Frequently asked questions regarding the scheme for certification of construction (Electrical Installations to BS 7671)

General Scheme Questions

Question 1: I am a qualified SJIB Approved Electrician. I am not an NICEIC Approved Contractor or a member of SELECT. Can I apply to be an Approved Body and Approved Certifier of Construction with one of the two scheme providers?

Answer 1: Yes you can apply provided you meet the criteria for an Approved Body and Approved Certifier of Construction, including successful completion of the one-day course on the Scottish Building Standards. The scheme rules state that registration should not be based on membership of a trade association or professional institution.

Question 2: I am a qualified electrician and sole trader and work with a house-builder. The director of the house-building company has told me that if I become an Approved Certifier of Construction (ACC) it will speed up the building warrant and issue of the completion certificate. Is this true?

Answer 2: The use of an Approved Certifier of Construction (ACC) will not speed up the building warrant application process. It will however speed up the acceptance of the completion certificate and also provide a discount off the warrant fee (see 3.15 Table of fees in the Building Standards Procedural Handbook) . If the building warrant applicant intends to use an Approved Body (AB) and ACC for the electrical work he simply informs the Verifier (Local Authority) of this intention by completing the relevant part of the warrant application form. On completion of the work the ACC carries out the relevant inspections and provides a Certificate of Construction. The warrant applicant then sends this certificate along with the Completion Certificate for the work carried out to the Verifier for inspection. The Verifier checks the validity of the Certificate of Construction by checking the registration status of the ACC and AB on the Scottish Government's online certification register. If all other aspects of the project are compliant with The Building (Scotland) Regulations then the Completion Certificate is accepted. If this route is adopted then there is no requirement for the Verifier to attend site to inspect the electrical installation work.

Question 3: I am an electrical contractor registered with the NICEIC Domestic Installer Scheme. I live in Luton, but my parents live in Perth-shire. They have asked me to rewire their 3 bedroom property. Can I carry out this work?

Answer 3: Although it is preferable to use an Approved Certifier of Construction (ACC) you can carry out this work. A competent installer is deemed to be an installer having current membership of an accredited registration scheme operated by a recognised professional body. This could include a UKAS accredited registration scheme operated by SELECT, NICEIC or an equivalent body. Guidance for Verifiers (Local Authorities) on electrical installations not certified by an ACC is available for LABSS members only, click here for details on how to access this document within the publication’s library.

Question 4: Is a building warrant required for the replacement of a consumer unit in a bungalow or 2 storey house?

Answer 4: No, a building warrant is not required; in fact a wide range of building works can be done in these types of properties without a warrant. Any work carried out, however, including electrical and associated work, will still require to be installed to the Scottish Building Standards. An electrical installation certificate in accordance BS 7671 would be provided in such circumstances.

Question 5: I am a SJIB electrician working for an NICEIC Approved Contractor. I am not a Qualified Supervisor but I have successfully completed the Scottish Building Standards course. Can I become a Certifier of Construction?

Answer 5: You may apply for membership of the Scheme as an Approved Certifier of Construction (ACC) provided you are eligible to qualify for an SJIB approved electrician (ECS) grade card. In addition you should have a minimum of two years supervisory experience, have successfully completed the building standards course within the previous three years and have passed a recognised assessed BS 7671 (IET Wiring Regulations) course within the previous five years. Under the scheme rules the ACC must also be employed by an Approved Body (an enterprise registered in the Scheme). Assessments of the Approved Body and Approved Certifier of Construction are carried out initially and subsequently at intervals of between one and a maximum of three years from the date of registration.

Fire Protection of Downlighters

Question 1: With regard to downlighters, a number of Building Standards Surveyors insist that such lights are fitted with fire hoods, particularly in ceilings immediately below roof spaces. Is this a correct interpretation of the requirements of the Scottish Building Standards Technical Handbooks?

Answer 1: The only specific references to downlighters in the handbooks are given in Section 5 in relation to sound transmission, there is no such specific references in Section 2 relating to fire safety. Where downlighters are to be installed in a separating floor, the guidance given in the handbooks is that they should be fitted within the depth of a secondary ceiling to avoid air paths in the main ceiling layers and consequently not reduce the fire resisting performance of the ceiling. With regard to the fitting of fire hoods in these or other types of ceilings, although their installation may be desirable, if required they should be included in the specification for the work. Care should be taken to ensure that an airflow is maintained around these fittings to prevent overheating, particularly where thermal insulation is fitted. It is acceptable to leave a small area around downlighters free from thermal insulation, however consideration should be given to the overall thermal performance of the premises when removing this insulation.

Industry guidance on the subject of downlighters is at present being prepared and may recommend that their use should be restricted to types with integral fire protection and acoustic properties. The advice given in this guide will be aimed at preserving the loadbearing capacity of floors that are threatened by early failure of ceiling linings, particularly in modern timber frame constructions where the plasterboard and similar linings are used to achieve the requisite level of fire protection. It is hoped that such guidance will alleviate the confusion that now exists regarding the installation of these types of luminaires.

Extract Fans in Bathrooms and Shower rooms

Question 1: With regard to extract fans in bathrooms and shower rooms a number of Building Standards Surveyors insist that these fans are fitted with an adjacent fan isolator. Is this a requirement of the Scottish Building Standards or BS 7671?

Answer 1: The provision of isolating devices for extract fans in bathrooms or shower rooms is not specifically addressed in the Scottish Building Standards or BS 7671. Paragraph 4.5.1 of Building Standard 4.5 however, states that an electrical installation designed, constructed, installed and tested in accordance with BS 7671 would achieve compliance with this mandatory Standard.

With regard to compliance with BS 7671 the general requirements for isolation and switching in the recently published BS 7671:2008 are now contained in a new Section 537 including Table 53.2, and this change provides more coherent requirements and additional guidance on the subject.

The first consideration is to decide what type of isolation or switching is required for such fans and in general there are three different requirements as follows:

    1. A means of isolation to enable the fan to be separated from the source of energy before gaining access to live parts.
    2. A means of switching off the fan for the purposes of mechanical maintenance, cleaning etc.
    3. A functional switch to enable the fan to be switched 'on' and 'off'. This functional switch may not be required where a humidistat is used as the means of control.

For 1. above, the means of isolation would be provided by the device at the origin of the circuit, eg. a fuse or circuit breaker, although a BS EN 60947-3 fan isolator mounted adjacent to the fan would also provide a means of local isolation.

For 2. above, a BS EN 60947-3 fan isolator mounted adjacent to the fan would fulfil the requirement for switching off for mechanical maintenance. Regulation 537.3.2.2 requires the open position of the contacts of such a switch to be clearly indicated.

For 3. above, any suitable switch listed in Table 53.2 of BS 7671:2008 would fulfil the requirements for functional switching. For such rooms without a window the fan is usually connected to the light switch, or a separate switch provided for rooms with a window.

Taking all of the above into consideration the following is therefore recommended:

    a. Extract Fans with a 'run-on' timer and/or humidistat
    A BS EN 60947-3 fan isolator mounted adjacent to the fan would provide the appropriate means of switching off for mechanical maintenance. Where the isolator switches both the switch wire and permanent line conductor this would also provide a means of local isolation where access to live parts is required. The isolator should be located adjacent to the fan out with Zones 0, 1 and 2 in accordance with Section 701 of BS 7671:2008.

    Note: Such isolators also permit the neutral conductor to be isolated.

    b. Extract Fans without a 'run-on' timer or humidistat
    For fans which are simply controlled by a functional switch we would also recommend a BS EN 60947-3 fan isolator mounted adjacent to the fan as above, to provide the appropriate means of switching off for mechanical maintenance and local isolation. This is particularly important if the functional switch is mounted outside the room, consequently out with the control of the person working on the fan.

Mounting Positions of Accessories

Question 1: I have been asked on a number of occasions by building owners/occupiers, particularly when carrying out installation work on conversions and extensions, to position socket-outlets and other accessories not intended for wheelchair users at traditional heights rather than the dimensions given in Section 4.8.5 of the Domestic Building Standards Technical Handbook. Do we have to comply with this requirement on all work which is the subject of a building warrant?

Answer 1: The Building Standards system in Scotland is such that work which is within the scope of this system must comply with the Building (Scotland) Regulations and the associated Building Standards. The Building Standards Technical Handbooks contain guidance on compliance with these Standards.

The status of the Technical Handbooks are such that the Regulations and functional Standards are mandatory but the choice of how to comply lies with the building owner. The purpose of the handbooks is to provide practical guidance on compliance with the functional Standards and where the guidance is followed in full then this should be accepted by the Verifier as evidence of compliance with the Building Regulations. It is, however, acceptable to use alternative methods provided they satisfy the Regulations.

With regard to electrical fixtures Building Standard 4.8(e) requires that these fixtures can be operated safely. Section 4.8.5 gives guidance on the positioning of socket-outlets, light switches etc. Where for aesthetic or practical reasons, particularly in conversions and extensions, the building owner requests that electrical fixtures are positioned at the same height as those in the original electrical installation and these are fitted in reasonable positions (not for example on skirting boards) then this may comply with Building Standard 4.8(e).

It would, however, be prudent to consult with the Verifier, who should be aware of the legal status of the guidance in the Scottish Building Standards Technical Handbooks and that ultimately the method of compliance lies with the building owner.

Note: Further information regarding the status of the Technical Handbooks is given in the Scottish Building Standards Technical Handbook (Domestic) General Section 0.1.4.