David Bowen, founder and CTO at Logicor looks ahead at the changes to Part F & Part L of the building regulations.
The current set of building regulations have been around for some time and are a fundamental tool used to make better, more efficient homes through a variety of rules the builder has to follow. The problem with a fundamental tool of any description is that it needs to be kept up to date with the very latest changes being incorporated into its structure, else it becomes unfit for purpose.
Unfortunately, our building regulations framework has not managed to keep pace with changes at a speed necessary for its end goals to remain valid. Many might go as far as to say that in some areas it is no longer fit for purpose.
The current changes to building regulations, specifically Parts F and L, are touted as a large step in the right direction, but there are those that disagree.
To clarify for the reader, Part L focuses on the conservation of fuel and power, and Part F on ventilation of new properties. In my opinion, the proposed reforms of Part L are a largely missed opportunity, it doesn’t go far enough to enforce a more sustainable approach.
One could argue, had we included a component of monitoring post-building within existing building regulations, we’d have spotted the problems we now need to address much sooner. However, I’m not convinced that adopting a ‘better-late-than-never’ attitude will satisfy long-tome advocates of building regulation change.
A major, institutional problem is clarity about the implications of Part F and L. Particularly, we need establish how the changes to building regulations affect builders and the wider construction industry, identifying potential barriers to going green. It’s no easy task and a few immediate obstacles exist, mainly who will pay for the changes. Will the builder swallow the costs or pass them onto the customers?
Heating engineers will be particularly hard hit because they need to make substantial changes as we move away from fossil fuel driven systems to eco-friendly ones. It’s something which has to happen, but balancing the cost of installing a new, greener heating system against the wishes of the developer, who wants the cheapest solution, will be difficult to manage.
In 2020 we find most new build homes still use gas as their primary heating fuel. Some developers are trying to go green, but the majority are not making the essential changes quickly enough. The new regulations are designed to mitigate the problem, forcing the issue, although leaving some aspects open to developer choice may be counterproductive.
There is little doubt we can generate clean, green electricity with the current technology available to us. If we fast forward a few years I’m sure we’d likely find electricity powering everything: our cars, our homes and everything in them, including our heating and hot water systems.
With this knowledge, why are 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 down to many things: lack of political will, minimal enthusiasm from the developers, poor understanding from the heating engineers or a combination of all. Are any of them really valid reasons for not wanting to produce a better building? I can’t say that I know the answer, but one train of thought would be that if a developer could choose a greener heating system that cost less to implement than their current solutions, they would likely make the change and at speed.
The good news is that things are changing. Consumers are getting more information faster and are making more informed choices. Most want a greener solution, but not if it will cost them more to buy or run.
So what’s the answer? The government thinks it’s within building regulations Part L and F, however, without a more robust and tougher framework, I don’t think these alone will achieve the end goals they seek. Yes, they are a step in the right direction, but what’s next? What’s the next iteration of Parts L and F going to look like?
Ultimately, we have to consider the millions of homes not currently covered under building regulations and what will be needed in those properties to improve the conservation of fuel and power. We also need to have an open and honest discussion of whether the regulatory framework alone will work or if it’s now time to look at the existing housing stock as well at future development.
We also have to ask the question of whether Parts F and Part L go nearly far enough, but that’s a debate for another time. Of course, only time will tell, but my hope is that these two revised regulations will drive a step change in building practices, helping us go greener, faster.