The government has begun consultation on significant changes to the Building Regulations that would slash carbon emissions from new homes
First announced by chancellor Philip Hammond in his spring statement, the new Future Homes Standard aims to make all new-build homes ’more energy efficient and to future-proof them in readiness for low-carbon heating systems’ by 2025.
Among the demands, which will be embedded in the revised and ‘uplifted’ Part F and L of the Approved Documents, is the requirement that new homes in the UK would be built without fossil fuel-powered heating within six years.
The drive echoes the ambitions of the earlier, abandoned zero-carbon homes policy, which demanded that all new-build homes should not result in the net release of any carbon dioxide into the atmosphere during day-to-day running.
The standard, which was due for full implementation in 2016, included requirements for new housing developments to generate energy through renewable sources, such as solar panels or ground-source heat pumps.
But the proposed regulation was dropped by the Treasury in July 2015 just a few months before it was set to go live – as was the planned zero-carbon Allowable Solutions carbon offsetting scheme – in a bid to boost housebuilding.
According to the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government, the latest plans would result in the average new-build home in 2025 having between 75 and 80 per cent ’less carbon emissions than one built to current energy efficiency requirements (Approved Document L 2013)’.
This could be achieved ’through very high fabric standards and a low-carbon heating system’ as well as ’heat pumps, triple glazing and standards for walls, floors and roofs that significantly limit any heat loss’.
The newly released Future Homes Standard document (see attached), which forms part of a two-stage consultation process, said: ’The UK has set in law a target to bring all its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 – one of the most ambitious targets in the world.
’Homes – both new and existing – account for 20 per cent of emissions. Despite progress reducing emissions from homes, we need to go much further. New homes being built now and in the next 5 to10 years will still exist in 2050 and therefore we must ensure that the energy efficiency standards we set for them put us on track to meet the 2050 target.’
However, the government added: ’We appreciate both uplift options increase the costs for home builders and so we propose to remove the ability of local planning authorities to set higher energy efficiency standards than those in the Building Regulations.
We propose removing the ability of local authorities to set higher energy efficiency standards
‘This has led to disparate energy efficiency standards across the country and can create inefficiencies in supply chains, labour and potentially quality of outcomes. Removing this ability will create certainty and consistency.’
Earlier this year the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) hard-hitting report, UK housing: Fit for the future? warned that only a ’near-complete elimination’ of building emissions would see the UK meet Parliament’s agreed reductions.
According to the body, which demanded immediate action from the government, the drive to reduce emissions from the nation’s 29 million homes had stalled, while energy use in homes had actually increased between 2016 and 2017.
A separate report published last month by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) claimed owners of new-build homes were paying £200 more a year on bills because the government had scrapped zero-carbon energy standards.
It added that home-owners would have been making significant savings on their energy use if the super-green standard for all new homes had been brought in during 2016, as originally planned.
Meanwhile, tomorrow (3 October), the RIBA is launching a new initiative The 2030 Challenge to help the construction industry achieve net zero whole life carbon for new and retrofitted buildings by 2030.
Similar to a drive by the AIA in the USA, the institute will be setting its chartered practices a challenge of achieving the following reductions as soon as possible: reduce operational energy demand by at least 75 per cent, before offsetting; reduce embodied carbon by at least 50 per cent, before offsetting; reduce potable water use by at least 40 per cent; achieve all core health and wellbeing targets.