Skip to content

External walls

Building Regulations: Thermal resistance and changes to 'thermal elements'

The walls having thermal resistance will limit the amount of heat the building will lose from the internal spaces, and gain from the outside environment. The materials used will determine exactly how compliance is achieved and manufacturers can generally provide some form of guidance for their products.


Cavity Walls

The cavity can be fully filled with insulation or partially filled (consult the manufacturer’s before proceeding). If it is partially filled then an air gap is generally required, the size of which will varying depending on the specific products used for the wall construction and insulation. The insulation should go at least 150mm below the DPC level.


Solid Walls

These walls are generally insulated by placing some form of thermal element on the inside and/or the outside. The thickness of these products will depend on the thickness and type of block used.


Thermal Elements

Making significant changes to thermal elements (walls, roofs or floors) would normally require Building Regulations approval and require the thermal insulation of the element to be upgraded to a reasonable standard. Walls are defined by Regulation 2(3) of the Building Regulations 20101 as being thermal elements.

The extent to which the work on the element is controlled and the amount of upgrading needed depends on the particular circumstances of the thermal element. Generally, when it is renovated then it should be upgraded, where it is cost effective to do so, to the standard set out in the Approved Document. 

Further guidance on this is available in Approved Document L,2 Volume 1 covering:

  • Guidance on the replacement of thermal elements and limiting heat gains and losses (pages 60-64) 
  • Explanation of when renovation works trigger requirement for upgrading insulation and what additional work may be required. (Appendix C and Table C1 pages 80-83).

You should fully consult the Regulations and the Approved Document and, if you are in any doubt, seek advice before commencing work. The definition of a thermal element does not include windows, doors, roof windows or rooflights.


Find a Trade Professional

Use our partner directories from CIAT, FMB, RIBA, or RTPI to find an chartered architectural technologist, builder, architect or planning consultant to help with your project or development.

Find a professional


Useful links

Make an application Planning consultancy calculator
    1. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2010/2214/regulation/2/made#regulation-2-3
    2. https://www.planningportal.co.uk/applications/building-control-applications/building-control/approved-documents/part-l-conservation-of-fuel-and-power

    The Planning Portal is delivered by PortalPlanQuest Limited which is a joint venture between TerraQuest Solutions Limited and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). All content © 2024 Planning Portal.

    The Planning Portal is delivered by PortalPlanQuest Limited which is a joint venture between TerraQuest Solutions Limited and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). All content © 2024 Planning Portal.