As you may now well be aware, updated Building Regulations were published last week. I explored some of the major points that will directly affect the UK fenestration sector and you can read that particular article here.
The major revision that has got everyone talking is Part F and background ventilation. Specifically, trickle vents. Not only has there been a great deal of pushback against the new regulations, but questions were also quickly raised about how companies are going to be policed in complying with new trickle vent regulations.
Who can police new trickle vent regs?
A reminder of what the new Part F regulations say:
1.52 All rooms with external walls should have background ventilators. If a habitable room has no external walls, paragraphs 1.42 to 1.44 should be followed.
NOTE: A window with a night latch position is not adequate for background ventilation, due to the following:
- The risk of draughts.
- Security issues.
- The difficulty of measuring the equivalent area.
Source: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1040932/ADF1.pdf – pages 22/23
There are alternatives window companies could use instead of trickle vents, such as mechanical ventilation systems in each room or extractor fan systems, but this is unrealistic and so the default option when it comes to background ventilation is going to be trickle vents.
We will come on to the merits of this particular revision to Building Regulations in another post. But for this particular article, we need to address how this policy is going to be enforced and policed.
It was pointed out very quickly in forums that homeowners who strongly resist the use of trickle vents will likely go to the next window company who will simply say yes to their demand not to have them, knowing full well the chances of being caught are slim and will then take business away from companies who intend to work by the new rules.
This is a very likely scenario in my opinion. We know there is a lot of homeowner resistance, and we know there are a lot of installers who dislike trickle vents. It will not be difficult for homeowners to find an installer who will agree to not fit trickle vents.
It’s going to need more than persuasion to change the minds of installers and homeowners on this one. As an industry, we can learn to talk up the benefits of ventilation and try and tackle the upcoming hesitancy that way, but realistically that won’t be the cause of a complete change in attitudes. However, if we can convince installers that this particular rule is going to be enforced properly, via a method that has teeth, with significant chances of installers being caught flouting the new rules, then perhaps you could coerce a larger portion of the installer community to abide by the new regulations.
That is a massive “if”, and if we use past performance, we know that the ability for the industry to police itself is incredibly poor.
The reality of the situation is that this kind of regulation is going to be almost impossible to enforce and police properly. Whether it’s fenestration trade bodies or organisations above that level, the people-power required to check up on installers to make sure they are doing what they are supposed to is massive, and no one has that ability.
Something like this is going to require goodwill and trust. Whilst some installers will get on board with the changes, many won’t, knowing that their customers won’t be swayed and with the knowledge that getting caught is only a slim chance.
Bodies like Certass and FENSA do have to go out and check a certain number of installations per year. But that is only a fraction of a percentage of the installations carried out per year covered. And certain bodies give prior warning of when inspections are going to take place, so it would be easy to fake compliance given the prior notice.
Trade bodies also will not want to see mass action taken against many of their own members. That would cause chaos. So my suspicion is that at some point before June 15th there may well be some changes that would allow background ventilation to be classified as something else which would save a raft of installers being penalised. This is not guaranteed to happen, but I think trade bodies may already be speaking with Government and explaining that in the current timeline allowed, and with the current prospects of compliance being very uncertain, alternatives should be allowed. We will have to wait and see.
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