Having spoken to my students afterward and read the paper closely, I think the examiner struck a good balance between being fair to the students and ensuring that there was enough of a challenge in the paper to stretch the more able students.
At first glance many of the questions seem fairly familiar but a close read quickly makes clear that there are some really interesting ideas being raised.
For example, the perennial plumbing question came up again this year but this time part c) asked the students to justify the location of two key components of the system (the heat source and the storage cylinder) this tested the students ability to think on their feet and convey their understanding of the principles of the system's design. Those who had just rote learned the system layout would have struggled to answer part c) and would, consequently, be excluded from the higher grades.
It is also great to see so many of the essential principles of sustainable building design being examined; the importance of Near Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB), indoor air quality and thermal bridge free structures were all included.
There was also a clear move away from the minimum requirements of the building regulations toward best practice details throughout the paper. The examiner is clearly saying that students should be learning sustainable construction details that will reduce the energy consumption and carbon emissions of our homes. For example, question 9 describes a house with a wall that has two and half times more insulation than the current building regulations requirement.
Reflecting the interest that the general public shares in this subject, a quote from Dermot Bannon's new book (Love Your Home) was included in question 10 (the 'essay' question). This was a significant departure from the macro issues of urban design that have been examined in detail in recent years. The quote chosen was very accessible and will have allowed the students to draw on their knowledge of Passive House design. Given the link between the quote chosen and the work seen on the popular t.v. show each week, I think this will prove to be a popular question.
Overall, I think most students will be happy with this year's paper and feel the exam was tough but fair.