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29 Apr 2021 < Back

We must get serious about building regulations!

Over the last few months, I have written a number of blogs about my thoughts on the proposed revision to Approved Document F – Dwellings. I won’t ‘dwell’ (no pun intended!) on the revision for too long here as the deadline for the consultation has now closed, but on the whole and despite the odd clanger (Lime is not a replacement for ventilation), the document is generally a step in the right direction.

However, earlier this week I received an email that reminded me of exactly what is wrong with Approved Document F. It has absolutely nothing to do with the content of the document, but the fact is, it is simply not enforced….

The importance of complying with building regs

The email was from a couple that had recently purchased a high end £700,000 plus new build which included an Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR) system. Upon moving in they were confronted with a ventilation system which is some rooms was making noise in excess of 40db.

They contacted the manufacturer who sent their technician in to assess, who told them that the installation did not comply with building regs. The poor-quality install has resulted in the unit “burning itself out”. The manufacturer has said that repairing the unit without installing the system to building regs would be folly, as they would be in the same position in another six months! The owners have gone back to the developer who is understandably being coy about the situation.

Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR) System

We see poor installs of MVHR all the time. The picture to the left was supplied by one of our members and shows a typical example of the system.

What is the likelihood if we inspected this couple’s property we would be confronted with much the same thing…? 

The quality of ventilation installations

We know this is a long way from an isolated incident. I have written previously about the study published in 2018 by AECOM and the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, which looked at ventilation and indoor air quality in new homes and explored the quality of ventilation installations across seven new build developments throughout England.

The majority, 55, of the installs were System 1 (background ventilators and intermittent extract fans), with 25 being System 3 (continuous mechanical extract). Of those 80 installations it was found that just 3 met the grade. Similar studies have provided similar findings.

The Property Care Association conducted its own poll during a recent webinar on ventilation and over 72 percent of the delegates believed less than 30 percent of installs complied with building regulations.

The majority of installs are not up to standard

This all sounds very familiar. Dame Judith Hackett spoke about this ‘great race to the bottom’ and this case is just another classic example. Ventilation systems are not normally installed in accordance with the building regs, but typically, carried out by the cheapest electrician who has very little if any understanding of ventilation. This is certainly the case here.

The current version of Approved Document F is not a bad document, but the simple truth is they are not installed to this standard. The problem remains that in most instances it is simply ignored, either due to ignorance or simply because they know they can get away with it. Neither of these approaches are acceptable.

We simply must enforce the building regs

Whilst it is vital is that the document is revised, not only to provide greater emphasis on compliance with installs in existing buildings, but especially when carried out in conjunction with the huge government ambition of becoming carbon neutral.

The question remains though, what’s the point in rewriting the document if we are simply going to ignore it again? If we are going to get serious about improving ventilation in buildings, then we simply must get serious about how we enforce it.

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