Michael Tweed B.Arch MRIAI
There was a huge reaction to the BRegs Blog re-post of a Building Regulation: TGD Part ‘L’ article by architect blogger, Mike Morris, on Monday last (Link Here:). This was unanimously supportive with a few commentators seeking to clarify further some of the points made. There remains a great deal of uncertainty in the construction industry with regard to trying to comply with Building Regulation Part ‘L’: Conservation of Fuel and Energy 2011 and the associated legal liabilities for Design and Assigned Certifiers when the official technical guidance is inadequate.
It is unfortunate that the relevant construction industry stakeholders (ACEI, CIF, EI, RIAI and SCSI) appear to be doing nothing to address these shortcomings by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.
It is proposed to publish a few of the comments received commencing below with a response from architect, Michael Tweed:
Reading Monday’s post ‘Part ’L’ – Made Easy’ it could be easy to confuse Building Regulations with Technical Guidance. This is not surprising since it appears to me that the majority of people, including a frightening number of those engaged in the construction industry, don’t seem to recognise the difference. It’s frightening because one of the aims of regulating building is to ensure safe and healthy buildings. The Building Regulations are drafted as statements of intent – and are contained in the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations. By and large they are non-technical and the terms “reasonably practicable” and “practicable” recur. The question as to what is deemed “reasonably practicable” and “practical” is left open to interpretation. This is the reason why it is impossible to state something is in “full compliance” and why you can only ever give an opinion that something is in “substantial compliance”, but I don’t see this articulated much, probably for the reasons I state at the start of my comments.
In order to give guidance on how to interpret the terms such as “reasonably practicable” a set of Technical Guidance documents have been published. These provide GUIDANCE in technical terms so that “where works are carried out in accordance with the guidance…this will, prima facie, indicate compliance with…the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations”. Note that prima facie does not mean that it absolutely indicates compliance, rather that it “denotes evidence that, unless rebutted, would be sufficient to prove a particular proposition of fact”. It is actually quite easy for example to rebut the guidance in Part F Technical Guidance documents for ventilation of dwellings to demonstrate that they in no way provide compliance with Part F of the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations, particularly for apartments. But note, this deficiency in the Technical Guidance, does not change the Regulation Part F which simply says “F1 Adequate means of ventilation shall be provided for people in buildings. This shall be achieved by a) limiting the moisture content of the air within the building so that it does not contribute to condensation and mould growth, and b) limiting the concentration of harmful pollutants in the air within the building” and “F2 Adequate provision shall be made to prevent excessive condensation in a roof or in a roof void above an insulated ceiling”. I can provide evidence of numerous dwellings which “comply” with the Technical Guidance but fail completely, particularly in regard to Building Regulation F1 due to excessive condensation and mould growth.
What really makes Part L difficult to understand and comply with is that BOTH the Regulation and the Technical Guidance have now become so complex through re-drafting as to be almost impossible to satisfy.
I agree 100% with Mike Morris in the fact that the Technical Guidance document Part L for Dwellings doesn’t make sense. He is absolutely correct that by making compliance a comparison between an actual dwelling and a “reference dwelling” it is easier to comply by starting with the most inefficient building type – one which has the greatest exposed surface area in proportion to the volume of the building. This has the bizarre effect of making it more expensive to make an apartment comply following the Technical Guidance documents than a many winged bungalow, where apartments are inherently the most energy efficient dwellings you can build. Of course, it is possible, if you had the confidence to do it, to accept the challenge posed at the start of each Technical Guidance document where it states that “the adoption of an approach other than outlined in the guidance is not precluded provided that the relevant requirements of the Regulations are complied with.” This actual allows for alternative designs in the case of apartments and if architects and builders were really savvy they would adopt this approach to “value engineer” apartments. I contend that because Mike Morris may have been confused about the legal status of the Technical Guidance Documents he fails to notice this. Unfortunately and depressingly I guess so do very many others. In addition the Technical Guidance documents have become the means of providing the default fall-back defence in the event of the designers or builders being challenged on compliance with the Building Regulations.
In truth there is nothing overly wrong with the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations as a set of general principles for good building practice. What does require some serious revision and redrafting are the Technical Guidance Documents where in some cases they are simply giving wrong advice and in other cases have become so complex they are almost impossible to understand.
However, the biggest defect in Building Control in Ireland remains the fact that Building Regulations approval and Building Control inspections are not put on a statutory Local Authority footing.
Other posts of interest:
- Building Regulations Part ‘L’ – Made Easy | Mike Morris
- Part L compliance issues – S.I.9 (1 of 2)
- Part L- is compliance worth the paper its written on?
- Design Certifiers – 3 things about certifying Part L…
- Why the design certifier and architect need third party building fabric assessments
- Opinion piece: new building regulations and materials risk analysis
- SI.9 and Part L | Specialist ancillary certifiers Part 2
- SI.9 and Part L | Are specialist ancillary certifiers needed? Part 1