La LOE, the Spanish building Bible
To follow my article about La LOE (La Ley de Ordenación de la Edificación). The building Bible in Spain. I pointed out that a Code of Practise, similar to the UK Building Regulations came to light on, March 29th of 2007 (commonly known as the “CTE”).
This Code of Practise endeavour to control the quality of building elements such as:
Safety in case of fire.
Security within the buildings.
Hygiene, health and environmental protection.
Energy saving and thermal insulation.
Protection against noise.
A new element has been added since then (only two weeks ago) to the CTE, and deals with Accessibility to public spaces and ease of access for handicap people. These norms came into force barely on Sunday the 12th of this current month and replace various previous norms.
Before we embark ourselves on technical details I will attempt to explain the intended aim of the legislator with the CTE as he has stated on the preamble of this law.
All building elements must be design to minimum standards.
Against the previous building regulations which had a prescriptive character i.e. architects would specify any material that he would consider would do the job, now he has to specify a material that must achieve a minimum standard specified by the CTE.
This simple fact would allow us to compare similar buildings with regards to energy efficiency, general safety, sound and thermal insulation etc, therefore coercing the building industry to be more competitive.
Energy certificates for your home, a must.
Any buildings or homes built from 1997 onwards, has to have an energy certificate, similar to those you see when you buy a fridge. You must have seen it. A certificate that has arrows of different colours marked with letters and different colours, ranging from green for the letter “A” to brown to the letter “G”, being “A” the most efficient.
Therefore, before you buy a new home in Spain you should ask for this certificate to enable you to compare your home with other dwellings. On the long term a letter A or B could save you lot of Euros in opposition to a home with a let say, letter D or E.
After the CTE, buildings in Spain are suppose to be safer with regards to the prevention of falls due to slippery floors, levels of lighting in public o common areas in block of apartments, public building etc. A minimum of lighting has to be designed for those areas. More care has to be taken when designing parking areas where a clear division between vehicles and pedestrians has to be established.
However lets concentrate on the more interesting sections.
Ventilation, 24 hours a day whether you like it or not.
To achieve a higher standard of ventilation and to comply with CTE, continuous ventilation has to be provided in our homes. Extractions of air have to be carried out from vertical ducts in bathrooms and kitchens. Continuous inlet of fresh air has to be allowed to get into bedrooms and living rooms so as to achieve a flow of air from these spaces through halls, corridor etc to kitchen and bathrooms, twenty four hours a day. The standard vertical duct popularly known in Spain as “Shunt” which works as a standard chimney is no longer allowed. From now on, there should be an electrical extractor continuously active or instead a hybrid system which works as follow, air is sucked from a chimney top as before. When air blows and a specific amount of cubic metres of air is removed outside, all is well, but if the air suction power falls below the level specified, then the electrical extractor must switch itself on automatically.
One of the contradicting aspect of the CTE to my mind, is this obsession with air ventilation and then being so strict with energy saving. I personally pointed this out to a professor who worked actively on the creation of part of the CTE. He explained that cancer have increased dramatically through the developed countries in the past ten years; specialists think that to a large extend, this is due to the increased quantities of carcinogenic products such as detergents, plastics and other harmful products used at home, ventilation is thought to be one of the most effective way of contra reacting their harmful effects.
Better thermal insulation.
To calculate the thermal insulation required in any building we must specified what we think is required. Then this proposed insulation, is introduced in a computer programme provided freely by the Ministry of Housing. This software only compares the building that we design, with a hypothetical building similar to our one but with the correct type of insulation. If our building does not have sufficient thermal insulation the programme does not issue an energy certificate which is required by the CTE and of course by the Local Authorities.
Up to 70% of your hot water must be heated up in thermal solar panels.
The CTE also limits the amount of conventional energies that can be used in different types of buildings. On the Costa for example, it is obligatory that up to 70% of your hot water must come from thermal solar panels. 60% if you main energy source is one other than electricity. The requirement comes down to the figure of 30% if your home is situated in north Spain. We must not forget that there are zones in Spain that have a higher rain index than many parts of England.
So, be prepared to see plenty of solar panels on roofs from now on. (Incidentally we architect better roll up our sleeves and find solutions to this very unsightly problem before our homes start looking like factory buildings).
Other types of buildings which are not residential i.e. Hypermarkets, Hotels etc have to install photovoltaic panels so to produce a percentage of the electricity that they are consuming as well as the thermal panels. This added requirement will depend on of the size of building (for Hypermarkets from 5.000m2, hotels from 100 sleeping units etc)
It is obvious that all these new obligations emanating from the CTE would mean better-quality, more secure and less expensive buildings to maintain. However there is a price to pay for all these of course. According to the Spanish Ministry of Housing the increase cost on an average home should be from 1% to 3% of the total cost of construction. I personally think it is double that figure, especially when we take into account the improvements require to comply the sound insulation section of CTE.