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UK Regulations: DCLG Charges Update

Posted: August 21, 2012 by , Category:software, Sustainability

We’d like to check in for a quick update for all those who have been following our campaign against the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) plans to withdraw their free non-domestic software validation service for UK building regulations. Click here for our previous blogs if you want to get up to date.

After months of trying on our behalf, our local MP, Ann McKechin, managed to arrange a meeting for IES Director David McEwan with Andrew Stunell MP, minister for DCLG on 16th July.

At the meeting, which was our first face to face contact with DCLG in almost 6 months, David was able to explain our position regarding the proposed unfair UK software validation charges directly to the government minister. Mr Stunell understood IES’s concerns and encouraged IES to provide as many comments as we could in response the recent consultation which was due on 1st August.

Unfortunately, as there was very little detail provided by DCLG we were unable to fully support any of the proposals offered. However we do hope that our contribution as a leading software provider in the UK Construction industry will help to encourage more dialogue towards a satisfactory resolution.

Many thanks are due to Ann for her efforts to make contact with DCLG as no meeting would have been possible without her assistance.

As always, please leave any feedback you have on the matter as a comment below or email us at DCLGcharges@iesve.com and we will be sure to include it with any dialogue we have with DCLG in the future.

On Monday we reported that we were encouraged by the progress made at the meeting held on Friday 24th February. We were waiting for DCLG to put out an official announcement on Wednesday about interim arrangements. This came, but unhappily we have to report that its content was not as expected.

In the meeting it was our understanding that the DCLG would spend the next 6 months consulting with the industry to agree a better way forward and that during this interim period the pre-existing validation arrangements would continue and there would be no validation charges. However, yesterday we received correspondence from the DCLG stating that they will suspend all new validation submissions with immediate effect for a short period, and that they will work to have a revised fee structure in place no later than 1st of April.

No validation service until 1st April is a very different stance to the status quo for 6 months and has a number of impacts. Not least being that IES and other software providers have new versions of software being prepared for release before this date! Now, while the UK compliance modules within our software are not being updated there are updates to the rest of the suite which necessitates a change in version number that would normally require us to apply for re-approval. Crazy we know!! We have asked for clarification, but are unclear at this stage whether this will affect our customers’ ability to lodge EPCs etc.

The other update on the consultation side is that Ann McKechin, our MP, asked a question in parliament for us: “whether (a) Ministers and (b) officials in his Department held discussions with stakeholders and business organisations prior to the introduction of the Non-domestic Self-funding Software Validation Service?” In the response it was inferred that the matter was discussed with the industry before the announcement, however we know ourselves and other software providers were not consulted and we feel the answer is therefore misleading to parliament. http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2012-02-27a.96569.h&s=andrew+stunell

So where now from here? Well first a huge thank you to you all for your support; from the contact we’ve had direct, to the comments on our blogs and the discussions taking place on twitter. The main theme seems to be the closest to our heart as well — how this could lead to market distortion and impact on the UK energy conservation building regulations.

As we hope you all already know the software in question is used by all firms that undertake Part L compliance and EPC/DEC creation— you need to use this whether it is the free Government iSBEM, commercial interfaces to SBEM or level 5 dynamic simulation (DSM) software. It is an essential part for any firm doing this work — they cannot do without it.

As such it is the foundation of the Government’s building regulations related to energy reduction and carbon mitigation — if the software system set up fails the regulations start to fall apart. We’ve been really encouraged by the industry support for commercial software in this arena and how it has a very real place to play in our energy regulations — especially the dynamic simulation tools only available from commercial providers.

We have been told by DCLG that because it was not a regulation change a formal impact assessment or consultation procedure was not needed — this seems like semantics to us, as with this software being at the heart of energy conservation regulations why not assess the impact prior to implementation?

Also in response to our correspondence with Andrew Stunell, the reason given as to why DCLG have developed a self-funding mechanism is: “…in order to ensure that commercial organisations are still able to make their software available in the market.” We would argue that the software provided by commercial organisations is currently essential to the market— commercial tools offer the only solution for level 5 categorised buildings; they offer the only solutions that can also be used as design tools to really drive optimisation on the energy front; and they offer the only solutions which fit into firms design workflows efficiently.

Further to this, the free government software is frequently used as a design tool (when it states it should not be) which is creating a low impact, mass market that erodes at those firms actually making a difference and offering a considered means of achieving genuine Low Carbon buildings.

We feel that the DCLG has a responsibility to make sure that the right tools are available to the industry both for use with EPCs and Part L. Commercial providers really do deliver tools which are essential for the Government in meeting its carbon reduction targets. We also believe that there is a better way forward and hope we will have the chance to explore the options with DCLG further.

We’re currently in communication with a large industry group providing a joint response to this issue. In the meantime, we’d like you to add your individual voice:

Do you think Andrew Stunell’s response answers the question — vote online here.

Write to DCLG to register your opposition and ask them a simple question:
“What is the legal basis is for the introduction of the non-domestic validation charges?”
Email Peter Matthews {Peter.Matthew@communities.gsi.gov.uk} and DCLG minister Andrew Stunell {enquiries@andrewstunell.org.uk}.

Can BIM revive architecture?

Posted: July 21, 2011 by , Category:BIM

Building Information Modeling, or BIM, is the process of generating and managing building data during its life cycle. And in a recent article, RIBA Construction Strategy Group’s (and the government’s chief construction adviser) Paul Morrell noted that the time for BIM is now and evolving to make architects “integrators of projects.” He stated, “BIM technology could herald the return of architects to the role of master builder“.

Last week I attended a webinar entitled “BIM — A new way of working”, which featured Mr. Morrell, as he continued to explore the future impact of BIM on our industry. A playback of the webinar can be found here.

Let’s take a step back for a second, though, shall we? As I was Googling to see if there were any additional sound bytes from Mr. Morrell regarding the subject, I came across this article on ‘Breaking Down the Walls.’ The post, entitled, “BIM — What is it, why do I care, and how do I do it?” was written over six years ago, but I think what Matt touches on still rings true today.

First, emphasis needs to be placed on the “I” in “BIM” – “Information”. That information can be either graphical or non-graphical, either contained directly in the building model or accessible from the building model through linked data that is stored elsewhere. If you really think about it, in some ways, at a basic level “BIM” doesn’t necessarily require that the geometry that describes the building be a 3D model at all.

That being said, BIM is an important component of architectural design, especially as architects continue to have to meet sustainable benchmarks such as Part L of the Building Regulations and Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs). The idea is whole-building analysis, getting a sense of the building at the earliest stages of design to truly develop the best building possible.

As Mr. Morrell notes, using BIM, architects can become “integrators” and that’s exactly the goal we are going for — integrated design throughout the entire process.

This month, we have had loads of questions from you about UK Compliance and the changes with Part L 2010. So we will be focussing on how to use the Virtual Environment to create UK EPCs, if you are outside of the UK, sorry, this one is VERY specific!

As many of you will know by now Part L 2010 came into force in October last year, even though the related EPC section has been delayed until the 27th of March this year. This means that building regulations DER/ TER (both at design and completion stage) will be to Part L 2010, but the EPC calculations will still have to be carried out using Part L 2006 methodologies. You can read more about this here. This has posed an interesting problem for our software team, and as such we have had to come up with an innovative solution.

To make it as easy for you as possible, we have introduced a brand new backward compatibility function that enables you to easily switch, on the same computer, between the 2010 and 2006 IES VE Compliance modules.  This is essential for designers that need to access Part L 2006 software for ‘as built’ or EPC calculations, as it will negate the need to duplicate data input in different software versions.

In order to generate an EPC you will have to have version’s VE 6.1.1 AND VE 6.2.0.3 installed;

If you are a VE-DSM 2010 user click here for download instructions…

If you are a VE-Ware (VE-SBEM) user click here for download instructions…

If you are a SketchUp user click here for download instructions…

Do you have any other burning questions for us for next months Questions and AEC? If so get in touch on Twitter, Facebook, or drop us an email hello at iesve.com.

The news about this is out in the industry but spreading slowly!! Please pass it on…

It was confirmed by the Government the other week that although Part L 2010 will come into force on 1st October 2010 as planned; the related EPC section has been delayed until 27th March 2011.

Obviously this has implications for all Energy Assessors — both domestic and non-domestic.

As mentioned, this deferment will not affect implementation of Part L 2010 for Building Regulation purposes on 1st October 2010, or the transitional provisions already laid before parliament. The main complication comes when an application is submitted after 1st October 2010 and the project completed before 27th March 2011, therefore requiring an EPC.

Calculations for building regulations DER/TER (both at design and completion stage), will be to Part L 2010, but the EPC will have to be done to Part L 2006 methodologies. In many case this will mean extra work for the EA with no additional return. For example, if using iSBEM separate models will need to be built in different versions of the software; one for Building Regulations compliance and the other to calculate the EPC!

Though it is not expected that this will affect many developments, as most will not be in a position to lodge an EPC within the delayed period, what has been overlooked is the need for design professional to understand the relative difference between EPC ratings — which will be one of the main questions asked by their clients!

Lack of clarity on exactly what the changes to EPCs calculations will be will hamper understanding, and ultimately reduce clients and designers opportunity future-proof buildings.

Designers who need to go back to a previous software version for final Part L ‘as built’ compliance will also face many of the same issues and its therefore essential that any software user who wants the flexibility to switch between 2006 and 2010 versions for whatever reason makes sure that their software will enable this without doubling their effort.

As a consequence, we’re in the process of adding a new feature to our software allowing designers to easily switch between our VE Compliance 2010 and 2006 modules. This previously unavailable backwards compatibility (of the VE Compliance model) will enable IES users to avoid double input of data resulting from the delay in the new EPCs. While this will provide a useful facility for projects

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during the transition between the 2006 and 2010 regulation frameworks, it will also aid in allowing users to easily go back to Part L (2006) if required for old projects.

“In Switzerland, everything is either illegal or compulsory,” joked our friend as

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he welcomed us to his home near Basel last week, and to illustrate the point he cited laws forbidding the flushing of toilets after 10pm and the use of lawnmowers on Sundays (seriously). Later he showed us his basement bomb shelter, with its 20cm thick concrete door and massive air filters. Amazingly, a generation after the end of the Cold War, Swiss law still requires every citizen to have quick access to a nuclear bunker. The UK Building Regulations may have some quirky features, I reflected, but nothing to compete with this.

Idiosyncrasies aside, recent revisions to the Building Regulations and the introduction of EPCs have had a profound influence on the building design process — and this is only the start. In October next year a new revision of the UK Regs will come into force targeting a 25% reduction in carbon emissions for new buildings compared to the 2006 level, to be followed (according to the draft plan) with successive further constraints at three-year intervals aimed at achieving zero carbon new buildings by 2019. The drive is set to continue thereafter with a target of an 80% reduction in total building stock carbon emissions by 2050.

In the US the American

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Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES, also known as Waxman-Markey) is working its way through Congress with the likelihood of Senate approval, after inevitable amendments, in the autumn. This would bring in a package of climate change busting measures including a cap-and-trade scheme for greenhouse gases and a radical tightening of building energy codes. The targeted improvements for buildings parallel the UK’s ambitions: a 30% energy reduction relative to baseline in 2010 and a progressive programme of further improvements up to 2030. The administration’s target for 2050 (with ACES and other measures) is an 83% reduction of building stock CO2 emissions.

If I emigrate to Switzerland I might just live to see those targets achieved. The country boasts the highest percentage of centenarians in Europe.

We have recently been informed by the CLG that the format of files used for non-domestic EPC and DEC lodgments is to change in 1 month’s time. Furthermore, there is no transition period planned — old EPC and DEC lodgment files will simply no longer be active after the switchover date.

All Accreditation Schemes will stop taking EPC submissions created by software using versions of SBEM/EPCGen earlier than the soon to be released v3.3c. This means that Accredited Energy Assessors will have to update their EPC and DEC software to a version able to produce the new xml lodgment files, even if they are in the middle of a project.

Energy Assessors need to plan ahead to make sure that they can maintain business continuity and minimize disruption, but the short timescale might mean that the new software is not available until right before the deadline. A new version of SBEM is due early April and IES will be working flat out to update its SBEM, DSM and DEC software in time. However, we are still waiting for the release of final details and anticipate that we will be left with a period of around 2 weeks (including Easter) to amend, test, gain CLG approval and distribute the new version to our users! We’re making every possible arrangement to ensure we meet this 25th April deadline.

The switchover date is pretty firmly set as Saturday 25th April.

IES have asked CLG for a transitional period and we hope that this will be accepted in order to allow our customers, and other Energy Assessors, to changeover at the time that suits them. However, initial discussions have not been promising on this front.

David McEwan — IES UK Director

There is a growing concern from many in the industry that competent surveyors might be banned from collaborating with accredited Energy Assessors on the creation of commercial EPCs.

CLG recently issued a widely distributed draft directive to the Accreditation Schemes relating to the department’s concerns about the use of data gathers. This was in response to questions being raised about the accuracy of some of the EPCs being submitted. It set out possible changes to restrict the collection of EPC data by those other than qualified Energy Assessors, which could limit the scope for competent surveyors to collaborate on the production of accurate EPCs.

It’s become evident that standards need to be set and there should be no place for data gathers of dubious accuracy. However, the suggested allowance for Level 4 and 5 assessors to use ‘data gatherers’ under certain conditions appears to be too restrictive to meet the needs of a struggling industry.

CLG should be cautious before jumping to any snap decisions. Accreditation Schemes need sufficient flexibility to encourage the right experienced professionals to collaborate on EPCs especially on more complex buildings where data gathering and EPC input are inevitably more specialist tasks.

It’s a difficult tightrope to walk — to put in sufficient measures to raise standards without being too prescriptive. We need arrangements that will allow professional surveyors to work, or even appoint commercial Energy Assessors. EPCs need to be able to improve the standards of building and also fit with the established ways professionals within the industry are already collaborating.

See Building Services Design and Building for more information

 

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