In the late 1960s, the Northern Ireland Government established a Committee chaired by the Rt Hon R W B McConnell to “examine the existing law for the general regulation of building in Northern Ireland in the light of recent changes in Scotland, England and Wales”.
The Committee’s report, published in March 1970, recommended that the existing control of building through bye-laws and local Acts should be replaced with a new Building Act and Regulations similar to those in place in England and Wales.
The new system was established by the enactment of the Building Regulations (Northern Ireland) Order 1972, which was subsequently amended in 1978, before being replaced by the Building Regulations (Northern Ireland) Order 1979 (as amended 1990 and 2009).
Role of the department
The department is empowered under Article 3 of the Building Regulations (Northern Ireland) Order 1979 to make regulations to be known as "building regulations”:
- for all or any of the matters set out in Schedule 1 [of the Order] and
- for such other matters relating to buildings as appear to the department after consultation with the Advisory Committee to be relevant to the purposes of this Order
The “Advisory Committee” refers to the Northern Ireland Building Regulations Advisory Committee.
Building Regulations set requirements and standards for building that can reasonably be attained, having regard for the health, safety, welfare and convenience of people in or around buildings and others affected by buildings or building matters. They also further the conservation of fuel and power, and make provisions for access to buildings.
The current regulations are the Building Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012, which came into operation on 31 October 2012.
The Department is also the appeals body for certain building regulation appeals against building control decisions.
Role of district councils
The 1979 Order assigns a number of duties and responsibilities to your district council (which are exercised by the council’s Building Control Officers).
Approval of plans
If you intend to erect, alter or extend a building, to install services, fittings or works to a building, or to materially change the use of a building, you must first seek approval to do so from your district council. This may involve the submission of plans or (for certain domestic applications) a building notice to your local Building Control Office. The appropriate fee should also accompany the plans or Notice.
Relaxation of the requirements of building regulations
District councils may, upon request from an applicant, relax or dispense with any of the requirements of Building Regulations that are within its powers to relax or dispense with, or they may grant your request subject to conditions.
District councils are responsible for the enforcement of the requirements of building regulations within their council boundaries. As part of their enforcement duties, building control officers will carry out a number of site inspections to ensure that the work complies with the requirements of Building Regulations. They may also serve a contravention notice where they discover work that does not comply with the regulations.