10 November 2015
The UK system of Local Authority inspections is an evolved version of the one we used to have in Ireland before self-certification was introduced in 1992. (1)
The Architect/Engineer submits drawings for approval, gets permission with conditions (or refusal), the Local Authority inspects at set stages and issues a certificate on completion. Unlike our new SI.9 system, U.K. inspectors have statutory powers and can escalate to shut a site if works continue to be non-compliant (see notes in Appendix). It is a straightforward system similar to many others around the world. Provision is there for retrospective compliance (unlike BC(A)R SI.9).
The critical difference is there is a 100% inspection rate for all building types and the system is independent from industry; it is controlled by Local Authorities. The UK Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) publishes a clear guide on Risk Assessment for Building Control Officers to allow them to determine how many inspections are necessary for a particular project. (2) A standard assessment procedure, Inspector experience and common sense determine the number of inspections rather than an algorithm.
On the UK mainland they have a system of Approved Inspectors (AI) i.e. privatised inspectors licensed and controlled by Local Authorities that can be employed directly by developers of projects (3). The cost of using an AI is higher than going the Local Authority route and is typically no more than 1% of the construction cost of a project. It is the preferred route for 80% of commercial projects in England and Wales (4).
Blog Note: The table of fees for Building Control Inspections in Northern Ireland (Co. Down) are shown in a Link below.
The following UK system cost calculation has been verified by an Architect in the UK, and is based on Local Authority fees in Down District in Northern Ireland (5). The system in Northern Ireland is cheaper than in the UK mainland. Fees in the UK are self-financing and are approximately twice those listed below.
The basis for the following calculation is a 22-unit four-storey apartment building with six different plan types (ground x 2, typical x 2, penthouse x 2) with three cores.
Down District Council Building Control fees for multi-unit development:
Number of Plan types (6 no.) £ 400
Plan fee- 22 dwellings (£510 + £20) £ 530
Inspection fee- 22 dwellings (£2,835 + £200) £3,035
Total Building Control fee £3,965 (€6,076).
Cost per multi-unit £180 (€276).
The cost for a single dwelling is just €236 (£175)(6), on mainland UK it is €772 (£572)(7).
A comparison between the total costs to the consumer, industry and taxpayer of the UK and Northern Ireland system of Local Authority 100% independent inspections versus the current Irish system of reinforced self-certification confirms that the UK system is a fraction of the cost.
Table of fees for Down District:
- Building Control | Local Authority Building Control: http://www.labc.co.uk/
- “Risk assessment decision making tool for building control bodies” DCLG 2012:
- Construction Industry Council – Approved Inspectors Register:
- Approved Inspector- Wilkinson Construction Consultants:
- Building Control fees in Co. Down, Northern Ireland:
- Building Control fees in Co. Down, Northern Ireland:
- Anglesea Building Control Charges:
- Building Control Officer (BCO) Fee for a Notice is the same as the fee if you do not submit the drawings i.e. £3,965. This process allows building to commence without the submission of drawings. The project is inspected as normal however the risk of changes being made at BCO request during build increases.
- BCO fee for regularisation (building completed without lodgment of plans or interim inspections)= £3,965 x 1.2 = £4758. (the 1.2 figure comes from the factor of regularisation fee (£300) / Building Notice Fee (£250) = 1.2)
- A Local Authority has a general duty to enforce the Building Regulations in its area and will seek to do so by informal means wherever possible. If informal enforcement does not achieve compliance with the Regulations the local authority has two formal enforcement powers which it may use in appropriate cases.
- Firstly, if a person carrying out building work contravenes the Building Regulations, the local authority may prosecute them in the Magistrates’ Court where an unlimited fine may be imposed (sections 35 and 35A of the Building Act 1984). Prosecution is possible up to two years after the completion of the offending work. This action will usually be taken against the person carrying out the work (builder, installer or main contractor).
- Alternatively, or in addition, the local authority may serve an enforcement notice on the building owner requiring alteration or removal of work which contravenes the regulations (section 36 of the 1984 Act). If the owner does not comply with the notice the local authority has the power to undertake the work itself and recover the costs of doing so from the owner.
- A section 36 enforcement notice cannot be served on you after the expiration of 12 months from the date of completion of the building work. A local authority also cannot take enforcement action under section 36 if the work which you have carried out is in accordance with your full plans application which the authority approved or failed to reject. Local authority has two formal enforcement powers which it may use in appropriate cases.
- An appeal against a section 36 notice may be made to a Magistrates’ Court under section 102 of the Building Act.
- Where an approved inspector is providing the Building Control Service, the responsibility for checking that the Building Regulations are complied with during the course of your building work will lie with that inspector. They will usually do this by advising you.
- However, approved inspectors do not have formal enforcement powers. In a situation where the inspector considers your building work does not comply with the Building Regulations and there is a refusal to bring it into compliance the inspector will cancel the initial notice. If no other approved inspector takes on the work, the building control function will automatically be taken on by your local authority. From this point on, your local authority will also have enforcement powers set out above where it considers this necessary.
The above post is an extract of a paper “Is red tape killing our housing sector: Building Control Regulation Costs for multi-unit housing” by Maoilíosa Reynolds MRIAI at the Dublin Economics Workshop 2015, with thanks to Mark Stephens MRIAI.
Other posts of interest: