Building Regs: Busted

By Kieran Crowe
29th July, 2020

The minimum standards are met, nothing more…

“We are Part L compliant” should really read “We design to the bare minimum.”

Part L is busted. There it is, I have said it. And I am annoyed at this missed opportunity.

I remember the launch of Part L and the concern it posed in the building design community at that time.

In reality it became just a compliance matter, a speed sign if you like. Like a lot of regulation, it became the target to achieve, to scrape your way to a standard that is simply ‘sub-standard’.

And so it continues. Building Regs: Busted.

Imagine if Building Regs delivered real purpose to Net Zero

As you may know, Part L of Building Regs provides guidance on the conservation of fuel and power.

However, for a moment consider how building regulations impact design decisions. We use them as standards to aspire to and as the mark of approval.

Building products are designed and developed by manufacturers to meet those standards, so the supply chain limits the development of, and access to, higher performing products.

And so it continues. Building Regs: Busted.

So, if our design targets are prescribed by a sub-standard, how can we achieve Net Zero buildings?  The very reason the targets were set down from the outset.

As higher performance often means higher project costs and questions asked of the design team, we as a nation end up with mediocre building design and delivery with Net Zero a mere fudge.

And so it continues. Building Regs: Busted.

Same old, same old

If anyone has worked for a large developer, they will know all too well what this means.

There will be some schemes that stand out and are the go-to for those handful of projects where performance standards are exceeded.

But they are sadly deemed ‘vanity projects’ which I think is a terrible term to apply to projects that reject the sub-standards the herd mentality adopts.

Current thinking is that non-domestic buildings will need to perform at 70kWh/m² or lower to even stand a chance of achieving only a 1.5°C global temperature rise, the Net Zero necessity.

Domestic stock will move to zero carbon in time, perhaps quite soon considering the number of local councils who have declared a climate emergency.

And so it continues. Building Regs: Busted.

Part L will currently pass a new building at a much higher energy intensity whilst using carbon heavy fossil fuels.

And so it continues. Building Regs: Busted.

Building Regs are entirely inappropriate

So, Part L isn’t as much busted as entirely inappropriate for the design community to aspire to a Net Zero future.

Sitting back and waiting for legal parameters to change is naïve and cowardly. These parameters are the ‘legal minimum’ so I say take some initiative and look beyond these.

I have sat in lots of seminars and listened to designers espouse claims of carbon free design, when in fact they do not practise this.

I know this because I’ve gone back to the same office, sat across from them and watched them cut and paste the usual compliance specifications from one job to another.  Sound familiar?

And so it continues. Building Regs: Busted.

The latest amendments to Part L were made lawful in 2018. The Government is due to launch new amendments this year.  However, this is likely to be delayed.

I want change

The anticipated changes include buildings being constructed to near Zero Carbon and use in-use energy metrics.  However, no detail exists.

My name is Kieran Crowe.

I am a Building Services Engineer and I am drawn to action.

I want change to happen in the built environment to save my earth for your children, my children and our children’s children.

I want to see Net Zero as fact, not a vague ambition.

My company, Low Carbon Alliance, in June, were co-signatories with 200 other leading UK businesses writing an Open Letter to the Prime Minister urging the Government to focus on a Green Recovery, to see this period as an opportunity.

Who’s in?