Association Briefing September 2017

Grenfell Tragedy AB Feb 17

The Association supports with others the broadest possible remit in examining the regulatory and procurement context for the construction of buildings in the UK, for the independent group, headed by former London Fire Commissioner, Ken Knight, to advise on the immediate measures needed to ensure the safety of residents in hundreds of tower blocks around the country. Interestingly, there is no Architect in the group!

In many cases it is believed that compliance with regulations and specification, instead of being a minimum standard, becomes the maximum necessary to meet contract requirements. It is essential that this disaster leads to major changes, not only to building legislations but how it is enforced and administered.

Looking ahead to Brexit

In July an ice shelf on Antarctica lost 12% of its size as an iceberg a quarter the size of Wales broke off to float alone in the Southern Ocean. The same week, the EU prepared to lose 13% of its population as the UK Government published a Bill to break off from the EU’s 27 members and to float alone in the North Sea.

In two years’ time Brexit should be complete but at present land use planning, renewable energy, energy efficiency, in fact all kinds of matters that affect the development of affordable housing are in suspension.

The UK’s planning systems have absorbed a number of long-standing EU Directives which include the Water and Waste Framework Directives and Energy Directives such as the Eco-design Directive (which, for example, banned incandescent lightbulbs).

They are part of our laws and regulations and are, therefore, expected to continue as law at the moment of Brexit through the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.

A number of Directives relevant to affordable housing relate to energy and waste. They make up a package of actions to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Despite a government document before the 2017 general election noting that ‘Some economic security-related work like climate change … will be scaled down’, there may not be much room for manoeuvre. The UK – under the Climate Change Act 2008 – made mandatory the EU’s non-binding target on emission.

The UK is also a signatory to the Paris Agreement on climate. We are committed by 2020 to 20% of our energy consumption coming from renewables, 20% increase in energy efficiencies and a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, rising to 30% by 2030 and 80% by 2050 on 1990 levels. Because of the European Performance of Building Directive (EPBD), consumers are already given Energy Performance Certificates for houses that are new, sold or let. In addition, by 2020, they must also have easy access to 24 months of daily consumption data – hence the smart meter roll-out.

It is also the EPBD that requires all new dwellings to be ‘nearly zero energy’ by 2020 but this has not yet been transposed into law. Building Regulations Part L (Conservation of Fuel and Power) 2014 introduced an 8% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to Part L 2010.

There are worries about the sharp slowdown in construction in the UK, with activity at an eleven-month low due to uncertainty. Reduced investment is having a knock-on effect on jobs.

The construction industry accounts for around 6% of the UK economy and housing has had the slowest growth since April. Material prices, including timber, insulation, bricks, blocks, windows etc., are all increasing.

The Purchasing Managers Index came in at 51.9, the lowest since August 2016. It’s down from 54.8 in June and well below the 54.5 reading that City of London analysts had expected.AB Sep 17

The commercial activity index slipped from 52.2 to 47.6, its lowest since the referendum in June 2016. The Office for National Statistics estimated that the sector contracted by 0.9% in the second quarter of 2017, helping to deliver the lacklustre overall gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 0.3 per cent.


As you will have seen in the President’s article, we have now established our first Chapter in the USA, based in San Francisco. The photo shows the rather large bottle of wine from the famous Concannon Vineyard in Livermore, California, given by the Chairman of the Chapter, James Waltz, and signed by attendees at the launch.AB Sep 17

Hong Kong 

We continue to raise our profile in Hong Kong with our Chairman of the Hong Kong Chapter, Ivan Chan, being appointed in July to the Technical Committee and Promotion Committee of the Urban Renewal Authority (URA), and Kimmy Tseng, Chairman of CABE Membership/CPD Committee, appointed to the Technical Committee and Service Provider Committee of URA.

CABE Past-President, Ben Bradford 

Following the tragic Grenfell Tower fire in North Kensington, Ben and his specialist firm of consulting engineers have been appointed by Southwark Council to carry out an independent review of the Council’s fire safety and fire risk assessments.

John Hooper

Chief Executive