Does Passivhaus meet the Building Regulations? @phplusmag @BRegsBlog mentioned

I contributed THIS OPINION PIECE to the BregsForum last year concerning Part L compliance of the Building Regulations. In it I said:

“The only way numerically (currently) to assess conformance with Part L of the Building Regulations is via the Dwelling Energy Assessment Procedure (DEAP) software. It is this software that allows the user to input the following:

Property Details
Property Dimensions
Ventilation details (Chimneys, ventilation type, air tightness etc…)
Building elements (Construction types, u values areas etc…)
Water heating
The software on completion can give conformity results on U-values, renewables, primary energy use and CO2 emissions. The conformity with the Building Regulations is given in a straightforward green check (tick) or red cross. “

According to a recent article in passive house+ magazine this advice has now been superseded. In the article Dr Brian Motherway, the CEO of Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) states:

“SEAI does not claim that achieving a certain outcome in DEAP is the only acceptable or appropriate way of demonstrating full compliance with Part L of the Building Regulations.”

This change is explained due to the difference between the Technical Guidance Documents and the actual Building Regulations.

The Building Regulations state:

L1 A building shall be designed and constructed so as to ensure that the energy performance of the building is such as to limit the amount of energy required for the operation of the building and the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions associated with this energy use insofar as is reasonably practicable.

However L3 states:

…The requirements of L1 shall be met by: –
(a) providing that the energy performance of the dwelling is such as to limit the calculated primary energy consumption and related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions insofar as is reasonably practicable, when both energy consumption and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are calculated using the Dwelling Energy Assessment Procedure (DEAP) published by Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland;
(b) providing that, for new dwellings, a reasonable proportion of the energy consumption to meet the energy performance of a dwelling is provided by renewable energy sources;

The Technical Guidance Document then sets out what a ‘reasonable level’ is:

10 kWh/m2/annum contributing to energy use for domestic hot water heating, space heating or cooling; or
4 kWh/m2/annum of electrical energy; or
– a combination of these which would have equivalent effect.

But what does this actually mean?

The Technical Guidance Documents set out Prima Facie examples that will meet the Building Regulations. Therefore, if you meet the ‘reasonable level’ figures set out above then you have met the Building Regulations. If however you are putting forward alternative methods/figures, it is your responsibility to prove that your figures meet the Building Regulations in a similar manner.

Now this ‘relaxation’ is easy to undertake in the UK where the Building Act allows the local authority to dispense with, or relax, a Building Regulation. This can be undertaken locally and in more complicated cases the local authority can seek guidance from the Secretary of State.

The problem in Ireland however under a self-certification system is that there is no mechanism (as far as I know) for determining these Building Regulation compliance issues at either a local or national level (please let me know if there is). It is the Assigned certifier and Builder that takes responsibility for whether the construction is in compliance or not with the Building Regulations and trying to get any Building Control Officer to take any responsibility or judgement on any issue is problematic at best.

So where does it leave the architects, Passive House Designers/Consultants and Assigned Certifiers determining whether a Passive House meets the Building Regulations if there are two big red crosses in the relevant check boxes in the DEAP software?

It sounds a little like SEAI doesn’t want to take any responsibility either.

My personal opinion is to simply have Passivhaus certification = Building Regulation compliance but as we’ve also seen in Ireland, people can say whatever they like – what’s written down in legislation is what matters and I suspect this equality may require additional legislation.

A formal review of DEAP is scheduled to occur in 2015.

All advice online is remote from the situation and cannot be relied upon as a defence or support – in and of itself – should legal action be taken. Competent legal and building professionals should be asked to advise in Real Life with rights to inspect and issue reports on the matters at hand.

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