Last month, at Jodrell Bank, the Prime Minister launched four missions as part of the government’s modern Industrial Strategy. In her speech the PM highlighted that 40 per cent of total energy usage comes from the heating and powering of buildings. One of those missions, the clean growth grand challenge, therefore aims to reduce the energy usage in all new buildings by 2030, by embracing new technologies and modern construction practices.
Through the Climate Change Act, the UK is already committed to reducing its carbon emissions from buildings by at least 80% from 1990 levels, by 2050. With the Prime Minister’s four missions statement, coupled to the Labour Party’s pledge to help up to four million homes reduce their energy bills via a street-by-street home insulation scheme, if they were elected, there finally seems to be an appetite to ensure the nation’s building stock is not only fit for purpose but that it meets future needs.
The members of Insulation Manufacturers Association welcome each of the proposals put forward and will work with all concerned to help ensure these policy proposals are realised. It is important to not lose sight of the importance of these energy efficiency initiatives, not only to the environment but also to the wider economy. They help to stimulate employment, right through from manufacturing and production processes, design and assessment of buildings to construction and refurbishment projects. However, in order for there to be success with any of these initiatives, we must utilise all opportunities at our disposal and ensure that there is a level playing field for all participants.
National building regulations set the minimum levels of performance required for different parts of a building, whether it be residential or non-domestic. For insulation this is covered by the U-values for the roofs, walls and floors. As well as setting the performance limits, all building products across the construction sector undergo strict testing regimes for a wide range of physical properties. These are verified through third party certification schemes, in-house factory production control and testing to appropriate national and international standards. It is this strict regime of testing and monitoring that ensures products remain fit for purpose and can be include in construction products. Tests such as the BS 8414 test, recognised around the world as being the “Gold Star” of tests, is one such example. These tests form a crucial element for assessing baseline performance for all construction products and the BS 8414 tests are well recognised as being an effective and robust means of assessing performance.
But, the missing piece of the jigsaw is compliance.
The release of Dame Judith Hackitt’s report into fire safety and building regulations has picked up on the failings of the current systems that need to be corrected to deliver a safe and secure built environment. The only sensible way of achieving this is to have a robust performance driven testing regime coupled to clear areas of authority, responsibility and accountability. IMA members fully support this direction of travel as it will provide the much-needed framework based on actual not assumed competencies and performance.
And yet still there is a call from some quarters which is driving public opinion that this approach is wrong and that certain types of products should be excluded. If products are tested and perform according to the required specification, then there is absolutely no reason why they should be excluded.
There is a great danger that the current climate will lead to unnecessarily restrictive and narrow choices for future construction work that will not guarantee additional safety, including fire safety, but will also produce a poorer standard of building as well as failing to achieve the energy performance criteria that the government wants and the country needs.