Tuesday 5 January 2010

the last 10 years Part 2

Continuing on with the theme of the Building Control Act and Building Regulations, over the course of the last decade there’s been at least 3 revisions (lost count at this stage) to Part L of the Building Regulations and Technical Guidance Documents. On each occasion the thermal performance requirements of the building beginning improved. The requirements of the earlier amendments were easily accommodated within the existing typical construction methods, by solely using an insulation of higher thermal performance; however it is not as straight forward with the most recent amendment, particularly for walls, where it is necessary to increase the overall wall thickness. In addition Part L now requires provision of renewables within a dwelling, air tightness, and the use of acceptable/accredited details to further assist in the thermal performance of the dwelling and ultimately reduce carbon emissions. The days of achieving an elemental u-value to comply with the regulations are gone as are sun rooms onto the northern side of a dwelling (hopefully). Further revisions and improvements are anticipated in 2010. SEI’s DEAP software, used to determine the BER for a dwelling is also used to check compliance with the most recent Part L, relating to dwellings.

Keeping with the building regulations and technical guidance documents, Part B and Part M are the only two others which were significantly revised over the course of the last decade, although monor chances to one or two others but a number have gone for public consultation within the last 18 months, including Part M recently. With the BS 5588 suite of Codes of Practice withdrawn in the UK and replaced by BS 9999, one expects that a revised Part B of the Technical Guidance Documents will be on the way in the not too distant future. Hopefully we will see revisions to all Technical Guidance Documents which will eliminate conflicts, as is currently the case.

I’ve just learnt that Part F of the Building Regulations was amended and signed into Law on the 22nd of December, with a revised TGD-F on the way shortly.

In March 2003 the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 which had a significant effect on how planning applications were made came into effect. In those early days of the regulations invalidations were very common, as agents and planning authorities got to grips with the regulations. Almost 7 years later invalidations are still common, currently running at approximately 20%. Thankfully, I haven’t had too many invalidations of late: only one in the last year that I can recall of. One benefit of these regulations for the applicant is that in the majority of cases potential objectors have to make themselves known at planning stage, through submissions, as opposed to appearing out of the woodwork on the last day for lodging an objection to An Bord Pleanala, as commonly used to happen in the past. Part V also came with the regulations, something which is hard to know how successful it is/was, as the affordable element of it is not or has not been very workable( around hear anyway) as there isn’t or never was a significant difference in prices of affordable houses and those on the open market. The regulations made it necessary to both erect a site notice and put a notice in the newspaper; prior to that it was one or the other. Also drawings could be submitted in either a metric or imperial scale, and there wasn’t an adhered to time frame for development plans. Overall things were fairly inconsistent compared to today.

2006 saw revised regulations relating to Construction Health & Safety; putting increased responsibility on the client and designers. Some might argue this should not be the case, however we are where we are. The role of preparing the safety file has moved to the designers (PSDP) from that previously of the constructors (PSCP).If that’s a good or bad thing I’m not so sure.

One piece of legislation, which needs to be mentioned, is SI 666 of 2006 or what brought BERs into begining for the layman. It is one of the most currently hated pieces of legislation by the Architectural Technology profession, ( and others I would image) not for the regulations themselves but how it has ended up. Firstly one has to question how so many non-construction or unqualified professionals ended up as BER Assessors, the answer is of course money and some training providers only interested in making the quick buck. One has to question SEI’s role in administrating the whole thing and why they didn't stick to their guns. I recall looking at the entry requirements and the level of information/knowledge and evidence thereof required by one of the first training providers and thinking to myself I would have difficultly obtaining a place and what’s more completing the course. Yet people with no construction backround have ended up assessors, many not capable of using a scale rule or reading a drawing, which has made a complete joke of the whole thing. As for the costs of BER’s most are done well below cost judging by the rates beginning quoted: one has to question the attention to detail been paid to the preparation of the assessment. I can’t justify becoming an assessor, even though it makes logical sense to become one and offer the service as part of the overall design service... Maybe things might change in 2010.

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