Site inspection

Energy efficiency is top of the housing agenda right now, with a series of regulations and standards around the efficiency of newly built, and extended, housing, both in the UK and in Ireland. This will affect Part L and Part F of the Building Regulation, which all homes must meet, which is actually set of minimum standards for the expectations of all building work. However, for environmental efficiency, the benchmark minimum is about to get much higher in 2020.

In October the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced the UK Government’s ambition to drastically overhaul building with a new environmental Future Homes Standard for new build homes. Currently under consultation, if it goes ahead the new standard will ban fossil-fuel heating systems, such as the classic gas-boiler, to be replaced with renewable energy sources, such as air source heat pumps, by 2025.

Then Chancellor Philip Hammond first announced the scrapping of gas-boilers earlier this year, in favour of the increased use of heat pumps and shared heat networks, and the Future Homes Standard follows through on this commitment by Government. However, it was only in 2016 that a Labour-initiated policy to achieve Zero Carbon in new homes was dumped by David Cameron.

The consultation is calling for views on the challenge around banning fossil fuel heating systems, changes to Building Regulations with regards to reducing the carbon footprint of homes built after 2025, and also on the reality of a process that would  restrict local planning authorities from setting higher energy efficiency standards for new homes in the future.

New National Design Code

In addition the Government has launched a new National Design Guide with 10 points that set out new expectations for new development with 10 core points. This will feed through at a local level with local authorities expected to develop their own design guides to reflect their setting, character and history, while also fitting into this new national standard.

Ireland

In the Republic of Ireland new regulations have come into force, with the European Union (Energy Performance of Buildings) Regulations coming into effect on the 1 November, affecting all new builds and any major renovations. Effectively these amend the Part L of the country’s Building Regulations to EU-level requirements that newly built homes be nearly zero energy buildings (NZEB).

The regulations will make new housing 70% more energy efficient when compared to 2005 performance requirements, through a combination of the use of more renewable energy source together with better air tightness and the increased use of ventilation systems.

While creating more environmentally sound buildings, there will be increased costs associated with compliance that should be factored in to planned work.

What are Building Regulations

New buildings are controlled by a set of standards that govern how they are built, which apply to all forms of building work including new-builds, renovations and extensions – both residential and commercial. The Building Regulations are a set of minimum standards of what is expected to create a safe, healthy and high-performing building – and many self-builders build to a higher spec than the Regs.

The regulations cover a range of topics including structure, accessibility, electrical and gas safety, and crucially energy peformance, and it is this latter element that is driving the current changes. The Energy Saving Trust states: new homes use a carbon standard that’s worked out using an official methodology to get a calculation that gives the carbon emissions for a home. The goal is to ensure that your home is built so that the expected emissions are below the target emissions rate (TER).

This TER is set for types of home, and has been gradually been tightened over the years to encourage better efficiency and the uptake of more renewable energy measures, such as solar panels or heat pumps. Read its blog on Building for Future Energy Efficiency, here. 

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