Consultation outlines proposals for stricter standards and compliance procedures around energy and ventilation performance, with particular concern raised by government over poor domestic IAQ
A consultation intended to reshape key parts of the Building Regulations concerning energy efficiency and ventilation requirements in homes across England has been launched by government.
Feedback will be sought from across the construction and HVAC sector on key proposals set out in the document until January 10. Responses will then be used to shape both the proposed Future Homes Standard and overall decarbonisation policy in England. A focus that also includes amendments on defining and enforcing ventilation performance follows recent government commissioned research that warned of anticipated widespread failings in domestic ventilation and air quality provision/
The Government has said in its latest proposals that existing standards for energy efficiency, outlined in Part L of the Building Regulations, must be amended further to future-proof homes against increasingly strict carbon emissions targets.
These standards will be tied to the publication of the proposed Future Homes Standard that was promised by former Chancellor Philip Hammond earlier this year to determine the role for technology such as heat pumps and solar panels in new-build homes.
A commitment to eliminate or off-set the entirety of the UK’s carbon emissions by 2050 was signed into law earlier this year.
From the perspective of energy efficiency requirements, the latest consultation outlines two potential options to amend Part L of the Building Regulations
One option, entitled ‘future Homes Fabric’, would impose a 20 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions when compared to those required under current efficiency standards. This would be focused on minimising heat loss via new materials for windows (potentially through triple glazing), walls, floors and roofs.
However, the government’s preferred option is to introduce a mandatory 31 per cent reduction in carbon emissions over the current standard. Savings could be realised based on installing carbon-saving technologies, specifically such as photovoltaic solar panels that would be backed by amended fabric standards, according to the government. These preferred fabrics would not be as high performance as those outlined in the first potential amendments. For example, this approach might not require triple glazing.
The consultation said the second option for Part L, “would deliver more carbon savings and result in lower bills for the householder but have higher build costs. We also expect that it would help to prepare supply chains for heat pumps and increase the number of trained installers.”
Another key focus of the proposals is looking at how improved compliance and energy efficiency performance in buildings can be realised alongside commitments to introduce a revamped building safety regulator. The regulator is currently the focus of a separate consultation.
The document stated, “The introduction of an uplift to Part L standards in 2020 would not only improve the energy efficiency of new homes but would also mean that home builders, installers and supply chains will be working to higher specifications in readiness for the introduction for a further uplift in 2025 to meet the Future Homes Standard.”
Development of a new compliance report for Part L and methods to ensure improved accuracy of ‘as-built energy models’, such as by proposing photographic evidence of work is provided, are among the recommendations from government to tackle concerns about the performance gap in buildings. This term relates to the sometimes-significant difference between the design intent of a new building and the actual energy performance once work is completed.
The consultation added, “As the energy performance of new dwellings is also affected by compliance with Building Regulations requirements, the government is considering it within the broader review of reforms on building safety, design, construction and occupation.”
Proposed changes set out in the consultation around reforming Part F of the Building Regulations, which relate to ventilation, includes work to simplify the process to determine ventilation rates and the type of solution or system required for ensuring fresh air in a property.
The government said in the consultation that it was also committed to incorporate guidance on reducing the ingress of external air pollutants into the approved documents of the Building Regulations. Technical content would also be reviewed, according to the proposals.
A focus on ensuring that any technical changes introduced for ventilation systems falls in line with the latest, up-to-date evidence and industry understanding follows recent concerns raised by some key industry figures and suppliers about “fundamental flaws” in the current Part F provisions.
The consultation also noted that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has commissioned and published research into ventilation and indoor air quality in new homes that warned that current provisions in Part F were largely ineffective.
It said, “The research suggested that a large proportion of homes may be failing to meet the technical standards set out in Approved Document F. This led to poor indoor air quality in several of the sample of houses tested. The research also identified some issues where people shut trickle ventilators or turned off extract fans to reduce noise.”
Government has also published a National Design Guide alongside the consultation in an attempt to provide a viable blueprint for how local authorities can ensure improved performance in the planning of new buildings.