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What next for building regs?

Words:
Huw Evans

After this month’s changes to the building regulations, what more is left to do?

As the next set of changes to the building regulations in England came into force at the start of October, this is a good time to consider what lies ahead for regulations. In that context we are still coming to terms with the abandonment of planned 2016 changes to Part L, including the introduction of zero carbon homes, announced alongside the budget. 

There are three areas to consider: the building control system; energy efficiency and Part L; and the revision of other sections of Schedule 1 to the building regulations.

Building control

The present government is continuing the coalition’s policy of reducing the burden of regulation on business, and particularly housebuilding, a policy that led to the abolition of the Code for Sustainable Homes and the October 2015 changes to building regulations.

In 2010, the consultation on regulation of construction concluded that the building control system was on the whole fit for purpose, subject to slight modifications. Given that, and the government’s own reluctance to regulate, large scale change in the system is unlikely – although an increase in self-certification and private building control would fit with the policy of shrinking government.

Energy efficiency

The dismantling of the timetable towards zero carbon leaves a gaping hole in policy concerning energy efficiency and CO2 emissions. At the moment there has been no indication of any revised timetable or requirements.

However, the UK regulations have to be revised to meet the recast Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, which requires all new buildings to be ‘nearly zero energy’ by 2021. 

An increase in self-certification and private building control would fit with the policy of shrinking government

As part of the implementation of that policy the government must review the minimum energy efficiency standards by 2017 to determine whether they are ‘cost-optimal’ under the European Commission framework, and must introduce changes to bring standards up to that level. That would be likely to require revisions to Part L in 2018.

Other changes

Most parts of Schedule 1 and the supporting approved documents have been revised in the last five years and do not require revision in the foreseeable future, leaving three parts which may be revised.

Part D (toxic substances), was considered for deletion in 2013, but was reprieved as urea formaldehyde insulation remains in use.  There is no reason to think it will be revised.

Part B (fire) received only minor revisions in 2013, so is largely unchanged since the last full revision in 2006.  A user study of Approved Document B has been commissioned, with a view to improving productivity and simplifying requirements.

Part C (contamination and protection from moisture) was last thoroughly revised in 2001. The government has commissioned a review of current knowledge on condensation, which is expected to be completed in 2016. That would allow a consultation on a revised Approved Document C in 2017, coming into effect in 2018.

Conclusion

While the government has still to finalise a work plan for the building regulations, external drivers on energy efficiency and work commissioned on Parts B and C allow for a tentative suggestion of 2018 as the date for the next set of revisions.

Huw M A Evans is the author of Guide to the Building Regulations. He can be found at www.writelines.biz

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