UKGBC criticises Future Homes and Buildings Standard draft consultation for lacking ambition

The Government has finally released the draft version of the Future Homes Standard and the Future Buildings Standard for non-domestic projects, for consultation with the wider construction industry.

Due to be implemented in 2025, the standards will require a significant uplift in energy efficiency of new buildings, to enable them to be ‘net zero ready,’ meaning that they will need to reduce carbon emissions by around 75-80%.

However the UK Green Building Council has reacted with dismay to what it sees as the “least ambitious” option having been taken by the Government based on this draft standard, and said that many dwellings and non-residential buildings are already going beyond this standard.

The consultation is asking construction professionals to comment on the changes to Part L (conservation of fuel and power),  Part F (ventilation) of the Building Regulations for dwellings and non-domestic buildings. It is also “seeking evidence on previous changes to Part O (overheating),” covering new build homes only. The consultation covers Part 6 for change of use to residential, but the majority of the provisions are for new homes and non-domestic buildings.

The proposals contained in the consultation aim to set the performance requirements at a level which ensures new homes and non-domestic buildings have high fabric standards, use low-carbon heating and are ‘zero-carbon ready’.

The document reinforces the shift away from gas boilers, stating: “We do not expect fossil fuel heating, such as gas, hybrid heat pumps and hydrogen-ready boilers, will meet these standards. They are also unlikely to allow the installation of biofuel systems, including wood and manufactured solid fuels.” Alongside heat pumps, solar PV is expected to play a key role under the new standards.

The government is also consulting on a new approved calculation methodology called the Home Energy Model, or HEM, with an initial version expected to be released alongside the Future Homes Standard in 2025. This would replace the existing Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) which is currently used estimate the energy performance of homes.

Simon McWhirter, deputy chief executive at UKGBC commented: “This can’t genuinely be described as a ‘future’ standard; the Government has opted for the least ambitious option that would deliver ‘future’ homes from 2025 at a lower standard than many homes already built today.”

He continued: “On the last day of the global climate negotiations when we’re in the last chance saloon to keep temperatures under 1.5 degrees, it’s unconscionable that the Government is consulting on scrapping the expectation that new roofs should have solar panels, when this is already widely delivered through current regulations.

“Fitting low-carbon heating sources such as heat pumps is already commonplace and the standard provides no improvement in energy efficiency.

As expected, the draft standard explicitly references embodied carbon measurements as ‘out of scope,’ which led to further criticism from the UKGBC. “We’re disappointed that, despite such a long delay in producing this draft Standard, the Government still hasn’t included measures to reduce the embodied carbon emissions from construction which accounts for around 1 in 10 tonnes of climate emissions in the UK.”

UKGBC is to submit a detailed response to the consultation that will “set out how higher standards can be practical, affordable and protect climate and nature.”