We have known for some time that changes to Part L and F of Building Regulations are coming. Now we have some clarity on what the proposals are, and the ramifications for the new-build market and eventually retro-fit market are enormous. The effects are incredibly serious and the fenestration industry must put forward it’s view whilst these changes are still in their consultation phase.

Ventilation and U-values

It was suggested to me that when policy changes enter “consultation” periods, the decision has already been made and that consultation periods are used more or less to ensure that nothing glaringly obvious has been missed.

So, if you have the time to read the full consulation document, you can find it here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/the-future-homes-standard-changes-to-part-l-and-part-f-of-the-building-regulations-for-new-dwellings

Spoiler alert, its 98 pages, so unless you have nothing better to do, you can take these three key bullet points which were kindly summarised for me by someone far more knowledgeable on these matters than myself:

·         Wording states that trickle ventilators (not background ventilation) will be incorporated in every window

·         Doubling the size of vents or 2.5x greater and permanently open

·         U values will reduce considerably, down to 0.8

I assume after readinf those your eyebrows were sufficiently raised on your forehead the same as mine were. For clarity, these revisions to Building Regulations apply to new-build homes right now and introduced over the next 5 years. However, what happens in the new-build market often finds its way to the retro-fit market pretty quickly, so we all need to take note of these changes and what the ramifications will be.

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Potentially unrealistic goals

Here’s some contect for you. Currently, the U-Value of a window required for a new-build house is supposed to be 1.4W/m2 K, going no higher than 2.0W/m2 K. These new revisions would demand a reduction of 0.6W/m2 K, thats a whopping 43% decrease. To give you some idea of the scale of the reduction, passive house standards (the super-efficient method of building a home) require windows to have a U-Value of 0.8W/m2 K or less. So if these changes were to go ahead, new-build homes would have to be fit with windows that would comply with passive house standards!

Lets be frank. This is highly likely to be unattainable. I don’t wish to be rude, but new-build window installers don’t put the highest specification of window in new homes. They put in what will pass regulations and thats about as far as it goes. I should know, I live in a house less than a year old! But to expect window companies to find a window product that is cost effective and meets these dramatic new regulations is going to be incredibly hard. We’re talking passive house standard windows into new-builds. For a lot of companies this is going to cause immense pressure on their business and could have massive negative effects.

Now on to the ventilation. The revisions mean either a doubling of the trickle ventilation in size or to be 2.5 larger and permanently open. I am all for ventilation, in fact I don’t believe that as home owners in this country we ventilate our homes enough. But it has to be when we choose it to be. Having vents more than twice the size left permanently open is going to remove the ability for a home owner to choose when they want to ventilate their homes. What if they live near a main road? What if they live near a train route? What if they live near a flight path? All that noise is going to wander right on in. Surely the planners have thought about this? You can put in as much acoustic glass as you want, but if you’re drilling big holes in the top of a window frame then non of that will matter.

Again, I’m not against ventilation, but home owners should be able to shoose when they want to ventilate. I imagine when its -5 outside they would like to close their vents.

In short these are enormous changes that a lot of the industry will simply find it too difficult to comply with. The pressures that would be placed on the glass sector and new-build installers and fabricators would be immense. Demand would be forced to rise dramatically, which will come at a great cost. Its quite possible some companies could be forced to close their doors.

Industry has to speak

The good news is that during a consulation period the industry gets its chance to submit responses to Government. The more of us that speak up and clearly highlight our major concerns and risks, we can hope that common sense will prevail and more achievable targets would be set.

I was kindly provided with a copy of questions and answers to be used as a response to the consultation by Ray at Masterframe, who is their Technical & Compliance Director. You can download your copy here. He makes clear however that if people are going to use the linked response form, that they do not copy and paste the same responses back to Government as they have software which will spot duplicates and copies and discount them from their analysis. Its important that if you’re going to respond to the consultation that you form your own unique responses to the questions on the linked form.

If this is going to happen to new-build, then its going to happen to the retro-fit market as well. These are dramatic changes in regulations to the point where I’m not sure the industry is capable of being compliant and cost effective to the home owner at the same time. We have to make clear our concerns as an industry before February 7th as that is when the consulation period ends.

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