Revised building regulations mean reducing carbon emissions by a third from this summer

All new buildings must reduce their carbon emissions by about a third, the government announced today.

Building Regulations will be amended to enforce a 30% cut on emissions from new homes and a 27% cut on other buildings.

The new rules will come into force in June, with a transition period to allow for planning applications that are in progress at the time.

Eddie Hughes, a minister in the Department for Levelling Up, Communities and Housing, said the change would pave the way for the Future Homes and Buildings Standard in 2025 and would mean all future homes would be net zero-ready and would not need retrofitting.

“The changes will significantly improve the energy efficiency of the buildings where we live, work and spend our free time and are an important step on our country’s journey towards a cleaner, greener built environment,” he said.

The announcements were set out in the Department for Levelling-Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC)’s response published today to a public consultation, which ran from January to April on the Future Buildings Standard. It details interim uplifts to Parts L and F of the Building Regulations and the introduction of Part O.

The initial response from industry was luke-warm.

RIBA president Simon Allford said: “These uplifts will bring us one step closer to decarbonisation, and we welcome that.

“The new minimum standards for fabric efficiency and new Part O signal real progress, but without regulation of actual energy use, the built environment will not decarbonise at the rate required. Regulations must continue to tighten.”

He said the RIBA would work with ministers to try and ensure the 2025 Future Homes and Buildings Standards addressed the urgency of the task at hand.

PRP partner Andrew Mellor was more downbeat. He said: “We are currently undertaking work for clients looking at the future performance requirements of homes to hit a true net zero performance.

“That analysis shows that the likely Future Homes Standard requirements do not go anywhere near far enough and that developers will have to go much further to hit the RIBA 2030 standard and even further to meet the LETI standards.

“Architects and developers need one standard from government, membership bodies and the advisory groups which achieves true net zero. Disparity between standards will not help industry to achieve the net zero goal.”

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The new regulations will come into effect from 15 June 2022. The DLUHC said transitional arrangements for the next six months will mean that if a building notice, initial notice or full plans for building work are submitted to a local authority before 15 June 2022 then, provided the building work commences by 15 June 2023, work on that individual building will be permitted under the previous standards.

Ministers said the government was providing £6.6bn of direct investment into improving the energy efficiency of buildings during this Parliament through schemes such as the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, Local Authority Delivery scheme and Home Upgrade Grant scheme which make grants to low-income households for measures including insulation, solar panels and heat pumps.

But last year’s botched Green Homes Grant scheme was branded a failure by MPs after just 5% of the £1.5bn fund was spent in the four months before the government canned it, leaving many builders and installers in the lurch.

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In April a coalition of architects, built environment and climate groups wrote to the permanent secretary at the then MHCLG, Jeremy Pocklington, highlighting what it described as “significant shortcomings” in the proposed Future Buildings Standard.

The 21 signatories who included the RIBA, Architects Declare, the Architects Climate Action Network and the UK Green Building Council, said the government must be far more ambitious in the way it regulates the energy consumption of new buildings.

The letter outlined serious concerns about the proposed new energy and ventilation standards for non-domestic buildings and existing homes in England. Alongside ambitious new standards, the letter also called for a national retrofit strategy to discourage the demolition of salvageable buildings.