Industry Insights June 2022: Changes to the Building Regulations take effect

By Jen Heil | June 30, 2022

Welcome to the June 2022 edition of Industry Insights, where we’re rounding up the recent changes to the building regulations along with some key headlines in the construction industry. The drive to Net Zero continues with the introduction of regulatory reforms designed to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions. Meanwhile, significant changes to plans for HS2 and the latest report from the Climate Change Committee are also making waves in the sector. 

Building Regulation changes come into force in England 

From 15th June, updates to the Building Regulations in England came into effect, with changes to both Part L (Conservation of Fuel and Power) and Part F (Ventilation), as well as new regulations Part O (Overheating) and Part S (Electric Vehicle Charging). This is the most significant update to Part L in almost a decade. Some of the key changes include: 

Part L 

  • Updated insulation requirements for new homes and buildings, which will now be assessed under the latest Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) calculation called SAP10 for domestic, or Simplified Building Energy Model (SBEM) – currently running as iSBEM v6.1.b for non-domestic buildings. 
  • On-site audits must be carried out to confirm that the design details have been correctly constructed, and photographic evidence must be submitted as part of a compliance report for new homes. 
  • More demanding U-values for work on new builds and refurbishments.  
  • A greater focus on addressing and preventing thermal bridging. 

Part F 

  • Requirement that ventilation is not worsened by energy efficiency measures. 
  • Mandated checklists for installations of mechanical ventilation. 
  • Recommendations for all new windows to be fitted with trickle vents unless an alternative ventilation method is available, or the works do not worsen the existing ventilation. 

Meanwhile, Part O seeks to limit excess solar heat gain in new and existing homes, whilst Part S aims to futureproof homes and buildings via the installation of charging points for electric vehicles. 

Find out more about the changes here.

Two graphs on a white background with a title below that reads 'Data from the climate change committee's progress report in reducing emissions 2022 report to parliament'. The first shows the number of annual installation of insulation in the UK from 2010, with projections for the number of installations needed up to 2050 to reduce carbon emissions to the necessary degree. The graph shows a share drop from well over 2million annual installations in 2012 to less than 500,000 annual installation in 2021 - well below the number of installations required to bring housing stock up to scratch. The second graph shows projected emissions reductions in million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, broken down by sector. This graph indicates that in 4 out of the 6 listed sectors, mitigation plans are insufficient to achieve the required emissions reductions. Across Buildings, Manufacturing & construction, Agriculture & land use, and Engineered removals, the majority of plans are insufficient or pose significant risks. Even in the two sectors with credible plans - Surface transport and Electricity supply - the credible plans do not achieve enough emissions reduction to hit the necessary targets.

CCC report on the U.K.’s progress in reducing emissions 

June saw the Climate Change Committee’s annual report to Parliament, which assesses the UK’s progress towards the Net Zero aims enshrined in law. At 619 pages, the most extensive report we’ve seen so far from this progress series, the committee stresses urgency in its messages – demanding “delivery, delivery, delivery” from Number 10.  

 The headlines on the back of the report have been pretty damning for the Government, warning that ‘polices will not get UK to net zero’ and that ‘major failures mean UK set to miss net zero’. The CCC’s own matrix highlighted that from 50 action areas, across transport, electricity supply, buildings, manufacturing and construction, and agriculture and land use, just 8 are on track to reach targets, with 14 being either slightly or significantly off track.  

Delving into the report itself has shown us that for our field of manufacturing and construction in particular, the industry must act on its own accord to reach targets to keep warming below 1.5ºC. Making up 14% of the UK’s carbon emissions, the report sums up the manufacturing and construction sector as currently not on track. More concerning is that from the 15 departmental recommendations made by the committee in the 2021, not a single one has been fully achieved by the Government.  

For many unavoidably carbon intensive activities in the manufacturing and construction sector, CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) has been hailed as the saving technology. However, the report has suggested that there is “evidence that CCS deployment is a year behind schedule” at even this early stage. Ultimately, hydrogen and CCS were said to have a disproportionate focus according to the committee, at the expense of other areas where decarbonisation can be achieved in the industry. Summed up in a stark warning for the Government – their current strategy, which focuses on capturing carbon at the end of processes instead of investigating and investing in technologies to prevent carbon at its source, puts the UK  at risk of “taking a more expensive decarbonisation route with lower energy security” – a lose-lose scenario in the wake of current global events.  

Looking towards the electrification portions of the report, as building designers and regulators push for low-carbon electric heating systems as the answer to fossil fuel-based technologies like gas and oil, we are again faced with the challenges of a Net zero grid based heavily on hydrogen and CCS power plants. Instead, the report recommends a more balanced approach, where we both optimise the current housing and property stock alongside low carbon technology, reducing overall energy demand.  

The report is highly critical of the Government’s actions since 2013, where the volumes of insulation fitted to homes collapsed in a bid to drastically cut spending on energy efficiency measures. When energy bills are rising across the country and heating is such a vital component of the Government’s Net Zero vision, the current model for funding is described in the report as a “major risk”. Undoubtably, with such a focus on systems like heat pumps, which rely on building envelope efficiency , there needs to be action to better insulate the UK’s properties.  

We can only hope that for the next year, Number 10 takes onboard the 36 additional ‘priority recommendations’ from the report, to get many of the nation’s Net Zero action areas back on track.  

To read the committee’s further investigations into other sectors, explore their report here.  

HS2 northern link faces the scrap heap 

In a blow for the north of England, the £3bn stretch of high-speed rail line linking the HS2 network to the West Coast Main Line (WCML) just south of Wigan, known as the Golborne link, has been scrapped by the Government, further tarnishing plans to link London to destinations across the Midlands and the North.  

A spokesperson for the Railway Industry Association said “Only six months ago, the Golborne Link was included in the Integrated Rail Plan, as well as the HS2 Phase 2b Bill. The Link has been provided for in the budget for HS2 and is needed to allow adequate capacity on the national rail network to fulfil its vital function of handling the nation’s longer distance movements of both passengers and freight. Without this connection, a bottleneck will be created north of Crewe on the West Coast Main Line, which in turn will negatively impact outcomes for passengers, decarbonisation and levelling up.”  

Meanwhile, debate continues over whether the Manchester HS2 hub will be an underground or overground station. It was widely expected that a new underground station on the northern side of Piccadilly train station would be built as part of the HS2 line from London to Manchester, via Birmingham, Crewe and Manchester Airport. However, this option appears to have been ruled out as too costly at £5bn and, instead, the Government is proposing a cut-price overground station which will see trains emerge from the ground in Ardwick before travelling on a mile-long viaduct of up to 12 metres in height to reach the new surface station. Leaders in Greater Manchester say that it’s short-sighted, will result in the loss of 500,000sq metres of prime development land, cut off Metrolink lines and blight the city centre by turning swathes of land into a building site. 

It’s been a difficult month for the country’s railways, which are not only integral for passengers but also the goods that traverse the country, as June has seen the largest railway strikes in decades after disputes between the RMT (National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers), National Rail and the U.K. Government. With the news of even less infrastructure funding heading north, at a time where Net Zero commitments are heavily dependent on attracting people and goods onto low carbon forms of travel, the concept of a true Northern Powerhouse is becoming more elusive for northern businesses and residents. 

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