The Approved documents Approved documents are detailed publications which come under the English Building RegulationsThese are the mass of regulations that cover safety, health, welfare, convenience, energy efficiency etc. in the way buildings are constructed. Not to be confused with Planning consent (which is more to do with whether you can put up the building in the first place). They are based on tried and tested methods of building and if you follow them you are assured of complying with the Regs. The equivalents for Scotland are the Technical HandbookUnder the Scottish Building Regulations, the Technical Handbook gives construction principles, which, if you follow them guarantee compliance with the Regulations, for Wales: the Approved documents (Wales), and for N.I. the Technical BookletsUnder the Northern Ireland Building Regulations, the Technical Booklets give construction principles, which, if you follow them guarantee compliance with the Regulations are ‘standard’ ways of getting Building Regulations approval. If you follow the principles and rules given in the documents you can be sure that they will be approved.
The full list is on the GOV.UK web site
Sometimes they can also be very useful as a design aid for constructional details as they are based on sound practice. They are split into several parts and the following pages have notes which may be useful to a self builder:
- A – Structure (England)
- B1 – Fire safety (England)
- C – Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture (England)
- D – Toxic substances (England)
- E – Resistance to the passage of sound (England)
- F – Ventilation (England)
- G – Sanitation, hot water safety and water efficiency (England)
- H – Drainage and waste disposal (England)
- J – Combustion appliances and fuel storage systems (England)
K is the one which covers stairs. See our stair design calculator
- K – Protection from falling, collision and impact (England)
- L1A – Conservation of fuel and power in new dwellings (England)
- L1B – Conservation of fuel and power in existing dwellings (England)
Of course you don’t have to use the Approved Documents, as the Regulations make clear:
In fact the Approved Documents are a bit of a mishmash of ‘rules of thumb’ and technical standards and they have gaping holes in them. Whereas, for instance, there are many pages on how to construct traditional masonry walls, there is nothing about timber frame construction except the odd reference to British standards.
They are also struggling to keep up with the times. If zero energy new house building is introduced by 2021 (as planned by the EU) then whole swathes of the Approved Documents will need rewriting because many of the diagrams are based on quite low levels of insulation.
There are other ways of satisfying the regulations. For instance the regulations make copious references to BSBritish Standard, BS EN and BS EN ISO standards which may be another way of fulfilling the criteria. It is even possible in some very rare cases to prove that something works by building it first and then testing it afterwards (though this is not for the faint hearted).
During a self build project you may want to make changes to the design of the house or its method of construction. Bear in mind that almost any change will involve providing details to Building Control and this can be expensive and time consuming.