However, as some problems might occur, they all
agree that drainage testing has to be done either before the drains are covered in, when
faults are easily rectified, or when landscaping is complete, to pick up possible damage
by site traffic.
5.7. Part M access
Although Part M access is believed by the inspectors to be clearly prescriptive, hence
there is not much scope for differences of interpretation, some said it is very hard to get
full compliance, and problems do occur.
5.8. Site management
The inspectors agreed that there is no consistency of approach to site management.
Sites are different in standards, influenced by the personnel in the organisation, and by
site managers who vary considerably in qualifications and knowledge. They insisted
on the importance of competence for running a building site, hence minimisation of
defects.
As both inspectors and site managers are trying to achieve the same goal, i.e. a good
quality construction complying with the building regulation, the two parties tend to get
on well with each other. The inspectors believe that having the same person as site
manager right through the length of the job not only helps build up a good relationship
between the site manager and building inspector, but also benefits the quality of the
end product. In addition, they agree that having more than one manager on site at the
same time can work quite well; different people look for different aspects and pick up
different things. This also allows people more time to do their job properly.
5.9. Deadlines
According to the inspectors, there are two sorts of deadline. Statutory deadlines govern
the building control regulations, which the inspectors tend to respect well and obey.
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Site managers, too, have deadlines, but are criticised because sometimes they respect
deadlines at the expense of good quality work or compliance with building regulations,
especially when they are under pressure from developers to achieve completion, or if
they want to complete their current work in order to move on to the next job. Pressures
on site are also believed to lead often to shortcomings.
5.10. Skills and training
Tradesmen are believed by the inspectors not to know building regulations. Normally
they are given a schedule of works or drawings to go and build, and rely solely on those
drawings. There was concern about this serious lack of knowledge of building
regulations. However, the inspectors agree that tradesmen who are well trained and
tutored make a lot of difference to compliance with building regulations. Training and
awareness about issues relating to building regulations are very important and should
be provided continuously.
It was observed that though site managers should have a certain level of
qualification, the majority have none. Most of the time they are not trained as site
managers. However, as noted, some site managers who have no qualifications at all are
among the most professional of site managers in the country, due to their wide
experience.
Big companies tend to have technical and design sections that obviously know
building regulations. However, small builders rely mainly on drawings drawn for
them; their understanding of the regulations is low. Despite the claim by interviewed
inspectors (Section 5.2), the growing complexity of these regulations is making them
even harder for these builders to understand; hence errors on plans and drawings are
eventually replicated on buildings.
5.11. Inspection regimes and workload
Although there was some sort of agreement between inspectors on some aspects of
inspection regimes and workload, their views on the other aspects tended to conflict
and be divergent, differing especially between approved inspectors on one hand and
local authority inspectors on the other.
The terminology used for the site visit stages varied slightly among the inspectors.
There was no clear-cut list of stages when an inspector is required to go to a building
site and inspect. There was also disagreement about the necessary frequency of
inspection. Some believed that they were carrying out more inspections than necessary,
and doubted whether more inspections would achieve very much. On the other hand,
others stated that more visits are required, especially where site operatives were seen
to be shoddy, under-skilled, ignorant of requirements, or site management is poor, but
hinted that this is not usually easy to do; there is not enough personnel to carry out
more frequent visits. There was, however, a general agreement between inspectors that
it is easier to inspect and have more confidence in the larger contractors because they
have better site supervision.
There was disagreement about the comparative quality of service provided by local
authority building inspectors and those from approved inspectors. While inspectors
from local authorities believe that they are making more inspections than the approved
inspectors, the latter, especially the NHBC, are convinced that they are applying
building regulations more strictly than the local authorities, partly because they are
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operating under a building control licence and do not want their licence to be in
jeopardy, unlike the local authorities who have no licence to worry about. Despite all
this, all the inspectors agreed on the improved situation with respect to completion
certificate.
It was repeatedly noted by the building inspectors interviewed, that insistence of
mortgage lenders on production of a Completion Certificate before release of any
money to the purchaser, strengthened the inspectors’ power to ensure that full
compliance was achieved before the housing was occupied. The previous situation
where completion work was often carried out after occupation was very disruptive, and
compliance was difficult to achieve and/or assess satisfactorily.
6. Conclusions and issues arising
6.1. Major areas of non-compliance
According to the findings of this research, there did not seem to be a widespread and
purposeful flouting of building regulations. However, the results of the site
investigations, together with feedback from house-owners and building inspectors,
did indicate that certain aspects of construction are more prone to incidents of
non-compliance than others.
One of the most significant of these was the building of cavity walls and the
associated construction details, and the interface between the walls and other
elements and components. Due to the complications associated with the use of a
variety of materials in sometimes-complex configurations and the overlapping of
trades, many opportunities for faulty construction are presented. These are
rendered more serious because of the problems of correcting any faults at a later
stage when the work is covered up, and the difficulty of even detecting faults after
the building is complete.
The shortcomings related to walls can be categorised by performance with regard to
structure, resistance to water and damp, thermal insulation, air-tightness and
protection against radon and other gases:
.The principal structural aspects concerned the incorrect building-in of wall ties
and the poor integration of lintels and steel beams.
.The resistance to ingress of water and damp was compromised in some cases by
non-continuity of damp-proof courses (both horizontal and vertical), excessive
debris in the cavities at the wall ties and cavity trays, insufficient or absent weep
holes, and blocked ventilation provision to the under-floor voids. Finished
ground levels that were too high also featured frequently.
.Thermal insulation and air-tightness was reduced by inadequate installation of
cavity insulation, poor condition of the insulation, air gaps at window and
external door openings in walls, and lack of sealing at skirting level. Radon
protection at suspended ground floor was occasionally compromised by gaps or
overlaps in the ground-floor membrane, and insufficient ventilation of the
under-floor void due to blocked ventilation openings.
The shortcomings relating to upper floors and roofs can be divided into those that
compromise the structure, and those that permit excessive heat loss and the occurrence
of condensation:
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.Repeated instances of missing, poorly fixed, or too widely spaced retaining
straps at floor, wall plate, and gables were detected. The incomplete building-in
of floor joists was not uncommon where joist hangers were not used.
.Poorly installed roof insulation quilt was noticed in several lofts, problems being
encountered mainly at the junction of ceilings with walls and at the eaves, at
complicated junctions between supporting timber members, and at penetrations
of the ceiling such as by lights and ventilation ducts.
Drainage. Blockage of drains and damage to joints was a matter for concern in some
completed projects, and observance on site of unprotected pipes at ground level and
those damaged by site traffic explained how this could easily follow.
Access (Part M). Although the provisions of this part of building regulations are
clearly prescriptive, the greatest problems occurred at the entrances and approaches to
the dwellings. The site levels resulting at the end of the construction occasionally
caused problems for ramp and step design, particularly in higher density
developments on sloping sites.
6.2. Causes of non-compliance
Apart from the occasional occurrence of incompetent and malicious builders described
by the building inspectors, they thought there was generally a realization that building
regulations should be complied with in order to achieve structurally sound and
well-performing buildings. However, there were several reasons why non-compliance
occurred. The major ones are:
.Poor workmanship due to lack of training and skills, taking shortcuts,
ignorance of required standards.
.Ignorance of details of regulations due to lack of training for tradespersons
and operatives.
.Use of incorrect or non-certified materials, particularly thermal insulation and
breathing membranes.
.Poor management resulting in lack of supervision and insistence on high
standards, often caused by repeated changes of site management.
.Conflict/confusion between trades leading to incomplete and faulty work.
.Pressure to complete work occasioned by tight completion times, and financial
time pressure.
.Changes to standard approved designs, with implications for observance of
building regulations provisions.
.Unfamiliarity with design particularly at the outset of projects. Repeated work
in larger projects establishes methods and standards.
.Complicated, labour intensive details requiring work from several trades.
.Lack of detailed calculation of ultimate site levels around dwellings.
6.3. Inspection procedures
It is the responsibility of the site operatives and site management to ensure that all the
provisions of building regulations are complied with. The inspectors should not have
to act as enforcers, but rather as enablers and certifiers. However, they still have the
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ultimate responsibility of certifying compliance at the end of construction, so an
appropriate inspection procedure is required in order to correctly assess that
compliance with building regulations is complete.
It is left to the discretion of the building inspector and the policy of the Building
Control Bodies to decide on the timing and frequency of site inspections. According to
the guidance from the DETR (now ODPM), an appropriate site inspection regime
should be compiled for each project by making a note and listing relevant factors,
assessed at the outset and regularly reviewed. A review of the appropriateness and
success of these site inspection regimes was not an objective of this research, but it can
be argued that frequent observances of non-compliance could indicate shortcomings in
inspection procedures. On none of the sites visited could the transgressions be directly
linked to lack of inspections, though perhaps some instances might have been initially
prevented by intervention by the building inspector. No firm conclusions on this issue
can be made at this stage.
The other important aspect of inspections is the procedure for correction of faults
after they have been detected. All building inspectors, as a result of their inspections,
produced checklists of shortcomings that required correction. Shortage of time, and
covering up of work, did not always permit the instances of shortcomings to be
followed up on subsequent inspections, so a level of trust was necessary between the
inspectors and the site managements.
Despite the clause in the Building Control Performance Standards for the review of
performance (DETR et al., 1999, p. 11) requiring that all Building Control Bodies (BCBs)
“should have methods of collecting and monitoring evidence of their performance, in
terms of service delivery and compliance or non-compliance of building work with
building regulations” and “shall have procedures in place to learn from its findings as a
part of a process of continuous improvement” and “also facilitate the sharing of any
information which would be of benefit to BCBs in recognising general areas of
difficulty (of failure) in achieving compliance”, the thorough background research to
this project could not access any feedback information on problems of compliance with
building regulations.
Building regulations are becoming more complex and exacting. Although building
work in the case study housing was generally undertaken according to approved
drawings, the standard of workmanship and interpretation of details was crucial to the
necessary compliance with building regulations and achievement of required
performance of the building elements.
6.4. Recommendations
Solutions to problems of non-compliance:
.Better training in building skills. The lack of skills and knowledge on the part of
many operatives often makes it difficult for them to achieve the standards of
workmanship demanded, even when they are aware of the requirements of
building regulations. The lack of apprenticeships and on-site training courses
has led to a shortage of skills, particularly in bricklaying and other crafts. A
voluntary system of training is unlikely to be successful. A system of
certification of completion of training in the various trades is required, leading to
the granting of a licence to carry out building works. Major building activities on
site should only be carried out by licensed operatives. An alternative solution is
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to “design out” the need for traditional skills by de-skilling the building process
to reduce the amount of required training: an approach that is increasingly used
by manufacturers and designers and relating to most trades.
.Better training on changes in building regulations and standards for
tradespersons. The lack of continuing professional development incentives
leaves the site operatives to gain information about changes in building
regulations and their application in different situations to chance. Although
some building inspectors see part of their job as being advisors, they cannot
provide the necessary comprehensive training required to impart full
understanding of the implications of building regulations in all the trades
involved. The question of providing information and training for site operatives
should be a particularly important part of the process of introducing changed
and new legislation, and should be addressed by the DTI.
.More adoption of simplified building details. The production of Robust Details for
some aspects of building regulations is a development to be applauded (DEFRA
and DTLR, 2001). The production of more comprehensive ranges of standard
details that can be successfully employed to achieve compliance with all aspects
of the regulations would reduce the complexity of the building process and
increase familiarity with building solutions that are transferable from one site to
another. This could raise up standards of building from the lowest level of
compliance, and provide instant proven solutions to the often-complex interfaces
of elements and components.
.Consistent and competent site management. It was repeatedly indicated in the
course of this research that shortcomings in site management were quickly
reflected in the quality of construction work. Poor management skills and
knowledge, or repeated changes in management personnel, paved the way for
poor workmanship, uncompleted work and bad coordination between trades.
Developers and contractors should be aware of the importance of the role of good
management in achieving compliance with building regulations, particularly as
the commercial pressures for rapid completions and the complexity of the
regulations increases.
.Monitoring. There should be continuing review, research and feedback to
monitor the implementation of the provisions of building regulations, both by
those responsible for construction and inspections, and also to inform those who
are responsible for developing the legislation. The lack of industry-wide
information of performance standards and discussions of problems and their
solutions inhibits the improvement of standards. A standard method of
assessment of building regulations compliance should be developed, enabling
problems to be addressed and trends to be analysed.
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Corresponding author
Bousmaha Baiche can be contacted at: bbaiche@brookes.ac.uk
Building
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