Carter Jonas
Carter Jonas

The Building Control Check List - Listed Buildings

Building Regulations are covered by a series of Approved Documents. These aren't the only way of demonstrating compliance, however following these recommendations should result in approval. Colin Buggey, a Partner at Carter Jonas and member of the Country House Solutions Team lists the Approved Documents here, together with brief comments on the aspects that could impact on listed buildings.  

Listed building 

For many years Planning Officers have routinely consulted their Building Control colleagues about the likelihood of proposals conforming with the Building Regulations. We are now frequently seeing requests for more detailed information and reports at the planning stage, to the point where planning drawings can seem more like construction drawings! This trend also affects Listed Building Consent applications, where presumably the concern is that the Building Control process could result in further unconsidered alterations resulting in the loss or damage of historic fabric.
The main issue here is that many historic structures will not conform to modern structural design standards. This is most likely to come to light when a change of use is proposed that requires higher floor loadings (e.g. a barn conversion to B1 use with office floor loadings on a mezzanine floor). We also frequently come across the need to make sensitive & appropriate alterations to existing structures, such as inserting a door opening into a timber framed wall. In almost all cases the solution lies with a structural engineer who is experienced and sensitive to historic buildings and is prepared to think beyond the standard 'bung in a RSJ' approach. It may also be possible to agree reduced floor loadings linked to careful building management - e.g. preventing the use of certain areas for heavy filing cabinets etc.

Fire Safety
The main issues here tend to be fire separation/compartmentation, means of escape and surface spread of flame. This is a wide and complicated topic and the best answer is likely to be early consultation with Building Control. It may well prove possible to negotiate a trade off - e.g. accepting a single escape route subject to a higher grade of automatic detection & alarm system. There are some very good modern techniques for 'fire proofing' timber and upgrading fire doors.

Site Preparation & Resistance to Contaminants & Moisture
This is not usually a problem area although I guess an over-zealous Building Control Officer could demand inappropriate rising damp or anti-radon treatments such as insertion of damp proof membranes beneath stone flag floors. The best solution will always be to allow historic buildings to breath and to ensure that drainage and high ground levels around buildings are dealt with thoroughly before considering other measures.

Toxic Substances
This is mainly concerned with potentially toxic cavity insulation materials containing urea formaldehyde so is unlikely to be an issue.

Resistance to the Passage of Sound
I have had a few sleepless nights over this one! It usually applies to sound transmission through party walls and floors. There are some good insulation/isolation products and techniques but these usually assume modern construction methods. The best solution is early consultation as there may be opportunities to negotiate dispensations for historic buildings. If at all possible avoid on-site pre-completion testing as it is far too stressful.

A common problem, both for extract fans and ventilation for fireplaces etc. There are some neat techniques such as building extract louvres using plain clay tiles. It is still possible to obtain traditional Victorian cast iron air bricks. There are also very good flush fitting roof terminals (also applicable for soil and vent pipes - see Drainage item below).

Covers the provision of sanitary conveniences and hot water. It is unlikely to be a problem.
Drainage & Waste Disposal
The issue here will usually be finding routes for waste and soil pipes avoiding fine cornices etc. There is usually a solution to be found and 'Brownie points' can be won by removing previous messy pipe work from the outside of buildings. Cast iron (or convincing cast aluminium) gutters and pipe work are invariably preferred where visible. Avoid ghastly internal pumps/macerators though, they always break down, usually on Christmas Eve.

Combustion Appliances & Fuel Storage Systems
The common problems are inserting new flues for stoves, Agas etc and providing ventilation (see section F above for the latter). Twin wall metal flue pipes always seem to take up more room than you expect and must be spaced 50mm from combustible timbers etc. Routes need to be carefully planned to avoid historic timbers. Flues usually terminate 600mm above the ridge, which need to be accurately shown on the planning drawings to avoid a fuss later.

Oil storage tanks now need to be positioned away from buildings unless special fire protection measures can be incorporated and this could well affect the setting of a Listed building. I would always recommend twin wall plastic oil tanks and additional bunds etc may be appropriate if there is a risk of polluting a water course or a sensitive landscape.

Protection from Falling, Collision & Impact
Unlikely to be too much of a problem although the spacing of balusters/spindles can be an issue if children are likely to be present. Handrails can also be very low in historic buildings (we've got taller) but this is usually only a problem if there is a change of use (or sometimes with paranoid new parents).

Conservation of Fuel & Power (Existing Dwellings)
This is a wide and very complicated topic but ultimately there is an opt out as dispensations are possible for Listed buildings. However I am always very keen to improve the thermal performance of all buildings wherever possible. There are some interesting new high tech insulation products available and some good techniques that combine double glazed units with fine glazing bars. Modern boilers are highly efficient but the associated plume of steam from balanced flues needs consideration in sensitive locations.

Access to & Use of Buildings
The recommended standards for disabled access, WCs etc may simply be impossible to achieve - early consultation will usually provide a compromise solution. This section also covers items such as handrails, door handles, colour contrast etc which can all prove tricky in an historic context.

Glazing - Safety in Relation to Impact, Opening & Cleaning
There can be a conflict between the need for safety glazing and the preservation of historic 'crown' glass etc. It is usually possible to compromise by incorporating some form of protective barrier or even secondary glazing.

Electrical Safety
I've come across two main issues here - trying to conceal cables from view and the recent requirement to position sockets halfway up the wall for disabled/elderly users. The latter is a real nuisance when trying to make use of existing holes in skirting boards etc. I find that most Building Control Officers aren't experts in this field and tend to rely on accredited electrical contractors to 'sign off' work. It may be helpful to discuss options with a friendly NICEIC accredited electrician.

Colin Buggey

Colin BuggeyRIBA

Head of Architecture and Building Consultancy

Colin is a chartered architect, based in Oxford.  He provides a wide range of professional services, including design, project management and expert witness, with a particular emphasis on historic...

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Damp proof courseA layer of impervious material injected in towards the base of walls in order to halt rising damp.