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Government chief hits back at criticism over ‘unambitious’ Part L overhaul

Part l protest tom de castella
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The man in charge of tightening energy efficiency standards in new homes has defended the government’s proposals for reforms to Part L of the Building Regulations

Peter Rankin, head of energy and environmental standards at the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, used a panel discussion at Futurebuild this week to push back on objections made by climate campaigners.

Last month, as consultation closed on the proposed amendments to Part L and Part F of the Regs, critics slammed the planned revisions, saying they would not produce sufficiently radical reductions of carbon emissions. The Mayor of London and the UK Green Building Council have today (5 March) joined calls for a rethink, arguing against revisions which would strip councils of the power to set their own, higher, energy efficiency standards.

But Rankin defended the government’s position, saying: ‘Part of what developers tell us is that they need assurance for what Future Homes Standard is going to look like and what the standard is going to be.

‘By setting a national standard that’s one of the ways we can do that: we can help to build up those supply chains and make sure industry has the confidence they need to invest in the right areas.’

He also emphasised that the incoming Building Regulations ‘can’t be negotiated away by developers’ but said his team was still analysing responses to the consultation and would ‘come to a sensible point on this’.

Rankin also responded to other criticism of the proposed Part L reform relating to embodied carbon and fabric performance.

The government’s own Committee on Climate Change said the plans ‘do not go far enough to reduce carbon emissions’ and would result in homes being built which need to be retrofitted before 2050 to meet the UK’ net-zero carbon goal.

And Architects Declare said the government’s plans were ‘a step backwards just when we need to make a huge leap forward’, urging its members to respond to the consultation.

Architects Declare cited research by the London Energy Transformation Initiative, which is supported by CIBSE and RIBA, which concluded that fabric performance of homes ‘is likely to get worse’ under the plans as ‘the use of an energy efficient heating system has the ability to mask fabric performance’.

Adding a heat pump is not going to get you to the government’s preferred option

However, Rankin also hit back at this suggestion, telling the Futurebuild audience: ‘I want to be really clear on this: just meeting Part L 2013’s minimum standard for fabric and adding a heat pump is not going to get you to the government’s preferred option [for changing Part L] which we consulted on for 2020.

‘Additional energy efficiency measures would need to be added – likely insulation; that would be the most cost-effective way of doing it.’

Architects Climate Action Network has also pointed out the legislative changes would still not address embodied carbon – the non-operational carbon emissions caused by factors such as construction and manufacture of building materials.

Rankin acknowledged he ‘should probably mentioned’ embodied carbon, saying: ‘We know that there is lots of good work going on in the sector.’

He added: ‘My own view is that the conversation with embodied needs to start at the product level, and we need to get the product level right before we start talking about building level solutions.’

The government was expected publish details of its final proposal in the first half of 2019, but the AJ understands that this could be delayed due to almost 4,000 responses to the consultation having been lodged.

This morning (5 March) the leaders of Manchester, Liverpool and Nottingham city councils joined the Mayor of London and the UK Green Building Council in criticising the proposal to remove council’s abilities to set tougher energy efficiency targets.

Along with Andy Burnham and Andy Streets, the mayors of Greater Manchester and the West Midlands respectively, they wrote a letter to housing secretary Robert Jenrick, calling for the revision to be dropped.

‘We urge you to allow local authorities to retain the power to set higher requirements than national standards where this is demonstrably viable,’ it said. ‘We hope you agree that local leadership is absolutely central to achieving the government’s commitment to net zero carbon.’

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Where is the housing secretary Robert Jenrick? Too busy protecting himself from covid-19 to do his job?

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