Beware Building Control Officers – Building Control Officers Beware

Who would like to see their construction projects signed, sealed and delivered, hassle free? Ask a room of a hundred building control inspectors, developers and architects and, without question 100 hands would shoot up.

Who knew that a new build house will not pass building regulations part L 1A, the conservation of fuel and power, unless it has some form or renewable technology? In that room of 100 industry professionals, my decade long experience in Part L compliance tells me that, only about one third of them could honestly put their hand up – and there lies the huge disconnect that is currently causing merry hell in the building world. It is painfully prevalent in the small to medium sized project sector and some larger ones too.

I know there are cases of Passivhaus build where no renewable energy was required but these are very far and few between and rarely seen in urban surroundings where most new building takes place.

No one listens to the energy assessor, especially when building control has not mentioned SAP calculations at the first site meeting or second or even third…. The architect is bound by their clients demands. The project manager and builder rely on the building control officer. There seems to be an unwritten law that if the BCO hasn’t asked for it then its’s not required. Timing is of the essence. Many building control officers ask to see the SAP calculations and EPC at practical completion. Nothing wrong with that as far as their role goes. Would it be good practice and helpful if they asked to see the As Design SAPs at the very early stages? Yes. Are they obliged to? No.

Ultimately, It’s the client’s responsibility to ensure they are following the regulations properly.  “Building control didn’t asked for it (As Design SAP calculations) ….”, is what we hear on a regular basis when it’s all too late.  Innocence is no defence in the eyes of Building Regulations. Building Regulations L1A has it in black and white that As Design SAP must be carried out.

These documents will tell you at a glance if the building will meet compliance and what to do in order to achieve it. They will tell you what heating, including renewable technology, insulation and glazing will be required. You can build with peace of mind and moreover, budget accurately, economically and sustainably.

This week we had a prime example. A 7000 sq foot new home in one of the most desirable roads in North West London is ready to go to market. It is a luxury build spread over 5 floors with a lift. The architect approached us many many months ago and asked us what was required. We explained that for new buildings the Part L/sustainability compliance benchmark is set over and above what they may have come to know as building regulations compliant. We pointed out the importance of doing As Design SAP calculations before any building takes place to establish what exactly will be needed in terms of insulation, glazing and HEATING. Then we hear nothing until two weeks ago. “The house is finished how!”, the architect proudly announced. “Building control have asked for SAP calculations and EPC”.

The SAP calculations failed. The only solution is renewable technology. The only option at this stage is PV panels on the roof, a 7Kw system, 28 panels!! “Why so many?” they cry (there was a lot of crying). “Well”, said our SAP consultant, ACD or accredited construction detail was not applied and the house is very large”. Simples….and if they had commissioned the As Design SAPs they could have saved themselves thousands of pounds by designing a heating system that included an air source heat pump instead of a traditional boiler.

Any developer/architect/project manager with their finger on the pulse knows that a heating specification is more than a gas or electric boiler system. Fossil fuels are a thing of the past and now the options are far more varied, cost effective and sustainable. An uplift in sale price has also been proved.

In Ireland, Building Regulations forbid the use of fossil fuels in new build houses. This means that you cannot install electric or gas boilers. The same regulations are on the cards for the UK.

On the upside, your energy assessor is now a construction consultant and is very happy to reiterate that by implication Building Regulations Part L1A demand that new build houses install renewable technology. The same also applies for Part L2A for new build non domestic buildings.

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