Construction industry UK legal and building regulatory framework - Reform, consolidation, clarification and simplification.

  • Walter Menteth (Participant)

Impact: Public Policy Impacts

Description of impact

From Oct 2019 this impact is deemed embodied within Impact: Policy and Regulatory Reform of Construction Procurement and embedding reforms in contemporary practice

From 2009 Walter Menteth set a paradigm for reform of the construction industry regulatory framework in England from 2009 to 2015, with specific relationship to its efficiency, effectiveness, reconfiguration, consolidation and simplification.

The proposed reforms delivered through the Red Tape Challenge, the Housing Standards review, the Deregulation Act 2015, amendment of the Building Act 1984, and Building Regulations and (Amendment) Regulations 2015 (Technical Housing Standards Review) has seen the abolition of Lifetime Homes Standards, Wheelchair housing standards, Code for Sustainable Homes, and Secure by Designs. A new technical planning standard for space in the home has been created which has set the basis for nationally described space standards.

These previously independent standards have now been reformed and embodied through legislative repeal, providing much needed clarity and simplicity that impacts on the effectiveness and efficiency of construction industry housing outputs in England and Wales. The impacts on Building Regulations has entailed revisions to Part G, H, M, Q. These have included embodiment of housing typologies and clarity of the standards applied to them.

In their first wave of construction regulatory reform effected to the Building Regulations in 2013, Government estimated that the regulatory changes would achieve savings of over £48.8m per year. ( The economic cost impacts evaluated for the changes now implemented by Oct 2015 report significant savings per dwelling on the application of the new regulatory framework.
(ref. Department for Communities and Local Government Housing Standards Review Cost Impacts September 2014 by EC Harris).

Who is affected

Contractors, architects, construction consultants and construction industry in England & Wales


Walter Menteth, as a member of the RIBA Housing Group, offered in Sept. 2009 to prepare a response paper to the, then forthcoming, consultation on the reform of Lifetime Homes Standards (LTH) and their potential adoption as mandatory standards in 2013, on behalf of the group.

Drawing on his research in practice, documentary reviews and consultative responses he took the opportunity to provide a detailed report to the Housing Group (7th Dec. 2009) which also developed forward a radical strategic questioning of the fitness for purpose of the wider UK housing construction regulatory framework. This covered Lifetime Homes Standards, as well as Wheelchair Housing standards, the Code for Sustainable Homes, Space Standards, the Planning framework and Secure by Design. (ref eg WM emails; >Julia Park 28/09/2009; Zoe Smith>05/11/2009; draft report WM issue >Zoe Smith 08/11/2009, Issue_final report Paper A. LTH. RIBA Housing Group 07.12.09)

Walter Menteths report to RIBA Housing Group represented a paradigm shift, stating:
“…. The building regulations are seen throughout the industry as the core directive in determination of minimum standards in construction. Historically these have been perceived as being exclusively technical standards. 
•If a sensibly efficient unitary system of standards is to emerge this will need to change. 
A significant number of other innovative single issue standards to improve the performance, quality and utility of dwelling construction have developed over recent years in response to changing demands and perceived shortcomings in the core technical regulations. In residential construction many of these independently drafted and assessed supplemental standards are now applied by authorities/commissioners/developers/funders, or being considered for adoption as mandatory standards. Other than LTH incl. Code for Sustainable Homes, Mandatory Space standards, Secure by Design, Building for Life, along with various independent local, regional or national directives, etc. 

This issue is systemic.

The strategy proposed in this paper reinforces the position of the National Building Standards as the core directive, whilst providing a structure and framework which permits deletion of many of the current plethora of supplements, and their (stripped & edited) embodiment within a clearly constructed framework that can be better understood universally, be more easily implemented and deliver choice…..
In principal it is proposed that- 
•a new building regulatory framework is adopted with clear separation of dwellings from all other building types….
•In the manner of contracts where clause options can be optionally selected or deleted, the regulatory structure for any new English Housing Standards should be framed with a core of mandatory standards under parliamentary act, supplemented by optional standards (under different section headings monitored by BRAC), permitting incorporation of Code for Sustainable Homes at their different levels, Secure by Design, etc.
     o  This would provide greater consistency and clarity, streamline the current mire, provide flexibility and choice at the briefing stage to clients, funders, and authorities etc. whilst also permitting variance by project size and region etc.
   o  It would allow for future change and adaption ....
  o  Assessed and monitored through a single standards system, this would deliver a considerably more efficient and comprehensible system than at present. 
In striking a reasonable balance between universal need and specialist provisions, standards should only be permitted at a mandatory level where based on rigorous process of research and evidence collected with regards to the wider benefit and economic costs.”

The research paper recommended that the multiplicity of statutory and independent standards applicable within the construction industry be addressed strategically. It proposed the removal of a plethora of independent second and third tier regulations and standards for consolidation, reform, simplification, adaption and their embodiment into primary core statutory legislation and regulatory structures (Building Regulations and Planning). 

The report was adopted by the RIBA and also embodied within various consultative responses by the profession. 

This report, the overwhelming support for it from architectural practitioners and industry, and the RIBA position from it, became a principle strategic foundation steering a large body of subsequent work. 

 The progress on reviewing Lifetime Homes Standards (by Habinteg on behalf of the Lifetime Homes organisation) receded. Instead government launched the Housing Construction Red Tape Challenge on 7 April 2011 which further clarified embedded and evaluated the principles in the construction industry set out within the RIBA Housing Group paper. This Government focus was taken forward into the Housing Standards Review in October 2012. 

This consultation into the rationalisation of the framework of building regulations and local housing standards, sought responses to “a radical reform of the framework of building regulations, guidance, local codes and standards which aimed to reduce bureaucracy and costs on house builders - supporting growth whilst delivering quality, sustainability, safety and accessibility” 
Reforms to the Building Regulations have been implemented in two stages. A number of minor items relating to this proposition were embodied through reform of the Building Regulations for England and Wales in 2013, with the bulk following in the new Building Regulations which came into force October 2015.

The principles articulated and identified within the Nov. 2009 paper by Walter Menteth to RIBA Housing Group remained integral to the process, outputs, and impacts.
Impact statusClosed
Category of impactPublic Policy Impacts


  • standards
  • regulations
  • transparency
  • reform
  • construction
  • legislation
  • architecture
  • efficiency
  • effectiveness
  • competitions
  • procurement