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Watts Sector Focus Bulletin - Local Government

The practical implications of delivering high quality and energy efficient accommodation that complies with current legislation, on a greatly reduced budget, is now being felt by local authority estates teams.  A sharp focus on understanding the cost implications of maintaining public portfolios is vital when taking those difficult decisions to prioritise estates spending.  Add an increasing list of property legislation compliance requirements, CO2 reductions and sustainability policy commitments and the prioritisation process becomes even more complex.

In this Local Government Focus Bulletin we look at some of the ways to gather the correct information to inform decisions on demonstrating carbon reduction in the repairs that form part of estates expenditure. We also discuss how Planned Preventative Maintenance (PPM) could help local authorities control the cost of maintaining public buildings. We take a closer look at the Government's proposals for achieving greater efficiency for new construction projects and consider whether these are achievable. We also identify some of the compliance issues affecting the maintenance and replacement of air conditioning chillers.

We hope you find this bulletin both informative and useful.
Tom Kibblewhite
Watts Group PLC

Watts Sector Focus Bulletin - Local Government

How do the Ozone Regulations affect you?

Even more than the private sector, local government must be seen to be fully conversant with current building regulations and legislative requirements. One compliance-related issue that is coming up more frequently, and will continue to do so for some years to come, is the question of R22.

Main Local Gov - August 2011

The Ozone Regulations came into force in 2000 to eliminate the use of HCFCs (or hydrochloroflourocarbons). These are ozone depleting substances which have many uses including that of refrigerants in air conditioning and other cooling systems.

One HCFC, known as R22, was very commonly used in the past, but since 2000 has been banned for use in new systems. Since 2010 the use of HCFCs - including R22 - as virgin top-up fluid on existing systems has also been banned, and from 2015 their use even as a recycled top-up fluid will be discontinued. Some systems are capable of utilising alternative refrigerants, but some are not. Where this is the case, the only option is total replacement of the cooling system.

Local authority estates departments should already be aware which of their buildings contain air conditioning or other cooling systems and be familiar with their obligations under the 2010 regulations. These include:

  • Regular leak checking and record keeping for any equipment that contains more than 3kg of HCFC refrigerants;
  • Preventing leaks and repairing any leaks discovered within 14 days;
  • Recovery of HCFCs when systems are being maintained or decommissioned;
  • Only using recycled HCFCs for maintenance and servicing (until 2015) and not using non-refillable containers;
  • Using properly qualified specialists to maintain or replace equipment; and
  • Ensuring systems are clearly labelled when recycled HCFCs are added to existing systems and keeping records of suppliers.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) announced earlier in August that it has drawn up a map identifying more than 180,000 property assets owned by public sector organisations around the country, including 87 councils. As well as buildings directly occupied by local authorities for administration and frontline services, such as education and health, these assets include cafes and restaurants, pubs, theatres, hotels, cinemas, golf courses sports stadiums and an airport.

Where such buildings are sub-let, at lease end local authorities may be advised to include the replacement of cooling systems, in compliance with the Ozone Regulations, in schedules of dilapidation. However, the only requirement at this point in time is that virgin fluid cannot be used to top up cooling systems. If a system is capable of being topped up with recycled R22, or indeed replaced with an alternative type of refrigerant, that is all that can be asked for in a schedule of dilapidation.

Come 2015 the picture will change but, until then, asking for complete replacement of entire cooling systems cannot necessarily be justified.

For more information, contact Allan Robertson, Director at Watts Group, on 0131 226 9250

The Watts Bulletin is the technical companion to the Watts Pocket Handbook, the essential guide to property and construction, as used by professionals since 1983.

Watts Bulletin editor: Trevor Rushton.