Debate 31 - Notes

  1. Overseas regimes, eg Singapore and Norway. Unified regimes and building information modelling as the way of managing all the information for whatever purpose. Provides a common information base for consent management. Range between simple and complex. Can compare more easily what is built with what is proposed. Is this a dimension for escaping where we are. Can we use IT?
  2. Regulations in Singapore are obeyed. Based on British regulations. There is an obedience in the culture. We live in an opposite sort of culture. How do we make the first move? Could you have a regulation-free area relying on common law to sue people over failure?
  3. Current environment straitjacket. Driven by profit and too much regulation. But opportunities – climate change. This is bringing a focus to the board rooms and one that will hit their pockets. We should be pressing to lobby city of London for climate change improvements. Lenders of opportunity – looser framework of what can be done (Toronto). Bottom line about more than profit. Investors wanting to invest in the world for the future.
  4. Climate change imperative. Talking about 10 years. How can creaking anachronistic system cope? Something radical has to happen and a massive resource injection needs to make it happen.
  5. Can still learn from Singapore – a lot of planning is relatively routine checking. One of the strengths of their system is that a lot of this is done by computer and it throws up the non-compliance. This might be one way to both free up resources and attract new people.
  6. The problem is the grey areas. Can quantify the easy bits. Which grey areas are the problems? Can they taken out of the system – privatised perhaps?
  7. Need models for how to move forward. NHBC has a market mechanism by which people have to comply. Is the Climate change crisis helpful or yet another problem?
  8. Most of our problems is that what we put down into the computer model / drawing does not get built. This means it is difficult to predict how the building will perform. Idea of spot checks and demolitions appeals. Even if you think you have got away with it, you need an enforcement system that will keep you worried.
  9. Has the current system got a chance to close this gap – no, too fragmented. No one person could go on site and cast a view on everything.
  10. Privatisation of building control initially got local authorities to sharpen up their acts.  But now, if a local authority building control officer asked for a demolition, the developer would go somewhere else next time. A review of this sort is an opportunity to ask whether we are still getting the benefits of competition.
  11. Even if we had the ideal product constructed to building regulations, we still have to consider how this is going to be used over its life, as intended by its design. 90% of the time buildings are not used as intended. Further consideration needs to be given to achieving sustainability in the longer term. There is a view that many individual renewable devices are not cost effective. This money could be better spent, eg greener mains electricity
  12. How to measure zero carbon construction. Argument that renewables are not as effective as described, and may also compete with more cost-effective investment in demand reduction. Creating huge incentive to overstate the claims that are made unless we have a better regulatory regime. We have not looked at cradle to grave performance of renewable systems.
  13. Whole new territory on social issues. Low rise in Peckham has made no difference. Do not understand basis on which to judge social sustainability. A lot of work is needed
  14. 10 years framework. Stop competing and move building control side to the private sector. No point in local authorities taking back control on the sorts of things professionals can do
  15. Would it help for planning to be under a performance criteria? There is a case for moving politics to the front end of planning and the development control can be free of local councillors. What has regulation achieved? Building control pretty much works give of take 30%. Planning on the whole does not work and could perhaps learn from building control.
  16. Cannot get away from history. Planning system for 50-60 years has been politicised and is in the centre of local politics. One man’s politics is another man’s democracy. Too much historical involvement. We are not in the world of the politically acceptable to make these changes. We are in a hurry to get things done quickly.
  17. Owing to this urgency, we haven’t time to change the system first: we have to use a broken system to get what we want.
  18. Talked about difficulties in bringing things together. Is there a possibility to keep them further apart and remove the overlap. We need to keep it simple and do it well. There can be a planning intention for building to be more sustainable but this should be on outcomes not features and then handed over to building control to make sure it happens.
  19. Technically this has begun to happen. Means by which a particular climate change level is to be achieved will be firmly within the building regs. This is the proposal.
  20. Politicians want the good features of the solution in the planning system where they can meddle with it.
  21. In the consultation one didn’t want to penalise councils who had made the land provision and then give them some discretion. Did not want every single local authority wanting its own solution for the planet. Current position is give local authorities some say but building regs will take control on how it is done.
  22. All the progress has been achieved by local authorities pressing for change – Merton etc.
  23. Uniquely the latest initiative for new housing has united government, industry and the environmental lobby along have endorsed the 10 year programme to zero carbon.
  24. Will a Brown govt create an opportunity for rearrange responsibilities? A way of reawakening government interest in construction research. CIC are pursuing this. 8 government departments take an interest in construction, none of whom turn up to each other’s meetings.
  25. In terms of carbon there is even more confusion between government departments and other agencies, all wanting to do much the same thing in different ways.
  26. A stress on innovation and performance specifications may have exacerbated the problems: it is all too complicated for ordinary people. But often it isn’t: we need to illustrate how to make the required step change in simple-robust ways. We need pattern books, deemed-to-satisfy defaults, and solutions that are widely demonstrated in use so people can say “I want one of those”. Most of the necessary research and development has been done, eg the Passivhaus programme. It is matter of picking on what we can reliably use. If we can get a focus on getting this done, much of the other stuff can fall into behind it.
  27. Govt has got to think more strategically. What about using the tax system to encourage better performance and innovation?
  28. Chancellor announced zero stamp duty for new zero carbon homes but did not say when
  29. How are we going to encourage retrofit 90%? If you have ad hoc green solutions you tend to lose revenue. You need to completely redesign the system. Balanced green tax approach to these things have been proposed by Libs and Cons.
  30. What do the professional institutions do? CIC structure has lots of good working parties but tend to be reactive - responding to govt rather than addressing the problems from scratch. Chartered CIC members need to set up a working party for the 21st Century eg Building Controls Alliance with challenge for designing a building controls system. Why don’t the professional institutions widen this out to look at planning and building controls more generally?
  31. Calcutt Review of housing.  Terms of reference will shortly be settled. Get in touch.
  32. Radical overhaul still needed. This will take as long as the government wants it to take. Govt needs guts to see it through. A unified system is possible
  33. Our recommendation is an overhaul long overdue. Need to start with the Halcrow report.
  34. DCLG putting out white paper and looking for comments esp on the quality of the outcomes – something that has been lost in the Barker review.

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