The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) with support from architects at Pollard Thomas Edwards (PTE) and Aecom has published a long-awaited consultation that sets out how the government plans to deliver its new Future Homes and Future Buildings Standards.
The consultation will run until 6th March 2024 and states that the new regulations and guidance will be published in 2024 with standards coming into force the following year.
The government consultation recognises that there is ‘no practical way’ for new homes to contain fossil fuel or hydrogen boilers and make significant carbon savings. It emphasised that all new homes must be “net zero ready” from 2025 and revealed that heat pumps must be a standard within all new homes which could be a huge boost to the sector.
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Gas, hybrid heat pumps, and hydrogen-ready boilers are not expected to meet the new standards which could result in a sharp increase in demand for heat pumps, district heat networks, and electric heating systems.
The Future Homes Standard may well bring additional economic opportunities and benefits by unlocking investment in UK supply chains to boost growth. According to think tank E3G, the Future Homes Standard is pivotal to realising the government’s ambitions for the UK to be one of the biggest markets in Europe for heat pumps by the end of the decade and could unlock up to £1 billion investment in UK manufacturing by 2028.
The think tank also declared that a strong heat pump manufacturing base could provide £500 million gross value added (GVA) per annum in export opportunities. This growth could support up to 6,000 heating engineer jobs annually by 2028.
Many housebuilders across the country who have been calling for regulation to create a more level playing field and a system that rewards ambition, quality, and social responsibility will be helped by the new Future Standard. Companies that have been getting ready for net zero homes will now have an opportunity to bolster the market. The new Future Standard will also strengthen the UK’s energy security by insulating future stock from gas reliance.
Juliet Phillips, senior policy advisor at E3G said:
"Ensuring that all new homes are built highly efficiently and with clean heat is perhaps the most popular and common-sense of climate policies. We're delighted that the government has finally confirmed that all new homes must be built to net zero standards from 2025. This is great news for home buyers, who will save money on energy bills and avoid the need for costly retrofits in the future. It's also great news for the UK's clean tech industry, providing the long-term policy certainty needed to boost investment in skills and supply chains."
The idea behind the new energy-efficient standard is to deliver “zero-carbon ready” new homes that once the electricity grid is decarbonised have zero carbon emissions.
According to the consultation, the government is “committed to improving the energy efficiency and reducing the carbon emissions of new homes and non-domestic buildings.”
Housing Secretary, Michael Gove said:
“All new homes will be required to have high fabric standards and use low-carbon heating systems, such as air-source heat pumps. For blocks of flats, the preferred heating system is likely to be a fourth-generation heat network that uses air-source heat pumps.”
Alongside heat pumps solar PV is also expected to play an important role in the development of net-zero-ready homes. However, the consultation document leaves open the option of mandating the installation of solar panels proposing one option with solar panels and one without. The government doesn’t think that either option would have a significant impact on housing supply and affordability but is keen to hear evidence from consultees about possible impacts on the viability and deliverability of housing developments. Solar panels will not be required for blocks of flats over 15 storeys high.
The standard also proposes an option with wastewater heat-recovery systems, increased airtightness, and mechanical ventilation, and one without.
The first option would “maximise carbon savings” and reduce household bills, but it “comes with additional upfront costs for developers and may therefore affect overall housing supply”. Wastewater heat-recovery systems will not be required for single-storey flats and bungalows.
Improving energy efficiency measures within homes could have a significant impact on the UK’s net zero goals. If the amount of energy required to heat homes is reduced particularly during the cold winter periods the strain on the grid could also be reduced due to lower demand.
The consultation also proposes putting in place performance requirements at a level that ensures new homes and non-domestic buildings have high-quality insulation fabric as standard and reiterates an expectation for homes to be "new technology" ready to enable the installation of emerging clean technologies.
To give the industry time to adapt, the consultation proposes two options for making the changeover to the Standard: a six-month or up to 12-month period between the legislation being published and coming into force in 2025, followed by a 12-month transitional period.
The government is consulting separately on a new Home Energy Model which will replace the Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) for the energy rating of new homes. This consultation includes reviewing changes to standardised assumptions, heat pump sizing methodologies, weather, buildings containing multiple dwellings, secondary heating, window and door U-value calculations, and thermal bridging.
Once ministers have analysed responses to the consultation, they will legislate for the standard in 2024 by amending building regulations.
There has been mixed reaction to the consultation. The UK Green Building Council doesn’t think the plans go far enough saying that they represent “the least ambitious option”.
Simon McWhirter, deputy chief executive at the UKGBC, was dismissive of the latest proposals.
“This can’t genuinely be described as a future standard. Having already shattered industry confidence with repeated green rollbacks, the government has opted for the least ambitious option that would deliver homes from 2025 at a lower standard than many already built today.”
Housing Minister Baroness Penn said that the measures set out in the Future Homes and Future Buildings Standards consultation would greatly reduce carbon emissions from new residences by 75%.
PTE said that the changes made to Parts 6, L, and F of the building regulations were a considerable improvement on existing laws. This consultation builds upon the 2021 Part L uplift.
The consultation document noted that grid decarbonisation meant photovoltaic panels ‘make a relatively small contribution to the carbon savings of individual homes compared with the switch to low-carbon heating’.
Simon McWhirter argued that it was ‘unconscionable’ to consult on an option for a building specification that didn’t include solar panels 'when this is already widely delivered through current regulation.’
Tamsin Lishman, CEO of heat pump manufacturer Kensa, said the consultation and the plans for new carbon and energy efficiency requirements for all new homes from 2025 were "a major step forward for the decarbonisation of homes and heat".
"This new standard will boost heat pump installations drastically, expanding the market from 50,000 to over 250,000 almost overnight, providing companies like Kensa with the confidence to go ahead and invest heavily in new manufacturing facilities and the continued development of our supply chains. It is particularly important that these proposals intend to make heat pumps and low-carbon heat networks the default options for heat in new homes, effectively banning new gas grid connections and so-called hydrogen-ready boilers from installation.
Allowing these technologies to continue to be installed in new homes would simply have maintained confusion about the future of home heating and short-changed hundreds of thousands of new home buyers who would have inevitably had to replace their fossil fuel heating system in the years to come."
Tamsin Lishman confirmed the new standards to be the single most important step that the government could take to boost the heat pump market and to bring investment to the sector.
Kensa is confident that the Future Homes Standard will now lead to a major increase in the distribution of this technology, combining the best of heat networks and individual heat pumps.
If the UK is to reach net zero by 2050, new homes and buildings must be fit for the future. The energy-saving changes proposed will cut bills for new homeowners and businesses while also reducing carbon emissions by at least 75 percent for all new homes. The new consultation builds on a longer-term plan for housing to deliver the high-quality, energy-efficient homes that local communities want and need.
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