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Consequential loss?

So, sense has prevailed, maybe, the grotesquely badly timed ‘consequential improvements’ element of the next Part L has been ditched.

The idea, if you remember, was to force homeowners (or indeed the client on any project below 1000sqm) into improving the energy performance of their whole building when adding, say, a conservatory, and not just making improvements to the bit they were renovating.

The decision to drop the idea will be a welcome relief to those companies involved in refurb (and who isn’t, these days?) It’s not that the consequential improvement requirement is a bad idea per se – it’s a decent way to improve the energy performance of the existing building stock. This is a Good Thing because existing stock will still be responsible for 70 per cent of carbon emissions in 2050, which makes all the benefits produced by all the zero carbon, code level 6 stuff, pretty marginal.

In fact, if combined with a system of government grants, and perhaps even (shock, horror) VAT relief on projects which provide improved energy performance, it could be a pretty good way to cut the impact of the built environment on the natural. While we’re at it, let’s divert all the money being spent sustaining our outpaced and terminally expensive car industry to home energy efficiency grants.

The thing is the timing. What would happen, do you think, if you made every refurb project, including every domestic extension or improvement, cost say 10 per cent more in the present economy? Pretty obviously a large number of clients, bleeding on the floor in poverty, would decide to make do with the current facilities for a couple more years. Ipso facto, less work for everyone.

So, hurrah! Government in sensible decision shock - the improvements issue “will be considered as part of a future consultation”.

“We still have not got a date for when that will be,” says a CLG spokesperson. Great, now we can all get on with making our contribution to the end of the recession.

But wait, what’s this – “Government performs pathetic U-Turn on Part L” say architects?

Yes, it’s true, the same profession urged by their professional body not to cut their fees when the rest of the industry is cutting margins thinks burdening clients with extra costs on small jobs will produce an uplift in work. What are they on?

What’s the marketing lesson? Apart from knowing we can’t leave lobbying to the RIBA during times of economic crisis?

Well, the main thing to learn here is that to avoid being constantly marginalised and undervalued, which seems the architect’s lot, your communications on matters of economic importance need to be informed by more than a woolly commitment to a zero-carbon built environment or you will look out-of-step, ill-informed and economically naive.

Yes, it’s a good idea, but let’s deal with it in a way which matches our economic situation. Scrap those car-industry support grants now!

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