Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Think green - but stay safe

Property developers who strive to make their buildings more energy efficient could find they are breaching new rules, one of our solicitors has warned.

Louise Clowes, from our Commercial Property team, said several building regulations changes would be introduced later this year.

“Previously draughty windows and doors in old properties acted as escape routes for carbon monoxide. But with advances in insulation and the growing trend for very airtight houses which retain valuable heat inside, the energy efficient improvements could actually be putting people’s health at risk.”

Louise said the changes to the regulations would bring new requirements and guidance to make sure ventilation was increased in today’s properties.

“There will be several measures aimed at reducing the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning, including the installation of carbon monoxide alarms in houses with new solid fuel appliances. Developers will also have to follow guidance on improving ventilation, but at the same time improve energy efficiency of new homes by 25 per cent.”

Louise said it was a difficult time for property developers, as improving energy efficiency was a valid aim, but protecting health and safety was also vital.

“There are safeguards in place though, and the local authority building control body can take several actions if building work is carried out that breaches the rules. They can serve an enforcement which will allow 28 days for the work to be put right, or they can apply for an injunction for the removal or alteration of the work. And in the most severe cases, developers could face a fine of up to £5000 followed by £50 per day for each day the breach continues.

“Developers should make sure they are clear about the new guidelines, and that they don’t sacrifice good health and safety for the sake of a greener approach to property development.”