Preparing for the new Building Regulations

The forthcoming new Building Regulations dealing with the conservation of fuel and power (Part L) and ventilation (Part F) present both challenges and opportunities to the building-services industry. It is a challenge that the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineering has responded to with the development of much guidance that is widely referred to in the new regulations and in organising a major conference to provide guidance for building designers, constructors, owners and operators. The improvements in the energy efficiency of buildings represented by the new Part L and the current Part L will reduce the energy consumption of new buildings by 40% — a remarkable drop in just four years. But there is another important dimension to reducing energy consumption. At the time of the conference that was the prospect of the UK losing half its electrical generating capacity in the next 10 to 20 years. As CIBSE president Donald Leeper so succinctly points out, every megawatt of electricity that is not consumed does not have to be generated. Despite the substantial improvements in energy performance required by the forthcoming regulations with what existed before 2002, there is a school of thought that they do not go far enough and that they stifle rather than stimulate engineering imagination. There is no doubt that the new regulations mark a step-change in energy-performance standards. There is also now doubt that to really transform markets requires more than meeting these regulatory minima — and the tone of CIBSE’s conference was that these minima represented a starting point for imagination construction and engineering. There is also the very practical point that it would be wise to pitch higher than minimum requirements to provide a safety margin for whatever assessment method is used. One of the few remedial measures is to reduce the air leakage of the building. Meeting the challenges posed by the forthcoming changes to the Building Regulations needs more than innovative and imaginative engineers. It requires interaction between those with architectural skills and those with building-services skills. As CIBSE’s president-elect David Hughes summarised, ‘Professionals must all be involved collectively — sooner, rather than later. Everyone must be moved up the tree of appointment — including the client, so that the client can be involved in the whole process. Designers also need to work with building operators at the outset of a project because it is they who make the largest contribution to energy efficiency.’ David Hughes is also an advocate of the regulations being regarded as minimum requirements and urges the industry to set its horizons above that baseline, thereby making the baseline easier to achieve. For the benefit of those who were not able to be at the conference, CIBSE has made all the presentations available as a webcast on Pick a presentation (their running times are indicated), and spend a few minutes now and again hearing how the industry is responding to these new challenges.

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