A brief guide to what’s changed, what’s about to change and what’s under discussion in the fast-moving world of construction regulations, as compiled by Scott Brownrigg

There have been very few major changes in the Building Regulations since our regulations roundup at the beginning of last October. The big news will be what the new Part L will contain, and we could find this out quite soon. Parts B, C and F are under review to match the changes to Part L and there is also likely to be a knock-on effect to Part E.

Part B – Fire safety
Although the current version of Part B was only published in March 2004, some revisions are in the pipeline, with the consultation documents to be issued soon. This is because an attempt is being made to consolidate more than 100 pieces of legislation covering fire safety provision into a single document, the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order (or RRFSO). This will include the scrapping of fire certificates and the transferral of responsibility for occupational fire safety to the building owner or occupier. Also proposed are measures regarding stability in fire, building separation and fire in cavities. External fire spread and access provision for the fire service will also be revised. All this will inevitably have a knock-on effect to Part B.

Part C – Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture
Changes to Part F on ventilation standards and Part L on insulation have implications for interstitial and surface condensation, which are currently covered in the 2004 edition of Part C. As ventilation becomes more controlled and insulation standards increase, the possible detrimental effect on materials must be controlled. Amendments to avoid condensation are now under consideration. It is likely we will see the emergence of approved Robust Details for this part of the regulations to complement the others already in use with other regulations.

Part L – Conservation of heat and power
The latest, minor changes to the existing Part L kicked in on 1 April 2005. These effectively outlaw the specification of boilers that have less than 90% efficiency, as classified under the SEDBUK rating scheme. This means condensing oil or gas boilers will have to be used for domestic applications – including replacements. The Guide to the Condensing Boiler Installation Assessment Procedure for Dwellings, published by the ODPM, sets out recommended installation configurations and connections.

The next full revision of Part L is intended to come into force in January 2006, and will have a bigger impact than the last revision. If current proposals remain unchanged, it will cover new, existing, domestic and non-domestic buildings and will include significant changes in almost every area in the hope that insulation standards will be improved across all building stock. In addition, the European Union directive The Energy Performance of Buildings will require all non-domestic buildings to have an annual audit to check their performance in use.

The changes to Part L also include a move away from elemental calculations to whole building carbon emission analysis, but only for commercial buildings. A new version of Standard Assessment Procedure, SAP 2006, will be used to calculate the performance of dwellings. This will undoubtedly cause problems for the specifier. Not only will the exact performance of the required materials need to be understood (see 15 April 2005, page 73), but there will also need to be a far greater understanding of the performance of the building as a whole. Total energy flows in buildings will need to be identified at a very early stage, possibly before planning applications are made, because of the potential effect this could have on the fenestration and building systems.

The consultation stage has passed and the new standards for dwellings are expected very soon. These will be followed by non-dwelling standards, which are expected in mid-summer – although there are repotrs of delays.

Part M – Access to and use of buildings
Some discrepancies contained in Part M have been cleared up. These include a conflict between the need for closers on fire doors and the need for disabled users to open doors easily. Guidance issued by the Guild of Ironmongers clarifies the types of manual door closers that can be used and also includes advice on visual contrast. This will help the specifier to prepare access statements, particularly regarding the currently tricky areas of finishes, fittings, and fixtures for disabled users. Another change clarifies the discrepancy between Part M and British Standard BS 8300:2001 Design of Buildings, and their respective approaches to meet the needs of disabled people. Part M stipulates handrails should be between 40 mm and 45 mm, while BS8300 states 40 mm to 50 mm. Part M will be changed to read: “A circular handrail should have a diameter of at least 40 mm but not greater than 50 mm.”

Part P – Electrical safety in dwellings
Part P has now been with us since the beginning of the year. The effect of this regulation on the specifier is fairly limited. However, the impact on small traders accustomed to undertaking limited electrical works is understood to be considerable. The ODPM has issued circulars curbing over-enthusiasm in several local authorities in the application of the regulations.

The Work at Height Regulations 2005
These are now in force and require all employers to manage, control and assess the risks to all staff needing to work at any height. Specifiers should check that working practices don’t conflict with safe procedures. This covers both construction and the maintenance period. Full details and guidance are on the HSE website.

CDM regulations
The new version of CDM (CDM2006) has been published for consultation. The main proposals are the removal of the planning supervisor, to be replaced by the project co-ordinator, and that the CDM requirements will take effect prior to design commencing. There is also the introduction of “gateways”, or mid-project checks of the process. Comments can be made through the HSE website.

Subject guides similar to this are available from Barbour Index as part of its Construction Expert and Specification services. For further information, contact Barbour Index on 01344-899280 or visit www.barbour-index.co.uk