Construct a greener future
Building regulations are being tightened in a bid to protect the environment, says Catherine Parker, solicitor at Trowers & Hamlins
The building regulations regime in England is facing another round of changes, in the continuing drive towards energy-efficient buildings. The proposals are currently being consulted on by the Communities and Local Government department, with part two of the consultation including amendments to part L, which deals with conservation of fuel and power in buildings.
Zero carbon standards are already planned for all domestic new builds from 2016, and the proposed part L changes are seen as the next step towards achieving these standards. They will tighten carbon dioxide targets and introduce specific energy efficiency targets for new homes.
Tougher carbon standards
The proposals include 8 per cent tougher carbon emissions standards for new homes, with detached homes having to save 15 per cent. To achieve these targets, more energy-efficient building fabrics will be needed, as well as the potential to integrate renewable energy generation technologies such as solar panels.
Of particular significance is the proposal to extend the provisions in the regulations that require ‘consequential improvements’ of energy efficiency, which currently apply to buildings with more than 1,000 square metres that have an extension added. Under the new rules they will also apply to all existing domestic buildings which undergo works to add an extension or increase habitable space. Such improvements must be technically, functionally and economically feasible, and in proportion to the nature and cost of the original work. Fabric improvements such as installing loft insulation, cavity wall insulation, hot water cylinder insulation and draught proofing, will also be required when replacing a boiler or upgrading a percentage of windows.
Cashing in on the green deal
It is intended that these amendments will coincide with the introduction of the green deal in October, so building owners have a way to meet the new requirement at no upfront cost, should they choose to take up green deal finance.
It is not proposed to explicitly tie the regulatory requirements for the consequential improvements to the green deal - this is just one financing option - but the government claims the link will drive the uptake of the green deal, despite admitting that there is ‘very little’ supporting evidence.
The changes have not met with universal approval, with some arguing that they come too soon after the 2010 revision of part L, while others argue they do not go far enough. There are concerns about the general level of compliance with existing building regulations and that further changes stand to create added uncertainty to builders about design.
The standard assessment procedure - the tool that will be used for building regulation compliance assessment purposes - has also been criticised as being too unreliable and flawed to proceed, and that these issues should be resolved first.
The deadline is 27 March for responses in relation to the proposals for extending the ‘consequential improvements’ provisions, and
27 April for all other responses.