Traditional house construction methods could become a thing of the past if DETR changes to the Building Regulations are accepted.
These amendments to Part L, which call for a significant increase in insulating performance standards for building fabric, would lead to brick/block construction falling by the wayside as it cannot meet this requirement.
The proposed changes are included in a consultation paper called Proposals for Amending the Energy Efficiency Provisions, which was issued by the DETR on 15 June.
“We are steering towards a greater use of timber-framed units,” said a senior DETR spokesperson. “The regulations are likely to be easier to achieve using steel- or timber-framed construction,” he added.
The government estimates that it will cost housebuilders up to £2000 a unit to implement the proposals. Launching the changes, construction minister Nick Raynsford said the government aimed to cut CO2 emissions from new houses by up to 25%.
Housebuilders gave a mixed reaction to the proposals. A spokesperson for the House Builders’ Federation said: “Housebuilders are not afraid of the requirements in Part L but the main problem is timescale and implementation.
“At the moment, timber frame only accounts for 6% of new-build homes. To move this to 75-90%, as we estimate the amendment requires, will be difficult within two years.”
The spokesperson said the government should concentrate on improving older, energy-inefficient homes rather than a minority of new ones.
Peter Hawkey, director of innovation at Linden Homes, denied that the changes would herald the death of brick/block construction.
He said: “I don’t think it is the end. We are in discussion with block and insulation makers about using better quality products.”
Wimpey Homes product development manager Mark Crosbie said the UK industry did not have the capacity to produce timber-framed housing on the scale envisaged by the government – a view echoed by the HBF.
The consultation paper proposes improving the performance of fabric insulation over three phases between 2001 and 2005.
Other changes in the paper include an extension of the regulations to cover home improvement work, including boiler and window replacement; a minimum standard of airtightness to reduce unwanted ventilation; and increasing the standards of detail design and site workmanship for all buildings.
The consultation period for the changes will end on 29 September.