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The Future Homes and Buildings Standards 2023

This blog delves into the newly launched Future Homes and Buildings Standards 2023 consultation. These standards signify changes to provisions of energy-efficient, sustainable, and environmentally friendly building practices. The goal is to reduce carbon emissions and improve the overall quality of new homes and buildings, in line with the UK’s climate commitments.

Building Regulations in question

  • Part L (Conservation of Fuel and Power): This regulation focuses on minimising energy consumption and carbon emissions through better insulation, efficient heating systems, and the use of renewable energy.
  • Part F (Ventilation): This ensures adequate ventilation for health and comfort while balancing energy conservation needs.
  • Part O (Overheating): Newly introduced, this part addresses the risks of overheating in residential buildings, promoting designs that prevent excessive heat accumulation.

What’s the aim of the standards?

The UK government has committed to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. With about 30% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions coming from the built environment, decarbonising new buildings is crucial to this goal. The government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy recognises that this challenge also offers significant opportunities, such as developing skills, creating diverse job markets, and levelling up across the country. It aims to reduce energy bills, address fuel poverty, enhance building quality, and ensure a secure, future-ready energy system.

New standards in building construction are key to this endeavour. By adopting higher energy efficiency standards and shifting to cleaner heating sources, the quality of buildings can be improved, reducing running costs and enhancing comfort. However, this might increase initial construction costs but will benefit local supply chains and skills development in renewable technologies.

Current regulations, such as Part L (Conservation of Fuel and Power) of the Building Regulations, set minimum energy efficiency standards for new homes and non-domestic buildings. The 2021 uplift to Part L, along with the introduction of Part O to mitigate overheating risks in residential buildings, has already reduced carbon emissions in new buildings compared to the 2013 standards.

The Heat and Buildings Strategy further outlines the need to eliminate almost all emissions from heating, cooling, and energy use in buildings. The 2025 Future Homes and Buildings Standards will build on the 2021 uplift, setting requirements for energy efficiency and heating. These standards aim to ensure that new buildings will not need further modifications to achieve zero carbon emissions as the electricity grid becomes greener. They will also help reduce running costs and improve living conditions by preventing issues like dampness, mould, and poor air quality.

Future Homes and Buildings Standards on EWI

  1. Retrofitting: Emphasising the cost and efficiency advantages of incorporating energy-saving measures and low-carbon heating systems during initial construction over retrofitting later.
  2. Energy Savings: More efficient heating, hot water, and ventilation systems are proposed to reduce running costs. The addition of renewable energy generation (like solar panels) can further lower annual costs.
  3. External Wall Insulation: Specific fabric standards are proposed, including U-values for roofs, external walls, and floors. These standards aim at enhancing airtightness and thermal efficiency to reduce energy consumption and improve building comfort.

Smart meters and heat networks

Smart meters, essential for modernising energy usage and achieving net zero emissions by 2050, are becoming standard in UK homes, with over 33.9 million installed by September 2023. These meters support energy-efficient and flexible energy use, are increasingly demanded by consumers, and are vital for accessing smart energy tariffs and Smart Export Guarantee payments. The government aims to design new homes to be smart meter-ready, reinforcing its commitment to energy security and efficiency.

The Future Homes and Buildings Standards propose supporting the expansion of decarbonising heat networks. New and existing buildings can connect to these networks if they incorporate new low-carbon technologies or utilise unused low-carbon heat. Existing networks refer to those operational at the implementation of these standards, and new ones to those established afterwards. A ‘sleeving’ system is suggested to match the diversified heat demand of buildings with the network’s new or unused low-carbon capacity.

The response within the industry

The initial response to the consultation document is lukewarm at best. Some of the deficiencies pointed out include the lack of measures to reduce embodied carbon emissions or tackle flood risk or the huge water wastage from new builds that are driving shortages and causing ecological damage. (UKGBC)

Image credits: Bloomfields

Full document access: UK Government

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