Industry says loopholes in regulations will enable homeowners to avoid energy improvements

Proposed changes to the Building Regulations intended to drive uptake of the Green Deal, the government’s flagship energy efficiency programme, will not work, industry leaders have said.

The draft revision to Part L of the Building Regulations, which covers energy efficiency measures, contains loopholes that could enable people to avoid improving the efficiency of their buildings, experts have said.

Under the plans, published by the Department for Communities and Local Government this week, building owners will be required to make energy efficiency improvements when carrying out other building works.

According to the consultation document, the requirement for these “consequential improvements”, such as cavity wall or loft insulation and draught proofing, would be triggered even when making small upgrades, such as replacing a boiler or more than 50% of the windows in a property.

Launching the draft regulations, communities minister Andrew Stunell said the proposals would boost the roll-out of the Green Deal in October by stimulating demand.

But Green building expert David Strong said the government’s plan to require improvements when they are “technically, functionally, and economically feasible” would leave loopholes in the system.

“That gives a lot of people a get out of jail free card because they just have to get someone to write a letter which says that it’s not feasible,” he said.
Strong said people already did this to avoid consequential improvements on non-domestic buildings required under the 2010 version of the regulations.

Peter O’Connell, Federation of Master Builders policy manager, said the policy was “well intentioned but misplaced”.

He said a survey of FMB members on the impact of consequential improvements, carried out in 2010, found that 41% expected home owners to use “cowboy builders” to get round the obligations, and a further 40% expected clients to cancel jobs due to the extra cost.

Mark Whitby, director of engineer +Whitby and former president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, said he had seen numerous buildings built in recent years without cavity wall insulation that had received Building Control approval and therefore had little faith in regulation as a tool to drive improvements.