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Building Regulations Approved Documents feedback request

by on August 21, 2012

There are around 2 million free downloads of the Building Regulations Approved Documents from the Portal each year – clearly this is a valued service.

It would help me to understand our service better if you could provide some feedback on what it is you value in our Approved Documents service.

I’d be grateful if you could let me know:

  • How you currently use the Approved Documents downloaded from the Portal
  • How we could improve or add functionality to the current service
  • What your profession is

Many thanks!

  1. Niall Macpherson permalink

    Under the Approved Documents. It would be useful the the index pages were viewable without having to download the whole doc. It would act as a quick reference and help ID the correct doc.

  2. Simon Evans permalink

    I am one of those who regularly use the service. It saves the cost of a printed copy, keeps everything up to date, and means I have no need to store anything.

    The system is pretty good. If I have any criticism is that it can take a while to navigate to the correct document as there are so many peripheral ones. For my purposes, I mostly just need a list of AD’s and their title and to be able to go straight from there to the text of the AD I choose. Some kind of index as a shortcut link might be good too (so you don’t need to know which AD in the first place).

    I am a Chartered Building Surveyor practising as an architect and so refer to these docs all the time.

    • I use the service both at work and via a remote connection at home when I work at home . I am an EHO and this enables me to to look and comment on planning applications without taking heavy files around the offices or at home . I have used it for many years in several Councils and would heartily recommend it as it saves loads of trees and my back from carrying paper and also time getting copies from planners. We can comment more or less immediately wherever we are based so this speeds up the planning response time

  3. Simon Evans permalink

    Just to expand on my last post: the current system has an initial page that is exemplary in design and looks as if it takes you to the AD you choose. It doesn’t. It takes you to a page specific to that AD with all the peripheral documents. So you have to click on the AD you want a second time. That takes you to what I call a typical local authority website type page, covered in text with the link you want buried in it. So the first click is fast, the second click rather less so, and the final one can be tedious, before you get to what you wanted and looked as if you would be going straight to at the outset! minor quibbles though really.

  4. Xspace permalink


    Forms are fine just that no Dorset councils will accept apps on line, they will always take amendments on line pdf’s but not applications ????



    Sent from Ian Stanley via iPad

    • PortalDirector permalink

      Hi Stanley
      are you referring to planning applications?

  5. Arnold Gilpin RIBA permalink


    Being able to download the documents came like a breath of fresh air. No longer did we have to guess when a new one was released.

    Kind Regards

    Arnold Gilpin RIBA

    Produced using energy from the sun.

    You could keep it sustainable too.

    Contact Details

  6. I am a Structural Engineer specialising now in the design (Architectural and Structural) of domestic properties, extensions and conversions. In this capacity, I am referring constantly to the Approved Documents. As a Sole Trader, basically working for competitive fees, this service is invaluable. In previous years before downloads were available, the cost of keeping up to date on all the AD’s needed was a financial burden. This service also means that I am bang up to date and do not have to worry about BC applications being rejected for non compliance. It is also a source of research which might not be followed up if I did not have this access. Excellent, no complaints, just grateful for the service.

  7. Jim Armstrong permalink

    I do not mind the watermark indicating that I am using the online version, but I do appreciate the later and more discrete versions that have this watermark in the header instead of a splash across the whole page. Could we get all the AD’s to use the header watermarks?

  8. Arq permalink

    Thank you for putting the ADs online. Before online availability I resorted to ‘third party’ (e.g. “Building Regulations Explained”) publications as keeping up with the printed HMSO ADs was expensive and frustrating – but then – back then the ADs were somewhat more helpful documents and changes were less frequent…..

    The ADs indicate to me an approach to construction which is becoming (like most everything in property and construction) increasingly bureaucratic and convoluted – the reference to ‘other’ documents (e.g from BRE or BSI) – themselves not always helpful – is an often criticised aspect of trying to understand performance requirements. Short of re-arranging the whole AD system I don’t expect this will be overcome anytime soon.

    As a means to access I prefer to download the whole document as a pdf and search through it ‘offline’, as a part of a categorised digital ‘library’ of info on my own system. Slow broadband and use of laptop in locations without internet access are main reasons why.

    Otherwise, availability and up-to-datedness are great. Likewise with the Planning side of the Portal – just a great service that compensates for the increasingly stretched and less ‘available’ Local Authorities.

    I’m a one person Architectural Designer/Building Engineer office. I’ve not had a problem getting to the actual download page but agree that visually the eye (and therefore cursor) is drawn to the ‘boxes’ rather than to the AD index page for the documents which can lead one into more peripheral areas (as someone before me has said). Perhaps make the link to the downloadable docs stand out better – different text ? Different box ? Different colour ? It’s not a big one since I get there in the end.

  9. Barry Tierney permalink

    as a small developer and an electrical contractor I find the service invaluable as it provides a reference library that is always up to date. It adds a level of proffesionalism to your presentations to LA’s as well as potential clients.
    Keep up the good work.
    Barry Tierney.

  10. It is fine as it is and the old docs are very useful too when checking older works against contemporaneous standards.
    improvements would be:
    1) copy and paste facility on all docs. so that extracts can be pasted into reports.
    2) inclusion of the manual to the b. regs
    3) inclusion of 2nd and 3rd tier docs etc

  11. John Atkins permalink

    An all encompassing single index would help
    Although some ADs have their own index, you have to know which AD in order to look it up, whilst some items occur in several different ADs e.g stairs, which appear in B, K & M

  12. Jon permalink

    I’ve used the AD web source for a few years now and it has proven invaluable on many occasion when H&S has been disregarded by some Contractors (its all related).
    However I feel that with the younger generation only being taught to pass, rather than taught to learn, the Portal will ultimately see less and less access being made of it as the British are not being taught to enquire and investigate anymore.
    Overall a good site layout, we just need schooling to be sorted out now.

  13. John Forward permalink

    I use the documents regularly. Whilst I refer to my purchased copies as well I need to check that my information is up to date. I agree with the comments regarding a comprehensive index…or perhaps an ingenious search box which could draw up everything related to the item. I am an Architect.

  14. I agree with Andrew Wernicks comment:

    1) copy and paste facility on all docs. so that extracts can be pasted into reports.

    I work as a project monitor for a funding organisation, we assess the appropriateness of designs and regularly have to quote the building regulations approved documents to professional teams. The inability to copy and paste is a real drawback and slows our processes down.

  15. Michelle permalink

    Heartily agree that you should be able to cut and paste from the documents. If you are refering to a clause it saves a lot of time from having to copy it out longhand. As the documents are free to view I do not see what the problem would be in allowing cut and paste.

  16. Marion permalink

    Cut and paste would be good, sometimes we just need to put the clause wording or table in an e-mail or document.
    Many years ago when The Stationary Office published the ADs they published an Index to the Building Regulations; it looked similar to the ADs with the same typeface, green bands etc. It was a useful cross reference tool ; you could look up “fire” and it would list all references within all of the ADs. Should be easy to set up a search function with electronic documents and would be very useful

    I am the librarian for an architectural practice

  17. Arq permalink

    John Atkins’ comment is interesting… I think that Ray Tricker’s book ‘Building Regulations in Brief’ tried to do this and in a great many ways it worked okay (for smaller scale residential projects anyway). But then, when you need to look at the exact wording of one AD and indeed compare it to (sometimes conflicting) advice they give on the same building element but in a different AD the access to the ‘official’ docs is very useful. I’d think therefore that Marion’s idea of a separate index that enables one to quickly get to the relevant clauses across all the ADs, by subject, would be really useful.

    Jon’s comments are interesting too – for much of my working life I’ve questioned and argued about the apparent ‘sanctity’ of the ADs, when actually it’s the statute that’s the legally important bit and the ADs are ‘generally accepted guidance’ – often a bare minimum. I’m not sure if it’s just young people that misunderstand the Regs, but that it’s important for all construction/property professionals to understand the core principles behind the advice and sometimes how they’ve evolved, such that we can advise clients how best to deliver safe, robust, efficient buildings. Final approval often comes down to the individual inspector, on the day, and interpretation, arrived at via literal applications of AD clauses without thinking how they apply or are relevant in unique situations.

    Someone could produce a useful document which sets out the core principles (such as why you need 30 mins protection in some cases and 60 mins in others etc.) behind it all, and how things have evolved to arrive at these performance targets, with a search facility so one can drill down to the more detailed stuff when it’s needed.

    All the comments are interesting. The ADs are worthy of serious question and although improved from 1976 to 1985 and then again in terms of access once online (2005 ?), they do seem to have reverted back to less usable format in terms of content of late. Meanwhile I’ve not read of much question or comment on how they’ve evolved – cheering to read that others have a view on them too. Thanks.

  18. From what I hear from clients and lay people, I would suspect that of the two million downloads of the AD’s, most of them were from non-professionals searching for information about how to do a certain building job … and they had a big shock.

    Most people don’t understand that the AD’s are not the actual Building Regulations, and I get the impression that they expect the AD’s to tell them how to build.

    I think that some sort of commentary would be useful to advise non-professionals what to actually expect fro the AD’s, that they are highly technical and need interpretation, and possibly refer them to other sources for further guidance if required.

    Personally, I think it is lazy to copy and paste from the AD’s as that just limits design and specification to a single method.

    Once the implementation of the building regulations becomes more risk based, then that will allow more ways of achieving compliance rather than just slavishly copying from the AD’s

    • Gary Davis permalink


      With reference to your comment:
      “Personally, I think it is lazy to copy and paste from the AD’s as that just limits design and specification to a single method.”

      I don’t believe that you could use the building regulations to create a specification, I never did whilst writing specifications. As a project monitor though, it is often required to back up an argument against a course of action by a specifier (Architect / Engineer etc). Copying from the approved documents is very useful.

  19. The older AD’s contained technical information and tables which were more useful than the barebones format today which make reference to BS’s and CP’s. This however is logical to ensure that the AD’s don’t conflict in detail with the other documents, which must have been difficult to ensure at the time.
    The fact that the AD’s ever became free to the user is a mystery to me and must be the result of very enlightened thinking sometime in the past.
    I could never afford them before, and used third party books like many others. It is also obvious that no one other than large firms can afford a full set of the reference BSs and CPs, which would cost thousands, so what are they using? if anything.
    I contend that any document required to comply with British statute should be freely available to a British citizen, Just like the ADs are. It would be much better for GB in general to have its professionals following the same high standards, and would probably generate more money in the economy than the sum total of all the charges that British Standards make.
    That goes for Mapping too, I thought the EU Inspire Directive was supposed to address this freedom of information. I guess ‘Sir Humphrey’ has dug his heels in.
    Lastly, I agree that the watermark is so obtrusive as to make reading difficult, I’m sure there is no need for that.
    I am a Sole Trader Architectural Engineer in Gloucestershire.

  20. Chartered Civil & Structural Engineer – Sole Practitioner – make use of the downloads “all the time” – know they are up to date – the cost of keeping a paper library of AD’s would be prohibitive – agree with Tony Wilton’s sentiments. Please NEVER allow this service to be withdrawn!

  21. Why is it that the Approved Building Regulations are written in such a confusing amiguous way. I am an architectural designer and have been using the docs regular for 20 years. A good example is the Party Floors in Part E, “Floor type 2.1C(b) Floor type 2.1 with ceiling treatment C and floating floor (b)”. Why not just label the diagrams properly instead of making the reader refer back to different pages? The amount of confusion and delays this has caused nationwide with Building Control is ridiculous. In the private sector we would not survive 5 minutes if we issued such poor confusing ambiguous diagrams and drawings.

  22. are running a free online Q&A on Building Regulations for architects and architectural professionals. Come and have a look.

Please give us your feedback but we won’t publish any comments that are not constructive or that criticise any individual, any named business or any local authority. Please note, all comments will be moderated before being published.

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