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Building Regulations, Document L, FENSA, England and Wales

Building RegulationsSince the 1st of April 2002 all replacement window installations in England & Wales have been subject to building regulations. This regulation in particular affects the minimum levels of insulation that replacement windows must have when fitted in your home. A self-assessment scheme has been set up for companies to enable them to serve their customers without having to apply for building regulations applications for each separate client. This scheme is called FENSA.

Special Notes:
Scotland Building Regulations:
Please see http://www.windowstoday.co.uk/part_j.htm

N Ireland Building Regulations:
Please see http://www.windowstoday.co.uk/document_l.htm#nire

Planning Permission: It is your duty to check whether you will need planning permission in order to have your new windows installed. Especially if you live in a conservation area or own a listed property you will have to double check with your local council whether the windows of your choice will be allowed. If you don’t ask for planning permission you might have to revert everything back to its original state, with all the costs it brings. (Planning permission is not the same as building regulations approval)

If you want to install your own windows or if your builder is not a member of FENSA, then either of you needs to pay for the application. It might take some time to get approval depending on your council.

As mentioned above one of the main reasons for the change is the need to reduce energy loss. Levels of insulation are measured as U values. The lower the U value, the better the insulation level.

The minimum U values

  • PVC-U or timber replacement windows should not have a U value higher than 2.0 W/m 2K
  • Metal windows (Aluminium) replacement windows should not have a U value higher than 2.2 W/m 2K

The Building Regulations had controlled glazing in new buildings for many years but they represent only a very small percentage of the total building stock in the UK.

Why did Doc L come about?

Document LThere are a number of reasons but perhaps the most important reason was because of the Kyoto Protocol.

The Kyoto protocol was signed at the earth summit in Kyoto, Japan. The British government and many other governments signed up to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions to the pre 1990 level. The British government is committed to reduce carbon dioxide to pre 1990 levels by the year 2010 and to continue to reduce emissions, which cause global warming.

It was therefore essential to improve the performance of the much larger numbers of existing buildings if we were to meet increasingly stringent national and global energy saving targets.

Compliance - Special Note

When the time comes to sell your property, your purchaser's surveyors will ask for evidence that any replacement glazing installed after April 2002 complies with the new Building Regulations. There are two ways to prove compliance: -

1) A certificate showing that the work has been done by an installer who is registered under the FENSA Scheme

2) A certificate from the local authority saying that the installation has approval under the Building Regulations.

The FENSA Scheme

It is estimated that around 2 million installations of replacement glazing happen every year. If all of them went through the normal Building Regulations application process it would place an enormous burden on local authorities.

It was therefore essential to have a way to ensure that the work is done properly without an unreasonable increase in the administrative and financial burden on installers and property owners.

FENSAThe answer was a scheme, which allowed installation companies that meet certain criteria to self-certify that their work complies with the Building Regulations.

The scheme is known as FENSA, which stands for Fenestration Self-Assessment.

FENSA was set up by the Glass & Glazing Federation, in association with all key stakeholders, and meets with central Government approval.

A sample of the work of every installer will be inspected by FENSA appointed inspectors to ensure standards are maintained.

FENSA will also inform local authorities of all completed FENSA installations and issue certificates to householders confirming compliance. NB – it is essential that on completion of your installation that you get from your installer a certificate confirming all work done comply with the building regulations. We have had a lot of reports of this not happening and for sure this will build up problems for the future – especially when it comes time to sell your property.

Any installation done by a firm which is not registered to self-certify, or done as a DIY project by a householder, will need full local authority approval under the Building Regulations.

Local authorities will know of all the approved installers in their areas and will be able to identify unauthorised work very easily.

You should note that you, as the house owner, are ultimately responsible for ensuring the work complies with the Building Regulations.

To comply with the U Values above the usual basic requirements are:

For PVC or wood units a 16mm gap with low E glass.

A wide option in respect of glass and frames is offered and manufacturers details should be studied.

Trade off's can be used to substitute lower U values for walls etc against glass percentage lower than 25%.

Attention will be required to ensure that air paths into buildings are sealed by such methods as mastic around frames, expanding foam if suitable, edges of warm deck roofs insulated and sealed, pipe entry to buildings sealed.

There are also requirements for ventilation, fire escape and safety glass that the replacement glazing must meet. There is an excellent article on the both the U Values and other compliance issues at http://www.double-glazing-uk.co.uk/Englandwales.asp

Before you replace your windows, be sure to ask whether the installer is able to self-certify. If not, either they, or you, will need to make an application to the Council for approval under the Building Regulations and pay any relevant charges.

Related Links

The Building Regulations: answers to your questions on Approved Document L
There are many new features in the changes to the Regulations and the new Approved Documents that will be unfamiliar to designers, builders, building services contractors and building control inspectors alike. Local authority Building Control departments are a traditional source of help on how works can meet the regulations. To give assistance to them in this role, and to help others directly, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) has asked BRE to operate this Frequently Asked Questions site as a means of delivering answers to the questions that are being raised.

FENSA Limited is the Fenestration Self-Assessment Scheme for companies that install windows and doors in dwellings. This site supplies information about the Scheme for both installers and the general public.

British Fenestration Rating Council - Rating windows and doors to save energy

The BFRC is dedicated to the operation of a UK national rating system for the thermal performance of fenestration products. The rating system that we have developed must be "fair, accurate and credible" and information about the system is given on their website. A number of very interesting downloads (PDFs) are available from their website - including:

Image Credits: Nuglas, Dial a Conservatory

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