Sustainable Buildings Task Group ignores 'unanimous recommendation' for pressure testing homes
Housing experts have this week hit out at the Sustainable Buildings Task Group for failing to recommend pressure tests in its report to the government.

Key members of the energy subgroup are outraged that their "unanimous recommendation" to include standards on housing airtightness has been shelved.

The report says the government will conduct a consultation this summer, to allow "those opposed to pressure testing to bring forward viable and practical alternatives".

Last week Andrew Warren, director of the Association for the Conservation of Energy, criticised the the report in a letter to the task group co-chair Sir John Harman.

He wrote: "Such testing would provide an absolute standard that would ensure the necessary improvements in production quality and, by setting a pass/fail test, would help to drive standards forward."

He added: "The absence of any such recommendation within your report would do huge damage to the potential for ensuring that our buildings become more sustainable, certainly in energy/carbon terms."

Warren reminded Harmon that airtightness was endorsed by the industry advisory group to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, which gave guidance on the parts of the Building Regulations that relate to energy.

Housebuilders, however, will welcome the move. Pierre Williams, head of media at the House Builders Federation, said regulations enforced before building work took place, such as design codes, were less expensive than testing after construction had been completed.

Setting a pass/fail test would help to drive standards forward

Andrew Warren, Association for the Conservation of Energy

But David Strong, managing director at construction research at consultant BRE Environment, criticised the report, saying that the issue of mandatory pressure testing was "conspicuous by its absence".

He said: "It is surprising that the issue of mandatory pressure testing of buildings was not addressed. A simple, low-cost test could deliver dramatic improvements in build quality and energy efficiency."

The tests assess the amount of energy that is lost through draughts. They involve shutting the doors of a property, fanning air through the doorway and testing the air pressure.

ODPM research on pressure testing has suggested that fewer than one in three buildings comply with minimum energy standards.

  • As predicted in Building last week, the SBTG called for a code of sustainable construction. It also proposed a reduction in Stamp Duty for homes that adopted the code.