Good news: there won’t be too many changes coming up

At the end of last year the communities department published a programme for the regulations it intends to start working on in 2011, ready for implementation in 2013. It is considering revising Part A (structure) and C (site preparation and resistance to contamination and moisture) in response to changes to structural Eurocodes and concerns about health risks from radon gas. It is also considering consulting on getting rid of Part D (toxic substances) as this relates to a type of insulation no longer used in cavity walls.

The government says it remains committed to the zero carbon agenda which means it will need to start work on Parts L and F. It will also look into rationalising Parts K (staircases and balconies), M (access to buildings), N (glazing) due to conflict between these regulations and a “desire to reduce the regulatory burden.”

It also says it will look at how effective Part P (electrical safety) is, again with a view to cutting back on regulation. But this is counterbalanced by noises about introducing a new regulation covering security, and regulations that ensure disabled people have adequate toilet and changing provisions. The government will also continue its work on improving compliance with regulations that could affect building control bodies.

Work will start on the revisions this year but it is unlikely any consultations will be published until 2012.

There will be more action on green legislation in 2011. The Zero Carbon Hub is completing its work on the carbon compliance level, the percentage of carbon emissions that must be mitigated on site. It has defined the levels for different housing types and it is down to housing minister Grant Shapps to sign this off. Expect an announcement in the first quarter of 2011.

With this out of the way, the Hub can concentrate on defining allowable solutions (energy from off-site sources). This has been a long time coming but David Adams,
co-director of the Hub, says it will happen this year. “This has to happen,” he says. “It’s really important to the industry that it understands the costs of carbon as it affects the price of land.” The level of the renewable heat incentive, the kickback people will get for biomass and CHP heat, was due to be set before the end of the year but this has been delayed until early 2011.

The big unknown is Grant Shapps’ intention to overhaul what he calls local building standards. These are requirements set by councils, including the Merton Rule, Code for Sustainable Homes levels and Section 106 agreements. There has been some speculation that Building Regulations would be scrapped in favour of local standards but John Tebbit, industry affairs director of the Construction Products Association, thinks it unlikely. Instead there will be a local standards framework which will bundle all these requirements up into clearly defined packages. Tebbit welcomes this, saying it will bring clarity and consistency. For example, there are currently 70 different ways of meeting local accessibility requirements in the South-east alone. With a local standards framework, there would be a much simpler menu of options. The idea is to give local authorities choice, in keeping with the localism agenda, while giving the standards national consistency.

There are also calls for a viability calculator so planners can see what impact their choice of options would have on the viability of sites. Tebbit thinks we could see movement on this in 2011: “The government has to get this going a year or two before the next election to demonstrate it works,” he says.