To a minister in Whitehall, bringing forward regs changes by a year may not seem like much of a leap. But for firms in the real world, it promises massive disruption
This was the week when the government’s low carbon agenda flickered back to life after the election. The energy department asserted its commitment to reduce carbon emissions to 80% of their 1990 level by 2050 - but without saying one word about new nuclear power stations. Meanwhile, the communities department announced a welcome solution to achieving zero-carbon homes - and a rather less welcome suggestion for changing part L of the Building Regulations.
First the good news. The thinking on zero carbon is that 70% of a home’s carbon will be addressed using super-insulated building fabric and on-site energy sources, and the remaining 30% will be accounted for using off-site generation. Grant Shapps’ plan is to set up local energy funds that developers can pay into, and councils can use to set up these off-site facilities. This fits the coalition’s localism agenda and creates a market for district heating. The announcement was pretty terse, so there are dozens of questions to be answered, but if all goes well we will have a mechanism that allows housebuilders to pay for off-site renewables.
If Shapps’ announcement makes the way forward clearer, that of Andrew Stunell achieved the opposite result. The minister floated the idea that the 2013 update to Part L of the Building Regulations be brought forward a year. Given the struggle under way to get the 2010 update out by 1 October, one would have thought he would have more pressing problems. The 2010 iteration will require energy cuts of 25%; the one after that will be 20%. To a minister in Whitehall who is keen to be seen waving the green flag, bringing that forward a year may not seem like much of a leap. But for product makers, contractors and housebuilders in the real world, it promises massive disruption to their planning at a time when the economy is already providing quite enough excitement.
Building’s Reform the Regs campaign in 2006 called for a set timetable of updates to regulations. The government responded and the industry thought this was what it was working with. A return to the more whimsical approach - however well intentioned - is as welcome as a boot through your brand new PV panel.
And it’s goodbye from me
This is my last edition of Building. After two lengthy stints on the title, and six years as editor, it’s time to move on. Working on Building is an enormous privilege for any journalist. The magazine’s heritage makes it an even greater privilege to have served as one of its editors. I’ve always sought to maintain its tradition as the industry’s best-respected title - its breadth of coverage, campaigning zeal, quality of writing, independence of thought and the seriousness with which it covers this extraordinary industry. And I have also aimed to modernise the magazine, adjusting it to the new ways we do business these days. Our evolving website is the obvious example of that.
It’s been a wonderful period for me. I’ve relished witnessing the design and construction of awe-inspiring projects. The skill and creativity of the people behind them - Building’s readers - has rarely failed to impress me. As well as happy memories, I take with me many close industry friendships, some stretching back to my earliest days on the title. Building readers have always been kind and helpful to me, and I thank everyone for their support over the years. I intend to continue working in the construction industry, so look forward to maintaining links with many old friends in my new life (I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org).
My topping-out ceremony completed, it just remains to wish my successor and staff well, bid farewell to Building and wish it every success in the future.
Denise Chevin, editor