Building Design, Permitting, and Construction. UK vs US


I have been developing sites across the US for the past 10 years.  Recently took a job that will move me to the UK.  Does anyone have any insight on the major differences to the design, permitting, construction, and inspection process in the UK vs the US?  Is one considered tougher than the other?

Jan 17, 20 4:19 pm

Can you please explain in a few sentences or paragraphs what the difference is between US and UK law?

I was being fecitious above. Impossible to explain in two swntences

Jan 17, 20 8:16 pm

Well I apologize for being unclear.  I'm not asking for a thorough explanation of all things UK and all things US in real estate development.  I'm only asking if there are any professionals here that have worked in their field in both the US and UK perhaps they can share some of the biggest differences they experienced.  I wouldn't expect an electrical engineer to tell me the difference between Planning and Zoning in the US and UK.

So, question to the hive, if you've worked in both US and UK, what are some of the biggest differences you noticed in your respective fields.

Jan 17, 20 9:50 pm

My guess is the biggest difference is the UK would be in metric. 

Jan 19, 20 11:04 am

UK is a dual Imperial / Metric country. Remember, it was the UK that introduced the Imperial system that the U.S. uses in the first place but because of the time the UK has been part of the European Union there has been more implementation of Metric.

ADDITIONALLY, the UK uses the Eurocodes so you will have to understand that code system and then you will have to understand some of the british style of titles for building officials and similar positions and their legal procedural differences. While the UK is in the midst of the "Brexit" process it is unlikely the UK will discontinue the use of the Eurocodes until sometime after the "Brexit" process is completed if they decide to change the codes. 

The differences are more in the detail of procedural process and the terminologies than the U.S. There will be some overall similarities but the building codes of the Eurocodes are more perfomance based code language than the more prescriptive based code language used in the I-codes as used in the U.S.

( o Y o )

payoffs are in pounds instead of dollars

Jan 19, 20 3:28 pm

When you say that one is more performance focused vs prescriptive do you mean that one code would say “x must withstand z”and the other is written as “x must be y (in order to withstand z)”?

If so I wonder how much of an affect that would have on two people designing the same building in different codes. 

Jan 19, 20 9:43 pm
Non Sequitur

Codes are not design guidelines... they are, for most things, the bare minimum required. A well designed building should not be affected by minute changes in building codes.


True N.S. My point regarding performance base versus prescriptive based can be understood if you generally understand what is being talked about here: (NOTE: This doesn't talk about I-code vs Eurocodes in particular but shows example via prescriptive and performance base via the energy code as found in the I-code set). If you understand or know what is a prescriptive requirement and know what a performance based code requirement and how they look... prescriptive code may use charts for example when you look at the prescriptive requirements like the load span tables for given live load requirements versus actually determining through engineering calculation the cross section requirements to meet a structural load requirement. The eurocodes has less prescriptive language in their code overall from what I have seen of the Eurocodes than that of the I-code. Sure, there are prescriptive codes within the Eurocodes but in general the european codes expects their design professional to be able to calculate and determine and prove in their calculations, drawings, and specifications that their design solution satisfies the requirements of the codes versus just merely being able to read charts and follows it. One may say that in Europe, the architect must be able to do their own engineering and very well do their own engineering calculations and expected to do more of it. In the U.S., the legal and liability insurance environment has cultivated a sort of culture where architects uses engineers for just about everything from structural design & calculations, mechanical systems, electrical systems, and plumbing systems. Other than designing the look and feel of the building's exterior and interior, space planning, and laying out the means of egress, what did the architect really do? We can find arguments and debates on that in the U.S. about it. As for the architects in the UK and Europe, it can be expected that architects do more but that may not always be the case with the starchitects when you have some primadonna designing the building and teams of engineers and others to make it work.


NOTE: Don't get too caught up with the article in the link given.


That’s quite the lesson, real interesting. I’m just now trying to seriously get into architecture so stuff like this is what I’m really looking for. Thanks!


Don't worry if you don't fully understand prescriptive based building codes from performance based building codes at this time. In time, you'll probably understand it better with more examples and even some instruction or searching online for more information and then exposure to the building codes by observing how the I-codes are structured and how Eurocodes are. Both I-codes and Eurocodes have prescriptive and performance based code language. That is true but Eurocodes are somewhat more performance based language. 

In any case, a competent architect should be designing above the minimum of the code requirements so even a minor change in the code would not result in the designed building being substandard. This is what Non Sequitur was getting at.

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