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Rationalisation of regulations on the cards

25 October 2012

An announcement on the future of regulations is expected soon

A major review of technical standards is expected to be announced as early as next week, the Department for Communities and Local Government has confirmed, writes Jan-Carlos Kucharek.

The review is expected to take in the Building Regulations and the Code for Sustainable Homes as part of the government’s drive to reduce bureaucracy and increase housing output. Housing groups have been lobbying the government hard to reform regulations, which they say are providing a major barrier to development.

A report in April from the Housing Forum, which the CLG is understood to have been consulting, pointed out there were 200 regulations and codes covering housebuilding and construction, many of which conflicted. It urged the government to rationalise them into three or four simple frameworks, which it dubbed a “one in three out” approach.

Hinting at a possible reappraisal of the Code for Sustainable Homes in light of new, more stringent Building Regulation Guidance, a DCLG spokesperson said that to “address the array of local and national standards, the government will be looking at rationalisation shortly”.

Despite this, the DCLG maintained its support for the Code. The spokesman added: “Building Regulations continue to ensure further carbon reduction, but the Code for Sustainable Homes remains the government’s chosen method for determining the level of sustainability of new homes.”

Last week DCLG head of technical research Anthony Burd told an HBF conference that the Code for Sustainable Homes would form part of the wide-ranging review.

However, Rory Bergin, head of sustainability at Hunt Thompson Associates architects, which works extensively in the housing sector, said that while he understood that there was always industry resistance to the CSH “as it was developed by the BRE”, he thought getting rid of it would be retrograde step.

“The CSH was designed to exceed regulation and as such has a lot of scope, and Building Regs would only cover four or five aspects of it,” said Bergin. He also questioned whether getting rid of the Code would stimulate the housing market: “What's stopping developments happening is not the Code,” he said. “Barratt has said that additional costs for a Code Level 3 home are negligible.”

“Having the Code or not should not be about saving the industry money but ensuring that it is sustainability and consumer focused.”

The chairman of the Housing Forum working group and co-author of the report, Andy von Bradsky, chairman of PRP Architects, said at its launch: “The role of regulation in housing has moved from one of protecting the health and safety of occupants and reducing risk in construction, to one of a much wider compliance agenda, regulating everything from the length of a flight of stairs to the size of a bicycle shed.

“It has become a process of piling regulation upon regulation. Though well intentioned, it has often become counter-productive as requirements in one regulation can often clash with another.”

 

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