Affected Scottish firms urged to prepare for new English Building Regulations

Rob Gill

SCOTTISH construction firms working on developments in England have been warned to plan ahead for new Building Regulations that are due to come into force south of the border next month.

Rob Gill, MD of Leeds-based building physics engineering consultancy Yonder, said the new rules would bring ‘seismic’ changes to the industry.

He said, “The updated regulations will apply to new domestic and non-domestic buildings, plus existing constructions which undergo specific types of building work, such as the adding of extensions and installation of certain new materials or technologies.

The rules set much higher standards in areas such as energy efficiency, lighting, and heating. Among other changes, they radically alter Part F, which provides guidance on ventilation, and effectively re-write Part L, which sets standards for energy performance and carbon emissions, for the first time since 2013.”

Mr Gill added that the only new English constructions to which the current rules could continue to apply after 15 June were those for which building notices, initial notices, or full plans had been supplied to relevant local councils before then. But even in these cases he said the concession would be granted to individual buildings, not necessarily whole sites, and only operate if construction work began by 15 June 2023.

He explained, “The UK Government sees the new rules as a key step towards achieving its goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. They’ll compel emissions from new non-domestic properties to be cut by an average of 27%, compared to the position if current regulations were retained.”

Yonder advises construction professionals on reducing their buildings’ carbon footprints. The company does this through optimising the structures’ use of natural sources, like the sun and wind, for purposes including heating, lighting, and ventilation. The firm is also an assessor of compliance with Part L of the Building Regulations.

Mr Gill said, “Important changes the new rules introduce for new English non-domestic buildings include higher minimum energy efficiency standards, such as lower U-values for walls and windows. New care homes, schools and student accommodation will also become subject to glazing limits, to cut surplus heat from the sun.

“The minimum efficacy of general and display lighting in all new non-domestic properties will also rise.”

Mr Gill said changes that would apply to existing, as well as future, non-domestic properties included reduced maximum flow temperatures for any new or replacement heating systems. “Other requirements affecting existing English non-domestic premises include new controls having to be fitted to heating and hot water boiler systems, to improve efficiency, and carbon dioxide monitors becoming compulsory in offices,” he said.

The regulations also make certain recommendations, such as the installation of background trickle ventilators and a minimum air supply rate.

Mr Gill added, “With only a month to implementation, the preparation of relevant Scottish construction industry professionals, such as those working on developments in England, for the rules should now be well-advanced. Questions they may need to address include not just those about on-site policies and issues but matters going right to the heart of their companies’ management and possibly survival.”

Industry professionals may need to consider whether existing suppliers and goods such as materials, fixtures and fittings would be appropriate under the new regime. If not, firms are being urged to take steps to source more suitable replacements and consider how these would be presented to customers.

Mr Gill said, “Scottish construction sector participants may also need to answer questions such as how they’ll monitor their own and their sites’ compliance with the new rules, so they can avoid prosecutions by English local authorities. Perhaps most importantly of all, there’s the issue of finance, as it’s likely the changes will generate cost increases, for example, which could be substantial in some respects.

“Industry players therefore need to gauge now how they’re likely to be affected and take any decisions needed, such as whether it’s feasible and desirable to pass on at least some of the increased prices they may pay to their customers.”