Briefing from Nicola Talbot, Assoc Conservation of Energy
Briefing on the Sustainable and Secure Buildings Bill
It is increasingly recognised that buildings will only be truly sustainable, in environmental, economic and social terms, if they, and the neighbourhoods they are in, are well designed, planned and constructed in a way that provides safe, secure, affordable accommodation, reduce the need to travel and offer high quality public services. The idea that each building leaves an environmental footprint is also fundamental to the concept of sustainable communities.
The Bill elevates sustainability to the highest level for the purposes of the Building Act 1984, by adding three new purposes for which Building Regulations may be made under the Act: to further protection of the environment; to facilitate sustainable development; and to further the prevention and detection of crime. Currently, the Building Regulations and the planning system do not adequately address such issues as the environmental impacts of building materials, energy and water consumption and access to good public transport.
The Bill is thus intended to be an enabling measure to give powers to the Secretary of State under the Building Act to make the Building Regulations more stringent in terms of stipulating minimum standards when new buildings are constructed or existing buildings are renovated, as well as to encourage small-scale renewable generation.
Some of the provisions of the Bill also revisit issues addressed in the Sustainable Energy Act 2003, sponsored by Brian White, which was ultimately unable to include provisions relating to sustainable housing, such as improving the standards of new build and refurbishment through revisions to the Building Regulations, and improvements to domestic energy efficiency through raised standards for boilers and heating controls.
The Bill is also required by the Government in order to implement those parts of the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive that cannot be dealt with via statutory instrument, principally extending the Building Regulations provisions regarding existing buildings.
The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive
This Directive came into force on 4th January 2003 and national legislation to implement it must be in place by 4th January 2006. It will greatly affect awareness of energy use in buildings and is intended to lead to substantial increases in investments in energy efficiency measures within these buildings.
The legislation affects all buildings – domestic and commercial.
Why is it necessary?
The 160 million buildings in the EU (2/3 domestic – 1/3 commercial) consume 40-45% of the energy in each member state and are the single largest end users of energy in the EU.
Space heating and cooling represents: 70% in homes and 50% in commercial buildings.
Lighting accounts for up to 25% of emissions due to commercial buildings.
Between 1985 and 1997 average home size increased from 832 to 87m2. During the last decade, in the services sector, energy consumption per m2 increased faster than total area occupied, at an annual rate of 1.3%
How much can this Directive reduce the threat of climate change?
According to the European climate change programme, the directive could deliver up to 45 million tonnes of carbon dioxide reduction by 2010. It will also help achieve a reduction of 22% in current energy consumption in buildings, an amount that is officially deemed to be very cost-effective.
In order to meet the agreed Kyoto targets, the EU must implement reductions of 330 million tonnes between 1990 and 2010.
ACE believes that annual savings of up to 450 million tonnes of CO2 can be made by 2010 through building energy efficiency measures.
Thermal insulation Up to 200 million tonnes
Glazing Up to 120 million tonnes
Controls systems Up to 80 million tonnes
Lighting Up to 50 million tonnes
Implementation would create many jobs (estimated at 3.4 million job.years)
Available technologies are appropriate for new and existing buildings - refurbishment of existing buildings is a critically important step. Measures undertaken during refurbishment are more cost effective.
Energy savings could enhance the viability of renewable energy generation technologies. Measures are also highly appropriate to an enlarged EU - expanding eastwards by 2010 - extreme climates and under-insulated buildings
How will it work?
 introducing agreed measurements of relative energy performance,
 regular inspections and re-evaluations,
 requiring higher standards for upgrading larger buildings, and
 improving standards for new buildings.
What does it provide for?
 A general framework which creates an international methodology for calculating the energy performance of a building (Article 3);
 Details of the frequency of revision of the energy performance requirements (at least every five years) and exclusion of historic, religious and temporary buildings, or residential buildings not occupied beyond four months per year (Article 4);
 The application of minimum standards for new buildings (as per building regulations) (Article 5);
 The application of minimum energy standards of all existing buildings over 1000 square metres that are subject to major renovation (Article 6);
 A requirement that every building which changes occupants is energy certified (e.g. given an energy rating) and that this rating – no older than ten years - be prominently displayed in all public buildings plus those visited by the public (Article 7);
 Regular inspection of boilers, heating systems and air conditioning systems (Articles 8 & 9);
 Accreditation of those carrying out inspections to ensure independence (Article 10);
 The Commission to evaluate the directive, and make proposals in light of experience on reducing the renovations figure in Article 4 below 1000 square metres, and the provision of general incentives (Article 11);
 Governments urged to provide publicity for the schemes with assistance from the European Commission if requested (Article 12);
 The methodology for certification to be reviewed at least every two years (Article 13);
 Implementation of the Directive to be overseen by a committee chaired by the Commission, consisting of government representatives only, but with some external observers invited (Article 14).
The Directive must be brought into national law within three years. In addition, if governments believe that they do not have sufficient experts to implement Articles 7, 8 and 9 (covering certification), they can apply to the Commission for a delay of a further three years.
The Sustainable and Secure Buildings Bill?
Almost half of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions come from buildings; homes account for almost 30% of this amount. The average UK home emits 5 tonnes of carbon per annum; if we are to meet the 60% reduction of GHG emissions by 2050, that figure would need to be reduced to 2 tonnes of carbon. In typical new built homes in the UK, total energy use is three and a half times more than in Denmark and Germany.
Part of the reason for Government support of this Private Member’s Bill, is the need to implement those parts of the EU Buildings Directive which cannot be transposed through any other existing national legislation.
The Bill will give new powers under the Building Act 1984 to address sustainability for the first time, for example, by tackling the environmental impact of materials used. It will strengthen building regulations on new, extended and altered buildings to require sustainability and crime reduction measures to be applied as a matter of course.
The Bill also opens the way for home electricity generation using renewable energy sources like solar panels and small wind turbines, or gas-fired micro CHP boilers, and limits the use of rare hardwoods and other scarce or non-renewable building materials.
It will bring into regulation schools and public utilities, currently exempt, together with major repair and innovation works, which are now partially exempt.
It will cover service within and around a building, and not just the structure itself.
In addition it requires the Government to report to Parliament every two years on the extent to which sustainability and crime reduction measures have improved the building stock.
Of particular interest to ACE are the aspects of the Bill that require the Government to report to Parliament on progress made towards improving the energy efficiency of the building stock and achieving its fuel poverty targets under the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000. The Bill also contains a crucial clause, requiring any licensing scheme for Houses in Multiple Occupation to require minimum standards of energy efficiency.
Clauses of the Bill
Clause 1 (1) amends the provisions in the Building Act 1984 regarding the purposes for which building regulations can be made and matters to which they can be applied. It is proposed that regulations can be applied to the design, construction and demolition of buildings, and the services fittings and equipment provided in or in connection with buildings. These regulations could be made for the purpose of any one of the following:
“(b) furthering the conservation of fuel and power;
(c) preventing waste, undue consumption, misuse or contamination of water;
(d) furthering the protection or enhancement of the environment;
(e) facilitating sustainable development; or
(f) furthering the prevention or detection of crime.”
Clause 1 (2-4) substitute additional wording after these insertions into subsection 1A of the Act, clarifying the matters to which the regulations may apply, to include not only the design and construction of buildings, but also the demolition of buildings and services, fitting and equipment provided in connection with buildings. This would widen the provisions of the Building Regulations to cover services within and around a building, and its ultimate decommissioning, and not just the structure itself.
Clause 2 covers the contents of building regulations and amends Clause 55 of the Building Act 1984, which establishes provisions that may be included in building regulations. It proposes that building regulations should be allowed to cover buildings’ security measures, energy efficiency, and recycling and composting facilities. Regulation may also pertain to the prevention or reduction of emissions of smoke, gases, vapours or fumes.
Clause 2 (5) brings in a new trigger point for compliance under new Regulations, so that they may take effect not just in the case of new buildings or when there is a material change of use, but also where the persons in occupation of the building, or part therein, change when a property is sold, let or re-let.
This provision is mainly targeted at the commercial sector, which has in recent years been more or less overlooked by UK energy efficiency policies and programmes, and has consequently seen an increase of energy consumption by 68.4%. Within this sector, offices are a particularly significant contributor to energy use and carbon emissions, and offer the greatest potential for savings.
Requiring work to be carried out at the point of sale, letting or re-letting is the most effective way of ensuring that improvements are undertaken. The EU Buildings Directive applies minimum energy performance standards to all new buildings and all buildings over 1000m2 when they undergo major renovations. However, there is no requirement for those same standards to be applied to buildings at the point of sale, letting or re-letting.
Clause 3 provides for building regulations with regard to fuel, power and emissions to impose continuing requirements on owners and occupiers of buildings that require inspection and testing. Such measures are to some extent a prelude to changes to the Building Regulations scheduled for 2005 with regard to energy efficiency.
Clause 4 repeals the exemption of educational buildings and building of statutory undertakers and other authorities and licensees from the regulatory framework.
Clause 5 provides that the Secretary of State has to produce and lay before Parliament a bi-annual report on the progress that has been made with regard to the provisions in the Bill that deal with sustainable/more environmentally friendly buildings, and additionally the provisions in the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000 with regard to the Decent Homes Standards and the ending of Fuel Poverty.
Clause 5 (2) stipulates the minimum contents of the report, which include reporting on energy efficiency, levels of emissions, facilities for buildings to generate their own energy, the use of recycled or re-used materials.
Clause 5 (4) stipulates reporting on progress achieved under the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000.
Clause 5 (5) requires reporting under the Decent Homes Standard and the alleviation of fuel poverty. The Decent Homes Standard set for social housing is so low that it will still leave large numbers of people in fuel poverty, which means that the Government will, under a business-as-usual scenario, fail to meet its statutory target to end Fuel Poverty by 2010. (Cf. Amendment to Housing Bill)
Clause 6 provides for building regulations to require a person to supply a certificate that the requirements of other building regulations have been met in work conducted on a building.
This Clause permits planning authorities to set targets that relate to the proportion of buildings on a site that must have their energy supplied by renewable sources.
This Clause makes the addition of energy efficiency standards to the proposals under the Housing Bill, currently passing through Parliament, that would enable local authorities to license houses in multiple occupation.
Currently the licensing provisions do not contain requirements regarding the energy efficiency of properties. There are 1.5m HMOs in England and this sector has the highest proportion in fuel poverty. Requiring landlords to meet energy efficiency requirements as a condition of licensing is an effective way of dealing with Fuel Poverty in the most difficult sector.
We are also lobbying the Treasury for such a measure to be accompanied by tax incentives for landlords to encourage the investment into energy efficiency measures. We hope that this will be achieved in the 2004 Budget.
Clauses 9 and 10
Clause 9 makes financial provisions for expenditure incurred by the Secretary of State as a consequence of the Bill. Clause 10 provides the short title and commencement of the Bill. It also provides that the Bill will extend to England and Wales only.
Passage of the Bill through Parliament
The Bill received two committee hearings in Standing Committee C on Wednesday 3rd March and Tuesday 9th March.
Clauses 1-6 were agreed to with some amendments. Clause 5 was amended to omit subsections (4) to (6) relating to reporting on progress achieved under the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act and reporting to the Decent Homes Standard and alleviation of Fuel Poverty.
Clauses 7 and 8 were disagreed to. This means that the clause relating to the Energy requirements of buildings will be removed; the justification for this being that these provisions would be included in revisions to planning policy guidelines. Clause 8 relating to the energy efficiency of HMOs will also be removed on the grounds that the licensing of HMOs and overall housing conditions (through a health and safety rating system) would be dealt with in the Housing Bill.
Clauses 9 and 10 were agreed to with some amendments.
Thus, although it seems that Andrew Stunell was not prepared to push for the above clauses in the face of Government opposition, one clause inserted by ACE has remained – the possibility of setting and reporting on energy efficiency targets for different types of buildings and technologies. This will assist the development of new technologies, such as micro-CHP and heatpumps.
The Bill now awaits Report Stage in April.
Implementation and policing of the Building Regulations
Throughout much of the general debate on the above legislation, the ineffectiveness of the Building Regulations in terms of implementation and policing has been noted. There is now sufficient evidence for this problem to be acknowledged politically as a significant concern.
As well as forming a part of the Industry Advisory group exercise for the 2005 revisions, this issue was the sole subject of a seminar called by ODPM on March 10.
It also formed a substantial part of the agenda for a meeting held with the Buildings Minister, Phil Hope, on March 15. The consequence of this is that the Association has now been invited to prepare ideas for overseeing effective implementation, working with the relevant civil servants within the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.
It is acknowledged that policing implementation, even of non-residential buildings, is a low priority for the vast majority of local authority Building Control Officers, for whom health and safety, and even disabled access, are perceived as more significant priorities. Similarly for the National House Building Council, which asks effectively as the “insurer” for new homes, the absence of any threat of financial claims against them for non-compliance on energy saving matters renders the issue unimportant for them.
The existence of independent “Approved Inspectors”, effectively operating in competition with local authority BCOs, perpetuates the problems, by giving builders an alternative route for approval, rather than using any BCO known to monitor compliance effectively.
Equally there is now evidence that, if a builder is made aware of the risk of being constantly monitored by BCOs, there will be much less skimping on the work undertaken. However in England , Wales and Northern Ireland, there is no external organisation for the monitoring of effectiveness of BCOs.
The position in Scotland is different and (possibly) more promising, following the decision to create a new Building Standards Agency. It does not seem that the Building Standards Agency yet can accord energy conservation oversight a priority. Initially, its official duties are limited to a) providing guidance on interpretation of the regulations b) arbitrating where appeals arise and c) granting relaxations.
This entire position can be contrasted with that in the process plant area, overseen by the Environment Agency. There, the perception is that the EA is prepared to inspect at random (if very occasionally) and prosecute malfeasance very publicly : this certainly is regarded as ensuring significant compliance with environmental legislation. Because EA is a national agency, there is no way that one authority’s interpretation can be played off against another’s.
One of the surrogate ways for checking compliance is monitoring air changes via pressure testing: even though this is highly recommended for L2 constructions, it seems only 35% are tested. And the number of new homes tested is derisory. We shall continue pressing hard for such pressure testing to become automatically mandatory.
But it may be that we could actively pursue the concept of hardening up the absolute right in law for those occupying a building to seek redress for non-compliance. Alternatively we could promote the idea of a national agency having responsibility for overseeing delivery of the energy conservation parts of the Building Regulations.
The development of a category of independent inspectors for the non-residential buildings, under Article 10 of the Energy Performance of Buildings directive, may possibly also provide a new lever within that portion of the marketplace.
ACE would be grateful for any suggestions as to possible solutions to this issue or ideas to be taken forward.