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Hiding compliance

Camouflaging Compliance

Most regulations are there to ensure that new buildings are less of a burden on the environment, and less damaging to the natural world. However, tightening regulatory measures around construction and maintenance can present challenges to architects and designers, and compliance can be difficult to present in an aesthetically pleasing way. In this post, we take a look at possible ways we can disguise compliance, especially in cases where it may be inconvenient.

The current maze

Writing for the Guardian, @ollywainwright poses the question:

“[Building in the UK] is a dense minefield of rules and regulations that governs everthing from the size of windows to the pitch of rooftops, the depth of stair treads to the gradient of slopes – even where to put light switches. From overlooking distances to rights to light, every aspect of a new building has been quantified and calibrated before the designer even sets pen to paper. But does all this red tape hinder architects, or are these the kind of constraints under which creativity can thrive?”

Arguably, it’s both. In the case of housing developments, it has undoubtedly been a difficult burden, as the complexity of certain regulations (alongside the need to cut costs and boost profits) has led to awkward design on new builds. However, top architects have not stopped designing exceptional buildings elsewhere. It seems more that it takes creativity to navigate the bureaucratic requirements, alongside designing ability.

Planning for the future

One of the most frustrating issues for building owners is that regulations can become stricter or change over time, making what was a brand-new, regulatory-compliant building in need of a costly update. However, it’s possible for architects to take the long view when it comes to design. That means recognising the trends in global attitudes, particularly environmental concerns. It is fairly obvious to most observers that the key to future compliance will centre around energy efficiency in some form.

BIPV and BAPV have been touched on in a previous post. In essence, it is the difference between designing a building with photovoltaics in mind, and adding photovoltaics to an existing structure. As the EU pushes for zero energy buildings targets, it’s clear that efforts to reduce humanity’s impact on the environment will continue into the future.

Unfortunately, it is still relatively expensive to build for the future like this, which brings us to another, more troubling trend.

Designers vs value engineering

We cannot discuss building regulations compliance in the current climate without mentioning the Grenfell Tower disaster. In this case, it was cladding, added to the building to make it comply with regulations, that exacerbated the issue in such a deadly way. Part of the reason for the installation of cladding was to improve the building’s appearance, at the same time as improving heating and energy efficiency. Yet, the cladding was not fire-retardant, creating what essentially amounted to a ticking time bomb. The BBC reported:

“Even if cladding or insulation do not meet the European A2 standard for limited combustibility, they can theoretically still be allowed on the outside of a tall building if combined with other components in a whole system which passes a different type of test, known as BR135.”

This is part of a wider tendency of trying to ‘beat’ compliance, especially in social housing, across the UK. Architects can draw up designs which meet regulations, but as a result cost more to build and maintain. This is clearly the other side of the coin – new regulations can define the longevity and environmental impact of a new or commercial building, but when it’s possible to flout the rules, more regulation actually encourages non-compliance – that’s a lot cheaper than trying to make regulation compliance aesthetically pleasing.

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Camouflaging Compliance
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