Teresa Jones gives the low down on construction requirements for glamping accommodation.
Small Modern Wooden House ExteriorAt what point do Building Regulations kick in for a glamping structure?
Any building that is to be used for sleeping accommodation should meet the relevant Building Regulations. However, note the use of ‘building’ here – things that are not technically buildings (such as tents or structures classified as a ‘caravan’ or mobile home) do not have to meet Building Regulations. You will likely need planning permission though, unless you don’t intend to have tents up for more than 28 days in a year. There is also an exemption for sites that have an exemption certificate from an organisation such as the Camping and Caravanning Club, which will allow you to have up to 10 tents or five caravans.
Which Building Regulations are most likely to be applicable?
When most people think of glamping, they tend to think of something that may not be permanent or could be moved, such as a structure that could fall into the ‘caravan’ definition (see below) such as a shepherd’s hut or pod, or a tented structure such as a yurt, bell tent or safari tent. As these structures aren’t regarded as buildings, Building Regulations won’t apply.
If, however, you’re installing a new building or converting a surplus building for people to stay overnight in, then you’ll definitely need to take Building Regulations into consideration. After all, your guests will want to feel confident that the place they are staying in is safe and warm.
Don’t forget that Building Regulations are a little different in the various geographies of the UK – here we’re only covering the specifics of England and Wales (although there are some slight differences for Wales; Northern Ireland is also very similar). Scotland has its own version.
At what point do you need to demonstrate accommodation is compliant?
If you want to put up a new building, or convert an existing one, then you’ll need to apply to your local authority building control department before work starts, or use an independent building control body. They will then ask for technical information about the building and arrange a number of inspections while work progresses, at the appropriate stages.
Visits may be in person, but increasingly photographic evidence is acceptable. The inspections cover groundworks, drainage, foundations, building superstructure, roofing and so on. The sort of information you’ll need to provide covers the materials used, construction method, foundations, drainage, windows etc.
What about external areas such as decking?
Decking areas, such as for a hot tub, would usually require planning consent in England and Wales (even if the main accommodation was a bell tent or similar rather than a building) as the deck will be considered ‘permanent’ and count as ‘development’ in a planning officer’s eyes. You can decide to make a deck ‘temporary’ however by using removable ground screws or adjustable concrete pads, which could bypass the need for planning.
If you’re planning to add a new building then there are a couple of particularly relevant Building Regulations. To avoid discrimination, you should aim to ensure that everyone can safely visit the accommodation (Part M). For example, you can meet the provisions of Part M by providing a level or ramped approach and level threshold. Part K covers safety aspects of a building such as stairs and ramps.
Tell us about the Caravan Act?
The Caravan Act – or in full, the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 – defines a caravan as: “any structure designed or adapted for human habitation that is capable of being moved from one place to another”. The purpose of the act is to regulate both the sites where caravans are located and also covers what a caravan is, and what size it can be.
The act has been modified a couple of times and now covers twin-unit caravans or mobile homes. It allows for structures to be transported in two sections and for the entire structure to be up to 6.8m (22 feet) wide and 20m (65 feet) long – which is a surprisingly large area! Internally, the overall height – floor to ceiling – must be no more than 3.048m (10 feet) – but externally there is no specified maximum – just that it could feasibly be transported by road.
Although a caravan must be technically transportable, there is no requirement for it to actually be transported to site – so it can be constructed in situ.
You can fit several rooms into 6.8m by 20m – for example, we have one design with five bedrooms! But we also have a client who wanted a home this size but with just two bedrooms, making it really spacious. Don’t forget that the walls do take up some space though.
What risks do I run if I am in breach of Building Regulations?
If you don’t follow the necessary building control procedures, or you carry out building work which does not comply with Building Regulations, your local council’s building control department will usually encourage you to comply in the first instance. However, if you don’t, then there is a risk that they will go to the magistrates’ court where you could be fined up to £5,000 for the contravention, and up to £50 for each day the contravention continues after conviction (section 35 of the Building Act 1984).
You should also bear in mind that if the local authority considers that building work carried out does not comply with Building Regulations, and has not been rectified, then the authority will not issue you with a completion certificate. It is likely that contravention may come to light through a local land search enquiry if you try to sell your property.
When do British Standards come into play?
If you want to provide your guests with something permanent, then you might consider a mobile home or park home/lodge – the terms tend to be used interchangeably! Residential park homes (i.e. those that are designed for living in all year round) and some other lodges and caravans can be constructed to the relevant British Standard – BS 3632:2015 (originally published in 1963, when it applied to caravans). This specifies how to manufacture residential park homes to ensure they are safe and fit for purpose.
Manufacturers who are members of the National Caravan Council take part in a self-certification scheme. This means that they certify that all homes they build conform to BS3632:2015.
Particularly important in these days of rising energy costs, the standard also shows that park homes which meet it will be more energy efficient, cost less to run and be more comfortable to live in than the caravans your parents might have holidayed in! The standard covers things such as room sizes, sound transfer through the walls, as well as low energy lighting, ventilation and the space allowed for cookers and fridges. The standard can only cover park homes that are constructed in a factory setting though. This means that it will restrict you to manufactured models that you can get delivered to your site.
An alternative would be to choose a mobile home kit that can be constructed on site. This would give you a lot more flexibility in terms of layout and specification, and you could of course choose materials and finishes that could deliver better energy efficiency than even a residential park home.
Part A: Structure
Part B: Fire safety
Part C: Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture
Part D: Toxic substances
Part E: Resistance to the passage of sound
Part F: Ventilation
Part G: Sanitation, hot water safety and water efficiency
Part H: Drainage and waste disposal
Part J: Heat producing appliances and fuel storage system
Part K: Protection from falling, collision and impact
Part L: Conservation of fuel and power
Part M: Access to and use of buildings
Part N: Glazing – safety in relation to impact, opening and cleaning
Part O: Overheating
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Teresa Jones is co-owner of Scandinavian Homes, a family-run business based in Yorkshire supplying self-build log home kits from leading Finnish manufacturers Finnlamelli and Hirsiset. For those looking for a partner throughout the self-build journey, the team can provide kits, shells to fit out or a fully managed turnkey service. www.scandinavianhomes.com