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'New efficiency laws are doomed'

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A massive new raft of ecological legislation for construction is in danger of failing, the RIBA's chief sustainability adviser has warned.

Feilden Clegg Bradley architect Bill Gething has expressed serious concerns over the new Secure and Sustainable Buildings Act, Part L regulations and the EU's Energy Performance of Buildings Directive - all of which are becoming law this autumn.

Gething told a recent Building Research Establishment (BRE) conference that the government has failed to invest in the research required to ensure the viability of the new rules.

His comments come amid one of the most radical overhauls of the energy efficiency rules in recent years. While Part L and the EU Directive have been expected for some time, their impact has been manifestly increased by the wholly unforeseen new act.

The World Wide Fund for Nature-backed act - which, unusually for a private member's bill, has made it to the statute book this week - is expected to have a major impact on architects.

Among the more radical changes in the act is the empowerment of council building inspectors to demand that homeowners make changes to their homes, such as improve insulation or upgrade their boilers, when they propose unrelated planning applications.

The bill also demands that all new homes meet the BRE's Ecohomes 'Very Good' standard, a move that will see a huge increase in the specification of 'environmentally friendly' materials.

However, Gething, who is a long-term campaigner for improved energy efficiency, warned that the government has failed to think through the impact of these changes.

'The government is now leaving it up to the industry to come up with model solutions and then develop dissemination and training programmes, ' he said. 'But the professional institutions just don't have the financial and organisational resources to do this. This is what the government needs to understand.

'On first glance it looks like it is a damn good thing that this is happening, but the government does not seem to realise what a task it is, ' Gething added. 'We in Britain are further ahead than anyone else in Europe on this kind of thing, but there is a problem if we cannot get the government to support it.'

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