Architects must be at the heart of regulations reform
If the profession doesn’t make its presence felt, the regulations review will succumb to the influence of vested interests
For a review of building regulations and housing standards to be truly radical, several things need to happen.
Chief of these is a single document to avoid overlapping and conflicting advice. As part of this, control of the Code for Sustainable Homes should no longer reside with the BRE, and the Lifetime Homes criteria should be chucked in the bin and rewritten.
But, even before the official launch, the UK Green Building Council waded in, calling it “deregulation frenzy”. Other groups — including the police and the disabled lobby — have yet to comment, but there is a fear that the initiative will fail because of vested interests.
Bodies such as the BRE are profitable businesses because they guard the criteria for the assessment for energy-efficient homes. Take that monopoly away and more homes would be built.
But the BRE and Habinteg, which wrote the criteria for Lifetime Homes, are on the review panel, so it will take real political leadership to wrestle back control of these key areas.
Yet the challenge is to understand why we got ourselves into this mess. And how we allowed housebuilding to be become answerable to a bureaucracy that targets, monitors and enforces this maze. If we don’t, bodies like the police, whose scrutiny of housing design has been allowed to creep in uncontested, will be back with their demands that architects only use certain kinds of locks.
Most people are unaware of housing’s regulatory straitjacket, which is why the profession has to support reform and articulate why it’s so important — not, as is so often the case, pick holes because it distrusts the motives.
Doing away with regulations won’t suddenly lead to an increase in new homes. But, if the reforms are to succeed in a way that will eventually help increase both the quality and quantity of new housing, the government needs architects to be
on its side.