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Government announces “radical new standards” to tackle energy efficiency of existing and new homes and buildings

by Jennie Ward

Government’s response to the Future Homes Standard consultation includes plans to reduce emissions from new homes by at least 75% by 2025, but FMB says builders need further support to meet a challenging timetable, whilst the UKGBC says it’s “regrettable that the Standard won’t be implemented till 2025”.

Responding to a consultation on the Future Homes Standard, the Housing Minister Chris Pincher, announced the government’s plans to “radically improve the energy performance of new homes, with all homes to be highly energy efficient, with low carbon heating and be zero carbon ready by 2025.”

In a statement it was explained that these new homes will be expected to produce 75-80% lower carbon emissions compared to current levels, and to ensure the industry is in a position to meet the new standards by 2025, new homes will be expected to produce 31% lower carbon emissions from 2021.

Likewise, existing homes will be subject to higher standards – “with a significant improvement on the standard for extensions, making homes warmer and reducing bills”, plus “the requirement for replacement, repairs and parts to be more energy efficient”, including “the replacement of windows and building services such as heat pumps, cooling systems, or fixed lighting.” 

The announcement also explains that government plans to include measures to tackle ventilation with a “new requirement for additional ventilation and indoor air quality monitoring in high-risk non-domestic buildings such as offices and gyms, reducing the risk of any potential infections being spread indoors”, plus overheating in residential buildings with the introduction of a “new overheating mitigation requirement in the Building Regulations.”

Housing Minister Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP explained: “The radical new standards announced today will not only improve energy efficiency of existing homes and other buildings, but will also ensure our new homes are fit for the future, by reducing emissions from new homes by at least 75%.”

In response to the government’s announcement on the Future Homes Standard, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said: “Small to medium-sized (SME) house builders stand ready to build environmentally friendly homes”, but “the timetable is a challenge” and they need “greater support” after “a difficult year.” 

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, explained: “Local SME house builders deliver high quality, beautiful homes, many of which are low carbon. These are exactly the type of homes that need to be at the heart of Government’s plans to improve the environmental credentials of our new build housing. Unfortunately the timetable set out today will be a challenge for builders without more support to build back greener. The Government’s Green Jobs Task Force must develop a nationwide training programme to upskill the existing workforce and bring new entrants into the building industry. The Government should also use the forthcoming Budget to tackle some of the long-standing barriers facing local builders such as poorly resourced planning departments. It’s unacceptable that small site planning applications are typically waiting one year for a determination.”

Brian Berry, Chief Executive FMB.

Berry concluded: “A focus on future homes shouldn’t forget Britain’s 28 million existing homes, many of which are energy inefficient, and 85% of which will still be in use in 2050. These homes need to be retrofitted to help deliver the Government’s net zero carbon targets as well as creating much-needed jobs and training opportunities in each community across the country.”

Julie Hirigoyen, Chief Executive at UKGBC, also commented on the announcement stating: “After a long wait, the Government’s response to the Future Homes Standard consultation brings much-needed clarity to our industry. 

Julie Hirigoyen, Chief Executive at UKGBC.

“We are pleased to see confirmation that the Future Homes Standard will mean new homes will have carbon dioxide emissions 75-80% lower than those built to current Building Regulations – though 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.  We also welcome the interim 31% threshold later this year, which will put us on a path to the Future Homes Standard.

“It’s a big relief that the Government has ditched its original proposal to scrap the Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard (FEES).  We had long argued that scrapping the FEES would be a highly retrograde step, meaning in some cases that a home that would fail current Building Regulations because of poor fabric could pass the 2021 regulations.  Meanwhile, the many local authorities that have declared climate emergencies will also be relieved that Government has confirmed that in the immediate term they can still set higher energy performance standards for new homes than those mandated by Building Regulations.  But they, like us, will be disappointed that Government hasn’t completely ruled out curtailing their powers in the future. ”

View the government’s full response here.

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