CIBSE on Building Regulations - from 2010 to 2013

Hywel Davies
Technical Director at CIBSE
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Post date: Tuesday, 21st February 2012

The single most important change in Building Regulations in 2013 must be to remove Regulation 47 writes Hywel Davies, Technical Director, the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) for Industrial and Commercial Building Regulations Yearbook 2012.

In 2010, there were significant changes to the Building Regulations. Whilst not on the scale of 2006, there were many detailed changes, particularly to Part L, “Conservation of Fuel and Power”, or Energy Efficiency.

There are four new Approved Documents (ADs), with ADL1A&B covering new and existing homes, and ADL2A&B covering new and existing non-domestic buildings, respectively. There were also changes to Part F, on ventilation, and to Part J on combustion appliances. Part G on public health engineering also underwent major change, with ADG now three times as long. Two new compliance guides for domestic and non-domestic building services give detailed guidance relating to specific “fixed building services” systems, including the detailed guidance on lighting, hot water, heating and cooling and ventilation systems.

It is helpful to understand the structure of the Regulations. They are made under powers given to the Secretary of State by the Building Act of 1984. The Regulations allow a series of technical requirements to be set, and these are contained in a Table in Schedule 1 of the Regulations.

Part L of that table is just a few short paragraphs, saying: “Reasonable provision shall be made for the conservation of fuel and power...” and “Fixed Building Services [shall be] energy efficient [and] have effective controls”. As part of the Regulations these requirements are legally binding. Approved Documents (ADs) are official advice on meeting the legal requirements, particularly those in the Part of the Table to which that AD relates.

ADs are not prescriptive, except where they quote the regulations, and they allow freedom to make “reasonable provision” in other ways, as long as Building Control accept the solution. But Building Control Officers usually accept proposed solutions that follow the official guidance!

Commissioning and testing of fixed building services

Until recently, commissioning of fixed building services, the lighting, heating, domestic hot water, ventilation and air conditioning systems was Requirement L1b of Part L, requiring these systems to “be commissioned to ensure that they operate in an energy efficient manner”.

Commissioning buildings and their services is vital for energy efficiency, but is often not carried out adequately. The 2010 revisions sought to address this by making the requirement to commission into a new Regulation 44, requiring fixed building services to be commissioned.

The 2010 changes also include Regulations for testing sound insulation (Reg 41), Mechanical Ventilation flow rate (Reg 42) and air-leakage (Reg 43). Not only are those tasks now subject to individual Regulations, but there is also a specific duty for the person carrying out the work to provide a notice of the testing to the local authority within five days. These are all sensible steps to ensure that buildings are safe and are built, tested and commissioned to be healthy and energy efficient. But there is one fatal flaw in the 2010 Regulations.

Contravening Building Regulations is subject to a “fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, and to a further fine not exceeding £50 for each day on which the default continues”. And we would expect that a building that has not been pressure tested, and which contains mechanical ventilation systems that have not had flow rate tests or been commissioned, to be subject to enforcement action for not complying with the Regulations.

But we would be wrong. The Building Control Officer would point us to Regulation 47 of the 2010 Building Regulations. And he would say “not pressure testing, checking flow rate or commissioning is not an offence.” Regulation 47 says that contravening Regulations 41 to 44 is not an offence. Nor is failure to provide a completion certificate to the Building Control Officer, nor failure to supply a carbon dioxide emissions calculation, or an energy performance certificate, nor failure to provide the calculation of water consumption required by the regulations.

Quite simply, all the regulations that relate to certifying what has been done on a building are entirely voluntary. If a builder or developer ignores them, they are contravening the regulations, but they are not committing an offence. This is quite bizarre.

Building Regulations are currently being reviewed. Arguably, the single most important change in 2013 must be to remove Regulation 47. It is a pointless Regulation. It totally undermines the energy efficiency measures in the Regulations. Removal should not be a problem under “one in, one out”. After all, it only enables Building Control to actually enforce what the Regulations already require!

Only those not already complying can object. And if they signed a contract that requires them to follow all relevant laws and regulations, then they are already in breach of contract, or undertaking to do something and then failing. Addressing that does not increase regulatory burdens – it is holding people to account, and protecting consumers and small businesses from unscrupulous practices. We shall soon see whether such a proposal is in the consultation.

The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) exists to support building services engineers, by providing members and the public with first-class information and education services. CIBSE is the standard setter and authority on building services engineering.

This article first appeared in Industrial and Commercial Building Regulations Yearbook 2012. To read the entire publication, click the ebook.

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