Are standards being scrapped?

Scrapping local authority control.

The housing standards review consultation closes on the 22nd October, one of the key proposals  is the scrapping of a local authority’s ability to require more to be done as planning requirements.

If the Code carbon and energy targets are to be scrapped, it is essential that additional (over and above “business as usual” Part L) carbon and fabric energy efficiency benchmarks are set in Nationally Described Standards (and then eventually incorporated into Part L).

Interim standards are essential to incentivise innovation and to provide opportunities for the industry to gain experience and trial new products; To push the limits of what is cost effective and buildable.

The 2013/14 changes to Part L have been watered down from the original consultation and are now only 6% better than Code 3/2010 ADL.   In 2016 its arguable what level of emissions may be set;  There is a real possibility of zero carbon (incorporating a carbon compliance level and allowable solutions), not being achieved until 2019, if the  Government waters down changes to ADL again.

By all means drop additional benchmarks once the regulations better them.  Once surpassed, Code 4 would be irrelevant, as Code 3 is now.   But don’t just drop the higher levels completely now.    They are useful in the interim and may be useful in the long term if those levels are not bettered in 2016.

Some of the builders sell on the basis of the value added benefit of more efficient housing and nationally described benchmarks like Code levels are a key part of the marketing message.   Many will continue to want to build to higher levels of energy efficiency and reduced levels of carbon emissions.  Furthermore, when considering whether a building is appropriate in more sensitive areas, it’s impact on the environment is something that should be considered.

Builders  may want to consider trialling building to the ZCH proposed 2016 Carbon Compliance level, or achieving the full 2016 Fabric Energy Efficiency  level. They may want to push further to Code 5 (i.e. zero carbon with no allowable solutions) or even Code 6, i.e. go over and above the mooted 2016 Part L requirements on site.   Why not give them the flexibility to do so, if they can show that it is viable?

The nationally described standards should have a place for higher carbon and energy benchmarks – even if it is decided by government that planning authorities cannot require them to be met.

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Jon Ducker is a qualified energy assessor working for Kingspan Insulation Ltd. He has an extensive knowledge of energy efficiency, renewable energy systems and sustainability in buildings with an expert knowledge of the relevant sections of buildings regulations and standards and their interactions with SAP. He provides authoritative advice regarding energy assessments for a wide range of public and private sector clients.

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