10th October, 2019

The Future Homes Standard Consultation. Air Tightness Testing.

The release of the Future Homes Standard Consultation on October 1st, containing changes to Part L (fuel and power) and Part F (ventilation) of the Building Regulations for new dwellings, details significant changes over current regulations.

The FES Group is committed to helping our clients form an understanding of the implications and how they can prepare for this future vision.

What is the Future Homes Standard?

Scheduled to come into force in 2025, it is a significant step in the UK Government’s commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2050. The objective is to make new homes energy efficient and future proof. Under current Part L standards, existing homes account for around 20% of carbon emissions. As a result of these proposed changes the Government expects a new home will have 70-80% less carbon emissions.

Part L 2020, the first step towards the Future Homes Standard

As a stepping stone to the proposed Future Homes Standard, this consultation relates to the upcoming changes to Approved Document L and F to be introduced in 2020. While the options put forward within the consultation are subject to change following industry feedback, we can see a very strong message being sent by a Government with clear future intentions and The FES Group are making preparations for all of the proposed items to be brought forward into the new Part L document.

Residential or Commercial?

Part L changes are now detailed in two volumes. Volume one, which was released in this consultation on October 1st, is concerned with residential dwellings. Volume two will cover commercial projects and is expected next year. It is worth saying at this stage that we anticipate the volume two changes will be as significant as those seen in volume one.

The key points

New Primary Energy Target alongside CO2; with the removal of the Target Fabric Energy Efficiency (TFEE) metric

Two proposed options will raise the bar in terms of carbon emission

1) 20% reduction or 2) 31% reduction – Government preferred solution
This represents a big step change from the 2010-2013 values. With existing expertise in assessing primary energy performance, The FES Group will continue to examine the likely impact of these changes on our clients.

Adopting SAP10 which will introduce new calculation methodology
The calculation tool to support the new methodology has yet to be released, although we are expecting it imminently. As a result, we are currently unable to provide any accurate calculations in this respect.

Introduction of improved, more stringent limiting values on fabric u-values
The introduction of new u-values makes the Fabric Energy Efficiency targets, TFEE and DFEE, redundant.

Re-calculation of carbon emissions of fuels and the removal of carbon factors
The associated carbon emissions of fuels will be recalculated in recognition of the increased amount of renewable energy within the National Grid.

The removal of fuel factors will also see a drop in overall performance in oil and LPG as a main heating fuel. While these steps do not form an outright ban on the use of such fuels, using these within the design of a new dwelling will require significant consideration.

New dwellings to be ready for low carbon heating systems
A seismic shift towards electrical heating solutions as changes to the National Grid make electricity more carbon efficient. There will likely be investment in technology to support community heating schemes, air source heat pumps and other all-electric heating systems. The consultation explicitly states that ‘no new homes should be connected to the gas grid from 2025’.

Removal of air test averaging requiring developers to undertake individual air tests on a plot by plot basis
The existing approved methodology for air tightness testing will be moved to an independent body, CIBSE. Under the proposal all new homes must be air tightness tested in place of the current sample and averages approach. The draft methodology will be made available in mid-October, and we will be reviewing this as soon as it is available to see what implication this could have for our clients.

Proposed Households affordability standard and further EPC evidence
Effectively a cap on the cost of running a new home, the proposed Households affordability standard will be based on the EPC rating, although details as to exactly how this will be calculated have not been confirmed. In addition, we may see the introduction of photographic evidence taken during construction made available to householders to support the EPC. The FES Group are already looking at ways to minimise the disruption for clients by incorporating this into the current streamlined EPC process.

Local authority standardisation
A directive designed to tackle variations in energy efficiency standards throughout local authority planning policies, this recommendation removes the opportunity for targets higher than the building regulations. We are awaiting clarification as to how any of the proposed changes will be applied in Scotland under Section 6.

Take the first steps towards the Future Homes Standard with The FES Group

The FES Group are working hard to minimise the potential disruption and cost implications of these proposed changes on behalf of our clients and we will continue to provide analysis on this important consultation over the coming months.

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