After months, years even, of anticipation, the Welsh Government has finally published a new set of Building Regulations to radically improve the energy efficiency standards of new construction projects in the country.
New buildings will need to be constructed so they use less energy, have lower fuel bills, a lower carbon footprint, and are comfortable to live in.
However, there is a large piece missing from the puzzle… this announcement only covers residential development. Non-residential construction will continue to follow the older set of Buildings Regulations until further notice.
We’ll be writing further articles to cover these updates in more detail, but we’re starting with a fundamental question:
The key date to remember for sites in Wales is 23 November 2022.
There are three Approved Documents changing on this day. Part L (which covers SAP, U-Values and air testing, but not SBEM), Part F (ventilation and air quality) and Part O (a new section for overheating).
This won’t apply to every building project straightaway. The new rules will only apply where ‘work subject to a building notice, full plans application or initial notice’ is submitted from 23 November onwards.
In other words, if your site is registered before this date, you can continue to work to the existing requirements of Part F and Part L, and you can completely ignore Part O.
However, the clock will be ticking. You will have until 23 November, 2023, to commence work on every building on your development. Any buildings that are not started by this date will need to swap to the new regulations which could mean thicker wall cavities, changing window sizes and installing heat pumps.
The wording of this Transitional Arrangement is different to what has been applied previously, which has historically been defined as a site wide rule.
By changing the requirement to apply to each building separately, site managers will either have to race to get their foundations laid, or face building their development to two different energy requirements.
Two follow-on questions you may have… what is a ‘building’, and what does ‘commencement of work’ mean?
A ‘building’ can mean a detached house, or a terrace of houses, or a block of flats. Multiple dwellings can form one building. If you’re halfway through building an apartment block on 23 November, the building is classed as ‘started’ so changing to the new regs won’t be required for the remaining dwellings.
Examples of ‘Commencement of work’ include excavation work for foundations of the building, digging out groundworks, pile driving or boring, and drainage works that are specific for the building.
Commencement of work does NOT include removal of site vegetation, demolition of existing buildings, soil removal, or construction infrastructure (temporary roads and drainage).
The Welsh Government is still writing the new rules for non-residential buildings, so for the time being it is only residential buildings where the new changes will apply.
For mixed-use developments, this means dwellings will need to comply with AD L (2022), and the non-residential areas will continue to follow guidance in AD L (2014).
And, to add to the confusion further, the new AD O covers buildings which are ‘residential in manner’, so, as well as dwellings, it also includes care homes, student accommodation and communal spaces in apartment blocks, but not hotels or hostels.
After 23 November 2022, if you have an existing construction site, you can voluntarily upgrade to the new regulations before the 2023 deadline, but keep in mind these new rules push developers towards low carbon heating, solar panels and enhanced fabric specification, so will have higher build costs.
For those building over the border, you should also note that rules in England changed on 15 June 2022, meaning stricter energy targets, similar to those being launched in Wales, are already in force.
If you have any questions about the regulation changes and how best to prepare your future building designs for compliance, contact our team of experts on 08458 386 387.