VAT Reclaim – VAT rate history

VAT rates over the last 30+ years…

So at last I’m looking at the VAT reclaim on the barn again. I think the last time I seriously discussed it here was back in 2009 when I very foolishly stated ‘My own VAT reclaim will be due soon – by early Summer at the latest‘ — ahhhh, the innocence of my (relative) youth!

The first thing I was struggling to get straight was what the VAT rate has been over the period of the conversion. So here’s a summary I assembled from across the web, in reverse chronological order:

  • On 4 January 2011 VAT was raised to 20%
  • On 1 January 2010 VAT returned to 17.5%
  • On 1 December 2008 VAT was reduced to 15% temporarily
  • In 1991 VAT rose to 17.5%
  • In 1979 VAT was consolidated to a single rate of 15%

Building Regulations, Approved Documents Part D – Toxic substances

An overview of Building Regulations, Approved Documents Part D – Toxic substances

Part D is about ensuring that there is no risk to the occupiers of a building from toxic substances used in its construction.

As of the date of writing, Part D was last revised in 2010 as a result of the Building Regulations 2010 and Building (Approved Inspectors etc) Regulations 2010.

Part D Toxic substances contains the following high-level requirement:

  • D1 Cavity Insulation

This is a short document, of limited relevance to historic building convertors as the requirement contained in the document relates to cavity walls. In the UK, cavity walls only became a common template for wall construction in the 1970’s and a requirement of building regulations in the 1990’s so a wall cavity is absent from most older buildings.

In short, the regulations state that where and insulating material is placed in a cavity, reasonable measures must be put in place to ensure that no toxic fumes are able to permeate into any occupied parts of the building.

Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part C Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture

An overview of Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part C Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture

Part C is about ensuring that the site for new buildings is prepared in a manner that will promote resistance to contaminants and moisture for the structure that is to be built on the site.

As of the date of writing, Part C was last revised in 2010 as a result of the Building Regulations 2010.

There are a number of subjects that fall within this part of the regulations. These include weather and water tightness, drainage and measures to deal with contamination and hazardous substances such as radon and methane.

Part C Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture contain the following high-level requirements:

  • C1 Preparation of site and resistance to contaminants
  • C2 Resistance to moisture

There are three key aspects in the preparation of the site – that the site to be covered by the building & associated land is free from materials that might damage the building such as pre-existing foundations or vegetable matter, be free of contaminants and provide adequate drainage.

The regulations provide helpful information related to undertaking a risk assessment of contaminants and a high-level overview of some of the remedial measures that are available.

One potential contaminant that we all need to consider when building is radon. It’s not a major issue in most of the UK; the south-west is the area most at risk, but one we all need to consider. Start on the British Geological Survey website.

The second part of the regulation, that dedicated to discussion of resistance to moisture contains useful information related to site surveying, subsoil drainage and the construction of resistant floors, walls & roofs. A useful map confirms what we knew all along, that most of Wales is exposed to very severe driving rain. What would we in Wales do without the blessed rain…?

Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part B Fire safety

An overview of Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part B Fire safety

Part B is about ensuring that all new buildings are safe in the event of a fire.

As of the date of writing, Part B was last revised in 2010 as a result of the Building Regulations 2010.

Part B is split into two volumes. Volume 1 deals with dwelling houses and volume 2 with buildings other than dwelling houses.

The regulations provide guidance in areas such as fire safety in multi-storey buildings & domestic loft conversions, smoke and heat alarms, the use of door-closing devices and sprinklers, the materials used in the structure and the building methods employed.

Both volumes of the regulations contain the following requirements:

  • B1 Means of warning and escape
  • B2 Internal fire spread (linings)
  • B3 Internal fire spread (structure)
  • B4 External fire spread
  • B5 Access and facilities for the fire and rescue service

Pertinent to the barn are the requirements for escape from the upper storey. Specifically in the second bedroom, where I’ve had to change the window hinge (although I’m not sure where the need to open to 90 degrees comes from explicitly as I can’t find it in Part B) and install a radiator cover to provide a step-up to the window and a means of escape. For reference, a window suitable for egress from the building must be at least 0.33m2 and at least 450mm in height and width, the bottom of the openable area of the window must be not more than 1100mm above the floor.

Forthcoming Welsh sprinklers regulations
In Wales there is an additional future requirement in relation to fire safety just over the horizon. From September 2013, the Welsh Assembly government (WAG) intend to make the installation of water sprinkler systems compulsory in all new homes. They expect this to save 36 lives and prevent an estimated 800 injuries between 2013 and 2022.

The Assembly will proceed with the plans despite a report from the built environment research organisation BRE Global that estimated that the cost per life saved would be £6.7 million and concluded that “fitting sprinklers in all new residential buildings in Wales would not be cost effective“.

WAG Environment Minister John Griffiths said:

“We must seek to prevent avoidable death and injury from house fires and need to accept that there is a cost to introducing sprinklers into new properties.
These proposals are significant and important in taking forward fire safety.
Wales will be at the forefront of reducing fire risk and cutting the number of avoidable deaths and injuries caused by fires in residential premises.”

The Assembly is currently working on development of the new regulations that are necessary to introduce the new sprinkler law. These will be subject to public consultation.

Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part A Structural Safety

An overview of Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part A Structural Safety

Part A is about ensuring that all new buildings are structurally safe.

As of the date of writing, Part A was last revised in 2010.

The approved documents descibe the requirements in three parts:

  • A1 Loading
  • A2 Ground movement
  • A3 Disproportionate collapse

There’s lots of building and construction nerd material in Part A – plenty of information on the required thicknesses of walls, the maximum height of buildings, wind speeds and their impact on building design, masonry chimney proportions and maximum floor areas.

Specifically from a conversion perspective, the material on differences in ground levels on either side of a wall may make for interesting reading for those seeking clarity in trying to juggle with shallow foundations, lowering internal floors to gain head-room and exterior ground levels that have accumulated over time.