As in previous years, the flow of green legislation seems unstoppable. There is, however, a new government, which begs the question: “What is it going to do with the zero-carbon agenda that was the brainchild of the Labour government?”
Initially the coalition’s commitment to zero carbon looked questionable. Although its programme talked about sustainability measures, the words “zero carbon” were conspicuous by their absence. Since then Grant Shapps has publicly committed to making all homes zero carbon by 2016. So does that mean business as usual?
Well, building regulations look safe. The new version of Part L is published and is almost certainly a done deal, as are Parts F and J. The Carbon Reduction Commitment is also live, though its effect will depend on the price the coalition sets for carbon, and the revisions to the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive come from Europe so we have limited influence over this.
The areas where the government could have an effect are the Code for Sustainable Homes, the definition of zero carbon and zero carbon for non-domestic buildings, which have been out for consultation and are now sitting in the new minister’s in tray, so are ripe for tweaks.
What are the options? The non-domestic equivalent of the code only focuses on energy, so one option could be to make the code more palatable to housebuilders by getting rid of some or all of the non-energy elements. This would mean its only function would be to indicate the direction future regulations are taking between now and 2016. The hierarchy in the definition of zero carbon is broadly sensible although the Con/Libs will undoubtedly have a say in what constitutes an allowable off-site solution. Finally, the government could have considerable influence over zero carbon for non-domestic buildings as the range of options in the consultation is so broad.
Given the noises the new administration is making about the green agenda, the flow of green legislation might possibly change direction - but it’s unlikely to stop.
Thomas Lane, assistant editor (technical), Building