08 Apr 2022


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.

The new Building Regulations changes comes with £6.6 billion of direct investment into improving the energy efficiency of buildings, the government says. And the announcements impact both new homes and existing homes. 

New homes

  • There will be a 30% cut on emissions from new homes, as well as a 27% cut on new buildings including offices and shops 
  • An entirely new Building Regulation and Approved Document O has been set up to mitigate the risk of overheating in new homes. One key inclusion is that maximum limits to the amount of glazing will be set on new residential buildings
  • New homes will adopt the Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard to measure energy efficiency
  • There will be a maximum flow temperature requirement of 55°C for new and replacement heating systems, as part of the Part L uplift
  • An appendix has been included in Part L which sets out a good practice specification for a home built with a heat pump.

Existing homes

  • Uplifts to Part L & Part F of the Building Regulations have set new minimum standards for fabric efficiency. For example, there will be a new efficiency metric for the whole house calculation method for new extensions 
  • There will be a requirement for new or replacement heating system designs to accept low-carbon heating in future, including integrating the latest Ecodesign appliance benchmarks.

A transition period will now commence until June 2022, when the new regulations will come into effect, which is designed to allow for planning applications that are currently in progress.

The government also published Approved Document S, which provides technical guidance regarding the installation of electric car charge points in our homes.