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' ).

This document is part of a collection

Annex 7.B Supplementary guidance in the aspect of optimising performance

7.B.0 Introduction

The quick start guide (QSG) should be produced in 2-stages:

  • at building warrant application submit as much information as possible including the plan, an outline of the construction and building fabric, specified systems or equipment and any other environmental features and

  • re-submit at completion after review and updating of specified items as necessary.

A good practice example of the QSG is on the Scottish Government website at

7.B.1 Scope

The QSG should be specific to each individual dwelling. Where there are a number of houses or flats of the same type, it is likely that the information could be repeated for each type, taking care to ensure correct orientation of plans and correct positions of installed items on the plan.

The purpose is not to explain details of how or why a home is designed to work environmentally, but rather what occupiers need to know to make a home work efficiently. It should describe the overall performance of the dwelling as a system itself. The focus should be on maintaining internal comfort in an efficient manner. Do not include unnecessary detail on the operation of the individual elements or systems of technology.

7.B.2 Format

The QSG should be as compact and graphic as possible to aid rapid comprehension, making it more likely to be kept available, used for future reference and be capable of being passed on to future owners or residents.

A variety of formats could be used to convey the information but it should be a free-standing document, separate from other documentation (but including directions to further information). It may be designed to meet a similar graphic standard of other material which is provided at completion. The recommended formats are:

  • an A4 guide of maximum 6 pages, preferably 4 or less or

  • a booklet with page sizes smaller than A4, possibly with double page spreads such as the booklet in the first good practice example.

Better design and construction of control mechanisms should make systems more intuitive and reduce the need for guidance, therefore please be very concise if appropriate.

7.B.3 Graphics, images and text

The QSG should include plans, locating key items of equipment and information only on the systems installed. The format should revolve around simple illustrations following the principle – ‘show don’t tell’. An illustration can be a hand-drawn sketch, a computer image or a photograph. These can be mixed because consistency in style is less important than content. Illustrations do not need to be to scale, but should show relationships and explain things quickly and easily. These guidelines should be followed:

  • Use illustration where possible to focus the occupant on the equipment that users normally come into contact with. For example, the programmer in the heating section should show where it is placed in relation to the boiler

  • Link key components (such as heating controls) to a location plan to help the resident to make connections between controls and systems quickly

  • Images should be labelled

  • Avoid non-essential images (e.g. lifestyle image) which can reduce the authority of the document

  • Use graphic formats that preserve the sharpness of lines, such as PDF

  • Illustrations should be associated with a legible caption of standard size and colour

  • Many people have difficulty understanding plans, so use other images, for example a simple 3D diagram alongside plans to aid comprehension

  • Use colour where possible as an easy way to differentiate categories visually. However readers may be colour blind, so use icons, illustrations and high contrast type

  • Text size should aim to be at least 11pt but can be of smaller sizes in annotations, labels or text boxes if a typeface designed for text reading at small sizes is used. Make headings as large as possible

  • Use clear, colour, photographs (well lit, avoid use of flash if possible) or line illustrations of actual installed equipment

  • Use engineer’s or manufacturer’s drawings as reference in order to comprehend the system but edit these to remove unnecessary items. Do not attempt to replace the manufacturer's manuals, but do refer to them for further information. The main elements or products should be identified with their full names/reference model numbers and links to more information such as manuals or manufacturers websites

  • Use plain English avoiding detailed technical descriptions

  • Use bullet points where possible

  • Avoid jargon and acronyms. If an acronym is necessary define it on first use. In the good practice example MVHR (Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery system) is used because the acronym is more likely to lead to success in internet searches for more information.

7.B.4 DOs and DON'Ts

Provide a brief list of up to 5 essential DOs and DON'Ts for occupant interaction with each system (heating, ventilation etc). This should be specific to the heating system installed and ideally, in a colour coded text box, in a consistent position on the page. General guidance is available on the Energy Saving Trust website:

7.B.5 Sections

Aim to fit a section relating to each of the following categories on the equivalent of a single A4 sheet, or less where possible.

a) Overview

Give a brief description of the basic features of the house, including insulation, building fabric, heating, ventilation, hot water use and any major equipment that make a difference to how the house operates. Avoid large paragraphs. Keep to between 100 to 150 words.

The overview page should include the following sentence: This guide is produced to meet the aspect of 'Optimising Performance' within Section 7: Sustainability of the Building Standards Technical Handbooks.

Locate key parts of the equipment, annotated on a legible plan or other illustration. Plans should be simple and clear, generally ‘planning application’ standard with walls blacked in, dimensions and unnecessary annotation removed in the CAD program. Showing fittings such as bathrooms and kitchens on layouts can assist. Limitations on alterations due to the construction (e.g. avoid holes in external walls that penetrate the vapour barrier) can be mentioned here. Use 3D plan perspectives, axonometric diagrams, or cutaway models to aid understanding. Items to be shown include:

  • Key elements of the construction and materials - roof, walls, windows and doors

  • Elements of heating, hot water and ventilation equipment

  • Heat element devices

  • Control locations

  • Meters

  • Water stop-cock

If the dwelling has achieved a silver, gold or platinum level, it is permissible to use the associated 'badge' on the overview page of the front cover.

b) Heating

Describe how the home can be heated including aspects of the building fabric and ventilation that are relevant to how the system works. Cover the main principles of use in both warm and cold weather. Simple diagrams illustrating how the building is heated in both winter and summer are useful. Avoid engineering heating system schematics as many people find these hard to understand.

Describe in around 50-100 words the main heating source in the home, including the principles of operation and fuel source if relevant. Supplementary heating sources should be mentioned, where included. Provide a brief description of how heat reaches rooms e.g. radiators, underfloor heating, air grilles, with illustrations provided as required.

Briefly describe how heating is controlled. Illustrations and locations are required for all the main controls. Identify the reaction to heating controls (for example there may be a time lag before a heating system operates at optimum capacity) and outline the normal range if this is not obvious.

c) Ventilation

Describe in around 50-100 words how the home is ventilated and the main principles for its use, in both warm and cold weather. Simple diagrams illustrating how the building is ventilated in winter and summer are useful.

Briefly describe how the ventilation is controlled with illustrations and locations required for all the main controls. This should include both natural and mechanical systems. Identify the elements that users have the most interaction with, so in natural ventilation, it may be trickle vents and opening of windows together with a reference to cross ventilation. For mechanical ventilation it may be the boost switch and location of filters.

d) Hot Water

Provide up to 50-100 words on how water is heated in the homes, including primary and secondary systems (for example a boiler working with solar hot water panels). Consider a simple diagram illustrating how the system works if it has a number of components or options.

Briefly describe how hot water generation is controlled. Illustrate the controls, identify the reaction to hot water controls (for example there may be a time lag before a hot water system operates at optimum capacity) and outline the normal range if this is not obvious.

e) Other Energy Saving Features (if installed)

Cover any other energy saving feature installed as part of the fabric of the home or included in the SAP calculation. Include instructions for items not covered elsewhere. Each item should have a brief (around 50 words).

description of other energy saving features. Identify for each item:

  • Name or description

  • Location

  • How to control it and where the controls are located

  • Manufacturer and model number

  • Location of further information such as a manual or specific website address

f) How to maintain systems

A ‘how to keep your home running efficiently’ section should provide an easy to understand list of maintenance required for systems outlined in the guide. It must only include items that residents should be undertaking without tools or specialist knowledge. In particular consider including the following information:

  • List of equipment names/serial numbers

  • Links to further detailed information

  • Manufacturers websites

  • Recommended servicing organisations

7.B.6 Labels (applicable to Gold level only)

Provide labels fixed to all components of heating, ventilation and hot water, including controls. Use a consistent naming convention and colour coding. These labels should be colour coded to match the booklet colour scheme and text size about 11pt. Avoid small font sizes. The labels should indicate ‘standard’ setting for items or equipment.

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