Steve Evans BSc (Hons) MBA C.Build.E FCABE Senior Area Technical Manager, National House Building Council (NHBC)

    Shortly before the dissolution of Parliament, the coalition government issued the final results of the Technical Housing Standards Review. Running to just over 4000 pages of legislation, regulation and guidance, the complete package was a ‘tidying up’ exercise to deal with ‘complex, overlapping or contradictory housing standards’, replacing over 100 different policies and standards into a single set of national standards, most of which are published in the Building Regulations.

    The final results of the review sees tiered regulations in Part M and Part G, as well as a new mandatory regulation for all new housing Part Q – security, as well as a National Space Standard which has not been placed in the building regulations.

    From October 1st 2015 Local Planning Authorities (LPA) can impose optional higher standards on space, water and access to residential developments in their area provided that they have set policies in their local plan. The ability to impose these standards is dependent on the LPA demonstrating a local need and also the viability of developments if the new higher standard was required.

    The developer must then inform their selected building control body (BCB) if an “Optional” requirement has been imposed on their development. It is the job of the BCB to enforce these as if they were the minimum standard for that development in the usual way.

    Space – In addition to a minimum gross internal floor area and built-in storage area dependent on the number of bedrooms, the standard will insist that at least one bedroom in a two-bedroom home is a double (or twin) room. Minimum room sizes also apply as well as a minimum floor to ceiling height of 2.3m for at least 75% of the gross internal area.

    This standard has not been incorporated into Building Regulations. Instead, it may be imposed by LPAs as a planning condition.

    Water – Minimum water efficiency standards were introduced in 2010 and currently require that new homes are designed so that calculated water use is not more than 125 litres/person/day. This minimum standard is to be retained with an optional tighter standard of 110/litres/person/day available locally ‘where there is a clear local need’.

    Security – The new mandatory Part Q standard intends to introduce a level of consistency across different areas and consolidate around cost effective measures to reduce the incidence of burglary.

    Access – The new 2015 regulations substantially change Approved Document M to allow for new optional access requirements to be available locally.

    Existing standards are to be consolidated with Lifetime Home Standard being replaced by ‘Category 2 – Accessible and Adaptable Housing’ and Wheelchair Housing Standards to be replaced by ‘Category 3 – Wheelchair User Dwellings in Part M.

    I am literally still reading through the published documents and coming to terms with the complexities of the issues that the new system will throw at the building control and planning professionals as well as our customers. It is going to be a busy six months.

    The complete final package of documents and announcements is available here.


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