Changing the rules

Hywel Davies

2019 is set to be a busy year in terms of policy changes and building services. Hywel Davies, Technical Director of CIBSE, outlines some of the legislation changes to look out for in 2019.

Amongst a plethora of changes set to play out during the coming year, perhaps the most significant single development will be the review of several parts of the Building Regulations. Already announced are a full technical review of Part B, Fire Safety, as well as reviews of Parts L and F of the Building Regulations, dealing with the conservation of fuel and power and ventilation.

The review of Part B was anticipated in response to Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of Building Regulations, and further action to reduce carbon emissions from the built environment is needed urgently, according to a report by the Committee on Climate Change.

The Committee, which previously was broadly supportive of government, and of progress made by the UK, changed its tone and approach significantly last year, bluntly stating that more government action is needed. We need a long term plan to support simple low cost options and to stick to it with “effective regulation and strict enforcement”, and without “chopping and changing policy”.

CIBSE has already commented that the current approach in Part L does not deliver sufficient reductions in carbon emissions in practice. Consequently, the Institution has recommended that the Part L review considers a gradual move to using operational performance in place of, or alongside, the current design and as-built submissions. The ideal energy target should be expressed in terms of metered energy consumption.

In the medium to long term, a move to operational energy performance should stimulate a holistic design approach considering thermal comfort, air quality, daylight, energy use and carbon emissions. CIBSE recognises that this is currently outside the scope of Building Regulations, which apply up to handover, but this transition is essential if we are to move to buildings that are genuinely delivering low or zero carbon outcomes, rather than promises.

CIBSE welcomes the announcement that the Part L review is to run in parallel with a review of Part F. Currently this regulation does not explicitly address indoor air quality (IAQ), instead using ventilation rate as a proxy for IAQ. What constitutes “adequate” ventilation is not defined; in practice it is often related only to ventilation rates aimed at the removal of odours and indoor pollutants - especially moisture - without addressing the impact of outdoor pollutants on the indoor environment. In simple terms, this means that under the current building regulations, ventilation bringing polluted outdoor air indoors is compliant.

CIBSE recommends that Part F should clearly address IAQ and not just ventilation alone; the performance requirements should be health-based criteria based on WHO guidelines (or other health-based criteria recommended by Public Health England).

The Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety was undertaken by Dame Judith Hackitt and published in May 2018. It calls for wide ranging reforms to the system of building regulation in England, as well as a full technical review of Part B on Fire Safety, which has already been announced as part of the government’s response to Dame Judith’s proposals.

The report is a once in a generation call for fundamental change in the way that we regulate the construction and operation of buildings, which seeks to address many of the flaws in the system that CIBSE members have grappled with for years.

Another aspect of Dame Judith’s report is that it looks set to create some sort of legislative action around the competence of practitioners. In theory, this relates specifically to all those working on or managing high rise residential buildings, throughout their life from design to demolition. However, it may well be extended to cover other types of complex buildings. What form of legislation this may take remains to be seen; we could be heading down a line similar to that for Energy Assessors, where certain things can only be done by (or approved by) those on a register – a definite one to watch for 2019.

Alongside the impact of the Hackitt report, the Brexit saga may finally be expected to play out in 2019. In December, the UK Government published a draft order under the EU Withdrawal Act that will amend the Construction Products Regulation, to take effect in the event of a no deal Brexit (and if there is a deal the amendments may take effect at the end of the transition period instead). The draft order also amends the UK’s Construction Product Regulations 2013, which enable enforcement by trading standards authorities across the UK.

Post Brexit, existing EU harmonised standards are expected to become UK “designated standards”. This will ensure that construction products already placed on the UK market pre-Brexit will remain compliant with UK standards post-Brexit. New UK standards will then be designated by the Secretary of State, either by mandating a standardisation body to develop them or by adopting a standard already approved by the EU – this could mean that over time UK and EU standards could diverge, although that is not what BSI, the UK standards body wishes to see happen.

To certify products for use in the UK, instead of EU “Notified Bodies” there are likely to be UK “Approved Bodies”. New products assessed by a UK approved body will have to be marked with a UK mark to indicate compliance with UK designated standards, in the same way that products currently have to have a CE mark. However, EU products with a CE mark are still expected to be able to be placed on the UK market without further testing or additional UK marking – an approach designed to minimise any disruption to the availability of goods from the EU.

The intention is that this option will only be available for a limited time only, although the precise duration has yet to be decided. It is possible that at some time in the future all products used in the UK will have to have a UK mark. Again, given the lack of clarity on our departure from the EU, the issue of certification and product standards is one to watch carefully in 2019.

Similarly, it will also be important to watch the scope of legislation relating to construction products. With the Hackitt Review recommending a new committee to oversee product standards and limits on product substitution this is likely to be an important issue to keep a close eye on – which of course CIBSE will be doing!

Other activity to keep an eye out for includes legislation concerning energy related products. CIBSE would expect Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, to be transposing this legislation into UK specific legislation post Brexit, again this is one to watch.

While not a legislative change, its also worth noting that new International, European and British standards BS EN ISO 19650-1 Organisation and digitisation of information about buildings and civil engineering works, including building information modelling (BIM) -- Information management using building information modelling - Part 1: Concepts and principles and Part 2: Delivery phase of the assets were published at the end of 2018. These clarify many BIM questions, queries and uncertainties and look set to take the UK’s BIM level 2 mandate to a new level in 2019.

In summary, it will be a dynamic landscape for legislation in the forthcoming year and part of CIBSE’s role is to make sure that our membership is kept up to date on both the changes and their implications for the way our engineers approach their daily activity.

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