With greenhouse gas emissions at all-time highs, global temperatures consistently breaking new records and a growing risk that our natural ecosystems will be subjected to irreversible damage, it is no wonder that the United Nations describes climate change as “the defining crisis of our time”.
And for an issue of such magnitude, it is also no wonder that the impetus to pivot quickly to a more sustainable future is being felt in all aspects of our lives, driving more sustainable directions and decisions in our homes, our workplaces and in the built environment that surrounds us all.
The construction sector undoubtedly has a major responsibility to affect this change. Every building not only sets down a pretty sizeable carbon footprint during its construction phase, but is also responsible for generating a significant cumulative environmental impact over the course of its lifetime.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), buildings are responsible for 10% of global energy and process-related CO2 emissions through the manufacturing of their construction materials, a further 9% through their use of fossil fuels, and another 18% through their consumption of electricity and generation of heat.
As with other complex supply chains, there is no simple, quick fix to this challenge, and it is up to all stakeholders involved to play their part. This requires companies to monitor and manage aspects under their own control, such as the environmental impact of internal operations, as well as upholding collectively agreed industry standards and targets on sustainability issues.
In December 2021, the Government confirmed the introduction of new Building Regulations for June 2022, which are designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for residential properties by 31% when compared with current standards, and 27% in the case of commercial properties. This step is a precursor to the introduction in 2025 of measures set out in the Future Homes Standard, which require new-build homes to be “future-proofed with low-carbon heating and world-leading levels of energy efficiency”.
At Harwood, we welcome these changes and acknowledge their importance in escalating current environmental priorities within the Building Control function, such as assessment of SAP calculations. Insulation, already a key factor, will only become more important, as will lighting efficiency and the use of solar panelling. New focus will also be placed on the use of heat pumps and heat-recovery ventilation as homes transition away from gas-fired boilers.
As part of this transition to a more sustainable world, we believe Building Control can support the sector in three key ways:
The Building Regulation changes announced by the government in December 2021 step up the environmental demands on construction projects. It incorporates an ‘uplift’ to Approved Document L, which covers conservation of fuel and power; amendments to Approved Document F, which covers ventilation and indoor air quality; and the introduction of Approved Document O, which relates to overheating. Enforcement of these changes during the design and build phases will be critical to ensure real-world developments conform to these more stringent parameters and deliver the intended energy and carbon savings.
Enforcement is a key pillar of the Building Control function, but in a period of change, where architects and contractors will be adjusting to the new regulations, our role is also to support and guide. At Harwood, we pride ourselves on being proactive in our relationships with project stakeholders, and we are clear on the importance of Building Control in educating the sector regarding the adoption of new rules and advising on how best to achieve compliance.
Looking at the changes being introduced this year and in three years’ time, it is clear that the construction sector needs a gear change if it is to rise to the sustainability challenge in front of us. Mindset is an important factor, and our position as Building Control puts us in an ideal place not only to communicate the necessary measures for compliance but also to champion the cause and encourage the adoption of measures that will make further environmental benefits possible beyond the minimum standards.
On June 15, after the six-month period to allow the industry to prepare for when the new Building Regulations come into force, the construction sector faces an important moment of change. In concert with our colleagues across the sector, the three approaches above provide a framework for Building Control to support construction’s progress towards a future where responsibly sourced materials and methods are used to create highly efficient, resilient buildings that perform for users and protect the planet.
To find out more about how we work with our clients to support their building control requirements, or to see some of our recently completed projects, visit our projects page or contact us on 01227 931 777 or [email protected]