Building regulations give a specification for many aspects of constructing a house. Building regulations for England are laid out in the Building Act 1984. Part L deals with “conservation of fuel and power” and covers:
the insulation values of building elements, the allowable area of windows, doors and other openings, air permeability of the structure, the heating efficiency of boilers and the insulation and controls for heating appliances and systems together with hot water storage and lighting efficiency
Sadly most new build houses are quite legally woefully short of insulation. Many buildings experts point the finger at poor building standards.
Buildings inspectors sign off new builds in England. This should mean that all aspects of the build are measured against the published buildings standards by a qualified person from the council or the Construction Industry Council, a QUANGO. However, according to this Wikipedia entry, Energy Efficiency in British Housing,:
A 2006 survey for the Energy Saving Trust revealed that Building Control Officers considered energy efficiency ‘a low priority’ and that few would take any action over failure to comply with the Building Regulations because the matter ‘seemed trivial’.
So not only are regulations on insulation in English new build housing considered weak, those that do exist aren’t enforced properly. The result is a poor deal for householders aiming to keep their homes comfortable and their bills low.
The problems faced by owners and residents of new build properties go much further than this. Some report cavity wall insulation completely missing. Others report badly-fitted windows and holes in external walls. There are shocking reports of a new development in Peckham so badly built that parts have been pulled down. Other residents have had long fights with their house builders with little joy. Some had to move out for months while problems were fixed. Others were unable to move in at all.
Despite the doom and gloom, some local authorities and developers are doing a good job. Two areas of Ireland have made passivhaus mandatory for new builds. Social housing in Exeter has been built to passivhaus standards and a similar project confirmed in Norwich. In terms of the number of new builds every year this is a drop in the ocean, but it’s a start. If building regulations as they stand aren’t up to the job, let’s do something better.
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