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Part L software 'full of glitches'

MATERIALS - Computer programmes designed to help calculate energy ratings could result in less efcient buildings, consultants claim

METHODS intended to help designers specify more energy efficient buildings are causing so much confusion they should be withdrawn, industry leaders have claimed.

Bosses said that computer calculation programmes used to check the energy ratings under the new Part L of the building regulations are so inaccurate they give the wrong results and could lead to buildings that are less energy efficient than those built under previous regulations.

Designers and consultants complained that glitches in the computer programmes aimed at aiding energy efficiency calculations, introduced under the change in building regulations last month, would mean a growing number of buildings would fail energy efficiency tests Darren Richards, operations director at off-site building consultant Intrepid, called for a withdrawal of the software until these glitches had been ironed out.

He said: 'Off-site construction methods have fared reasonably well under the regs but there are some major glitches in the software. Offsite methods are so energy efficient they will still comply but there is the potential for non-compliant buildings.

There has to be a complete re-think.' Steve Thompson, head of architecture at steel manufacturer Corus, warned designers at Intrepid that they faced carrying out wholesale design changes if they aimed to achieve Part L compliance with the minimum of input. He called for them to over design in order to hit targets.

He said: 'My advice would be not to design to the absolute minimum. Aim to pass through the requirements by some way.' And he called on contractors to take extra care if they make any changes to the project specification. He said: 'If a contractor makes a change to the specification they must go back and check the emission rate after the alteration but before the project gets to site.' A former building inspector said that the lack of compatibility in the calculation system would leave site inspectors facing the difficult task of legislating compliance between two different final calculations.

He said: 'There is so much scope for ambiguity that a great deal of pressure is put on inspectors.'