Embracing a new safety culture in buildings should not hamper our efforts to deliver net zero carbon. In fact, it should help, according to Steve Addis, Product Manager at Lochinvar.
The biggest change to construction practices in half a century is racing towards us with the enactment of the Building Safety Bill later this year. This will introduce such a profound change to manufacturing, planning, procurement, installation, inspection, competence, and compliance that many are arguing it will derail our carbon reduction plans.
Delivering a 75% reduction in carbon emissions by 2035 on the road to net zero by 2050 already seemed pretty ambitious before adding on the burden of totally revamping the safety culture of an entire industry at the same time.
However, the transformation of building culture in this way should prove exactly what we need to revamp our energy and carbon performance. Poor energy performance is often the most obvious symptom of a building that is generally not fit for purpose. Making our buildings better will have benefits for both safety and performance.
As well as setting much higher professional competence standards through the new Bill, the government has also set the tone through its approach to revising our Building Regulations. For example, it has joined up the ventilation and heating targets by running consultations on Parts F and L in tandem.
As a result, new homes will have to cut their carbon emissions by 30% and non-domestic buildings by 27% to meet the requirements of the revised Part L – while at the same time tackling poor indoor air quality and overheating.
Better energy performance must be delivered but not at the expense of the ventilation rates essential to protect the health and well-being of occupants – so making buildings better all round.
These new targets will come into effect in June this year with the new regulations regarded as a stepping stone towards the Future Homes and Buildings Standard that aims to make all buildings ‘net zero ready’ from 2025.
All new residential buildings, including care and children’s homes, and student accommodation, must also be designed to reduce overheating, under changes to Part F and the introduction of Part O. Changes to ventilation will also be introduced to improve indoor air quality and reduce the spread of airborne viruses in new non-residential buildings, including the mandating of CO2 monitors and additional standards for recirculating ventilation systems in all new offices.
The government is proposing three performance metrics against which new non-domestic buildings will be measured: primary energy, a CO2 emission target, and minimum standards for fabric and fixed building services. The introduction of a primary energy metric is designed to make energy efficiency of each building a priority, regardless of the heat source.
The more enlightened approach to regulation will help and greater focus on safety will be driven by lawyers and insurers, but there will also be considerable commercial incentives for building owners and managers to do the right thing for their occupants and the planet.
We also have Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES), which could also be transformational because they place a regulatory requirement on refurbishment. Since 2018 a minimum EPC rating of E has been in place for new tenancies, but from 1st April 2023 this will be extended to cover existing leases making it unlawful for a landlord to let any commercial property with an EPC rating of less than E.
That is just the start, however, as the MEES level is set to rise to B by 1st April 2030 with landlords given two “compliance windows” starting in April 2025 to achieve it. All properties will have to be at least C rated by 2027.
This is an example of how regulation can be made to work in harmony with commercial drivers by setting the legal benchmarks that underpin a better performing and, therefore, more financially viable building stock.
It is a rapidly changing landscape for anyone designing, installing, and commissioning heating, hot water, and renewable systems, and clients now have even more incentive to demand the highest standards of competence and compliance.
Do you have a project you would like to discuss with us? If so head over to our Sales Team contact page to get in touch with your local Area Sales Manager.