The Building Regulations were originally introduced to make sure that buildings complied with certain building standards. In recent times they have been expanded enormously with a series of 14 technical Parts devoted to particular topics e.g. Part P for electrics and Part N for glazing/windows. At the same time the Building Regulations are now also used to ensure that building work increases the energy efficiency rating of the relevant components to certain levels.
Whilst the intentions may have been good, the practice is far from good. The result is that only people registered with particular schemes (e.g. FENSA for windows or NICEIC for electrics) are allowed to sign-off their own work. The alternative is to pay a fee to the local Council Building Control Officer (BCO) to give approval. In both cases the quality of the work or assessment is highly variable. Some BCOs give a cursory assessment whilst others scrutinise every detail and reject work for trivial deviations (in terms of their impact) from the standard. SImilarly, whilst some tradesmen will do the work well, others will not – but both can sign off the work as being to the standard.
The Building Regulations should be reviewed and the highly restrictive, bureacratic and costly requirements to use certain approved installers should be relaxed. These apply particularly to Parts N and P but the requirement to have the work approved applies also to other parts that a competent householder might wish to tackle e.g. Parts F, G, H. J and L. I propose that all the relevant standards e.g. for quality of materials and components and for the design should be freely available for anyone to access e.g. on the internet or at their local library (or council office perhaps). Anyone who is competent and confident they can undertake the work should be able to do so, whether this is the householder or someone they know. If the work represents a significant change from what previously existed (for example, not simply replacing a broken light switch), it may be appropriate that they should have to record the nature of the work undertaken and sign to state it has been done to the appropriate standard.
This self-certification of work could either be recorded in a "House Logbook" – (why don't houses have some kind of logbook that records details of repairs and maintenance undertaken and changes to systems etc that can be passed on to the next owner?), or perhaps a self-certification could be submitted to the local authority to be held on record, similar to now (although there would be a risk that would become bureaucratic and incur costs too.) In either case, a future prospective owner or tenant should be able to find out what significant work has been undertaken and, if they wish, get 'an expert' to check it was actually done to standard. They key factor is having a record of what has been done. We need to get back to a point where people are allowed to carry out their own repairs and maintenance without being forced to use someone deemed competent (but who often isn't) or going through a bureaucratic and costly local authority approval system.
Why does this idea matter?
The current system is not achieving what it was supposed to do for several reasons:
1. Lots of people ignore the current requirements anyway (either deliberately or through ignorance);
2. So called registered/approved tradesmen often don't do the work to standard and also charge more because of the registration scheme they belong to;
3. Building Control Officer approval is time consuming and costly; and
4. Building Control Officers are inconsistent in their assessments of relevant work.
We need change!