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Consultation on Building Regulations

On 31 January 2012 the Department for Communities and Local Government launched a consultation on proposed changes to the Building Regulations regime in England. If implemented, some of these changes may become effective from October 2012 with more following in 2013. The changes relevant to this article are those aimed at reaching carbon targets for buildings (see below) by improving energy efficiency and existing building control systems.

Whilst the consultation documentation is largely technical, certain proposals are likely to impact broadly on the uptake of clean technologies in the building sector. Section two in particular, (which aims to raise the energy performance standards for new and existing buildings and introduce new requirements for energy efficiency consideration in works on existing buildings) provides examples and analyses of the ways in which new performance targets could be met in practice (for example, through the use of more energy efficient building fabrics and integrated solar panels).

Background

The government is committed to a (nearly) zero carbon standard by 2016 (for all new homes) and 2019 (for all non-domestic buildings). Building Regulations generally provide a set of requirements when building, extending, altering, changing use or carrying out certain services and fittings to buildings. Concerns have been raised (1) that discrepancies exist between the energy performance of buildings at the design stage compared with such performance when built, and (2) a general sense of poor compliance with existing Building Regulations. It is said that these could hinder progress towards reaching the carbon targets. The proposed changes will seek to ensure suitable levels of energy efficiency in buildings and act as an interim step towards achieving the carbon goals.

Section two - proposals to increase energy efficiency of buildings

For the purposes of this article the consultation contains an interesting section on proposals to increase the energy efficiency of buildings (Part L) (there are other sections for instance on changes to building control systems and electrical safety). It is intended that provisions relating to energy efficiency will be phased in alongside the introduction of the Green Deal, from October 2012.

Key proposals include
•Introduction of a specific energy efficiency target for new homes;
•Setting challenging CO2 targets for new non-domestic buildings;
•Introduction of a regulatory fabric energy demand target to close the loop-hole created by the 2006 ‘fuel factor’ which relaxed standards for homes forced to use higher carbon fuels;
•Drafting regulations to incentivise use of a new quality assurance standard for new builds;
•Introduction of consequential improvements to existing buildings; and
•Changes to the standards of works in existing buildings.

Responses to the proposals

Responses concerning the introduction of consequential improvements should be submitted by 27 March 2012 and on the remainder of the proposals by 27 April 2012.

The Consultation documents and response questionnaires are available here.

This article first appeared in Law-Now, CMS Cameron McKenna's free online information service, and has been reproduced with their permission. For more information about Law-Now, click here

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