Transitional arrangements in regulations: when does work actually start on site?

Changes in construction legislation are coming thick and fast.

Anyone involved in the construction of multi-storey buildings have got their eyes on imminent, significant changes involving fire safety, as described in Approved Document B.

The sector is also awaiting changes to improve energy efficiency and ventilation (Approved Documents L and F), while a consultation on enhancing accessibility (Approved Document M) will conclude later this month.

Typically, each update to building regulations involves a short transition period, during which developers are required to meet existing requirements while using the time to prepare for the new provisions.

The exact point in time when the law recognises that construction work has commenced is important, as it will determine the building regulation requirements for your project.

So when exactly is a site deemed as ‘started’?

When does construction work commence?

Back in 2015, the Department for Communities and Local Government (now the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) in a letter to local authorities, building control teams, inspectors and fire authorities described that in its opinion “the commencement of work would usually be marked by work such as:

  • Excavation for strip or trench foundations or for pad footings
  • Digging out and preparation of ground for raft foundations
  • Vibrofloatation (stone columns) piling, boring for piles or pile driving
  • Drainage work specific to the building(s) concerned”

Just as crucially, the letter went to describe work “not likely to constitute the commencement of work” which listed:

  • Removal of vegetation
  • Demolition of any previous buildings on site
  • Removal of top soil
  • Removal or treatment of contaminated soil
  • Excavation of trial holes
  • Dynamic compaction
  • General site servicing works (eg roadways)

The letter went on to describe sites that contain a number of buildings, noting that “the commencement of work on the first of the buildings within the application…determines whether all the building work can take advantage of the transitional provisions, not each individual building.”

Next building regulation changes: Approved Document B

The next transitional provisions period will relate to changes to Approved Document B and fire safety.

The changes take effect on 26 November 2020 for use in England.

The 2019 edition will continue to apply where a building notice or an initial notice has been given to, or full plans deposited with, a local authority before 26 November 2020 and either the building work to which it relates has started before that day, or is started before 29 January 2021.

The changes focus on the following fire safety provisions in blocks of flats:

  • Sprinklers: A reduction in the trigger height from 30m to 11m
  • Wayfinding signage for the fire service: A new recommendation for floor identification and flat indication signage within blocks of flats with storeys over 11m

More on the amendments to Approved Document B can be found here.

Please Note: Every care was taken to ensure the information in this article was correct at the time of publication. Any written guidance provided does not replace the reader’s professional judgement and any construction project should comply with the relevant Building Regulations or applicable technical standards. However, for the most up to date LABC Warranty technical guidance please refer to your Risk Management Surveyor and the latest version of the LABC Warranty technical manual.

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