• Understanding of Part L is patchy in some parts of the sector.
• The BWF can help companies understand and comply with the regulations.
• Compulsory CE marking will bring benefits as well as challenges.
• The BWF’s ‘Towards 2013’ programme will include an education and support system.

It’s tough enough trying to run a business in the current economic climate without having to spend time considering the implications of legislation that won’t hit until 2013.

However, taking some time to understand the direction of travel for forthcoming changes to Part L of the Building Regulations and the necessities for compulsory CE marking is not something to put off. Keeping an eye on the legislative horizon will help us all make better business and investment decisions and ensure the industry has a robust strategy securing business viability for the future.

Part L understanding

Over the last year it has became particularly apparent to the British Woodworking Federation (BWF) that in some parts of the woodworking and joinery industry, understanding of Part L is patchy.

This is as much as anything because of a lack of enforcement. The acceptance of the glazing unit manufacturer’s U-value declaration as the rating for the window itself has meant that many small wood window companies haven’t needed to concern themselves about the implications and future of Part L.

Of course, typically, woodworking companies are small, craft-focused businesses working within a very traditional industry. It isn’t in their nature to delve into the finer details of legislation when the pressure of business and the economic times are bearing down on them.

Naturally, the BWF put out information and guidance in the run-up to the 2010 Part L regulations coming into force last October. However, when our technical team spoke to the SMEs within its membership we found that many companies only started to consider the implications of the regulations around six weeks before they were enforceable, or even more so around a month afterwards when contracts started landing on their desk that demanded compliance with the new standards.

The real challenge now is to try to engage this same group of people and get them focused on the 2013 changes that are coming our way. On the journey to zero carbon, the 2013 revisions represent the next big step up in terms of the thermal performance demands on a building. If there’s one thing we can be sure of, ignoring the challenge won’t make it disappear.

Allaying fears

It was notable how many people calling our technical helpline were saying they were ready to give up on their businesses because of Part L – it represented that much of a barrier to them. In 90% of cases though, with a 10-minute supportive chat we found we could allay all their fears and restore their confidence.

That is why Part L 2013 formed a critical part of our Members’ Day in May (see opposite page). The BWF is in a strong position to help companies through the regulatory maze, and to make it all understandable and achievable for SMEs in the industry.

Mandatory CE marking

From 2013, CE marking for joinery products also becomes mandatory.

European law requires that all construction products made available on the EU market should be fit for purpose. To demonstrate this, where a harmonised product standard exists, manufacturers have to use CE marks to declare that it meets the required performance standards. The UK government decided not to transpose this requirement into our law, but the new Construction Products Regulation makes clear that the requirement to CE mark applies across the EU, without exception.

Understandably there is concern among smaller joinery manufacturers that the requirements imposed by compulsory CE marking could be bureaucratic and complicated. But this change will also bring important benefits which shouldn’t be sniffed at.

This means that, with the exception of truly one-off projects, it will only be permissible to trade CE-marked products. CE marks help the buyer identify high-performing products manufactured within a controlled process, allowing them to make informed and confident choices.

Good preparation

From the manufacturer’s perspective, the key to reducing the hassle and cost of any new legislation is good preparation. In the case of CE marking, new procedures and performance testing need to be implemented alongside factory production control systems and a workforce who thoroughly understand the importance of their new responsibilities. Lack of preparation will be financially prohibitive for everyone, and a culture shift is needed to make these changes more prominent in everyone’s minds.

The BWF is working on establishing an education and support system for the next two years, as part of its ‘Towards 2013’ programme. Members will get the benefits of ‘translated’ legislation and practical advice to see what procedural changes need to be made to keep on top of everything.

So while 2013 will prove challenging, it shouldn’t be a difficult year if we are all prepared. We are offering a helping hand to those who want to get a good grasp of how to get the best business outcomes from this changing industry. Look out for further details later this year.