Government sets out guidelines on energy efficiency for new builds

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The UK government has announced plans for increased energy efficiency and zero carbon emissions in new build houses as part of their response to the consultation on Future Home Standards. The consultation started in October 2019 and the delay in formulating a response caused consternation across the construction industry as well as among environmentalists.

Announcing the details, Housing Minister Chris Pincher reiterated that “improving the energy performance of buildings is vital to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050” in line with the government’s legally binding pledge announced in 2019. The contribution to this target from the new standards set out in the document released on January 19th is expected to reduce emissions by at least 75% by 2025.

In the interim, all new homes built during 2021 are expected to produce 31% less carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions compared to current standards. Although there are no specific recommendations to improve energy efficiency in existing stock, any extensions or repairs carried out will be expected to comply with new energy efficiency standards.

With the new regulations delivering greener housing stock and lower energy bills for householders, the government’s response also includes a nod to the Covid-19 pandemic. The paper includes measures for non-domestic buildings such as offices and gyms “for additional ventilation and indoor air quality monitoring….reducing the risk of any potential infections being spread indoors”.

There will also be overheating mitigation requirements in building regulations for residential buildings. The announcements have been generally well received by green groups although the delay in releasing the conclusions – the paper says that the consultation finished in February 2020 – has led to exasperation.

Julie Hirigoyen, Chief Executive at the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) commented: “It’s regrettable that the Standard won’t be implemented till 2025, despite it being widely trailed that it would be brought forward to 2023”. She did, however, welcome the clarity which the guidelines now provide.

She also alluded to how the UKGBC had previously asked the government to allow local authorities, where necessary, to set higher energy performance standards than those mandated by regulations on new homes. This request has been approved by the government in the “immediate term”.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders, expressed disappointment that the focus on future homes was ignoring Britain’s “28 million existing homes, many of which are energy inefficient, and 85% of which will still be in use in 2050”.

In the Energy White Paper published by the government in December, the Green Homes Grant scheme which provides up to £5,000 funding towards making homes more energy efficient was extended by a year. The scheme has encountered problems since its introduction in September.