If you’re planning a construction project, you’re probably already thinking about Building Regulations approval. But did you know that you have a choice between Local Authority Building Control and Private Building Control?
A brief history of Private Building Control
Back in 1984, a body called the Construction Industry Council (CIC) was formed to allow the privatisation of Building Control. This central government organisation regulates Private Building Control and approves inspectors to carry out this role.
The first company to gain CIC approval was the National House Building Council (NHBC) in the 1990s. There are now more than 150 companies nationwide who offer Building Control services for residential or commercial properties.
What’s the difference between Private and Local Authority Building Control?
Your Local Authority is a non-profit organisation, so it is likely to charge less than Private Building Control. On the other hand, if you can pay a bit more for Private Building Control, you get a dedicated inspector for your project.
When taking a straw poll of other surveyors, many seem to agree that the Local Authority Building Control officers have a reputation for being more independent and thorough; for instance, with more on-site inspections than Private Building Control. Contractors may understandably prefer the ‘lighter touch’ of the latter, which can mean fewer and less thorough inspections. This can give obvious advantages to contractors but may not be in the best interests of the client.
Choosing Building Control for small projects
For relatively small residential projects, the Building Control officer, whether Private or Local Authority, may be the only professional person inspecting the work and frequency of visits therefore becomes crucial. The demise of the ‘clerk of works’ and the popularity of contractors who offer a ‘design and build’ service on small projects means that there may be no other professionals who visit the site and carry out inspections.
On more sizeable projects, there will be a design team making routine inspections of work in progress, so this becomes less of an issue.
Getting feedback on designs before submission
It has been suggested that the Local Authority Building Control department is less helpful at design stage. However, at Grumitt Wade Mason, we have found that they are happy to discuss proposals and routinely give written feedback.
This feedback includes extracts of the relevant part of the Building Regulations that have not been met and possible ways to meet them. The client can then amend their application before submission, rather than meeting with outright refusal and having to make a new application.
Geographical area of a Building Control officer
Local Authority Building Control officers tend to cover a small geographical area and have local knowledge whereas Private Building Control officers tend to cover a larger area.
Local knowledge of ground conditions can be helpful as can knowledge of regional construction methods, if dealing with existing buildings.
Frequency of visits and availability
We have found that both Local Authority and Private Building Control officers can usually visit as and when necessary, often the next day. That said, it may well be a different Local Authority officer who comes to inspect and this can, from time to time, lead to problems on site.
Your build, your choice
Whichever option suits you best, Grumitt Wade Mason can help by preparing designs to meet Building Regulations Standards. After gaining planning approval, a client will often call on us for detailed design drawings to obtain Building Regulations approval.
- Find an Approved Inspector near you in the CIC’s Approved Inspectors Register
- Who should design your alteration or extension? Read What is the Difference Between an Architect and an Architectural Technologist?
- Explore Grumitt Wade Mason’s Full Design Service