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Building Control regulations for solar installations in Northern Ireland

Building Regulations is one of the most common things we’re asked about during initial enquiry and survey stage. This isn’t the sexiest of subjects when discussing solar PV, but it is important to understand the rules from the outset. In most cases, and without exception if solar is to be installed on a house, extension or garage, a Building Control application is required in Northern Ireland. 

When completing the MCS certificate, installers are now asked to tick one of the options below:

How have building regulations been notified: 

Before the installation through a full planned building notice with the local area building control office (for Scotland this would be the Verifier)
Before the installation through an independent building control officer making the application
After the installation through a self certification Competent Persons Scheme (CPS)
Is exempt under Schedule 1, Section 0 of the Technical Handbook in Scotland only
Is exempt under Section 2 of the Building Regulations 2010 in England and Wales only
Is exempt under Schedule 1 of Building Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000 in NI only.

The fee for the first two options is £120 and the application should be made to the local council Building Control department. You can apply to Building Control retrospectively. In this case, the installer should apply for a Regularisation Certificate and the fee for this is £142. 

We regularly hear that potential customers have been told that solar is exempt from Building Control notification. The last of the options above covers exemption under Schedule 1 of the regulations. Types of building that are exempt are listed below:

Buildings controlled under other legislation
Buildings not frequented by people
Buildings for agriculture and keeping of animals
Temporary buildings
Ancillary buildings
Small detached buildings
Other buildings

A full description of the exempted buildings can be viewed by clicking HERE. Having read the list of exemptions, it’s clear that most buildings require a Building Control notification and all homes, extensions and garages require notification. Most installers will complete and submit the application on behalf of the customer by acting as the agent.

It’s best to make the application before the installation (if only to save £22). We always notify the local Building Control office of the date of site commencement and invite them to attend site to witness the installation. We include the mechanical design of the system so this is on record. If the Building Control surveyor is unable to attend, ensure photographs of all key stages of the installation are taken in case they are requested at a later date.

The Building Control NI website can be viewed HERE. The site includes contact details for all Building Control offices and you can download a copy of the application form.

If you are advised you don’t need a Building Control certificate, ask why you are exempt to avoid issues at a later date.

Above is a photograph of an installation in Co. Antrim. Our local Building Control office hadn’t been notified as of November 2012. Because part of the array is installed on the fire escape and covers the windows, I’m not convinced it would receive a regularisation certificate. We do hope the predicted output from the system factored shading from the double chimneys, although we wouldn’t recommend solar be installed on this building.

More information about solar PV from YouGen

NIROC: the financial incentive for solar PV in Northern Ireland explained

Solar PV information page

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