Nigel Blacklock, Head of Technical at Sika, discusses Part L and the concerns around commerce falling behind industry standards.
By now everybody in the construction industry has heard about Part L but how many fully understand what it is and what its implications are? Most know that it requires thicker insulation to meet the ‘U’ value; beyond this the knowledge tends to become vague.
The new Part L regulations, which came into force in April 2014, call for a six per cent improvement for new homes compared with 2010 standards and a nine per cent improvement for non-domestic buildings.
The government predicts the changes will help lower fuel bills and deliver savings each year for businesses, along with tons of CO2. With this in mind, it is uplifting for an industry that continues to innovate, to improve standards and reduce carbon cost-effectively.
Ahead of implementing the latest Part L in April 2014, the suppliers to the construction industry joined the three yearly push towards developing viable technical solutions to meet the new standards prior to the next revision in 2016. However, this doesn’t mean that they’re actually going to meet them anytime soon. Inevitably, due to recent economic conditions, many developments that have stalled in construction will be able to continue under the old regulations; this means that buildings designed to the old standards will emerge for some time yet.
The cost of implementing changes is another concern for those within the roofing industry.
It is useful for the sector to now have the clarification it needs on Part L regulations, but the cost of implementing the changes will fall largely on contractors and manufacturers due to the need for educating developers. There is insufficient evidence consumers are prepared to invest in commercial construction and even less indication to invest in sustainable housing.
Changes in regulations in 2014 and then again in 2016 is a lot for the industry to get its head around. “The changes require an overhaul of site working. The industry can get there, and the best new-build at the innovative end of the industry is already ahead of what’s happening now. But that’s not mainstream and to get them all there will be tough,” Sika’s Head of Technical Nigel Blacklock says.
The revisions to Part L are intended to not only hold the industry to account over building performance but also help encourage advances in technology, innovation and building techniques in this area. But in their less ambitious form, are they actually having the opposite effect?
“We have moved forward successfully in a short amount of time. But since 2010 lots of the innovations have been stifled. Contractors in the industry must remember that because of this emphasis on future standards further innovation may be curtailed so workers must ensure they are able to catch up quicker to meet requirements,” Blacklock comments.
The biggest potential problem for roofing contactors is the quality of workmanship, since this is wholly under their control, it is important that they understand the implications to their business if their work fails to comply. Blacklock says, “Sika roofing registered contractors have always been one step ahead of the competition by using job specific specifications and standard accredited details to comply with Part L. Our commitment to quality inspections and training is second to none and we are here to get it right the first time.”
So what does the future hold and where does the Government sit with all this? Nigel Blacklock believes the roofing industry isn’t keeping up with the new finer details and there are a few reasons behind this; so how can we ensure people aren’t being left behind?
“The construction industry is moving towards quicker installation but there are a number of contractors still not using thermally-broken fasteners and many don’t comply with rules from as far back as 2006, that’s how far behind we are; something has to be done,” Blacklock states.
“In the last 10-12 years, we have made all these leaps in saving energy but most installers and buyers haven’t kept up with it. The latest Part L has gone into even finer detail. We have done the easy bits and now its time for the emphasis to move on to the finer details and this will only prove to be even more difficult for them,” he adds.
The only way Nigel Blacklock believes the situation can be helped is through education and policing.
The government is pushing it forward but needs to make sure contractors aren’t lagging behind meaning that industry is working to rules that are now seen as the established and straightforward methodologies. And these rules have to be policed.
“For us as a market leading company we have been championing these things for a number of years; we have been the first to do our own accredited details which will prove to be particularly needed with the latest update of regulations. We are also working on making installation of systems easier through our self-adhered systems and induction welding systems.
“On the whole people tend to talk about new build when mentioning Part L, however these issues fall under both refurbishment and new build. Rules are far more flexible when upgrading roof insulation on refurbishment, it seems it is almost a choice.
“If the government want the roofing and construction industries to come up to speed and understand the finer level of detail that currently exists, it should be helping by integrating education and policing but it seems there is still an easy win to be had which is in refurbishment by the upgrading of insulation,” Blacklock states.
The government need to get industry to the end goal by having buildings using minimal amount of energy; but how are they ever going to achieve it if they are not paying attention to the easy win option of upgrading insulation on existing buildings?
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