The latest minor upgrade to Part L of the Building Regulations is symptomatic of a wider malaise
It’s the environment, stupid. After two years, we have a delayed revision to Part L of the Building Regulations whimpering into force in April. Succinctly put this revised regulation demands an increase in overall energy efficiency of our buildings of a mere 6%.
I am led to understand that this can be coped with by simply adding 10% more insulation to our buildings, so we don’t really have to worry too much.
This allegedly sets us on the path to zero carbon by 2016. Can this really be true? In two years? To meet this regulation we will need the expertise and the products to build these fantastic new buildings. When Tony Blair first mooted this principle, we were to embark on a slow and steady path that would lead our industry to this goal. Over a period of ten years an incremental increase in energy efficiency regulations would gently acclimatise us to a zero energy nirvana.
Hand on heart, I don’t believe that our industry believes that these targets will ever be met or that the regulations to control them will be ever be set
Building product manufacturers would garner the technological expertise and the market would prevail to make these shiny new products affordable. Architects and engineers would rally round and create an increasingly environmentally-aware architecture with these new products.
Has this happened? Maybe a little? We do see some publicity of zero carbon buildings, but they always seem to be semi-detached and straw baled. Laudable but not really useful. We never see mass housing projects aspiring to a proper low-carbon future.
If targets are not adhered to and trumpeted, can we expect anyone to take them seriously? Can we expect window manufacturers and mechanical engineers to invest and to research? Can we as an industry consider making these investments into new technologies and methodologies when government backing seem to be faltering?
Hand on heart, I don’t believe that our industry believes that these targets will ever be met or that the regulations to control them will be ever be set. This new Part L is endemic of a watering down of a once lofty ambition.
So come on governors, tell us now are we really doing this or what? Because if we are then we need to start taking it really seriously and getting down to some serious zero carbon business.
Andrew Waugh is director of Waugh Thistleston Architects