Form follows function

We all know that the planning system has an impact on the final design of a home extension or new house project and not necessary in a beneficial way, but what part do Building Regulations play in shaping the design?

Building Regulations and design

The Building Regulations control the manner in which new buildings are constructed and how they will be used to ensure that they are structurally sound, energy efficient, safe in case of fire and have suitable access for disabled people. Among other things they also control services such as electrical wiring, boilers, flues, drainage and ventilation. But it is the non services regulations that have a direct impact on home design and our lives.

In ensuring a home and its components’ are suitable in deflection, shear, stress, bearing, buttressing as well as lateral stability and roof spread the overall design is often shaped in the process of making the home buildable. When considering a home’s structural stability, it really is a case of form following function.

In achieving the regulations’ goals as far as fire safety is concerned, open plan layouts in three storey houses, with the staircase open to lower rooms is a non starter. And the regulations regarding access could be viewed as being even more restrictive to design freedom. However, whilst the majority of regulations are applicable to all work, the rules governing access are only applicable to new homes. So, stepping the ground floor down when entering a large room as a way to gain better proportions and creating a generous feeling of space can be achieved on an extension but not on a new house.

The objectives for energy conservation also dictate the design of houses in the UK. You only need to look at the small windows in estate housing from the early 1980s to see how big developers shied away from installing compulsory double glazed windows (in larger openings) to discover how even quite soft regulations can shape our homes.

Shaping design

So designing your dream home or extension is one thing. However, shaping a home that balances the needs of the home owner against the plethora of requirements for Planning and Building Regulations, requires not only a knowledge and understanding of the requirements, but a canny application of their use (and possible avoidance) with a focus on the overall design.

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