The Futures Group was formed in 2007 as an alliance between the Modern Masonry Alliance and the Home Builders Federation. The objective is to research the issues around the increasingly stringent energy efficiency requirements of building regulations. It was formed in the context of some market scepticism that masonry would prove to be a practical solution.

Manufacturers were always going to be a key part of the group, but much wider expertise was needed, so we quickly pulled in organisations such as the Building Research Establishment, NHBC and Robust Details.

Our aim was to provide a context in which members could talk openly, share experiences and benefit from each other’s knowledge. Our findings could then be published so that the whole industry could benefit. This is particularly important for smaller independent house builders who have to change their processes to meet new demands, but may not have access to this type of expertise any other way.

The Futures Group worked with housebuilders to find out what was required to achieve the 25% and 44% improvements above the 2006 regulations on existing house types. As the Part L consultations began to appear, the Futures Group was well positioned to influence the consultation process. The Group was also well ahead of the game in terms of providing comprehensive advice for the industry on how to meet the increasingly stringent standards.

The latest publication from the Group concentrates on Part L 2010: “Thermal Performance: the road to 2016, fabric and services”. In this document we have come up with workable walls that don’t have to be half a metre thick and can be constructed using a traditional skill set. We’ve also looked at new innovations such as heat recovery showers and the potential heat leakage from junctions. 

Work is already well underway in preparation for the 2013 revisions to Part L. The intention is to be more involved with the whole process, rather than getting involved just at the consultation stage. If we can’t input beforehand then we’ll just be reacting to what the government has proposed.

The industry as a whole has been holding back a tsunami of regulations, some of which may never work. We have had to prove that some won’t work – we must concentrate on what is achievable. Within this context we are pleased to see that Grant Shapps is focusing attention on the fabric first approach as a means of reaching improved energy efficiency standards.