Written statement to Parliament

Unpublished research reports: building and the environment

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Today the government is publishing a further group of reports presenting the findings from research projects commissioned by the previous …


Today the government is publishing a further group of reports presenting the findings from research projects commissioned by the previous administration. There is a significant backlog of unpublished reports that were produced by the previous government and over the next few months we will be publishing further reports in groups themed on particular topics.

The reports and findings are of general policy interest, especially on the issues of building and the environment, but they do not explicitly relate to forthcoming policy announcements and are not necessarily a reflection or statement of the current Government’s policy positions. We are publishing these documents in the interests of transparency and as part of our Freedom of Information commitment to publish the results of all commissioned research. For transparency, all completed work is being published regardless of format or robustness.

The six reports published today represent the findings from research projects at a total cost of £697,819. These findings cover the topics of building and the environment.

Domestic sector airtightness

This report by the Centre for Built Environment assesses the impact on airtightness of different methods of construction and the implications for future Building Regulations policy. The work found that certain construction types are intrinsically more airtight than others, and that dry-lined masonry cavity and steel framed construction require much greater attention to detail if they are to reliably achieve high levels of airtightness. The complexity of design can have a significant impact, and certain approaches are likely to be more robust than others. This report was commissioned in 2003 at a cost of £233,325. > > (ii) Condensation risk - impact of improvements to Part L and robust details on Part C. This report by Faber Maunsell evaluates the impact of higher insulation and airtightness levels on moisture performance and interstitial and surface condensation risks. It highlights how hygrothermally robust detailing and appropriate workmanship is critical to the achievement of energy efficient, healthy and comfortable buildings; and how possible degradation of building materials and the deterioration of thermal performance as a consequence of the calculated maximum amount of moisture should be considered. The report was commissioned in 2003 at a cost of £158,560. > > (iii) Evaluation of unventilated pitched roofs with vapour permeable membrane. This report by Faber Maunsell identifies an ideal calculation approach to predicting condensation risk in unventilated roof systems might be via a whole building simulation package. It also identifies why the performance of roof underlays should not be considered in isolation from the whole roof system including moisture vapour movement from the interior through the ceiling. The report was commissioned in 2003 at a cost of £113,103. > > (iv) Product emission labelling scheme - scoping study. The report by AECOM investigates the potential for introducing a scheme to label building products for their emissions of volatile organic compounds. It describes existing schemes, identifies relevant British, European, International and American standards, and outlines research into the health effects of volatile organic compounds. The report was commissioned in 2005 at a cost of £45,972. > > (v) Comparing PStar and co-heating test results. This report by AECOM compares the ‘PStar’ method for determining heat losses from a dwelling with the more established ‘co-heating’ method. The study showed that PStar tests take three days to complete and have the potential to be used for compliance purposes, but the results they produce are different from co-heating test results, and further investigations are needed. The report was commissioned in 2008 at a cost of £29,000. > > (vi) Reducing water consumption in buildings. This report prepared by WRc (as part of a CIRIA-led consortium) addresses issues connected with reducing water consumption in buildings. The report recommendations were used to inform a comprehensive review of Approved Document G to the Building Regulations. The report was commissioned in 2008 at a cost of £117,859.

At a time when public budgets must be reduced, the new Government wants to ensure its research delivers best possible value for money for the taxpayer and that sums expended are reasonable in relation to the public policy benefits obtained. My department has put in place new scrutiny and challenge processes for future research.

Any new projects will be scrutinised to ensure the methodology is sound and that all options for funding are explored at an early stage. This includes using existing work from other organisations, joint funding projects with other departments or organisations and taking work forward in-house.

The reports and findings are of general policy interest, especially on the issues of building and the environment, but they do not explicitly relate to forthcoming policy announcements and are not necessarily a reflection or statement of the current Government’s policy positions. DCLG is publishing these reports in the interests of transparency.

Copies of these reports are available on the Department for Communities and Local Government website. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House.