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Reclaimed materials and products and the UK Building Regulations

Posted on | By Thornton Kay
London South West, UK - The UK Building Regulations do not prevent the reuse of reclaimed building materials and architectural salvage provided they are fit for purpose. A new document <i>HM Government The Building Regulations 2010 Materials and workmanship Approved Document Regulation 7 2013 edition - for use in England</i> will become law in July 2013 but this does not appear to change the legal position regarding reuse.

This approved document gives guidance for compliance with the Building Regulations for building work carried out in England. It also applies to building work carried out on excepted energy buildings in Wales as defined in the Welsh Ministers (Transfer of Functions) (No. 2) Order 2009.

Despite there being requirements in the Building Regulations which seem to suggest that all materials need to be rubber-stamped by Brussels, unpicking the relevant clauses show this not to be the case provided the materials are fit for purpose. Here are the relevant clauses:

<blockquote>Ways of establishing the fitness of materials
1.2 You can assess the suitability of a material for use for a specific purpose in a number of ways, as described in paragraphs 1.3 to 1.21.
1.7 If the declared performance of a product is suitable for its intended use, the building control body should not prohibit or impede the use of the product.
1.15 There are many independent product certification schemes in the UK and elsewhere that may provide information on the performance of a product. Such schemes certify that a material complies with the requirements of a recognised document and indicates it is suitable for its intended purpose and use. These may be in addition to, but not conflict with, CE marking. NOTE: Materials which are not certified by an independent scheme might still conform to a relevant standard.

Tests and calculations
1.17 Where there is no relevant harmonised European standard, tests, calculations or other means may be used to demonstrate that the material can perform the function for which it is intended.

Past experience
1.18 Past experience, such as use in an existing building, may show that the material can perform the function for which it is intended.

1.19 Under regulation 46 of the Building Regulations, local authorities have the power to take samples as necessary to establish whether materials to be used in building work comply with the provisions of the regulations.
1.20 Regulation 46 does not apply to any work specified in an initial notice or to any work for which a final certificate has been given by an approved inspector and accepted by the local authority.
1.21 Regulation 8 of the Building (Approved Inspectors etc.) Regulations 2010 provides that an approved inspector, having given an initial notice which continues to be in force, may take samples of material as are reasonable to establish within the limits of professional skill and care that regulation 7 of the Building Regulations or any other applicable regulations are complied with.

[© Crown Copyright]</blockquote>

The foregoing clauses seem to cover reclaimed building materials such as reclaimed bricks, reclaimed stone, reclaimed roof slates and tiles, reclaimed flagstones, reclaimed timber, reclaimed beams, reclaimed flooring. They also cover products of architectural salvage such as antique doors, antique baths, antique kitchens, antique lighting and antique staircases.

Although the materials and products themselves may be fit for purpose, other clauses in the Building Regulations may make their reuse non-compliant in certain instances. For example, doors may need to be of a certain fire resistance, baths may need an air gap between overflow and taps, beams may need to be of a certain strength, flagstones may need to be a certain evenness, and so on.

Private consumers undertaking DIY reuse of architectural salvage and reclaimed building materials are usually less affected by fitness for purpose clauses than institutional consumers and mainstream construction reusers. This may be because mainstream construction requires more in the way of warranties and guarantees which new construction materials suppliers can give but which the salvage trade cannot. Even if a supplier of reclaimed roof slates were to guarantee that his or her slates will last as long as a new equivalent it is unlikely that such a guarantee would be taken as seriously as a new Welsh roof slate supplier with a track record going back centuries and modern product liability insurance.

Salvo Code members agree to supply, in effect, to a self-declared standard in terms of chain of custody and toxicity, but not for a product's performance. UK consumer protection laws state that if a salvage yard sells bricks to a private customer those bricks must perform as bricks, irrespective of whether they are reclaimed or not. In other words guarantees are given within the legal safeguards of consumer protection legislation, and salvage businesses cannot in law disclaim that liability. So fitness for purpose is built into consumer protection legislation - which is a point which may or may not be of interest to your local friendly building inspector.

Salvo's experience over the past twenty years is that planners and conservation officers can sometimes be awkward with respect to reuse, but building inspectors seem to be reclamation-friendly.
UK Gov Planning Portal: Building Regulation 7

Story Type: News