The Future Homes Standard changes to Building Regulations for new dwellings: consultation

Published: 20 January 2020

Introduction

The Future Homes Standard will require new build homes to be future-proofed with low carbon heating and world-leading levels of energy efficiency; it will be introduced by 2025.

This Department for Housing, Communities & Local Government consultation sets out plans for the Future Homes Standard, including proposed options to increase the energy efficiency requirements for new homes in 2020.

This is the first stage of a two-part consultation about proposed changes to the Building Regulations. It also covers the wider impacts of Part L for new homes, including changes to Part F (ventilation), its associated Approved Document guidance, airtightness and improving as-built performance of the constructed home.

Key points

Energy Systems Catapult welcomes this consultation as a necessary step towards making the urgent policy and regulatory changes needed to decarbonise both existing homes and the new builds. While building standards for new homes will have to be considerably enhanced in order to future-proof new builds with low carbon heating and high levels of energy efficiency, existing buildings will have to undergo significant improvements/ deep retrofitting to meet the challenge of decarbonisation.

In line with the recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), we support the view that near-full decarbonisation of residential buildings will require a combination of tighter energy efficiency standards, large scale uptake of low-carbon heating technologies and a local planning strategy for infrastructure decarbonisation.

The development of a multi-layered, long-term policy framework that incentivises the transition to zero carbon buildings will need to be developed. Critically, the design of the framework will need to ensure that:

  • Decarbonisation is a collective responsibility of all relevant actors (with clear definitions of responsibilities);
  • All actors are incentivised to take actions to decarbonise buildings, underlying energy infrastructures, and fuels supplied (whether through obligations or other incentives);
  • The costs of the transition are proportionally/ fairly shared across all relevant parties (with particular attention to vulnerable customers).

Uplifting home standards for new homes will be fundamental piece of the puzzle. In fact, it will not only prepare the construction industry to deliver homes that are compatible with zero carbon standards, but it will also accelerate the broader development of the low carbon supply-chain (from manufacturing to installation of low carbon heating systems).

As a result, the Future Homes Standard could be a crucial stepping-stone towards the creation of a thriving market for low carbon heating, energy efficiency and zero carbon construction industry. Notably, we believe that there is greater scope for ambition in the proposed standards for future homes. In particular, it should include the following considerations:

  • Future-proofing: one of the aims of the standard is to start preparing the supply chain for 2025, when it will no longer be possible to install gas boilers in new buildings. However, this means that homes built between 2020 and 2025 will continue to have gas boilers installed. As noted in the consultation, it will be necessary to replace the gas boilers with a low carbon alternative and therefore these homes need to be future-proofed. Further consideration should be given to how this is done in practice. For example, in many cases, this will require the installation of a thermal store, or reconfiguration or replacement of the heat distribution system; this may mean allowing space for later installation of a different heating system and/ or additional energy efficiency measures as well as designing heating systems to cope with different flow rates and temperatures.
  • Embodied emissions: the consultation focuses entirely on the operational emissions of buildings; however, the embodied carbon of a new build home is estimated at around 50 tCO2. As operational carbon emissions decrease, embodied emissions account for an increasingly larger proportion of the lifetime emissions of the home. If this cannot be included now, it should be taken into account for future specifications of the carbon metric design (e.g. 2025).