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Solar Panels Building Regulations Requirements for Non-Domestic Rooftop Solar PV


Building Regulations Requirements for Non-Domestic Rooftop Solar PV

GB NRG’s Chief Technical Officer, Jenka Kaslik, provides an overview of the building regulation requirements for commercial rooftop solar PV installation and provides advice on obtaining the necessary approval.

Introduction

In the UK, installing non-domestic solar panels requires both planning permission (either full or prior approval) and building regulations approval. While planning permission focuses on aesthetics and the local environment, building regulations address the technical aspects of the installation.

Building regulations set minimum standards for design, construction, and alterations to nearly every building. The Building Regulations 2010 cover construction and extension and are supported by ‘approved documents.’ Importantly, building regulations approval differs from planning permission and is necessary for most commercial solar PV projects.

Why is it Needed?

Above all, the primary concern of the regulations is safety, with key areas including ‘approved documents’ Part A (structural safety) and Part P (electrical safety). The regulations ensure that a rooftop can support the additional weight of solar panels and that they do not pose a risk of causing direct or indirect harm to people or property.

Generally, building control bodies, either from the local authority or private sector as registered building control approvers, verify compliance with building regulations. The person carrying out the work can choose where to get approval for the building work.

Circumstances Requiring Building Regulations Approval

Building regulations approval is mandatory for non-domestic rooftop solar PV installations under these circumstances:

  1. Structural Alterations: If the installation impacts the structural integrity of the building (Part A). This includes adding significant weight or making changes to the roof structure.
  2. Electrical Work: Any electrical work associated with the solar PV system must comply with Part P (Electrical Safety) of the Building Regulations.
  3. Fire Safety: Compliance with Part B (Fire Safety) ensures the installation does not compromise fire safety measures.
  4. Energy Efficiency: Under Part L (Conservation of Fuel and Power), the installation must enhance the building’s energy efficiency.

The Process of Obtaining Approval

Pre-Application Consultation

  1. Initial Assessment: Conduct a preliminary assessment to determine if building regulations approval is required.
  2. Consultation with Local Authority: Engage with the local building control body to discuss the project and understand specific local requirements.

Application Submission

  1. Full Plans Application: Submit detailed plans and specifications to the local building control body, including:
    • Site Plan and Location: to indicate the building’s location and the proposed PV system.
    • Structural Report: An assessment by a qualified structural engineer verifying the roof’s load capacity.
    • Electrical Design: Detailed electrical design compliant with BS 7671 (IET Wiring Regulations).
    • Fire Safety Report: Evaluate potential fire hazards and mitigation strategies.
    • Energy Performance Certificate (EPC): If applicable, to demonstrate improvements in energy efficiency.

Battery Energy Storage System (BESS): If the PV system includes BESS, provide details such as:

    • Type of system/batteries.
    • Plans showing their location and fire resistance.
    • Considerations for fire protection, detection, suppression, and ventilation.

Ensure the application contains sufficient information. Incomplete or inaccurate documentation can delay approval and require additional inspections.

Assessment and Approval

  1. Plan Examination: The local authority reviews the submitted plans to ensure compliance with building regulations. This typically takes 5-8 weeks.
  2. Site Inspections: Multiple inspections may occur during and after installation to verify compliance, including:
    • Initial inspection before installation.
    • Inspection during installation for structural and electrical work.
    • Final inspection upon completion.

Certification

  1. Completion Certificate: The local authority issues this upon successful inspection and compliance with all regulations. This certificate is essential for legal and insurance purposes.

Associated Timescales

  • Pre-Application Consultation: 1-2 weeks, depending on professional and local authority availability.
  • Application Submission: Preparation of documents and plans can take 2-4 weeks.
  • Plan Examination: Local authority review period is typically 5-8 weeks.
  • Site Inspections: Initial and final inspections usually happen within 1-2 weeks of the request.

Overall, the total time from initial consultation to final approval can range from 10-16 weeks, depending on project complexity and local authority workload.

Additional Considerations

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

Any works under the building regulations application within an occupied building that may impact fire risk should be subject to a risk assessment or Method Statement. This should identify risks to other persons and control measures to mitigate those risks. The findings should be shared with those at risk.

Regularisation

If works proceed without prior building regulations approval, the owner may face prosecution. However, there is a process called regularisation for those who wish to have work approved retrospectively. A regularisation application relates to unauthorised works. This process aims to regularise the works and obtain a certificate of regularisation. Depending on circumstances, exposure, removal, and/or rectification of works may be necessary to establish compliance with the building regulations.

Summary & Conclusion

Building regulations approval is required for most commercial solar PV projects, distinct from planning permission. Obtaining approval involves a thorough, systematic approach. Understanding the regulatory framework, preparing detailed and accurate documentation, and engaging with local authorities early in the process is essential.

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