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The sum of the Parts

technical & practice - The year in technical and practice has been an eventful one.We reflect on the main events of 2004, month by month

January Joe Croser wrote: 'A new year and another CAD tool.' (AJ 22.1.04) Not a new insult but the beginning of yet another year of upgrades. Upgrades could also apply to the 'historic agreement' for a framework for collaboration between the RIBA and the British Institute of Architectural Technologists. Has anyone noticed?

While we all waited for the Robust Details that never arrived, Paul Everall, head of ODPM Buildings Division, sent out a circular stating that 'SI 2003 No 3133 postpones the coming into force of regulations 20A and 12A from 1 January 2004 to 1 July 2004, for new houses and blocks of flats.' Ever clear, it meant that, surprise surprise, it was all going to be delayed. In June, the AJ wrote: 'One year after the Approved Document E (2003) came into effect, and six months after the details were promised, the new and improved Robust Standard Details come into force. All new attached dwellings which are started after today (this generally refers to the date of a Building Control submission) will have to comply with the changes.' February One year on from the government's Energy White Paper, 'Our Energy Future - creating a low carbon economy', which outlined the UK's intentions to increase the renewables share of power generation to 20 per cent by 2020 and to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions 60 per cent by 2050, the Department of Trade and Industry launched a Renewables Innovation Review to identify the key renewable technologies to deliver the targets. Dave Clements wrote: 'The overriding temper of our times, risk-averse, bounded by limits and sustainable projections, is not insurmountable. It is one thing to be practical, and quite another to be practically unable to conceive of a future that transcends the present' (AJ 15.1.04).

The government's consultation on planning best-value indicators closed.

The AJ later said that the value-added craze 'is now a recommended assessment tool in architectural circles.

Whereas we used to get on with the business in hand, knowing that the product of architecture had intrinsic value, these days we all seem to be angst-ridden about whether we are adding enough value and if it is the right quality value' (AJ 26.8.04).

March Consultations for PPS 1, 'Creating Sustainable Communities', set out the government's vision for planning and the key policies recommended to underpin the planning system. After the consultation closed, Brian Waters said that the Association of Consultant Architects noted that 'the key to improving the planning system? is the provision of proper resources' (AJ 17.5.04). This demand, unfortunately, seemed to fall on deaf ears.

April The government's Action Plan for Energy Efficiency was released, which pledged to save 4.2 million tonnes of carbon from households by 2010.

May New Part M is launched. Specific mention of 'disabled people' in previous documents is changed to the word 'people' within this new regulation, with the intention of building in universal design principles. As Selwyn Goldsmith pointed out (AJ 19.2.04):

'The extent to which the ODPM was able to embrace this aim was? severely restricted; the impediment being that for the generality of building users, people who were not disabled, they had no instructive British Standard to guide them. They were obliged to rely on (the phrase) 'for the disabled' BS 8300:2001.' Meanwhile, tarmacadam ramps continue to proliferate across the country.

June After the ODPM-sponsored Barker Report in March, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' (DEFRA) sponsored report, carried out by Entec et al, suggested that the extra housing demanded could create 40 per cent of the current level of domestic waste and an additional 20 per cent of CO 2 emissions. Thus environmental logic contradicted the need for housing. It suggested that if we accept that housing causes most CO 2 emissions, building more will exacerbate the problem. Homelessness becomes a political act of the responsible eco-citizen.

July Proposals for amending Part L of the Building Regulations and Implementing the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive consultation period opened, including proposed revisions to the standard assessment procedure for energy rating of dwellings (SAP).

Nobody from government bothers to explain what the hell it all means.

The Robust Details for Part E: 2003 came into force with a requirement that a completion certificate be signed.

The AJ recommended that 'signing the checklist is an onerous responsibility and we advise architects to not be drawn in? given the historic dangers related to Final Certificate liability, any architect thinking of signing this certificate, which will be used to grant Building Regulations approvals, should think carefully'. The RIBA has still not given advice on whether architects ought to be obliged to sign a compliance certificate to state that the construction has been carried out in accordance with the details.

On an equally worrying note, in a review of the AJ's 'Designing for Compliance'conference, we wrote that 'BRE surveys indicate that 25 per cent of separating walls and 40 per cent of separating floors in new dwellings failed to meet the 1992 Part E standards? This does not bode well for compliance with the new Part E' (AJ 28.10.04).

Gustafson Porter's £3.6 million Princess Diana Memorial Fountain opened. At the inaugural ceremony, the Queen stated that 'memories mellow with the passing of the years'. Gustafson Porter had its fingers crossed that this was true. Notwithstanding the litigiousness that gave rise to the closing of the fountain in the first place, the AJ wrote that the fountain was 'undoubtedly a case study in prefabricated construction excellence and hints at the possibilities of using technology imaginatively to assist speed and accuracy on other sites. However, the inevitable problems of real, as opposed to virtual sites, still blight construction projects' (AJ 24.7.04).

The Prince's Foundation joined the RIBA CPD network. The AJ said: 'It is nice to see that a difficult CPD session is being developed to challenge architects rather than simply to keep them 'aware.' This can only be a good thing' (AJ 9.9.04).

August The Olympics in Athens was a roaring success after the nay-sayers had spent months suggesting it would be a disaster. While the BBC stated that 'delays have caused fears that some Olympic facilities will not be ready for the opening of the Games in August', Cyprus-based architect Andreas Papadopoulos said: 'A lot of panic about the building has been created in the lay press. The buildings will, to all intents and purposes, be completed. And they will be magnificent' (AJ 1.7.04).

The government announced a 'weasely ministerial response' to the continuing meltdown in the Planning Inspectorate (AJ 30.9.04), to which it admitted that 'even the simplest written appeal will now take more than a year to decide'.

September Thomas Heatherwick's rolling bridge was unveiled, together with Marcus Taylor's Helix and Langland and Bell's Station Bridge. On Heatherwick's design, the AJ wrote: 'As the bridge lifts, so the pumping action, like blood pumping into the veins, provides resonant images of Clinton's penile disorder writ large' (AJ 8.1.04).

October The consultation period for Approved Document Part F closed - expect onerous surprises in the New Year.

Proposals for amending Part L and Implementing the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive consultation period closes. The proposed Part L changes included removing the options for calculating U-values, buildings to have 10 per cent recycled content, and giving building inspectors the power to insist on energy-efficiency improvements in items unrelated to the application.

Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act came into force. Treating a disabled person less favourably because they are disabled has been unlawful since December 1996, but the new provisions detail what service providers may need to consider in making reasonable permanent physical adjustments to their premises. The AJ said that 'the assessment of what is reasonable includes assessing the costs, benefits and practicalities of making the adjustments' (AJ 7.10.04). Therefore, there should be no need to panic except that, in order to show that you considered making improvements to premises in order to make services accessible to persons with disability, we advise that an audit be carried out to checklist and hence make transparent, the fact that service providers have made the effort and have started thinking about what - if anything - needs to be done. Also, should things need to be done, but the service provider believes that they are unreasonable due to cost, and other practical, functional and strategic implications, then having a document that identifies that a considered approach to matters has been undertaken, will stand you in good stead. The AJ provided a notional checklist for this purpose (AJ 7.10.04).

The RIBA launched Riding the Rapids by Charles Landry for Building Futures. The AJ said: 'In the short space of time since he wrote Creative Cities, which looked at how cities should rebrand to avoid decline, he now advises cities to manage their inevitable decline gracefully' (AJ 18.11.04).

The Secure and Sustainable Bill became law. An insidious piece of legislation, it surruptitiously amended the Building Act 1984 so that future Approved Documents can be interpreted to insist that architects and developers have to design-in measures that promote sutainability and/or prevent insecurity within their buildings. The AJ said: 'There is the potential scenario? that an owner be required to upgrade windows, boilers or loft insulation when having some other unrelated work, like a domestic conservatory, carried out on a property' (AJ 4.11.04).

November George Bush wins US presidential campaign.

December Revisions to Approved Document Parts A and C came into force. The AJ said that Part A 'appears to be a useful advance on the ADA:1992, notwithstanding the ridiculous decision to remove the span tables'. Approved Document Part C launched, coming into effect on 1 January 2005. Mike Finbow explored the rationale for good detailing against radon exposure (AJ 11.3.04). With reference to site investigations for contamination, the AJ added that 'property developers will now be required to do the (site) investigation, assess the risk and pay the penalty (and add to the local authority's survey data for free)'.

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