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Geoff Wilkinson’s Regs: Part A, C, and L changes

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How changes to Part A, C, and L of the Building Regulations will affect you, by Geoff Wilkinson

After a challenging 2011, hopefully 2012 will be more settled and see a return to growth in the market. The consultation for changes to England’s building regulations for 2013 were expected to be released before Christmas but have only just appeared. I recently asked Communities and Local Government (CLG) minister Andrew Stunnell what the process involved.

He said: ‘These things run to a timetable, but admittedly not always like clockwork. We have already consulted on what range of changes we are minded to do and invited comments; that consultation is now closed and we are now looking at the results. This is an opportunity for people to say, “hang on, you’ve chosen the wrong thing, or not enough of the right thing.” We will lock that down in March or April, the regulations are then drawn up, passed for October and implemented in 2013.’

The consultation is divided into 4 main parts:

• Technical Guidance
• Part L
• Part P
• Systemic Changes

Over the next few months I will be looking at these proposals in detail, but one of the immediate highlights is the announcement that the limitation of 1000m² on consequential improvements to dwellings will be removed. This is likely to see alterations and extensions to pre-1985 regulation standard buildings requiring significant upgrading, as DCLG finally start to tackle our existing stock. For example a £30,000 kitchen extension to a Victorian house is likely to result in the need for the client to spend 10 per cent (£3,000) on upgrading its thermal performance or reducing CO2 emissions.

This is expected to boost uptake of the flagship policy driver the ‘Green Deal’, run by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). While the Green Deal is about providing money upfront for people to retrofit their homes, CLG very much want to engage that with the regulatory regime as well. As a result, the £3000 improvements could be funded through an upfront cost loan from the building’s energy supplier, subject to a 15-year maximum payback period and a golden rule that no one’s energy bill should increase because of it.

Other parts of the regulations subject to change include Part A, where British Standards are finally due to be replaced by the Structural Eurocodes and part C, where updates are likely to bring the Approved Document in line with the National Radon maps. Systemic changes proposed include the withdrawal of local acts such as Section 20 requirements for sprinklers in inner London and the extension of enforcement powers to include stop notices and on-the-spot fines for breaching regulations.

Elsewhere, Wales has completed the devolution of Building Control to the Welsh Assembly so, as of 1 January this year, changes to Building Regulations issued by DCLG will only apply to England. Documents and guidance that were in force up to 31 December 2011 and which previously applied to England and Wales will continue to apply in Wales following the transfer of powers.

This includes:

• Building Regulations
• The Approved Documents
• Guidance published by the CLG
• Approvals under competent persons provisions

The Welsh Assembly has not, as yet, published its revised proposals but they remain on course for an update later in the year, with the promise of a 55 per cent (as opposed to 44 per cent) improvement over and above Part L 2006 thermal transmission standards for domestic new-build, with non-domestic and existing stock to follow.

Lastly, the status quo remains in Scotland. Following a recent consultation, ministers decided not to introduce private verifiers, instead opting to maintain the monopoly of council building standards departments. Their consultation considered introducing the private sector on a limited basis to verify building standards.

They attracted nearly 200 responses from the construction and development sector, and nearly three quarters were not in favour of change. It should be noted that the vast majority of public sector responses were against change, while the vast majority of architects and developers were in favour; the old adage of turkeys voting for Christmas rings true.

Andrew Stunnell’s counterpart in Scotland, Derek Mackay (Scottish minister for local government and planning), said: ‘Scotland’s building standards system is recognised as one of the most successful in Europe. Local authority building standards services are helping support sustainable economic growth while tackling climate change, promoting sustainability and improving compliance with building regulations.

‘I am extremely encouraged by the commitment that local authorities have given me to continue improving their services.’

Geoff Wilkinson is managing director of approved inspectors Wilkinson Construction Consultants.

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