REPORT FROM VICE-PRESIDENT, ANT BURD
As I write this month’s report it’s officially autumn, and I’m left wondering where the summer went. Our working lives don’t seem to quieten down during the so called ‘holiday seasons’ anymore, and as we move towards year end our industry seems to be even busier than normal.
Last month our President highlighted the excellent news that new housing numbers were up in Q1, and we were witnessing an accompanying increase in planning and site activity. Unfortunately, the latest ONS figures show that construction output in July fell by 0.9% and was 0.4% lower compared with 2016. The sectors suffering the largest falls were the three largest: private housing, commercial and infrastructure. Commercial new orders began tailing off in the second half of 2016 and are now 11.2% lower since the EU Referendum.
In last month’s journal, fellow Vice President Gavin Dunn gave his thoughts as to the future direction of the industry, looking beyond just the operational carbon of buildings. Going forward, consideration of the potential environmental impact of the construction process, and the materials/products utilised, is an approach I wholeheartedly support.
At the start of summer, the government announced that batteries and renewable power sources are on the verge of bringing about an ‘epochal transformation’ of the UK that could make energy clean, abundant and very cheap. It unveiled plans for a more flexible energy system and £246m of funding for battery research. Ministers also announced that a smarter grid would ‘radically’ bring down bills. These announcements are all to be welcomed, but need to form part of a much broader and cohesive energy and carbon policy. For me, that includes considering the energy performance of our approximately 27 million existing homes.
Each Home Counts
Approximately 23% of (operational) carbon emissions in the UK come from domestic buildings and two thirds of existing properties are expected to be still standing by 2050. Increasing the take up and the quality of installations of energy efficiency measures into housing has been the subject of an industry-wide independent review: Each Home Counts (EHC) (www.eachhomecounts.com), led by Dr Peter Bonfield, Chief Executive of BRE and Honorary Member of CABE.
The review published a report in December 2016¹. Its recommendations included the creation of a comprehensive consumer advice service and a new quality mark for the delivery of energy efficiency measures.
The advice service will be an online information hub. It will include tailored advice to homeowners on the measures they may need, funding and finance, what they should expect from an EHC supplier, and an approved list of suppliers.
The new quality mark will be framed within a new code of conduct, customer charter, and technical code of practice. Supporting documents are currently being drafted.
A transition period is envisaged.
(Insert) Figure 1: Core components of the planned framework
BSI has been leading the EHC work stream for Standards, where the technical code of practice will be developed. The work stream has provided three recommendations: (i) develop an overarching standards framework document for the end-to-end delivery of retrofit; (ii) establish a Retrofit Standards Task Group to address the UK’s standards needs in the broadest sense; and (iii) commission a research project to map standards in order to shape and deliver a standards development programme.
The Retrofit Standards Task Group (RSTG), under the chairmanship of Peter Rickaby, has been established for 12 months now. Its strategic objective is to promote and define technically robust and responsible, whole house, retrofit work. Its focus is on the technical characteristics of retrofit work and the processes that are used to plan and carry it out.
The key task of commissioning a research project is nearing completion and is being delivered by the National Energy Foundation (NEF).
The work has so far identified over 500 formal and informal standards of relevance. These have been mapped against an end-to-end framework, running from commissioning and investment to operation and maintenance. NEF is also working to identify gaps within the framework. In addition to desk research, extensive consultation has been carried out including an online questionnaire, telephone interviews and focus groups looking at whole house, fabric and services.
The Retrofit Standards Task Group plans to develop a Scope and Contents for the new Code of Practice, for public consultation, with a view to work starting in autumn. There will also be ongoing work developing a roadmap of standards development needs. A busy few years ahead!
Since that tragic morning of 14 June, which took the lives of more than 80 people, saw over 70 people injured and destroyed 151 homes, we have all continued to read much around the truly horrific fire that occurred at Grenfell Tower. Further to the criminal investigation and public inquiry currently underway, an independent review of building regulations and fire safety, to be conducted by Dame Judith Hackitt, Chair of the Engineering Employers’ Federation, has now also been announced. Its terms of reference can be found here:
Clearly, a great many people across our industry, including
CABE members, will be supporting and contributing to Figure 1: Core components of the planned framework
these important inquiries.
We will all have a duty to act upon any relevant findings and recommendations.
On a somewhat happier note, I joined Paul Everall, Gavin Dunn and the LABC Warranty team in early September and assisted them in the judging of their 2017 ‘Bricks Awards’. The Awards recognise and reward the exceptional work of developers, builders, contractors and housing associations who go the extra mile, regardless of size, to deliver quality in construction – something very close to my heart. We considered some truly high quality buildings, all deserving of recognition. It should be a great awards event on 19th October.
That’s it from me for now. Later this week I have a CABE awards panel meeting and then time to get ready for our annual conference. I hope to see you there.
Ant Burd BSc(Hons) C.Build E VPCABE FCABE MIFireE FRICS
¹Each Home Counts: An independent review of consumer advice, protection, standards, and enforcement for energy efficiency and renewable energy can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/each-home-counts-review-of-consumer-advice-protection-standards-and-enforcement-for-energy-efficiency-and-renewable-energy