Building Regulations Compliance (Parts A and C)
Building Regulations set standards for design and construction which apply to most new buildings and many alterations to existing buildings in England and Wales. You can download an explanatory booklet from this link:
Who is responsible for ensuring Building Regulations Compliance?
The main responsibility for Building Regulations Compliance lies with the company / builder doing the work. However the householder is also responsible. See section 2.4 of the booklet:
The Primary Responsibility
“The primary responsibility for achieving compliance with the regulations rests with the person carrying out the building work. So if you are carrying out the work personally the responsibility will be yours. If you are employing a builder the responsibility will usually be that firm’s – but you should confirm this position at the very beginning. You should also bear in mind that if you are the owner of the building, it is ultimately you who may be served with an enforcement notice if the work does not comply with the regulations (see paragraph 6.3). So it is important that you choose your builder carefully (see paragraph 2.11).”
How do I ensure compliance?
Building work should be notified to the local authority before the work is carried out. The authority may inspect the work whilst it is carried out. Once approved, the homeowner will be issued with a certificate confirming that the work satisfies the Building Regulations.
Do photovoltaic panel installations require Building Regulations approval?
There is some confusion as to whether a PV panel installations counts as building work and whether it needs to be notified to the local authority.
Monument Renewable Technologies Ltd has contacted over 50 Building Control departments and 60% of them require sign off. However in the view of the exponential growth in solar panel installations, many of them are reviewing their procedures. If you Google “Building control photovoltaic panels” you will find that many local authorities do require work to be notified to Building Control, and in many cases an application will be needed to get Building Regulations approval. For example here is an extract from the guidance given by Bexley authority (www.bexley.gov.uk).
“In most cases it will be necessary to give notification of the proposed works to the Council under the Building Regulations.
In addition, in most cases involving the installation of photovoltaic panels, wind turbines and other forms of domestic microgeneration equipment on or within a dwelling house, it will be necessary to obtain Building Regulation Approval. Relevant factors which will be considered involve size, weight and forces exerted on fixing points, fixing points themselves, safety issues, noise, ventilation, and related electrical installation and plumbing issues.”
Barry Turner, Director of Technical Services at LABC. LABC coordinates the technical application of the Building Regulations and influence new or revised regulations covering new technology, new building methods and environmental performance.
Effectively, the LABC is the body to which individual local authorities look to for guidance. Barry Turner advised that the LABC is working towards a guidance document on solar panel installations, which should start to unify the approach. He very positively affirmed that Building Regulations Approval was required.
But if I use an MCS installer, shouldn’t I be covered without notifying Building Control? Unfortunately the answer to this is no. Many installers will tell you otherwise. They will say as they are a Competent Person for the purpose of installing panels, they can self certify the work and therefore no application is necessary.
The confusion arises because they are entitled to self-certify the electrical component of the work. However they are not entitled to self-certify the structural component of the work (the “can the roof take the weight?” part).
Part P – Electrical Safety
Part A – Structure
Part C – Site Preparation and Resistance to Moisture
A PV installation comprises notifiable electrical work.
If electrical work is carried out by a “Competent Person”, certified under a Competent Persons electrical scheme (eg run by NAPIT or NICEIC) then that person can self-certify the work after the installation. All MCS installers are required to be members of a Competent Persons scheme for electrical work. Monument Renewable Technologies Ltd installers are certified by NICEIC,and MCS. Monument Renewable Technologies Ltd self-certifies all of its electrical work and can issue electrical certificates in respect of the work.
Thus the Part P situation is very clear. The confusion arises because a solar PV installation is often much more than electrical work, bringing Parts A and C into play.
Part A requires buildings to be designed, constructed and altered so as to be structurally safe and robust. Solar PV installations result in increased loading on the roof, both downloading from the weight of the panels, and wind uplift. Sometimes the roof needs to be strengthened to cope with these additional loads.
Many installers will tell you that the work will not increase the load on the roof by more than 15% and as a result installing solar panels does not constitute a significant structural alteration. This is again not true. The weight of solar panels and fixings is around 15kg per square metre. The weight of tiles is typically between 30kg / square metre (slates) and 60kg / square metre (tiles).
Even when the weight of the rafters themselves is taken into account, an installation ofsolar PV panels usually increases the loading on the roof by more than 15%. In any event this 15% significance level is itself questionable, first because some roofs do not have 15% spare load capacity in them, and secondly because it ignores the wind uplift resulting from fixing panels on the roof.
Part C deals with the weather and water tightness of buildings. Unless they are installed properly the brackets and mounting rails holding the panels on the roof have the potential to compromise the water tightness of the roof.
At the moment there is no facility for self certification under Parts A or C of the Building Regulations.
Just because an installer is MCS certified doesn’t mean they can certify the installation of solar panels from the perspective of Part A of the Building Regulations perspective.
What will happen if Buildings Regulations approval is required and I don’t get it?.
If the work is not notified to the local authority then there is a possibility this omission will be picked up either by a spot check (the panels are obviously visible since they are on the roof), or by a systematic check on all installations (easily done since all installations are registered on the central FITS database).
In addition when you try and sell the house you will have problems if you have done work without Building Regulations approval. Any prospective house purchaser can carry out a local authority search to see which work has been notified.
There is usually an option to get retrospective approval but it is more expensive than getting prior approval, and will almost certainly require you to show structural calculations for the installation. You should also note that a breach of the Building Regulations is a criminal offence and can carry a fine of up to £5000 upon summary conviction.
Clearly the benefit of getting approval is that the work is double checked by an independent third party and everyone will have the comfort of knowing the installation has been carried out correctly, safely and in compliance with the Building Regulations.
How does Monument Renewable Technologies Ltd address these issues?
Monument Renewable Technologies Ltd obtains site specific structural opinions in respect of all of our installations from a qualified structural engineer and member of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. These are not “generic” opinions, they are specific to your property as we have found there are too many combinations of rafter size, spacing, truss manufacturer, roof covering and wind zone to produce “generic” calculations.
Occasionally roofs need to be strengthened. If this is the case with your roof we will discuss this with you before going ahead with the installation. You will have the right to cancel (with full refund of your deposit) if you do not wish the work to be carried out.
Our prices include provision of this structural opinion.
Before the installation is carried out, Monument Renewable Technologies Ltd contacts the relevant local authority to see whether they require notification of the work or a full application for inspection. Since 60% of installations require us to make an application to Building Control, and since we expect this to increase to 100%, we have taken the view that we will include the fees for dealing with Building Control “as standard” in our prices.
In the event that no application is subsequently required for your installation (other than under Part P for the electrical work), we will refund you £200. In this case we will tell you who we spoke to at the local authority.
We will also recommend you ask them to write to you to confirm that no application is required, so that you don’t get caught out in future. In case your local authority does change its stance on the issue retrospectively we will also send you a copy of our structural opinion so that you have it in case it is required in the future.