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Building Regulations in The News – December Recap

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Building Regulations in The News – December Recap

Here is the first in our series of Building Regulations in the news. Here we summarise all the latest building regulations news from the previous month. This month’s article includes the future of cladding in future developments, the Chancellor’s environmental promises, the World Health Organisation’s new noise guidelines, as well as keeping Part L building regulations up with the sustainability agenda.

High Rise Buildings in Wales Ban Combustible Cladding

Following the Grenfell Disaster and as an immediate response to the Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, cladding in all new residential buildings, including flats, student accommodation, care homes and hospitals over 18m in height in Wales are banned. The ban is applied to the entire height of the building, the wall assembly, and certain external attachments.

The Chancellor’s Spring Budget

Sajid Javid has announced the date of his Spring 2020 Budget as Wednesday 11th March, with a promise to prioritise the environment. This is vital due to the government to committing to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. However, has announced few spending-related measures to help hit this target.

New Noise Guidelines

Recent changes to The World Health Organisation’s noise guidelines means that the impact of sound is becoming more and more important. The guidelines state that exposure to noise presents the largest health risk to the population of Western Europe, second to poor air quality.

Cardiovascular disease, annoyance, sleep disturbance and distractions in activities such as reading, and conversation are just some of the negative impacts environmental noise can have on health and wellbeing. However, the latest guidance from the WHO replaces the 1999 guidelines, which were used extensively as part of noise impact assessments. As a result, their introduction is likely to affect the way we assess noise impact in the future.

To achieve the right outcomes in the control of noise and to help take control of an issue that is clearly having an impact on peoples’ quality of life across the UK, early engagement of acoustic consultancy services is recommended.

Keeping Part L Building Regulations Up with The Sustainability Agenda?

With the government’s target of net-zero carbon to meet by 2050, there is the increasing emphasis on ensuring buildings are sustainable. It is becoming more and more important for buildings to be low carbon and energy efficient, but at the same time liveable and functional. However, certain legislation and market incentives can result in these elements not being considered altogether.

Part L UK Building Regulations for new homes currently sets out legally binding restrictions for overall carbon emissions and space heating energy demand only. A mixture of low-carbon technologies, enhanced fabric performance, district energy and renewables have all played a role in meeting these moving targets for over 10 years. As improvements in fabric performance continue to be made, thus reducing space heating demand, the focus has shifted towards the carbon emissions associated with hot water and ventilation.

Changes to Part F and L Building Regulations

Last updated in 2013, the consultation for the proposed changes to Part F and L in 2020, which occurred on the 10th January, outlines substantial changes aimed at furthering new residential design towards a net-zero carbon future.

The shift towards electrically fuelled energy strategies will assist the National Grid to achieve its low-carbon targets, with new carbon factors for fuel alone encouraging this. The Future Homes Standard (FHS), presented as part of the same consultation, includes few details beyond the aspiration to achieve a 75-80% reduction in CO2 emissions beyond existing standards.

The proposal to adopt the FHS in 2025 coincides with the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) recommendation that no new-build homes are connected to the gas grid by the same year. Both recommendations have, however, missed the opportunity to address three key challenges that are pivotal in achieving the UK’s 2050 net-zero carbon commitment.

The emissions associated with a building’s entire life cycle from cradle to grave excluding the operational energy consumption, are referred to as embodied carbon and can form up to 70% of the life cycle carbon emissions of a development. Failing to adopt an analysis of and design approach towards life cycle carbon could result in design solutions that incur greater embodied emissions during the construction of a building, in order to reduce emissions from energy-related activity during the operational phase, thereby moving the problem rather than directly addressing it.

Passivhaus Standards

The Passivhaus methodology for residential design is growing in popularity in the UK. It is based not only upon its low energy credentials, but also due to the correlation between recorded and predicted performance, based upon an absolute energy metric. In some cases, if Passivhaus standard is achieved, certain local authorities allow the relaxation of certain carbon emissions related policies.

The role of Part L in assisting the construction industry to address the carbon emissions crisis is vital in reducing the energy consumption and carbon footprint of buildings. However, through failing to consider the embodied carbon of buildings, along with a limited accuracy of the calculation process and lack of enforcement in compliance, there will be little consistency in the design expectations of buildings. It is said however that the updates of Part L will hopefully address these.