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Housebuilders may quit over reforms

Changes to building regulations in 2013 could push small housebuilders to abandon the industry, the government has been warned.

The consultation on the 2013 Building Regulations Part L, published last week, proposes extending “consequential improvements”, which require a certain level of energy efficiency, to domestic buildings. The work would be paid for through the Green Deal.

Federation of Master Builders policy manager Peter O’Connell warned that SMEs were already deserting the industry due to the “constantly increasing quantity, complexity and expense of complying with regulation”.

He said: “Linking consequential improvements and the Green Deal is a nice idea but is impractical and won’t work. You can’t force people to do work.

“They will either not do it or go to the informal economy that does work worth about £9.3 billion each year and will be happy to step into the breach.

“The government says it wants SMEs to create growth and build houses yet pursues policies that are having the opposite effect.”

He said increasing policy burdens were driving smaller housebuilders out of the market. The number building fewer than 100 units a year fell by 69 per cent between 1988 and 2010.

Plans to expand consequential improvements were dropped from building regulations consultations in 2006 and 2010.

The government hopes linking them to the Green Deal from October 2012 will persuade homeowners to continue to improve their homes. The 2013 regulations will be the last before the move to zero-carbon homes in 2016.

Speaking at the Zero Carbon Hub conference last week, Home Builders Federation executive chairman Stewart Baseley questioned whether further changes to Part L for 2013 were as necessary as ironing out flaws in the Standard Assessment Procedure used to measure energy performance in dwellings and to underpin the regulations.

Construction Products Association industry affairs director John Tebbit said consequential improvements were unlikely to provide a fillip for the industry under the Green Deal because of the golden rule that savings have to outweigh the costs of energy efficiency work.

Mr Tebbit said: “I don’t think that people should get too excited about the level of work that will be financeable - it will be relatively small in the way the golden rule has been set up.”

He added that the only way it will work is if people understand the Green Deal mechanisms before undertaking work on their property and could, for example, build an extension with an empty cavity wall to then be insulated under the Green Deal.

However, a source at one housebuilder said there were positive elements in the consultation, including proposals to adopt a publicly available specification as a benchmark for good practice in the design and construction of homes.


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