Jul 28, 2014

Why new building efficiency standards don’t have to be ‘L’ on earth

Sustainability in construction has been an ever-present issue in recent years, but it took on an even sharper focus in April – with potentially significant implications for builders.

Earlier this year the UK Government introduced amendments to Part L of the Building Regulations. With growth back in the construction market, there’s a pressing requirement to think about how to meet efficiency performance standards.

The changes mean that, with immediate effect, all new build homes will need to be six per cent more energy efficient than under current regulations. Likewise, non-domestic buildings will need to improve performance by nine per cent.

What’s more important, however, is the change of focus in how builders are expected to go about achieving these requirements. An emphasis is now placed on the fabric of new buildings, with the introduction of a fabric energy efficiency standard (FEES).

In fact, in her statement announcing the changes, Baroness Hanham made specific mention of “getting the building fabric right”.

It was a good point well made – using the correct fabric will not only ensure built-in energy efficiency, but will also prevent cost escalation from creeping into the project.

Here are three ways you can meet the new regulations, without impacting on your bottom line:

1 - Fabric first: With emphasis being placed on how builders go about achieving the new standards, a ‘fabric first’ approach provides a head start on energy efficiency. By considering the building materials first, you can ensure the building will meet the required standards primarily by virtue of its envelope, where energy efficiency is a fundamental part of the building.

2 - Fit and forget: Taking a fabric first approach allows builders to ‘fit and forget’ – the idea that, by building something which achieves optimal energy efficiency from day one, there’s no need to retrofit efficiency technology. Research suggests that timber frame homes spend 40% less on their heating bills than masonry homes, thanks in part to better energy efficiency.

3 - Offsite construction: We adopt an offsite construction method which provides a number of benefits, including a quicker on-site build process, less waste and lower site costs. Manufacturing our timber systems under factory conditions allows us to precision engineer the timber frame, resulting in increased air tightness and improved thermal performance. That makes it easier to achieve the energy standards because there will be fewer flaws in the envelope, meaning less air leakage and improved tolerances at joints.

These are only some of the most important considerations. Although there weren’t any specific changes to standards that relate to the structural design of buildings and their acoustics, timber also provides benefits in that respect.

When you are planning your next project, it’s worth bearing in mind what these changes will mean for your new development. If you need to know more about what timber frame can do to help you meet them, please get in touch or tweet us (@TimberSystems) with your questions.

Homes For Scotland Home Builders Federation National House-Building Council Royal Institute of British Architects Structural Timber Association Constructionline British Board of Agrement Wood Campus Build Off Site Building Research Establishment WOOD FOR GOOD

Keep up to date

Stay in touch with our latest products and project, simply sign up to our newsletter