So the election is over and now we know…or rather we don’t.As we write this month, David Cameron has hosted his first cabinet meeting and is attempting to convince us all that he can form a stable Government to take on the job of economic recovery for the country. Whatever this turns out to be the issue of tackling climate change and meeting the UK’s global commitments to a predetermined timetable, with huge financial penalties for failure, remains.Whilst everyone’s interest has been focused on the election, a hugely important but inevitably, unreported piece of new legislation has been entered into the statute book – a revision to the Building Regulations: This will not be affected by any new Government that is formed.This change to the Building Regulations is substantial and we are only six months away from enforcement in October 2010: Developers need to use this time wisely in order to be ready for the new low carbon emissions standard. The larger developers may have the resources (perhaps reluctantly) to rise like an eagle to this challenge but the medium and small ones may feel unable to fly and prefer to bury their heads in the sand, ostrich like.What is it that makes the latest Building Regulations so important to Zero Carbon?At the end of April, the Government published the latest revision of Part L1A of the Building Regulations – the part that deals with Conservation of Energy and Fuel in new housing. These are one part of the plan to progressively reduce carbon emissions to achieve a zero carbon requirement for new homes by 2016. To make the change in one step would probably kill the new build housing industry at a stroke; so progressive, but still large, changes are being planned over the next six years.Historically, the increasing demands made by revisions to Building Regulations have meant minor adjustments to the approach to reducing carbon emissions and making energy savings designers and developers have taken…a ‘tweak’ here and a ‘nudge’ there: This time the changes required to meet the latest version will require a new approach. In order to stand a chance of meeting the ‘zero carbon’ objective by 2016 huge changes are needed to the way we sustainably design and build houses.The key elements of the Building Regulations changes this time areA 25% reduction in carbon emissions; effectively making it mandatory that private housing meets the same standard as public housing. Up until now it has been a voluntary measure for the private sector to reach the standard of the Code for Sustainable Homes Level 3.
More pressure testing, a less generous allowance for the adoption of Accredited Details and lower U-value requirements, thus making sure theory and practice are better aligned. There is significant evidence that building projects regularly fail to achieve the energy efficiency standards indicated in the design stage assessment. With the conclusion that construction is at fault, it will become incumbent on developers to improve their quality management.And it doesn’t stop there: A further revision is planned in 2013 before the final version in 2016, with its zero carbon requirement. All these revisions have implications for the design, detail, construction management and marketing of housing developments and of course these extra demands inevitably mean…extra costs!