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’ methods of getting Building Regulations approval. If you follow the rules given in the documents you can be sure that they will be approved.
Wales is steadily developing its own set of Building Regulations. The full set of Approved documents is here
A major change so far has been the introduction of sprinkler systems into new housing. See more on sprinkler systems.
Of course you are not forced to use the Approved Documents, as the Regulations make clear:
In fact the Approved documents are a bit of a combination of ‘rules of thumb’ and technical standards and they have gaping holes in them. While, for instance, there are many pages on how to construct traditional masonry, there is little about timber frame construction except the odd reference to British standards.
They could also be seen to be struggling to keep up with the times. If and when zero, or very low energy house building is introduced then whole swathes of the Approved documents will need to be rewritten because many of the diagrams and tables are based on very 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 may even be 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 building or its method of construction. Bear in mind that almost any change will require the providing of details of changes to Building Control and this can be expensive and time consuming.