Publication - Advice and guidance

Building Standards technical handbook 2017: domestic buildings

The Building Standards technical handbooks provide guidance on achieving the standards set in the Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004 and are available in two volumes, domestic buildings and non-domestic buildings. This publication is available in html and also in PDF format (in 'supporting documents' ).

Building Standards technical handbook 2017: domestic buildings
3. Environment

3.0 Introduction

3.0.1 Background

Water, air and soil are intricately linked and all can be affected by various forms of pollution that affect our environment. Other issues such as condensation have been a constant threat to people and buildings for many years.

Industrial change and demographic shift during the 19th and 20th centuries resulted in large-scale re-organisation of our villages, towns and cities. Industries moved out or disappeared altogether leaving large, 'brownfield', gaps in our landscape. At the same time, changes in heating methods and the advent of the consumer society, have had a significant effect on the type and volume of refuse it has been necessary to dispose of to landfill. Inevitably, these changes have left behind a legacy of land contamination that in some cases, may be harmful. The Scottish Government encourages the use of previously developed land (brownfield) and local authorities may wish to promote brownfield land in preference to greenfield land. Some of this land will be contaminated and will need to be made safe.

Climate is controlled by the long-term balance of energy of the Earth and its atmosphere. Natural events cause changes in climate but human activities can also change the climate. The accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to human activities will change the climate by enhancing the natural greenhouse effect, leading to an increase in the Earth's average surface temperature resulting in heavier rainfall.

Indoor air quality complaints are frequently associated with comfort issues: high or low temperatures, draughts, high or low humidity or poor lighting. However the incidence of real indoor pollution should not be ignored, it is surprisingly common. The construction quality of dwellings is improving with a resulting reduction of adventitious air infiltration producing fewer air changes. Inadequate ventilation, inefficient filtration and poor hygiene all contribute to poor indoor air quality.

Carbon monoxide (CO) gas has no smell, taste or colour and it kills dozens of people in their homes every year. Many more suffer debilitating illnesses often without anybody realising that they are being poisoned. CO gas is produced by combustion appliances such as fires, boilers and water heaters. Any appliance that burns solid fuel, gas or oil and that does not have a room-sealed balanced flue so that it is sealed off from the room, is capable of poisoning you if it is not properly installed, maintained and serviced. The highest incidence of CO poisoning occurs in domestic buildings.

Oil accounts for about a third of all reported pollution incidents in Scotland that are investigated by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). That means around 500 to 600 pollution incidents a year with about 10 to 12% being serious. It is an offence to cause pollution and courts now impose heavy fines. Although domestic pollution is low compared with commercial and industrial buildings, it is important to ensure standards are not lowered.

Disposal of wastewater and surface water also needs to be carefully considered to prevent environmental pollution and uncontrollable run-off during periods of heavy rainfall leading to flooding. The incorporation of water conservation measures in buildings can reduce pressure on precious water resources by recycling water from certain types of appliance. Recycling can also reduce the reliance on mains water and limit the amount of water discharged thus alleviating the risk of flooding. The inclusion of ‘green roofs’ into building design can also provide benefits to the environment and building owners alike. Although viewed as mainly a vernacular building practice renewed interest is being shown in this technique due to the diverse benefits that can be achieved, such as:

  • run-off attenuation helps reduce sewer surcharging

  • absorbs greenhouse gases

  • absorbs air pollution

  • protects the roof finish from mechanical damage and ultra-violet radiation, and

  • provides additional insulation.

Solid waste has increased enormously in the last couple of decades and disposal to land fill sites is creating severe problems. Recycling is now a priority.

3.0.2 Aims

The intention of this section is to ensure that, as far as is reasonably practicable, buildings do not pose a threat to the environment and dwellings, and people in or around buildings, are not placed at risk as a result of:

  1. site conditions

  2. hazardous and dangerous substances

  3. the effects of moisture in various forms

  4. an inadequate supply of air for human occupation of a building

  5. inadequate drainage from a building and from paved surfaces around a building

  6. inadequate and unsuitable sanitary facilities

  7. inadequate accommodation and facilities in a dwelling

  8. inadequately constructed and installed combustion appliances

  9. inadequately constructed and installed oil storage tanks

  10. inadequate facilities for the storage and removal of solid waste from a dwelling.

3.0.3 Latest changes

The following is a summary of changes made to this section since 1 October 2015.

Standard 3.2 - guidance on protection from radon gas revised and reference made to updated BRE guidance.

Standard 3.6 - guidance amended to make reference to the revised CIRIA publication C753 “The SUDS Manual”.

Standard 3.23, Table 3.18 - guidance on inhibiting fire spread to woody biomass stores amended to rectify a typographical error.

3.0.4 Relevant legislation

Listed below are some pieces of legislation that may be relevant and/or helpful to those using the guidance in this particular section.

The Gas Safety (Installations and Use) Regulations 1998 require that any person who installs, services, maintains, removes, or repairs gas fittings must be competent. It covers not only materials, workmanship, safety precautions and testing of gas fittings but also the safe installation of all aspects of gas-fired appliance installations.

The Gas Appliance (Safety) Regulations 1995 cover all aspects of gas appliances and fittings and sets safe standards to satisfy the essential requirements set by the EU. It sets procedures and duties for demonstrating attestation of conformity.

The Control of Pollution Act 1974 covers, among others, duties and powers of the local authority to control and dispose of solid waste.

The Environment Act 1995 covers, among others, duties and powers of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 covers, among others, management and enforcement of the collection, disposal and treatment of waste, control of hazardous substances, oil pollution and nature conservation. Part IIA covers contaminated land.

The Groundwater Regulations 1998 were introduced to prevent pollution of groundwater and to manage groundwater resources in a sustainable way.

The Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003 sets up an integrated regime for water quality and quantity management.

The Water Byelaws apply to any water fitting installed or used in buildings where water is supplied by Scottish Water other than where specifically exempted.

The Sewerage (Scotland) Act 1968 covers, among others, duties and powers of the local authority to provide, construct and maintain public sewers and rights of connection and discharge.

The Water Environment (Controlled Activities)(Scotland) Regulations 2005 gives Ministers the power to introduce controls over a range of activities that have an adverse impact upon the water environment.

The Water Environment (Oil Storage)(Scotland) Regulations 2006 were introduced to help reduce the incidence of oil pollution particularly from inadequate storage.

3.0.5 Certification

Scottish Ministers can, under Section 7 of the Building (Scotland) Act 2003, approve schemes for the certification of design or construction for compliance with the mandatory functional standards. Such schemes are approved on the basis that the procedures adopted by the scheme will take account of the need to co-ordinate the work of various designers and specialist contractors. Individuals approved to provide certification services under the scheme are assessed to ensure that they have the qualifications, skills and experience required to certify compliance for the work covered by the scope of the scheme. Checking procedures adopted by Approved Certifiers will deliver design or installation reliability in accordance with legislation.