On 1 October 2010 the final provisions of the Building and Approved Inspectors (Amendment) Regulations 2010 (the “Regulations”) came in to force amending the Building Regulations 2000. The Government considers these changes to be the next step towards achieving a zero carbon footprint in all new buildings in the UK before 2019. The provisions of the Regulations will be relevant to every new building project commenced on or after 1 October 2010, so it is worth considering what the Regulations will mean for you.

The Regulations mainly deal with the rules affecting ventilation, combustion appliances and conservation of fuel and power. As regards ventilation, the biggest change is the requirement that, where a fixed mechanical ventilation system is commissioned, a commissioning notice must be sent to the Building Control Body. Where the building is a new residential dwelling, it is now mandatory that the air flow in the ventilation system be measured on site and reported to the Building Control Body. From October it is also a requirement for home owners to be given enough information to allow them to be able to operate the ventilation system and maintain proper air flow.

The most significant change to the legal requirements regarding combustion appliances is that where such an appliance is being put into a dwelling, whether as a new installation or a replacement, appropriate provision must be made for the detection and warning of carbon monoxide release.

The primary aim of the legislation is to cut down on carbon emissions from new buildings so it is unsurprising that the area which receives the most attention in the Regulations is the conservation of fuel and power. The most significant change is the requirement to provide the Building Control Body with a CO2 emission rate calculation before the start of work on a new building. This is in addition to the same calculation already required to be carried out on completion. For a new home the emission rate should be calculated using SAP 2009 and a 25% overall improvement on 2006 standards should be achieved. A further tightening of the rules is that 75% of all light fittings in the building must be low energy.

It is clear that from 1 October 2010, the construction industry needs to be far more aware of, and indeed focussed on, the energy efficiency aspects of their work. A considerably higher volume of paperwork will be making its way to Building Control Bodies across the country, whether in relation to ventilation systems or carbon emissions, and a significant amount of time and expenditure will now need to be spent in ensuring these Regulations are complied with, perhaps more than anticipated when the work was first contemplated and/or priced.

The Regulations provide for transitional arrangements whereby if a building project was started on site before 1 October 2010, that project will remain regulated by the Building Regulations 2000. For the project to have been started foundations or drainage must have been laid; demolition or strip out works will not count. Where the project involves a large, or multi-unit, site then commencement of work on one part of the site before 1 October 2010 will result in the whole project being governed by the previous version of the Regulations.

You should familiarise yourself with the new requirements so as to ensure compliance. In light of the Government’s commitment to zero carbon new buildings, it seems likely that the Regulations are just the first step towards achieving that target.