Are homeowners getting the performance they should expect?

With large tracts of UK land being held for future development, there is a concern that when the properties are eventually built they will only comply with building regulations that were the standard 10 years ago. It begs the question: if homes being built now already require upgrading to comply with current Part L requirements is the construction industry creating a greater retrofit challenge for itself than it already faces?

Buying a house which conforms to out-of-date building regulations is akin to buying a 2016 car with a 10-year-old engine – in both cases the owner isn’t getting what’s promised and in all likelihood will end up disappointed with the performance. With an estimated 600,000 plots of land mothballed for future development – the number of future properties falling short of the latest standards is likely to increase.

Legislative loophole

How does this happen? With foundations and drainage in place, even if it takes a further 10 years for a housing development to be complete, the finished properties need only comply to building regulations applicable when initial work started. The transitional arrangements for Building Regulations in England allow developers to build to previous standards, which whilst not wrong, just makes use of a legislative ‘loophole’ that has enabled this to become a common and accepted practice.

Occupants lose out

However, it’s the building occupants who stand to lose out when their new property’s energy efficiency falls below current targets. With the size of the average British family home having shrunk by 2m2 over the past decade, having to go back to properties and apply insulation to the interior wall of an already small room runs the risk of making a cramped living area even smaller. With space an absolute premium on many modern, tightly-knit housing developments, access between properties can already be tight, making exterior wall insulation equally as problematic.

Performs as well as it looks

So what options are there for UK house buyers who want a home which performs as well as it looks? Smaller development businesses are unable to buy large tracts of land and it’s therefore more likely that they are compelled to comply with current Part L building regulations.

It’s these independent and smaller regional housebuilders which are striving for solutions to build homes to the latest quality and energy standards, so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility such companies will consistently deliver properties that live up to all expectations.

Comfort of the tenant

Social housing is another sector where properties are built to meet, and in many cases, exceed current standards. From the landlord’s point of view, tenant retention is paramount, hence the need to maximise a home’s performance, and ultimately the comfort of the tenant.

Although the current UK housing crisis has in some ways denied the consumer the luxury of choice, it’s important that home buyers are aware that new and relatively affordable properties on large-scale housing developments may come at an additional cost – if your dream home does not perform as it should, turning-up the central heating may be the only option, adding to the environmental impact as well as energy bills.

Concern for the Government

If the average house-buyer is indifferent to a potential property’s performance, it remains a major concern for the government, which under the UK Climate Change Act, is committed to achieve at least an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, relative to 1990 levels. Developers creating buildings with good-quality, low-maintenance fabric, rather than focusing on aesthetics, could help reach that far-off target.

BRUFMA is dedicated to raising the standard of PIR insulation for walls, floors and roofs. Its members continue to invest in product innovation, new technologies and manufacturing processes, resulting in an efficient range of insulation products suitable for all applications in both new build and refurbishment projects.

The government is committed to building 1 million new UK homes by 2020. Let’s hope that all parties involved – developers, architects, contractors and local authorities, are as focused on quality and that the review of all Building Regulations currently being undertaken takes into account the outdated transitional arrangements currently in place.

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