Collaboration is key

With changes to Building Regulation legislation due to take effect from April 2006, Bovema UK General Manager, Bill Johnston, is urging everyone from building specifiers and architects through to builders and product designers to work together to ensure that any new buildings are compliant with the revised legislation. Here, Bill looks ahead to the imminent changes and explains how failure of the various industry stakeholders to work more collaboratively could result in some very costly errors.
Perhaps more than any piece of legislation in history, the Kyoto Agreement has raised World awareness of issues relating to emissions and indeed, the wider prospect of environmental change. Now, as the building industry looks ahead to the imminent changes in the building regulations and to concentrating further on how best to restrict the concentration of carbon emissions, it is vital that everyone operating in the various areas of our industry works together. To ensure a successful future for all, it is imperative that we look to one another to ensure that wherever possible, costly errors in design, building and product provision are eliminated, or at least kept to an absolute minimum.

With the intention of improving energy conservation and ensuring that people are living and moreover working in appropriate environments, two new sections of commercial and industrial building regulations came into effect on 6 April 2006. All designs of new buildings put forward for building control approval must now comply with these to ensure that Building Control approval is forthcoming.

The two documents are ‘F1: Means of ventilation’ (F1) and ‘L2: Conservation of fuel and power in buildings other than dwellings’ (L2). F1 relates to the requirements for the provision of adequate ventilation in buildings to minimise condensation and maintain a healthy internal environment for occupants, while L2 relates to energy conservation and is concerned with ensuring that buildings are designed to meet the minimum standards of thermal insulation and minimise heat losses due to air leakage through the building structure. The content of L2 means that there is now an inherent need for all new buildings to be designed to minimise air leakage, with the possibility of pressure testing being required to obtain building control approval. This is a very complicated document which requires the designer to use a ‘whole building method’ and/or ‘Carbon Emissions Calculation Method’ to assess the efficiency of the building.

With large commercial or industrial buildings which have a smoke ventilation requirement, it is essential that everything is done to ensure that the materials and products specified guarantee that emission levels will be kept within the revised legal limits. Currently, many standard traditional louvres used on such buildings have air leakage paths around each blade and whilst these can be sealed, louvres are leaky compared to flap type ventilators which only allow air to pass through the edge perimeter seals.

Consequently, there is a need to look to the specification of new products which will be better equipped to cope with the more rigorous legislation. These alternative products may well, on the face of it, seem more expensive than their predecessors but when looked at against potential energy savings and the cost of any required re-design or product re-sourcing, the substantial cost savings become apparent.

Everyone in the industry has a mutual obligation to work together to ensure that the buildings of tomorrow are equipped to ensure a better environment both for the people using them and indeed the public at large. Within that industry spectrum, the problem for designers is that they now must meet the specifications laid down in the revised regulations. This means that they need to know exactly what the characteristics of all the available products are so that they can make the most informed decisions possible when specifying the equipment they wish to see used in their projects. Compliance has to be assured otherwise the subsequent pressure testing could again result in those considerable remedial costs.

Meeting the requirements will present architects, builders, building services engineers, fire engineering consultants and product suppliers with new challenges when specifying items such as mechanical and natural ventilation systems. Where there is a need for smoke extract ventilation, the problems will be particularly difficult to overcome, as natural ventilators may typically cover between 1% and 2% of the roof area. Large numbers of roof or wall mounted fan units fitted with back draft shutters may also be specified. The thermal insulation values of these products will have to be considered and products with better insulation will be required. All ventilators will need to have known leakage rates at 50 Pa.

By working closely with designers from an early stage, builders also become aware, not only of what products are available but also of what those products are capable of when working in a number of different environments. That in turn puts pressure back on the product innovators to ensure that the equipment they are designing is compliant. With those considerations, the need for collaboration to take place earlier rather than later is equally apparent. It may well be that some initial designs for expensive projects may not have seen all the relevant parties contributing their knowledge and expertise, meaning that there may well even now be a potentially expensive re-design requirement.

Alongside the changes stipulated in F1 and L2 of the revised legislation comes the associated regulation which states that buildings must have certain heat loss or ‘minimum insulation’ values. The combined value of heat loss through both the installed ventilation systems and the roof will provide the total value. These values can be checked at any time by Building Control Officers – even at the planning stage – meaning that plans can be rejected at any point along the way, even before a building has been built.

To ensure the best possible end result, the two documents need to be considered together and the implications on the design team, builder and product supplier are considerable. Indeed, there has already been much discussion as to how the balance for providing openings for ventilation can be reconciled with sealing buildings for energy conservation.

Ultimately, far from being something to be feared, these imminent changes in legislation should be looked upon by everyone in the industry as a great opportunity. Ultimately, if their coming to pass encourages greater collaboration between designers, specifiers, builders and product manufacturers, the industry as a whole can only benefit.

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