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Architects criticise missed opportunity over Part L

Architects have rounded on the government following its decision to scrap the proposed ‘consequential improvements’ clause in Part L2A of the Building Regulations

The clause – which would require homeowners to upgrade the energy efficiency of their homes during significant refurbishment – was dropped from the consultation document, released on 18 June by housing minister John Healey.

It is the second time the proposal has been shelved, having previously been dumped in 2006.

Mark Elton, associate director at ECD Architects, said: ‘I’m not totally surprised, because the government has [dropped the clause] before. It shows a lack of conviction to carbon reduction.’

Bill Gething, chair of the RIBA’s Sustainable Futures Group, acknowledged that the recession had played a part. ‘I can see why the government has to be careful. It could be seen as a policy too far,’ he said.

However, Rory Bergin, head of sustainability and innovation at HTA Architects, said: ‘An awful lot of firms are in refurbishment and would’ve been given more work because of this.’

The UK Green Building Council also criticised the move. Chief executive Paul King said: ‘With one hand government waves a flag which says it aspires to a ‘near-zero-carbon’ built environment by 2050, and with the other it throws away one of the few levers it has to signal a serious shift in policy.’

The RIBA Sustainable Futures Group is to draft a response to the consultation, which could be published by September. The next Part L revisions will be made in 2013.

Previous story:

Government performs ‘pathetic’ u-turn on Part L

The construction industry is ‘shocked’ at the ‘pathetic’ decision to scrap Building Regulations Part L2A’s ‘consequential improvements’ clause

The Building Regulations Part L2A’s ‘consequential improvements’ clause - which would require homeowners to upgrade the energy efficiency of their homes when undertaking significant refurbishment - was dropped from the consultation document which was released yesterday by John Healy, the housing minister.

‘Consequential improvements’ are already required for non-domestic buildings when a refurbishment of more than 1000m2  is undertaken. The proposal to extend this requirement to existing housing would have involved eliminating the 1000m2 threshold and requiring ‘cost-effective’ improvements up to 10% of the value of the refurbishment works to a maximum of £3000. The types of measures likely to have been incorporated would have included the addition of cavity wall insulation where none exists, topping up inadequate loft insulation and replacing boilers older than a certain date.

This measure was previously scheduled to be included in the 2006 revisions to Part L and were dropped by Yvette Cooper, newly appointed minister at the time. The fact that ‘consequential improvements’ have again been dropped from the consultation now postpones this question until the next Part L revisions in 2013.

David Strong, chief executive of Inbuilt Consulting, commented: ‘We all know it’s the existing stock that has to be addressed. This is a key policy instrument that would deliver high-carbon savings per pound invested and is very important to carbon abatement if we are to meet the Government’s 2050 targets. The entire industry is shocked that the measure was again dropped at the last moment and not even included as a consultation question.’ An anonymous architect close to the Part L revisions process described the decision as ‘pathetic.’

Paul King, chief Executive of the UK-GBC commented: ‘With one hand government waves a flag which says it aspires to a ‘near zero carbon’ built environment by 2050, and with the other it throws away one of the few levers it has to signal a serious shift in policy that could help catalyze a major new market for refurbishment that would be very good for the economy and crucial for meeting the government’s new carbon budget.’

Readers' comments (3)

  • This is an excellent decison for many owners of historic but unlisted properties; too many supposed 'improvements' can be bad for traditionally built buildings in the longer term, and are not cost effective. Those in line to make cash from this 'major market for refurbishment' may be wailing, but that's possibly no bad thing.

    There's a great deal of advice around (English Heritage and Historic Scotland) about making traditional housing more energy efficient, without damage and vast expense.

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  • I don't agree at all. Surely a building's current context should take precedence over nostalgic historical purity. What relevance is preserving relics "as is" if we find ourselves in the midst of an environmental catastrophe.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • I would then suggest you do some research about the effectiveness of many supposed 'improvements'. It's not nostalgia, it's commonsense. A 'one size fits all' policy is not what's needed.

    And read Howard Liddell on eco-bling.

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