Alex Goodfellow, group managing director of Stewart Milne Timber Systems.

Building code changes ease immediate pressure – but zero carbon is still on the agenda

Published:  23 March, 2014

The construction industry needs to keep its eye on the horizon and make sure preparations are underway for zero carbon legislation due to come into effect in 2016, says Alex Goodfellow, group managing director of Stewart Milne Timber Systems.

Speaking after the government’s recent announcements on the Housing Review and Part L Building Regulation changes in England, changes which will see the Code for Sustainable Homes merged into standard Building Regulations, Mr Goodfellow said the journey towards zero carbon homes is still on the agenda, with the deadline of 2016 looming ever closer.

He said: “While this move is positive in that it will reduce much of the red tape involved for builders’ in complying with various sets of standards and regulations, it is important that the industry remains attentive to the impending change in carbon emission limits due to come into force in 2016.

“For companies which are not making the necessary preparations already, having to comply with these targets will be an extremely demanding task.”

Last week, the government announced changes to deregulate the industry as part of its ongoing Housing Review. The changes will see the Code for Sustainable Homes, among others, consolidated into standard Building Regulations to streamline the building process for constructors in a ‘winding down’ of subsidiary energy efficiency standards towards centrally-prescribed national building regulations.

But while this news will be welcomed by an industry which has had to deal with overlapping and often expensive building codes for many years, Mr Goodfellow warned construction firms should lose no time in improving knowledge and use of low carbon building techniques as zero carbon approaches.

He said: “If the construction industry is not prepared for zero carbon building come 2016, the impact could result in expensive ill-considered solutions and hidden legacy issues - all of which will be entirely unnecessary if steps are taken now to adopt a fabric first approach to compliance, incorporating sustainable materials and construction techniques ahead of the target deadline.”

These targets, driven through Part L energy standards, are expected to have a deeper impact on house building and construction firms in England than in Scotland. Legislation north of the border has been steadily increasing carbon compliance requirements for years.

The 2010 Scottish Building Regulations prescribe an average reduction of 21% in carbon emissions for residential buildings and 43% for non-domestic buildings from April 2014, compared to the six and nine percent targets currently set for buildings in England. Scotland is already committed to a further 21% reduction in October 2015, making it one of the world’s leading lights in energy-low carbon buildings.

But Mr Goodfellow says that zero carbon buildings needs to be planned for by all sectors of the construction industry, regardless of location, as energy efficient buildings will become vital to business success.

Mr Goodfellow said: “My advice to colleagues in industry is to develop fabric first solutions to compliance, before considering expensive and riskier technologies such as renewable devices. By adopting proven building techniques, such as timber frames, the industry can deliver to increasingly stringent energy and carbon emissions targets, while still retaining profitability in the future.

“The simplest, most cost effective, reliable and low risk way to achieve zero carbon buildings is to take a fabric first approach to every project, making sure to maximise the potential of the building envelope to reduce energy demand before incorporating renewable solutions, in a fit and forget everlasting manner.”

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