Watts Sector

How do the Ozone Regulations affect your school?

Public buildings, particularly those used by children and young people, must be seen to be fully conversant with current building regulations and legislation and comply with health and safety 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.

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 education authorities should already be aware which of their school buildings contain air-conditioning or other cooling systems and be familiar with their obligations under the 2010 regulations. Academies are directly responsible for ensuring their buildings are compliant and should be aware of their duties. 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 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.

Schools that do have air-conditioning systems should also be aware that under the Energy Performance in Buildings Directive, in force since January 2008, all air-conditioning systems with an effective rated output of more than 12kw must be regularly inspected by an Energy Assessor.  The inspections must be a maximum of five years apart.

Also since January 2011, if the person in control of the air-conditioning system changes and the new person in control is not given an inspection report, that person must ensure the system is inspected within three months of the changeover. School facilities managers should be aware of this requirement and pass the information on to all staff with responsibility for plant and machinery within their department.

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

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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.

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