Firms are shocked by government request that they fund research into ways of calculating energy efficiency

The ODPM has surprised the construction industry by asking it to fund some of the cost of complying with European energy regulations for new buildings.

Senior officials at the department asked the industry to fund research into ways of calculating the energy efficiency of new buildings at a meeting on the 5 October.

Some industry bodies have expressed bewilderment that they have been asked to provide funding for a government scheme to regulate them.

One industry source present at the meeting, who did not want to be named, said: “It was a surprise to many of us that the industry is being asked to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds to support government legislation.”

The ODPM confirmed that the issue of funding was raised, but said no decision was made.

The government wants the private sector to help to develop a methodology to calculate whether a new building conforms with proposed changes to Part L of the Building Regulations. These rules are now in the process of being amended to comply with the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, which comes into force on 4 January 2006.

Compliance with the directive will ensure that the calculation of a building’s energy consumption includes factors such as solar gain and the use of renewable energy.

If the ODPM fails to obtain funding the government could fall foul of EU law.

In addition, designers would not be able to obtain Building Regulation approval for buildings such as hospitals, schools and offices, which could delay their construction.

John Tebbit industry affairs director at the Construction Products Association noted: “If the ODPM does not develop a compliance tool, designers will not be able to show compliance with the building regulations.”

The government’s commitment to cutting greenhouse gases could also be jeopardised.

If the changes to Part L are to come into effect on 1 January 2006, the ODPM has to act rapidly. Tebbit said: “The final approved document needs to be out in June next year to come into effect 1 January 2006”.

The revised Part L is a key part of the government’s drive to cut carbon dioxide emissions. If the government does not find the funds to produce a new calculation methodology the implementation of Part L could be delayed.