You Need An Architect. Right?
When we received our planning consent and decided to use the LABC to oversee our building control, my first phone call was to the architect who had been advising us during the design stages. I had always had him in mind to work on our building control application. Not only is he a skilled professional we know we can collaborate with well, he’s familiar with our design.
Unfortunately due to his workload and scheduled holidays he would be unable to even look over our project for at least a month, so it could be six weeks to two months before we’d have detailed drawings. I was keen to start ASAP so considered alternatives.
Our Architect recommended another practice who I contacted for a quote. They seemed reluctant to give me a price. Someone suggested we try myhomemyplans.co.uk which looked like a good budget option, but I felt apprehensive about using such a seemingly bare bones service. As I searched around for someone to take on the job, it was starting to become apparent that professionals weren’t keen on picking up on projects for building control drawings when they hadn’t been involved in the initial design.
I’d had a germ of an idea that I might be able to tackle it myself. I’d already produced the planning permission drawings and my research into finding someone to draft our building regs had given me an insight into what it might involve. I spoke to the head of building control at our LABC. He said it wouldn’t be a great leap to make my drawings fit for purpose. I think the architect thought I was joking when I mentioned I was considering doing them. I am, after all, a graphic designer specialising in textiles and fashion. My experience with construction starts and ends with being the daughter of a retired chartered building surveyor.
I decided I’d give it a go. It couldn’t hurt, I’d have to wait for our architect anyway so I may as well spend that time seeing if I could do it myself. I came across buildingregsforplans.co.uk (BRFP) which was created for people just like me, keen amateurs who needed some support with compiling their drawings and notes. I was also encouraged by this article by surveyor Ian Rock who used BRFP to produce his own building regs application.
BRFP offer a tiered subscription service depending on how much access to their resources you need. Once subscribed, you can download hundreds of detailed drawings and specifications. I paid £100 for my subscription and I think it was money well spent. I found I needed to amend some of the drawings to make them relevant to our project but it was great to have a starting point. The specifications are really useful as building regs are wordy to put it mildly. You can pick and choose which specifications are pertinent and just copy and paste them onto your own drawings. I had to discern what information was specific to our project, what was just generic yet still required, and what wasn’t relevant -having no previous experience made this tricky. I quizzed our builder and my Dad and searched the far reaches of the internet as well as calling on my own common sense to put together a full set of annotated drawings.
Building Regulations Floorplans
Detailed Survey and Floorplans
I started by double checking all of our survey measurements. When my Dad had completed the original survey he had only noted internal measurements so I had to record all of the external ones. I could then start redrawing the floor plans at 1:50 scale. As with my planning application, I used Adobe Illustrator software for this. I had some notion that one could only use specialist autoCAD software for architectural plans. This isn’t the case. As long as you can produce clear accurate scale drawings that can be outputted in industry standard file format, it really doesn’t matter. I am very experienced in Illustrator being as I use it for my day job and I found it ideal for building regulations drawings. Ian Rock opted for Arcon Evo, a relatively inexpensive specialist programme.
Building regulations drawings need to indicate which construction methods are proposed for each part of the structure. Our extension will be partially brick faced and partially timber clad. The timber clad portions will be constructed with two leaves of blockwork. This is all indicated in the floorplan using different universally recognised shading methods. likewise the new studwork and masonry internal walls.
I had to indicate the position and suggested size of the three RSJs and steel stanchion which I would later get an engineer to provide calculations and designs for. We’re remodelling our existing downstairs layout removing the majority of the masonry walls. Neither my Dad, the builder, the structural engineer or myself have any idea whether any of these are load bearing. As long as I indicate on the floor plans where the walls are that we’re removing and note that they may be subject to replacement loadbearing beams then that’s something we can navigate with the BCO as the build progresses.
We’re proposing a replacement solid roof for our conservatory so I undertook some rudimentary calculations for the current and proposed loads. It requires further assessment and possible reinforcement, but my initial calculations should be sufficient for an initial Building Control application.
Windows and Doors
I marked on the floor plan the positions and dimensions of all of the proposed windows and doors. We’re repositioning several of the windows in the existing elevation where the extension is going so I marked on their original and proposed positions. Likewise the doors. There will need to be a few new windows and doors too so these were all noted too. Existing and new are all collated into a detailed window and door schedule. This is essentially a list of windows and doors numbered to correspond with the drawing and additional details added such as dimensions, opening casement/sidelight information, glazing style, materials and colour.
Window U values (thermal transmittance) need to be considered for extensions. We’re hoping to re-use our existing single glazed windows in the extension, which might be problematic; when specifying windows and doors, several parts of the building control approved documents need to be considered. As well as Part L: Conservation of Fuel and Power (where our single glazed windows may fall foul) Part F: Ventilation, and Part K: Protection from Falling, Collision and Impact are all pertinent to glazing. I explain how I compiled my notes and ensured Approved Document compliance later in this article.
Drainage and Rain Collection
Suggested positions for drainage were marked on the floorplans. Prior to a drainage survey, it’s only possible to take an educated guess and give an indication of where existing drainage might be and where proposed pipework can join into this. Positioning of rain pipes and waste pipes needed to be considered and noted on the drawing. These must comply with part H of the Approved Documents, Drainage and Waste Disposal.
Building Regulations Section Drawings
I particularly enjoyed the challenge of producing section drawings. I used my original elevation drawings as a guide and had to imagine the house had been sliced through and how that would present. I used BRFP drawings as a starting point but ended up drafting all of my own components bespoke to our project.
Section drawings provide additional information regarding the proposed construction of the foundations, floors, walls and roof. They can demonstrate how the proposed extension integrates with the existing structure. I loved how they bring the plans to life, you can really start to imagine how the spaces will take shape.
Building Control Notes
Once I had my floorplan and section drawings complete, I needed to add all of the detailed annotation. I used the myhomeplans.co.uk sample as a guide and compiled my own relevant notes using the specification details on BRFP. By the time I’d done all of the drawings, these highly technical official notes actually made sense to me and it was pretty straightforward to ascertain which ones were relevant or not. I added some to the drawings and included an additional sheet of further notes.
I’m not too worried about whether the notes are all perfect, if I’m missing anything or have included something I shouldn’t. If I have made any errors I’m quite confident that the building control officer from the LABC will be reasonable and work with me to amend it and ensure we comply. There are quite a few unknown quantities – whether the conservatory conversion will meet regulations, likewise the reappropriated single glazed windows. We’ll just have to cross those bridges as we come to them and if they pose an issue, find solutions as we go.
So is it possible to DIY your building regs?
I’ve yet to submit the drawings to the LABC, we’re currently awaiting calculations and drawings from the structural engineer. Our builder said what I had done was as good as any he’d ever seen. I have to conclude that yes, given enough time and the right resources it is possible for a layperson to complete their own building control submission. Some drafting skills are probably essential, plus an interest in construction. But there’s no reason why anyone with those attributes couldn’t have a go. I have no idea how much we’ve saved by drafting them as I couldn’t obtain a quote. I’d be really interested to hear from anyone who has had a breakdown of fees and could give me an idea how much you can expect to pay for building control drawings….
I hope reading this might give someone considering DIYing their building regulations the confidence to give it a go.