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Picture of Sun FlowerSustainability & Building Regulations

With the threat of global warming driving much of government policy and thinking, it should not be a surprise to anyone that sustainability remains a key issue for the construction industry, building owners, and users alike.

There are of course global warming sceptics, and diehard champions, however whatever your view, its blatantly obvious that heating and lighting a building  using fuels based directly or indirectly on oil and gas will become ever more expensive for building users. Whilst this may not have a direct impact on developers or building owners especially if they don’t occupy the building, high energy costs will become a deciding factor for many occupiers and potential purchasers.

If you fall into the camp of sceptic, then surely it makes sense to limit the amount we spend on heating and lighting our buildings?

Those that remember the 1970’s oil crisis will probably think the current issues are nothing more than “a storm in a tea cup”, that everything will be ok once the worlds oil supplies return to normal, and that global warming is nothing more than a cyclical event that the planet naturally goes through.

That all may prove to be the case; however the current government still has a policy of increasing fuel taxation, and has set a standard of “zero carbon” for dwellings by 2016.

Building Regulations, have championed sustainable issues since the mid 1960’s. Whilst most people will associate the regulations with safety issues, they also set standards for energy conservation, water efficiency, drainage, building emissions, treatment of contaminated land, and the storage of household and business rubbish.

The problem is of course that the regulations set minimum standards and do not cover all of the sustainability issues such as use of materials, and energy efficient white goods (washing machines etc), etc.

Sustainability Standards

There are a number of standards that exist by which developers can assess the sustainability of their buildings. Two of the the most common ones are:-

Solar Panels on a RoofCode for Sustainable Homes

The code was originally published by the Department of Communities and Local Government in 2007 and was updated as recently as November 2010. The Code is in effect the governments preferred standard for those people that want to construct dwellings in excess of minimum requirements and to a wider sustainable standard.

The code is ranked from level 1 to 6 with level 6 defined as “zero carbon”. The energy efficiency requirements of the Code are closely linked to the Building Regulations since Part L of the regulations (energy efficiency) is used as the reference standard by which the code levels are set.

As an example, level 1 of the original code equated to a 25% improvement over the 2006 Part L standard. Since Part L changed in October 2011, the revised Code shows that Code level 4 is now 25 % better than current Building Regulation standards.

The government has a plan to continuously improve Part L standards with the aim of setting a zero carbon standard for all new dwellings by 2016. Whilst there remain concerns over the practicalities of achieving zero carbon irrespective of the standards used, we full expect that to remain as the plan, and will expect the Department of Communities & Local Government to consult on a new Part L in 2012.

To download a copy of the current technical guidance and frequently asked questions please go to or you can download them here:-

PDF Document Code for Sustainable Homes Technical Guide (PDF Document, 3.44 Mb)

Excel Spreadsheet Code for Sustainable Homes Faqs (Excel Spreadsheet, 0.4 Mb)

PDF Document Code for Sustainable Homes Case Studies (PDF Document, 1.59 Mb)


The Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method, or BREEAM standard, is commonly used to assess commercial buildings, however it can in practice be used to assess any type of building. Like the Code for Sustainable homes, BREEAM looks to address a range of environmental and sustainability issues by setting standards that are in excess of those set in Building Regulations.

Information in the public domain is limited on BREEAM, therefore we would suggest that you contact the organisation direct, or by visiting their website

Increase Insulation, Save Fuel, Save Money

North West Leicestershire District Council is conscious that assessing a new property against any other standard than Building Regulations will cost money, either in increased levels of insulation, or simply just assessment fees. However, for the end user, this money could be recovered through lower fuel bills.

Whilst we do not require formal assessment of any code, the Building Control team would therefore recommend that when complying with Part L that developers achieve at least a 25 % improvement over Part L standards. This can be demonstrated through the use of the DER/TER and BER/TER process which is required for Building Regulation purposes anyway. 

In addition to increased insulation standards, workmanship and choice of materials is almost as important an issue as the level of insulation itself. Developers should be used to building in an airtight manner, however recent reviews of the impact of Part L would suggest that compliance with Part L could be improved. There would appear to be no point specifying a form of construction that achieves a minimum standard, if it is known to be difficult to achieve on site, or site staff do not have the skills to construct to the standards required to achieve compliance.

Similarly, when a building is handed over to a now owner or occupier, they should have all of the operating manuals and knowledge of how to operate efficiently the heating, lighting and ventilation systems.

Loft InsulationExpert Help

If you require expert help on sustainability or energy efficiency compliance issues, our Building Control website contains a list of people and organisations that offer energy assessment services. We do not endorse any one provider and point out that the list is merely a database of people and organisations that have made themselves known to the team. If you take up the services of anyone on the list, please ensure that you carry out the necessary checks first since we cannot be held liable or responsible for any work they carry out for you.

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Last updated: Mon 27th January, 2014 @ 12:01

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