New homes standards – what to expect

Boilers, Home improvements, Low Impact Technology

New homes standards – what to expect? In a long-delayed consultation on low-carbon building standards the government has formally backed plans to ban gas and “hydrogen-ready” boilers from newly built homes in England from 2025.

This could mean heat pumps being installed as standard as part of measures to make all new homes “net zero ready” from 2025. The consultation, which runs to 6 March, states that the new regulations and guidance will be published later this year with standards coming into force the following year. It rules out the use by housebuilders of all fossil fuel heating systems including gas, hybrid heat pumps and hydrogen-ready boilers, after a finding that there was “no practical way to allow the installation of fossil fuel boilers while also delivering significant carbon savings”. The government believes that net zero standards are considered key to meeting its legally binding target of net zero emissions by 2050.

However, the consultation originally expected last March was delayed amid growing controversy over the government’s links to the housebuilding sector. Alongside heat pumps, solar PV is also expected to play an important role in the development of net-zero-ready homes. Furthermore, the consultation document leaves open the option of mandating the installation of solar panels by proposing one option with solar panels and one without. The government doesn’t think that either option would have a significant impact on housing supply and affordability but is keen to hear evidence from consultees about possible impacts on the viability and deliverability of housing developments.

Solar panels will not be required for blocks of flats over 15 storeys high. The standard also proposes an option with wastewater heat-recovery systems, increased airtightness, and mechanical ventilation, and one without. The first option would “maximise carbon savings” and reduce household bills, but it “comes with additional upfront costs for developers and may therefore affect overall housing supply”. Wastewater heat-recovery systems will also not be required for single-storey flats and bungalows.

The consultation has its critics. Step forward the UK Green Building Council which promotes a sustainable built environment. Simon Mc Whirter, Deputy Chief Executive at UKGBC, said: “This can’t genuinely be described as a ‘future’ standard. Having already shattered industry confidence with repeated green rollbacks, the Government has opted for the least ambitious option that would deliver ‘future’ homes from 2025 at a lower standard than many homes already built today.” He continued: “We’re disappointed that, despite such a long delay in producing this draft Standard, the Government still hasn’t included measures to reduce the embodied carbon emissions from construction which accounts for around 1 in 10 tonnes of climate emissions in the UK. Nor has it moved to tackle flood risk or end the huge water waste from new builds that is driving shortages and so much ecological damage.”

For those with long memories way back in 2006 the then Labour government set a target for all new homes to be zero carbon by 2016 . Since 2016 around 1.4 million new homes have been built.

Expensive retro fitting anyone?