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NEW YEAR'S CHEER

TECHNICAL & PRACTICE

This year's post-Christmas treat is a book that has been more eagerly awaited than the latest instalment of Harry Potter. It's a four-part series of paperbacks, known as Part L and the Gobbet of Information, in which our hero finds himself in a Chamber of Secrets with no possibility of clarification.

For those of you rushing back from the holidays, desperately awaiting the arrival of the finalised version of Approved Document Part L, I'm afraid you will have to wait a little longer.

The finished, trustworthy version will be published in February instead of midJanuary, giving you just three months to get to grips with it before implementation.

The reason for the additional delay is not hard to fathom. Second-tier documents, those essential subsidiary texts that have been sublet to other agencies, are not ready. The predicted chaos of farming off regulatory information - bits of information that should have been included in the main document - should hardly be surprising. All we have left are footnotes to a wish list of reference material.

Meanwhile, just before the festivities, the ODPM launched another consultation, this one on proposals for a Code for Sustainable Homes (www.odpm. gov. uk/index.asp? id=1162094). This will be separate from the Code for Sustainable Buildings, although both are intended to be finalised in time for the implementation of Part L and both replicate much of the other's content. The consultation on a Code for Sustainable Homes closes on 6 March.

The intention is that the new code should 'build upon people's willingness to think about sustainability and to use their purchasing power to obtain it': so that the market becomes a generator of green thinking. Anti-capitalists will not know whether to laugh or cry. However, even though the code is meant to do away with regulation, there are plenty of dos and don'ts that will be 'evaluated by a team of assessors'. We are advised to consider segmented kitchen bins for household-waste management, low-flush WCs and to avoid landfill in site management. We are even advised to choose low-allergy materials in construction, so signs stating that 'this building contains nuts' might be helpful in avoiding litigation in the near future. It seems that we are starting the new year in the same bureaucratic way that we left the last.

There will be five levels of code compliance: a base level, three intermediate levels and a level that delivers 80 per cent or more of the target, although the ODPM notes that this includes 'an element of subjectivity'. The days of EcoHomes seem doomed: 'It is not in anyone's interest to abandon EcoHomes without ensuring an orderly and clear transition to the new code, ' it says. But surely, if they are really interested in letting market forces pressurise for change, there's an argument for a constant benchmark to know where you stand. Try bragging about your EcoHome house in five years' time when no one remembers what it is.

The minimum new code requires: energy efficiency to ADL:2006; potable water use not to exceed 125 litres per head per day (46m 3 per bedspace per year); peak surface-water run off to be no worse than before development took place; the adoption of waste management plans; 0.8m 3 domestic waste storage; and an inventory of all materials used.

You may have had enough of Christmas board games, but for all the above, please collect 30 points. Do not yet pass go.

Additional measures accrue more points.

And what do points make?

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