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Building Regulations & Planning Permission for Modular Buildings

modular building planning permission

Updated for for 2017


We’re regularly asked about planning permission for modular buildings, and whether they need to comply with building regulations. We’ve created this guide to clear up any confusion.

What are they and do modular and portable buildings need to comply with building regulations?

Anyone intending to carry out building work that is subject to building regulations is required by law to make sure the work complies with the relevant regulations and that they use an approved Building Control Service. This includes the installation of a modular building system whether it is newly manufactured or refurbished.

The difference between building regulations and planning permission

Complying with building regulations and obtaining planning permission are separate matters. Building regulations set the standards for the design and construction of buildings. Planning permission is used to guide the way towns, cities and the countryside are developed. Planning takes into account the external appearance and the impact the development will have on the local area.

The building regulations are a set of standards for design and construction which apply to most new buildings and many alterations to existing buildings. This ensures buildings, including modular and portable buildings, are manufactured to an approved standard. They cover various parts including structural elements, fire safety, ventilation and the energy use of the building.

If you are purchasing and organising the supply and installation of a modular building personally, the responsibility for approval of the building regulations will be yours. If you are employing a contractor the responsibility will usually be with that company, however, you should confirm this position at the very beginning. You should also be aware 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.

The Building regulations consist of various parts. Each part is lettered and deals with a specific requirement. These are as follows:

Part A: Structural
Part B: Fire safety
Part C: Resistance to contaminants and moisture
Part D: Toxic substances
Part E: Resistance to sound
Part F: Ventilation
Part G: Sanitation, hot water safety and water efficiency
Part H: Drainage and waste disposal
Part J: Heat producing appliances
Part K: Protection from falling
Part L: Conservation of fuel and power
Part M: Access to and use of building
Part N: Glazing safety
Part P: Electrical safety

Exemptions from Building Regulations

In general, most type of buildings are required to comply with these building regulations. Some buildings can be exempt from the whole of the Regulations; others are only exempt from certain aspects. The main categories of exempt buildings and work are:

  • greenhouses and agricultural buildings
  • temporary buildings (on site for less than 28 days)
  • ancillary buildings (site accommodation for demolition/construction work)
  • small detached buildings
  • detached buildings (sheds, greenhouses etc.)
  • carports
  • porches
  • conservatories
  • covered ways
  • garages

In respect of technical requirements the exemptions are judged by two approaches:

1. Parts A to K, M, N and P are judged against the categories listed above.
2. Part L (conservation of fuel and power) is judged against a different criteria set out in Regulation 21 of the Building Regulations.

Regulation 21 Exemptions

Under Regulation 21 of the building regulations, the exemptions from part L in relation to modular and portable buildings are limited to:

  • Buildings under 50m2
  • Buildings with a low energy demand (i.e. the building is not heated)
  • Buildings to be used as a place of worship
  • Temporary buildings

(A temporary building is defined as a building that is used on a single site for a period less than two years and then destroyed).

All modular and portable buildings which do not fall within the exemptions will need to comply fully with the current building regulations. Broadly, the Part L requirements apply to all new modular and portable buildings, re-furbished modular buildings or extensions of such buildings.

Application Process

A building control application is submitted to the local authority when the building construction, layout and design is known. The application consists of detailed plans and supporting details e.g. structural calculations, energy performance certificate (EPC) and full plans form.

You will have to pay a fee for the application. The charge may vary between local authorities but it is regulated by the Building (Local Authority Charges) Regulations 2010. You should contact your local authority for details of their fees.

The time to get approval of the application will vary (from 4 to 8 weeks as a guide) and will depend on the local authority and the complexities of the building design. It is not advisable to commence with the works on site until the building control application has been approved.

This overview has been provided as a quick reference; if you are in any doubt, seek appropriate advice before commencing works.

Modular Building Consultants Ltd provides independent advice on all types of modular building systems. We’reĀ are not tied to any other business or sell modular buildings. If you would like help with planning permission for modular buildings, or with building regulations, contact us using the details below.

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