Government sets new energy targets for domestic and commercial buildings

06 Apr 2021

Since 2019 the Government has been consulting on measures to improve the sustainability and energy efficiency of housing, spurred on by a commitment to net zero emissions by 2050; Government figures* show that 40% of the UK’s energy usage goes to heating and powering buildings.   
In the longer term the publication of a ‘Future Homes Standard’ by 2025 will be incorporated into Building Regulations to help achieve the major efficiencies required. In the interim, changes to Part L of the Building Regulations (conservation of fuel and power) have been proposed to effect an uplift in the energy efficiency of new homes, the first changes to Part L since 2013.
Within the new interim measures:
  • all new homes will be expected to produce 31% less carbon emissions through a combination of fabric improvements, low carbon heating technologies and PV panels
  • all non-domestic buildings will be expected to produce 27% less carbon emissions.
The interim changes to Part L are expected to be published in December 2021 and come into force by June 2022; transitional arrangements will apply for a year from implementation until June 2023. This means that any works to an individual building (rather than an entire construction site) that begins within the transitional period can be registered under current building regulations, but any works to a building after June 2023 will need to be upgraded.
This increased focus on sustainable building methods will not be missed by Local Authorities and it will be important to keep on top of the updated requirements for planning applications, either through newly adopted Development Plan Documents or Supplementary Planning Documents.
The Government is currently undertaking an initial consultation on the ‘Future Homes Standard’ which is open for comments until 13 April 2021. The headline figure of this consultation is that all new homes will be expected to produce at least 75% - 80% less carbon emissions.
It is understood a full technical specification of the Future Homes Standard will be consulted on in 2023 with the necessary legislation introduced in 2024. The Future Homes Standard will also incorporate measure for:
  • additional ventilation and indoor air quality monitoring in high-risk non domestic buildings (such as offices and gyms)
  • overheating in domestic buildings
  • minimum standards for the renovation, replacement and use of new thermal elements in existing homes
The implementation of these measures is only a couple of years away and will likely impact on projects which are going to planning now, particularly major or strategic projects. Clearly it would therefore be important to bear the above in mind for the purposes of project management and potential for increased costs of future building works. For example, with the proposed ban on gas boilers, it will be necessary to consider how alternative means of heating (such as ground or air source heat pumps) can be incorporated within schemes, particularly where construction is anticipated to continue beyond 2025.
You can find out more about the Future Homes Standard consultation and how to respond here:
* Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, 2019. The Grand Challenge missions.

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