By Dave Khan; Technical Marketing Manager (Knauf Insulation Northern Europe)
After much delay, the long awaited new version of Approved Document L1A (Part L) has been published. It’s hard to understand why a document that has changed so little from its pre-decessors has taken so long to publish – I wonder if the publishers had run out of the special Part L ink!
However, housebuilders are required to design and build new houses that further reduce CO2 emissions and deliver an even more energy efficient building fabric, both of which are to be welcomed especially in these days of increased energy costs and the recent spell of longer colder winters, maybe one of its future recommendations could be the mandatory wearing of thermal undergarments before we reach for the thermostat – who knows!
So, from a homeowner perspective this is good news as new homes will be cheaper to heat, stay warmer for longer, do less damage to the environment and help to lessen the economic impact on the household budget due to future fuel rises.
Well not quite….
Due to the transitional arrangements which are in place and accompany every iteration of Part L, we may well have to wait until 2020 (I kid you not) until we see significant numbers of new houses built to Part L 2013 standards.
For instance, as it currently stands, if the first house built on a new site of 500 new houses is built to Part L 2006, then all of the houses built on that site are covered by Part L 2006. If the last house built on that site is not built until 2014, then it is still built to Part L 2006, how can that be acceptable?
The forecast for 2014 is that the major housebuilders will build approximately one third of their new houses to the 2010 version of Part L and a staggering two thirds will be built to the 2006 version of Part L. Remember, the top 20 housebuilders account for 60% of all new houses built in England and Wales.
Even the most savvy of first time buyers (for instance) will probably be unaware that the new house they have just committed to buy (with help from the Government) is not built to the minimum standard of the day.
Surely there is a distinct market advantage (never mind the moral one), to be gained by housebuilders who (rather than play within the rules) adopt the ethos that they will build new homes to the minimum standards (I stress the word minimum) that apply and not use the rules to deliver homes that are much less than they could be!
It always puzzles me that when it comes to the biggest single purchase that any of us are likely to acquire in our lifetime, we show much less diligence and nous than we would when buying a new car.
For instance would any of us think that it is acceptable to be sold a nice, shiny new car that had a six year old engine under the bonnet, yet the exact same car next to it in the showroom had a new state of the art engine which the salesman omitted to inform of you of that fact!
This state of affairs is not the fault of the housebuilders who are playing by the rules of the game. The fault lies with the legislators and if the general public were aware of what the legislators allow to happen, would it continue to happen?