From David Bowen, Founder, Logicor
Building regulations, the fundamental tools which help us building better, safer and more efficient homes, are undergoing a significant change. About time too. For too long they have not kept pace with changing practices and innovation. In most cases, they have become outdated; in a handful, they have become unsafe and no longer fit-for-purpose.
We have seen Dame Judith Hackitt already addressing safety and fire regulations. Hopefully the Future Home Standards will help up chart a course towards a more sustainable and energy efficient approach towards home construction.
Hotly anticipated, changes to Part F and L are to be announced later in 2020 and have been touted as a leap forward in some quarters of the construction industry. Others remain unconvinced. Good ventilation and conservation of energy should be ambitions for any quality housebuilder, and I feel that in their current, proposed format, these revised regulations lack the necessary bite to be effective.
Particularly it’s unclear how they impact or build on other related standards, EPCs being a good example. In their current state they do not go nearly far enough to address the global climate emergency effectively.
Some argue, retrospectively, we should have included a post-building monitoring component within existing regulations. This would have created more robust standards and helped us spot the problems we’re now urgently trying to address. I fear the horse has already bolted and I’m not entirely sure this ‘better late than never’ approach will satisfy those who have been seeking regulatory change for some time.
A major obstacle to change is trying to establish just how refreshed building regulations will affect housebuilders, ultimately producing a product to sell, and how much it will cost. Who will pay for the changes? Will the builder swallow the costs or pass them onto the customers? I think we can all take an educated guess as to the answer.
Current practice doesn’t inspire much hope, particularly where Part L is concerned. Even in 2020 we find most new build homes still use gas as their primary heating fuel even though the science tells us it’s the wrong thing to do.
Some developers are trying to convert the ways they heat and provide hot water within their developments but the majority are not making significant enough change at the pace required. The new building regulations are designed to assist with that problem by forcing the issue, although leaving some aspects open to developers seems counterproductive.
There is little doubt that we can generate clean/green electricity with technology currently available to us. There is also little doubt that if we fast forward a few years, we would likely find electricity powering not just our cars but our homes and everything in them including our heating and hot water systems.
Given the above, why are our developers holding back on making changes? Why has our legislation not produced a set of building regulations sooner that aims to address the problems?
It may be lack political will, enthusiasm from the developers or understanding from the heating engineers or a raft of other reasons, but are any of them really valid reasons for not wanting to produce a better building? I can’t say I know the answer, but one train of thought would be to invest further in greener heating systems which cost less to implement than current solutions.
Change, but slowly
Admittedly, Thing are slowly changing. Consumers are getting more information faster and are making more informed choices which will influence policy makers. Most want a greener solution, but not if it will cost them more to buy or run.
Certainly, revisions to these standards indicate sustainability is starting to rise up the agenda and will have an influence on future builds. However, developers, both big and small, need to start putting their collective feet firmly on the accelerator if we are to see change occur in the industry anytime soon.
So, what’s the answer? The government think its Part F and L, but I’m not sure. Without a tougher framework, I doubt these changes will achieve the end goal they’re seeking. Only time will tell and I keenly await the debate the publication of these new regulations will no doubt provoke.