The Passivhaus Trust is calling for Scottish Government to stick to its commitment for a Scottish Passivhaus Equivalent Policy for all new build homes, in light of the fact that ministers recently scrapped their target to cut carbon emissions by 75% by 2030.

Scottish Government had previously said it would pass subordinate legislation to introduce a new minimum environmental design standards for new housing. This will create a national Scottish equivalent to the Passivhaus standard for all new builds, which, the Passivhaus Trust states, would cut heating demand in new homes by 79%.

The Passivhaus Trust call to government comes in light of pressure from mainstream house builders who are calling for a review of the plans.

Data for 2023 showed that completions across all sectors fell by 11% in 2023 in Scotland, while starts fell by 24%, figures that indicate the size of the crisis.

The Passivhaus Trust maintains that improving energy efficiency standards will not adversely affect housing delivery, but will dramatically improve the quality of the homes delivered. It estimates that building to Passivhaus will create additional initial costs of between 4-8%, which will come down with economies of scale.

However, it does conceded that the new build market is operating in difficult conditions, and is consequently proposing a transition period for the new policy to come into force.

What is Passivhaus Standard?

Passivhaus is an international energy performance standard based around reducing the requirement for space heating and cooling of new homes. Collectively, buildings contribute 35% of total global energy consumuption, and Passivhaus is a solution for this.

Adopting a Passivhaus approach means a fabric-first solution that plans for your homes build fabric and energy usage – something that many self builders adopt. Not everyone building to these principles opts to have their home approved as meeting the Passivhaus Standard – find out more on the Passivhaus Trust’s website about what this means for you on your project.


Words & Image: Duncan Hayes

The Labour party has announced its plans to create more housing by proposing to build on the Grey Belt, a new term for neglected parts of the Green Belt.

Shadow leader Keir Starmer shared the party’s vision in a new housing plan, Get Britain Building Again, which sets out proposals for the reform of the planning system. With a large emphasis on creating affordable homes, Labour wants 1.5 million new homes to emerge nationally, with the Grey Belt playing a key role in providing the much needed land.

The housing plan is part of Labour’s strategy to secure the highest sustained growth in the G7, under its five point plan for growth, which includes:

What is Grey Belt?

Labour maintains that the Green Belt is made up of genuinely nature-rich areas but also contains areas that are poor quality, such as low-value land, car parks and wasteland. The new category of Grey Belt would represent these areas, which have the potential to feed into the need for land near urban centres for building.

While it proposes the building on some of these sites, this would be offset by improving and protecting genuine areas of nature within the Green Belt, ensuring these rich environments are retained for future generations. Such areas would have strong conditions attached to them to prevent them from being released for building.

As part of its plans, Labour has also set out Golden Rules for good development:

  1. Brownfield should be considered first for building.
  2. Grey belt is the second option.
  3. Affordable homes must be a factor, with an expectation that such sites provide 50% affordable.
  4. Development must boost public services and infrastructure.
  5. Genuine green space being protected.

Industry feedback has welcomed the proposals, especially if it promotes smaller sites, but has a shared voice that the devil will, as always, be in the actual details.

Words/image: Duncan Hayes

Government published the latest iteration of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) at the end of 2023, promising greater promotion of small sites which could be suitable for custom and self build housing.

Specifically, paragraph 70 (b) of the NPPF 2023 states:

“Small and medium sized sites can make an important contribution to meeting the housing requirement of an area, and are often built-out relatively quickly. To promote the development of a good mix of sites local planning authorities should: ….
b) seek opportunities, through policies and decisions, to support small sites to come forward for community-led development for housing and self-build and custom build housing;”

While this does not guarantee sites coming forward locally, it does strengthen the role of custom and self build on a local authority level, adding to the weight of their duties.

As well as hosting, and having regard to, registers of people wanting to custom of self build locally, the emphasis on small sites makes a key connection to the issue of finding land for multi-plot self build sites.

Wider impacts of NPPF 2023

More generally, the NPPF 2023 sets new expectations for local authorities on housing targets and delivery, with a commitment to reduce planning delays. In addition, it protects the Greenbelt by removing the requirement for local authorities to allocate land on the greenfield for housing, in order to meet local housing targets.

In his speech about the new NPPF, Secretary of State Michael Gove said the revised framework was shaped by five core principles for engaging people with new development: beauty, infrastructure, democracy, the environment and neighbourhood.

The revised NPPF will work in tandem with the new Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023 (LURA), along with new guidance for local planning authorities. Among a host of other measures, the Act sets out the requirement for local authorities to prepare a design code for is area, setting out what it considers to be the components of good design.

The LURA also introduces a new Infrastructure Levy to replace the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), although self builds are exempt from CIL.





All new builds must comply with Building Regulations, which set the minimum standards for new housing in England*. Many self builders build far beyond this standard, but it is important you know what each standard is in relation to your own build.

Part L – Energy performance

Part L of the building regulations sets the standards for energy performance for new and existing homes. The 2021 changes put more emphasis on the performance of the building fabric and minimising the impact of thermal bridging, with your build route having an impact on how you achieve the standard.

The changes meant that new homes have to have a 31% reduction in carbon emissions in comparison to the old Part L standards.

In terms of building with brick and block, the Self Build Portal asked Ali Riza, Technical Manager at H+H, manufacturer of Celcon Blocks, how high-performance building materials, such as aircrete, can help you meet building regulations.

H+H produces aircrete blocks, which have inherent thermal properties that make them a good choice for energy efficiency. Ali explains more about the Part L implications.

Considerations for Part L

When planning your build, you need to consider cold bridges in any materials. A cold or thermal bridge is an area in the building envelope which allows heat to pass through more easily. This usually happens where there is a gap in the insulation layer or where an element such as a joist crosses the walls.

As the industry now insulates buildings to much higher levels, such thermal bridges become a critical pinch point that can lead to significant heat loss. In fact, they can account for as much as 30% of a build’s total losses, compromising the energy efficiency of your home.

Therefore, the regulations advise that you choose materials or systems that minimise thermal bridging. Using a product like aircrete can significantly reduce the thermal bridge effect at junctions, as it has better thermal resistance than denser materials.

The 2021 amendments to Part L made recommendations regarding building fabric for masonry construction, suggesting the same material should be used to build the foundations and external walls. Aircrete can be used in both foundations and external walls with H+H Foundation Blocks offering self-builders a simplified groundworks solution.

What are SAP calculations?

Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) calculations are used to demonstrate that your build meets the standards set out in Part L of the building regulations. A SAP calculation establishes the energy performance of a dwelling and are a requirement for new builds in the UK.

As a self builder you should engage with an accredited SAP assessor as early as possible. The assessor will generate your SAP calculation based on your design, which takes heat lost from junctions and thermal bridges into consideration.

Once built, your final SAP calculation is submitted to building control by the assessor for what has been built, rather than what was proposed. If your build varied from the original plans significantly then a new SAP calculation is needed, and this could show your home is not compliant with Part L. This is why it is important to plan ahead, and stick to your plans.

To mitigate this risk engage with your assessor at the design stage to get advice on meeting Part L. You need to follow their advice and assess build quality regularly throughout the build to ensure you have suitable evidence that your self build complies with the regulations.

*Different Building Regulations are in place in Northern Ireland while Scotland has its own Building Standards.

There are many guides and resources available about Building Regulations, including H+H’s own free resources for anyone building with aircrete.

Find out more about building with H+H Celcon Blocks at

Member update

Government has announced a plan to scrap the stranglehold that nutrient neutrality has had on house building. This saw a complete ban on any new housing in wide areas across England. The announcement is great news for builders, not only self builders but for custom build developers who have been impacted.

Housing Secretary Michael Gove announced a major deregulation of the rules around Nutrient Neutrality which led to 74 councils setting up moratoriums for all new building, following requirements made by Natural England.

Gove commented that cutting the red tape will unblock up to 100,000 stalled homes, which is worth £18 million in activity for the economy.

In the announcement government squarely blames ‘defective’ EU laws for the problem of Nutrient Neutrality, although it was the government quango Natural England that made the requirements that halted building. Most councils enforced a ban in affected areas as not doing so would have left them open to legal challenge.

What is Nutrient Neutrality?

Nutrient Neutrality refers to run off of excessive nutrients from the land, which pollutes water courses and damages river habitats. But new housing is believed to cause minimal additional run off, with farming and out-of-date water treatment plants being the main forces contributing to pollution.

An amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill will bring about the announced change, and building could commence immediately on many sites as a considerable number have planning permission in place.

Housebuilders welcomed the announcement, but environmentalists have criticised government for its stance.

However, government also announced new environmental measures to improve habitats and reduce pollution, including more funding for Natural England’s Nutrient Mitigation Scheme, which offsets any negative impact from house building.

Michael Gove MP said: “We are committed to building the homes this country needs and to enhancing our environment. The way EU rules have been applied has held us back. These changes will provide a multi-billion pound boost for the UK economy and see us build more than 100,000 new homes.

“Protecting the environment is paramount which is why the measures we’re announcing today will allow us to go further to protect and restore our precious waterways whilst still building the much-needed homes this country needs.

“We will work closely with environmental agencies and councils as we deliver these changes.”


In a new article on his website, NaCSBA member and architect Oliver Murray of ProtaHomes explains what ‘weight’ is in planning and why it can be a good thing for self and custom builders going to appeal following a rejected planning permission.

Self Build Portal users will know that they have the Right to Build – and will have used our search tool to find their local authority’s register.

But did you know that more and more planning appeals are now granting greater emphasis on the local authority’s custom and self build activity? This is in the context of where it can be proven that the council is not meeting the demand on its register.

Oliver came across the appeals while in pursuit of planning for his own self build home. Like many others, he had signed up to the Right to Build – the informal name for the legislation that requires councils to host a register, and consider this in its work.

But like many others Oliver found that his local authority was falling short on ‘permissioning’ custom and self build applications for those wanting to build. NaCSBA knows that this is a fault in the legislation, which has very little carrot or stick to address poor practice.

Researching the matter further, Oliver came across an appeal where the inspector ruled in favour of the applicant, with a contributing factor being that it had not met its duty under the legislation.

Since then there have been a series of wins where applicants have had more ‘weight’, that is importance, attached to their application because it is for custom and self build, and the authority is underperforming. And in some cases this has helped tip the balance in favour of granting permission.

Anyone who has been through the planning process will know it is never straightforward or easy, but these appeals may offer a route for moving forwards should an applicant chose to challenge a negative decision.

Be aware though that going to appeal offers no guarantee of certainty and will require additional costs, so needs careful consideration. While we would love to see more self build homes being permissioned, each application must satisfy wider local plan ambitions about what is acceptable development before the issue and custom and self build comes into play.

If you are considering an application make sure you are aware of what council’s local plan says about the area where you want to build, and consider using a planning consultant with self build experience.

Find a planning consultant


Find and sign your local authority register


Want to hear more? Join Oliver Murray and Andy Moger of planning consultancy Tetlow King on stage at Grand Designs Live 1 May for How to Claim your Right to Build.
Grand Designs Live is on at Excel London 29 April – 7 May.

Scotland is leading the way in the UK with a trailblazing piece of legislation that requires all new homes to meet a new Scottish passive standard by 2024, including owner-commissioned or self build homes.

Similar to the Passivhaus Standard, the new regulations set a minimum standard for environmental design standards, meaning all new build homes must meet set levels of airtightness, insulation and energy standards.

Doing this will offer a better lived experience for residents, delivering high levels of thermal performance and energy efficiency that should help manage energy costs, as well as meet wider climate challenges.

The change is set out in the new Domestic Building Environmental Standards Bill, and it is expected that secondary legislation will be passed in Scotland to ensure the standard is being me by 2024.

Alex Rowley MSP introduced the change through a private member’s bill calling for all new housing to meet Passivhaus standard, or a Scottish equivalent, a direct response to the Scottish Climate Assembly Recommendations for Action around homes.

Jon Bootland, CEO, Passivhaus Trust said, “It is a truly forward-thinking approach by the Scottish Government and a positive response to the 2021 Scottish Climate Assembly recommendations.

“They are to be applauded for taking this crucial step towards meeting their Net Zero/ Climate Emergency goals. Now we must ensure that the Bill is well developed and implemented to deliver the greatest impact on the actual performance of new homes in Scotland.”

Find out more about Passive Haus

Image by Richard Mechen from Pixabay

To reflect the current appetite for energy saving measures, the September SelfBuild & Design South West will feature a brand new Green Home & Energy Efficiency area, dedicated to showcasing eco-friendly products and services from companies that put sustainability at the heart of their business.

At a time when the cost of living and the price of energy is soaring, this new feature will bring together a host of brands with expertise covering many aspects of the eco-home and eco-building.

Attendees at the show will be able to find out more about sustainable building materials and methods, insulation products and heating and renewable energy systems. In addition, they can find out more about and electric car-charging equipment works, especially pertinent as now all new homes must have, where possible, a car charging point. This falls under Part S of the updated building regulations, with many measures now included to ensure that new homes produce less carbon emissions.

As well as exhibitors, there will be a host of Green Homes & Energy Efficiency talks throughout the weekend on green energy, energy efficiency and sustainable building methods, including Dr Richard Lowes advising on how to retrofit an existing building to improve energy efficiency.

With 18 speakers delivering 30 free seminars and masterclasses over the weekend, visitors will also be able to learn more about smart control, tips for working with architects, planning, plot finding and hear first-hand experience of a build from fellow self builders.

Look out for the Green Home icon across the SelfBuild & Design Show website to discover talks and exhibitors who are part of the feature.

The SelfBuild & Design Show South West takes place at Westpoint Arena, Exeter on 10th and 11th September.

Self Build Portal users can register for two free tickets for the show!

Anyone self building needs to ensure that their project is meeting the new Building Regulations, as announced by then Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick earlier in the year. The are intended to pave the way for the Future Homes and Buildings Standard in 2025, which should, in time, mean all future homes are Net Zero ready and will not need retrofitting.

The new regulations require new homes to cut carbon emissions by 31% and extensions, existing building and non-domestic buildings by 27%, with the regulations coming in via Approved Documents L (Energy Efficiency), F (improved ventilation) and O (overheating).

Not only will they affect self builders, but extenders and renovators will need to ensure that works meet the required standard too.

One of the ambitions of the regulations is to address overheating, which is increasingly an issue, especially on homes with large south facing windows.

Any self builders need to ensure that their contractors are aware of the new regulations, and, for new projects, ensure they are meeting them. There is a grace period for builds in progress that had Building Regulations before the commencement (on 15 June 2022), in which case you have until 15 June 2023 to start the work before the approval lapses, and the new regulations apply.

However, it’s important to know that Building Regulations are a set of minimum standards, and many self-builders choose to build beyond these to secure better results, knowing that they are investing in their property. This is borne out by recent research by NaCSBA that demonstrated that over half of all self builders included a sustainable source of heating in their build.

As well as the regulations above, self builders also now need to ensure that they are meeting Building Regulation Part S (Electric Vehicle Charging), which requires new homes to have an electric vehicle charging point. 


Any self builder responsible for their site will be interested to read the latest findings from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), to ensure workers and visitors to their site are safe.

The report found that fatal injuries to UK construction workers have risen 8.3% since 2016/17, with half of these fatalities due to falls from heights.

With such a high-risk factor, it is essential that any self builder – or contractor, carefully plan any work at height, ensures relevant training has been undertaken and that the right equipment is used and procedures followed.

Many self builders like to help on site even if they are not working there in the day – and jobs like fixing gutters and painting can all involve working at height risks.

Safety first

In Great Britain construction is framed in law by the The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, a comprehensive suite of legislation embracing health and safety, and the risk assessments that mitigate risks. And even in line with this, the number of fatalities and accidents is still increasing.

Herts Tool Hire reviewed the data from the HSE (and produced the above infographic), looking at the impact of non-fatal construction accidents on construction industries. Read its analysis here.

construction accidents infographic


It reported that injuries and ill health cost £16.2 billion in 2018/19 – with 20% borne by employers, 22% by government and the remaining nearly 59% end up being a cost to the individuals themselves. This could be because of the high-number of sub contractors and self employed in the construction sector.

For more on Health & Safety visit our advice section