Building Regulations for Garden Structures

You might be considering constructing a new building in your garden. And of course you’ll want to do everything properly, from having accurate plans drawn up, laying the right foundations, to choosing the right materials, waterproofing and insulating as appropriate.

But sometimes the most daunting aspect of constructing at home is the part where you have to satisfy a plethora of regulations. These planning and building regulations are in place to ensure that any relevant builds are well considered and safe, so it would be foolish to ignore them. The bureaucracy can seem like a mind-boggling minefield of rules and information, but for garden buildings, it can be a relatively simple affair. This article deals specifically with building regulations and garden buildings.

Building Regulations

Essentially buildings regulations control the way in which you must build a structure, whereas planning permission determines what you can construct. The department Buildings regulations apply to any structure or alterations to existing buildings or new buildings. The regulations are designed to ensure that the structures adhere to the outlined health and safety protocols in order to safeguard you and the general public, and ensure that the structure is energy efficient. Buildings regulations can apply to domestic, industrial and commercial buildings.

Typically, these are some of the fundamental areas that building control regulations specifically cover:

  • Health and safety regarding fire hazards, combustible appliances, fire escapes and exits
  • Drainage systems and waste disposal
  • Health and safety regarding falling, collision and impact
  • Energy and fuel efficiency
  • Ventilation and Glazing
  • Building Access
  • Toxic or harmful substances
  • Electrical installations
  • Resistance to the passage of sound

If you think that your garden building will require a buildings control application, then you should contact the appropriate building regulations department at your local, district or borough council for more information. They will usually have an officer to hand to further explain the procedure, offer advice or answer your queries.

Exemptions and Garden Buildings

But in the garden, there are exemptions, and before you start building and drawing up your plans, it helps to be clear when building control is applicable. In most cases, building control does not extend to the majority of garden buildings. The following list expands on the most common examples of exempt garden buildings:

  • Sheds, greenhouses and other detached buildings with a floor space that does not exceed 15 square metres, and does not have sleeping accommodation
  • Greenhouses or other agricultural buildings that are kept primarily for animals, of which no part of the building is used as a dwelling, with a fire exit no more than 30 metres from any point of the building
  • Any detached building such as a shed, summerhouse or greenhouse that does not exceed 15 square metres of floor area, and does not include sleeping accommodation
  • A small detached building such as a garage that is single storey, and does not exceed 30 square metres in floor area. To be exempt the small detached building must not contain any area for sleeping accommodation, and be built from a non-combustible material if sited within 1 metre of a boundary

In addition, a fence, pathway, drive or freestanding garden wall will NOT require building control. Likewise, a structure that will only stand for less than 28 days will not require a buildings regulation application. But again, these are only guidelines and your particular locality, borough or district may differ in policy and regulations.


If you are making plans to build a conservatory, you won’t have to apply for building control under certain circumstances. A conservatory will be exempt if it is attached to the main dwelling, but separated by a door, is sited at a ground level and the floor area does not exceed 30 square metres. Additionally, the conservatory should be glazed with safety glass to make it exempt. Safety glass includes materials such as polycarbonate, toughened or laminated glass and Georgian safety wired glass.

In any case, these examples are provided as guidelines only. To be absolutely certain that your garden building is exempt from building control, or for a more detailed outline, you should contact your local council to ascertain the exact regulations for your area.