We should get one or two things straight at the outset. We’re not against the Building Regulations.
Nor are we averse to the government’s stance on reducing the energy consumption of new buildings. On the contrary, Britain’s drive to meet the Kyoto carbon target is laudable. What we’re concerned about is the sheer volume of regulatory changes and the chaotic way they’re implemented.
Government departments and agencies are swamping construction with new rules and standards. Changes in regulation often require substantial investments in training, retooled production lines and design. This may be acceptable if those changes are made at a pace that the industry can keep up with. The situation now is that new rules are pouring forth in a torrent from Whitehall departments, the European commission, and council planning departments. We appreciate that the government’s hands are often tied by European red tape, but that doesn’t excuse the way it rolls out its own regulations without allowing enough time to assess what their impact will be. Part L is a case in point. This dramatically reduces the acceptable energy consumption of a building – which is, as we said, laudable. But it also requires a radical response from construction, it comes into force in April next year and yet we still don’t know what it will contain. That means that companies have to guess at the contents – and their cost implications – before they can design their project. And then they run the risk of being forced back to the drawing board after the final designs have been signed off.
If that was all that was wrong, it would be bad enough. But what really exasperates the industry is the conflicting nature of some edicts. Take Part M for example – that’s the one to do with disabled access, which came into force in 2004. It contained many clashes with the British Standards that cover the same area. Part M required one type of door closer, the British Standard another. This one problem meant that nobody knew what closer to specify, and it took more than a year to resolve. It’s a small thing, as are most of the other clashes, but taken together they’re maddening. It’s not surprising the industry is claiming enough is enough.
That’s why we are launching our campaign this week. In effect, we are asking the government to pause and take stock of the whole regulatory framework. We want it to harmonise the regulations that we have now, and to put in place a timetable that will make future changes predictable and consistent across government departments, and simple enough for building control departments to enforce. Many authoritative figures in the industry have already lent their backing to this campaign, including Paul Everall, the former head of Building Regulations. We’ll be adding to these supporters each week of the campaign. And you can help us to get the government to reform the regs by adding your support. You can do this by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or faxing back the reply slip.
Denise Chevin, editor