In an exclusive interview with BC&DS, David Clements discusses his appointment alongside Andy Von Bradsky, Paul Watson and Kirk Archibald on the Challenge Panel, which is reviewing the work of the Housing Technical Standards Review Panel as it goes along.
This Greater London Council veteran brings a taste for simplicity to the table with a straightforward manner seasoned by 30 years in the industry.
He feels that duplication of guidance is just one area that can only be improved upon in a simplified version of the Building Regulations: “That’s seen to be the biggest win in what we are doing, to be honest. Sustainability first, with accessibility the second. Part L is about reducing the amount of fuel and energy used, obviously, but as things stand planners will simply go and up that.”
The Review Panel itself will report in spring after taking in monthly feedback from the Challenge Panel, whose line-up current City of London Corporation District Surveyor Clements was happy to introduce: "We are four independents, that’s the essence of it: a developer/consultant [Archibald], a planner [Watson], an architect [Von Bradsky] and me [Building Control], so all aspects of the development cycle are covered.
“I don’t represent the City, London, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, or anything like that, we are all purely independent. What we are there to do is to ensure the Housing Technical Standards Review group has all the instructions and information it needs and that it stays on track.
“In Building Control we’ve always had competent persons, so if someone wants to verify the gas boiler, the windows, electrical or bits of insulation and so on, then they can do so.
“In my opinion, if that’s well regulated and respected in the profession then it works well. So if a design comes to you from a reputable designer and someone else has done an independent check on it, then do we, as a local authority, need to do that full, final check?”
Not one for sitting on the fence, Clements feels the answer is an emphatic yes. He goes on to describe how standards vary up and down the country, particularly when it comes to the subject of energy.
"The Merton rule is the classic case,” he explains. “Planners in [London Borough of] Merton decided that the Building Regulations did not go far enough, so they said a 10% renewable energy target had to be part of the mix and neighbouring boroughs followed them. And so, in authorities around the country, there are sustainability planning conditions that exceed Part L.
"You’ll always get different targets and they are always above the Building Regulations, the perception being that the government was not going far enough, when everyone wants green credentials.
"London decided to be a green capital and you can’t argue against that, it’s just that it leads to inconsistencies and perhaps we should not give planners the freedom to top it up by taking anything away from the controls. Put them in the actual Building Regulations in the first place and set one standard.
"After that it can be voluntary, but, personally, since I started, I can’t believe the amount of guidelines there are out there for environmentally friendly homes – and you can’t comply with all of them!"
Watch out for the full interview in the new BC&DS, available as an ebook here.