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Sustainability: How Construction Can Meet the Legislative Requirements

by Mat Lown, Chartered Building Surveyor and Sustainability Partner at Tuffin Ferraby TaylorOver the next few years contractors will face new legislativ...

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|Jun 25|magazine11 min read

by Mat Lown, Chartered Building Surveyor and Sustainability Partner at Tuffin Ferraby Taylor

Over the next few years contractors will face new legislative challenges, requiring further effort from the construction industry, which is at the forefront in the battle against climate change.

The recent widespread flooding of the UK and the associated damage and disruption has once again raised the profile of climate change in the media with the Prime Minister, David Cameron, telling the Commons that he "very much" suspects that climate change is involved. 

Legislation to combat climate change

The Climate Change Act 2008 put in place the world’s first legally binding target for the reduction of carbon emissions, 80 percent by 2050 (measured against a 1990 baseline). 

The Act is significant as it has survived the economic turbulence of the past few years and sets a long-term trajectory. With government estimating that lighting, heating and using buildings accounting for 40 percent of the UK’s energy consumption and carbon emissions, it is perhaps not surprising that there is a plethora of policy and legislation that focuses on the energy efficiency of buildings. 

This includes the Energy Act, Part L of the Building Regulations, the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme and the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. Planning policy is significant, too, with conditions often imposed requiring applicants to achieve BREEAM ratings, provide renewable technologies on site and to attain energy efficiency standards. 

This is becoming an increasingly common requirement for alterations to existing buildings.  The UK government is committed to delivering zero carbon domestic buildings by 2016 and non-domestic buildings by 2019, most likely through the Building Regulations.

It is estimated that 80 percent of buildings today will exist in 2050, and as a consequence it is essential that the energy performance of these buildings is improved significantly. 

That objective is driving policy and legislation.  This year could be a significant one with the government proposing to introduce the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS), allowable solutions to help meet zero carbon building targets and the latest edition of Part L of the Building Regulations. 

Part L is particularly noteworthy as it will impose an increase in energy efficiency requirements for new buildings and alterations to existing ones.

Legislation and policy: impact on constructors

The policy and legislation affects constructors in a number of ways, including:

Energy efficient buildings must meet stringent air tightness requirements and the quality of workmanship and the interface between different trades and materials can have a direct bearing on the standards achieved.

BREEAM imposes a number of obligations on constructors, particularly in relation to site-based operations, including avoiding disturbance of neighbours, minimising waste sent to landfill and limiting energy consumed during the works.

Under design and build procurement routes, constructors have design obligations that could affect achieving the requirements under Part L, planning conditions and BREEAM. Constructors are responsible for managing, measuring and monitoring waste, water and energy associated with site activities.

Role of constructors in meeting the challenge

Constructors have a pivotal role to play in meeting the challenges. Those who carefully manage different specialist trades to ensure the quality and air tightness of the junctions of different assemblies can help to meet requirements under Part L and BREEAM as well as other standards such as Passivhaus. 

Constructors’ knowledge of buildability can be particularly helpful, especially if considered at an early stage in the project programme and in the context of retrofitting existing buildings. 

Builders’ supply chains can be very helpful when minimising the impact of the specified materials on the environment. An increasing number of manufacturers provide greener products as a matter of course and at no extra cost; constructors are well placed to take advantage of such opportunities.

Constructors that manage site impacts effectively are of great benefit to the project team as clear and accurate records are vitally important when obtaining BREEAM and other environmental measures. 

Builders can also help to reduce the embodied impact of construction projects by sourcing materials locally and constructing in such a way to enable the future adaption and dismantling of the building.