Trade body adds pressure to government, saying software to calculate Part L energy ratings is not ready

The National Federation of Builders is to add to the pressure to reform the Building Regulations by launching a cross-industry campaign group on the issue.

The trade body said the group would call on the government to delay Part L, the section of the Building Regulations dealing with energy efficiency, because the calculation tools to implement it were not ready.

An NFB spokesperson said: “We want to form an action group so we can get a letter to the minister as soon as possible suggesting a delay to Part L.”

He said the delay would give the industry a chance to come to terms with the extensive changes to Part L, which involve complex calculations to work out the energy performance of buildings.

The spokesperson said software to calculate ratings for dwellings was not ready. Although the calculation methodology, known as SAP 2005, was made available on 19 October, it is thought that the software to use it will not be approved until 2006.

However, Stephen O’Hara, director of Elmhurst Energy Systems, a licensed SAP 2005 assessor, said he hoped its software would be approved before Christmas.

He added that small builders would be best advised to use services such as Elmhurst to have their housing plans checked and approved for SAP 2005 compliance. This would cost about £65 a unit.

A lot of people will solve this with the mastic gun

NFB spokesperson

From April 2006, pressure tests will be mandatory to prove that buildings comply with airtightness standards and do not leak heat.

The NFB spokesperson said the late arrival of Part L documents meant that builders would not have enough time to design proper construction solutions. Instead, he warned, builders would resort to quick fixes to seal leaks in the building fabric.

He said: “A lot of people will solve this problem with the mastic gun, but the building will fail in five years’ time. The government has to decide if it wants Kyoto window dressing or the job done properly.”

The NFB said the government may have underestimated the number of pressure tests required, leading to a shortage in testers and equipment.

Housebuilders are expected to pressure test 8-11% of their dwellings on each site, but the NFB said small builders would have to test a much higher proportion because their developments might contain only one or two homes. Robust Details Ltd, which approves acoustic construction details, estimated that, because of this, about 21% of dwellings would have to be pressure tested.