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Scottish power

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A new survey examining how Part J (Scotland) is perceived by architects has implications for Part L in England and Wales

It is nearly two years since the revised Part J - Conservation of Fuel and Power - of the Scottish Technical Standards came into force. Given the speculation regarding forthcoming revisions to Part L of the English and Welsh regulations, it is timely to ask what is planned for the future of Part J in Scotland, and how the industry is coping with its implementation.

To establish how the standards are being used, a survey was taken of building warrant submissions made since 4 March 2002 (when the new Part J came into force). Post-implementation survey questionnaires were sent to over 40 architects working in Scotland, of different practice size and project experience, relating to 250 building warrant submissions.

The results offer an interesting insight into how the regulations are being implemented and also how they are perceived by those who use them.

It seems that the carbon index method (dwellings) and the carbon emission calculation method (nondwellings) are hardly being used.

Architects may se the additional time and cost associated with undertaking the more complex methods of compliance may be seen as unnecessary for the typical projects currently being carried out in Scotland.

Forthcoming changes The entire technical standards and building warrant process is about to change radically. The Building (Scotland) Act 2003 was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 20 February 2003 and received royal assent in March 2003. This sets out an entirely new framework for the building control process, which the Scottish Executive says has been prompted by the need to facilitate compliance with the EU Construction Products Directive. The new system is expected to come into effect in 2005 along with a completely new format for building standards and guidance documents.

The Act also introduces the term 'verifier', which is a change from the term 'local authority' in the equivalent sections of the current 1959 Act.

According to the Scottish Executive it seems that for the foreseeable future only local authorities will be registered as verifiers, but the Act has enabling powers to allow private companies to become verifiers should it be necessary at a later date. It is important to note enforcement powers will still rest with the local authorities, for contraventions, repairs and dangerous buildings.

The Scottish Executive's policy of 'level transposition' means that the new documents that come into force in 2005 will, in terms of overall technical content, be similar to the regulations we are working with now, with only the format and legal structure changing. However, the ODPM has already published its thinking on forthcoming changes to Part L in England and Wales, outlining proposals for further reducing U-values, adopting window energyrating standards, increasing the requirement for airtightness testing and further improving lighting standards. These changes, if implemented, will come into effect via an amendment to Part L also scheduled for launch in 2005. This may lead to further disparity between Part L and the Scottish regulations.

As ultimately both the ODPM (in England and Wales) and the Scottish Executive will have to address the requirements of the Energy Performance of Buildings directive which has implications over and above the content of Part L and Part J, the real focus for the future should be on how this will manifest itself in legislation affecting existing and new buildings of all types. How the ODPM and Scottish Executive address this issue will be far more wide-ranging than any tinkering around with the existing parts of the technical standards or Building Regulations.

Rob Cargill is the regional director of FaberMaunsell. Contact 0131313 7600.

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