Recently in our profession, there has been a huge and long-awaited update to the Building Regulations 2010. This goes hand in hand with the shift and roadmap towards the Future Homes and Buildings Standard due in 2025 – all new builds are to be zero-carbon in support of the UK’s bid to deliver net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Understandably, this is going to take time for Architects, Structural Engineers, M&E Consultants, Energy Assessors, Contractors and approved inspectors to fully understand what this means and how the Approved Documents impact our work. Some of these changes are finally responding to the climate crisis that we find ourselves in along with urgent reform to the regulations focusing on fire protection and safety in dwellings as a direct result of the tragic events of Grenfell.
The main takeaway is that we will be understanding building design in new ways. Many in the profession have been using sustainable design principles for years, and some would say that these changes do not go far enough. Moving forward technical and energy/thermal performance data would include but not be limited to embodied carbon, operational carbon, lifetime carbon, thermal bridging, solar gain and air tightness. These technical requirements will set the standards of achieving net-zero status and the demands that come with that will be high in terms of resources and skills. Working closely with specialised teams throughout the early design stages will become vital.
So, what does this mean for the average homeowner?
The most fundamental change is we, as designers, will no longer be able to respond to a client brief using traditional design methods. The success of the scheme will be measured from a combination of using energy and efficiency performance data with traditional approaches, which involve looking at the plan form, context, orientation and materials etc.
We’ve scoured our way through the latest research (we’re still learning ourselves) to find out the answer to this question. It's easy to get caught in the web of overwhelm and with that in mind, we’ll be releasing a series of updates across several posts.
For now, let's start with the main headlines:
- Updates to Approved Document L, volume 1: dwellings;
- Updates to Approved Document L, volume 2: buildings other than dwellings;
- Updates to Approved Document F, volume 1: dwellings;
- Updates to Approved Document F, volume 2: buildings other than dwellings;
- The introduction of Approved Document S: Infrastructure of the charging of electric vehicles and an entirely new Approved Document O covering overheating.
- Emphasis on designing and constructing in response to climate change is a key design/compliance factor.
- Creation of the Building Regulation Certification for buildings higher than 18m and scope buildings.
- Uplift in Part L requirements – higher u-values, thicker walls and roof build-up.
- New requirements for the amount of glazing vs solid walls.
- Amendments to fire safety laws.
- Strengthened rules on the marketing and supply of construction products.
- Three gateways for scope projects (a scope building is a building with more than one dwelling).
- The release of Part O – a new approved document focusing on solar gain and overheating by protecting the health and welfare of occupants of a particular building and using means to remove excess heat from the indoor environment. Internal blinds and tree cover are not considered suitable due to their removable nature.
- All new homes must produce 31% less carbon dioxide.
- Higher thermal performance requirements & thermal bridging details to reduce loss of heat.
- A new standard assessment procedure (SAP) calculation called SAP10, SAP compliance will now be applied to extensions built on existing properties.
- On-site audits are required by self-builders confirming the buildings have been constructed as per the detailed design. Photographs will have to be taken as evidence.
- If energy efficiency improvements are carried out to existing dwellings, existing ventilation must not be made any worse.
- Replacement windows are to be fitted with trickle vents unless air bricks or whole house (mechanical ventilation and heat recovery) systems are used.
What are the main impacts on homeowners?
- More front-end costs are required for appointing external consultants during Stages 2/3 to assist with the design and carrying out of assessments.
- More requirements for commissioning reports and investigations. These might be whole-house assessments looking at energy, airtightness, thermal performance etc.
- More costly construction methods to achieve higher u-values and thermal performance.
- Lengthened project timeframes because of a larger more specialised project team.
- The appointment of an energy assessor during the concept and design stages.
- The early appointment of a Structural Engineer.
- The early appointment of an M&E Consultant.
- Higher construction costs due to specialist construction methods and expertise.
- Careful consideration of building materials – particularly those which have high embodied carbon and use fossil fuels to be produced.
- A push on electric heating and heat pumps as principal ways for heating a home, perhaps used in addition with another energy source such as solar.
- New rules governing the amount of glazing included in extensions will come into effect.
- Where home refurbishments/renovations involve work to improve energy efficiency, existing ventilation must not be made any worse.
The new changes will ensure that our homes are healthier to live in, energy-efficient, kinder to the environment and require less maintenance and management. We welcome these changes.
Working collaboratively with an Architect and a team of specialists as early as possible to provide a scheme that meets your brief, and is compliant at the same time, will create the best outcome for any future changes to your home or new project.
We offer a free consultation to help assess what you're trying to achieve, how we can help and explain the process.
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