Government consultation on changes to Building Regs

Published:  01 March, 2012

UK: The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has launched a consultation on changes to English Building Regulations that will come into effect in 2013 or, in some cases, late 2012. 

Under the Government's proposals, Part N of the Building Regulations, on glazing safety, will be merged into Part K, the part commonly referred to as 'Slips, Trips & Falls'. The expanded Approved Document K will also be updated to remove any clashes with the disabled access guidance in Approved Document M.

The consultation offers three approaches to Part P of the Building Regulations: leave it as it is; revoke it altogether; or amend it to reduce costs to the industry.

This latter approach is the one preferred by the Government. The amendments would mainly consist of expanding the range of work that can be carried out without notifying building control or using an approved competent person. For example, alteration work in kitchens, which are currently considered hazardous locations, would become non-notifiable.

The main area where changes are proposed is Part L, which provides minimum standards for energy-efficiency in new buildings, and when work is carried out to existing buildings. These changes are intended to set England on its way to zero carbon dwellings in 2016 and zero carbon non-dwellings by 2019.

In the case of new dwellings, the Government proposes fabric energy-efficiency targets (measured in kWh/m2/year) in addition to the current emissions targets (kgCO2/m2/year). How these energy targets are set is a matter for discussion.

In the case of non-dwellings, CO2 emissions will remain the key metric, and the government has proposed reductions of either 11% or 20% in these targets.

Perhaps the biggest proposed change is the introduction of Consequential Improvements to dwellings.

The concept has been in the non-dwelling arena since 2006, when Approved Document L2B was introduced. Certain extensions or alterations to existing buildings trigger the need to make cost-effective energy-efficiency improvements to bits of the building that wouldn't have otherwise been touched.

Consequential improvements for dwellings were proposed in 2005 and again in 2009, but never made it into the published 2006 or 2010 guidance. Various triggers are proposed as part of the consultation, for example replacing a boiler would trigger a need to upgrade loft insulation, fill cavity walls or insulate the hot water cylinder. The idea is that only improvements meeting the criteria for Green Deal funding would be required.

Although the Government is also consulting on an option to introduce domestic Consequential Improvements all in one go alongside the Green Deal in October 2012, their preferred option is a phased approach.

Consequential improvements triggered by an increase in habitable area, or increase in energy use, would be introduced in October 2012, and Consequential Improvements triggered by replacement boilers and replacement windows in April 2014. Other proposed changes include references to the Soft Landings Framework and BSRIA BG26/2011 Building Manuals and Building User Guides.

BSRIA has said it will be submitting a response to this consultation, and will be seeking the views of its members at an event to be held in Bracknell.

The consultation can be accessed at the DCLG website. The closing date for responses is 27 April, except responses regarding Consequential Improvements, for which the closing date is 27 March.

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