Out-Law / Your Daily Need-To-Know

Government confirms future standards for English buildings

Out-Law News | 23 Dec 2021 | 4:50 pm | 3 min. read

The UK government has confirmed revised energy efficiency standards, new ventilation and overheating standards and electric vehicle (EV) charging point requirements for new homes and buildings in England, aimed at significantly reducing their carbon emissions.

The standards are due to come into effect in 2025 but interim requirements, by way of amendments to the building regulations for both domestic and non-domestic buildings, will come into force on 15 June 2022. The government has also published five new ‘Approved Documents’ to provide guidance on the new rules, which will come into force on the same date.

Real estate expert Siobhan Cross of Pinsent Masons said: “The introduction of these amendments to the building regulations is welcome and another necessary step on the path to the transition to net zero buildings”.

“However, the short lead in time between their introduction and coming into effect together with the more limited transitional provisions will no doubt cause some headaches for those intending to commence the building regulation approval process shortly after 15 June 2022. There is a great deal of detail to absorb and implement,” she said.

The interim standard for energy efficiency will apply to new non-domestic buildings and is designed to deliver a 27% cut to carbon emissions. It will also require improvements in ventilation for new and existing non-domestic buildings to reduce the risk of transmission of airborne viruses and compliance with a new requirement for overheating mitigation in new domestic buildings.

Full details about the interim standard, as well as an interim standard for dwellings which would reduce CO2 emissions by around 30%, are contained in the Building Regulations etc (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2021, which were laid before parliament on 15 December. The government has also published five new ‘Approved Documents’: on fuel conservation for domestic and non-domestic buildings; on ventilation for domestic and non-domestic buildings; and on overheating in domestic buildings.

The government has at the same time issued its response to a consultation on the Future Buildings Standard (175-page / 3.05MB PDF), which is due to come into effect in England in 2025. The response follows its January 2021 response to the consultation on the Future Homes Standard.

Cross Siobhan

Siobhan Cross

Partner

The short lead in time between the introduction of the amendments and their coming into effect together with the more limited transitional provisions will no doubt cause some headaches. There is a great deal of detail to absorb and implement

The government’s latest response confirms that it considers heat pumps and heat networks and, to a lesser extent, direct electric heating will be the principle routes to decarbonising non-domestic buildings. The new standard would make buildings energy efficient and will require low carbon heating so that it will produce buildings that are “zero carbon ready” and will not require any retro-fitting as the electricity grid decarbonises. A new primary energy target metric will be used as well as a CO2 emissions metric and minimum standard for fabric and building services.

The response states the government will consult on the technical aspects of the Future Home and Future Building Standards in 2023, before which it will engage with stakeholders. The government is developing a statement of intent, which it hopes to publish “shortly”, which will consider what more needs to be done beyond 2025 by government and industry to deliver net zero carbon buildings by 2050.

“The proposed timing of the consultation in 2023 on the technical details for any more major amendment to the building regulations with effect from 2025 must be met and the government’s response to that needs to be prompt to avoid the same issue and to avoid higher than necessary numbers of buildings falling within the transitional provisions,” said Siobhan Cross.

“In the meantime, when planning new developments or major renovations for which they are likely to commence the building regulation process in or after 2025, building owners would be well advised to have regard to the detail in the government’s responses to the Future Homes and Building Standards consultations or to be more ambitious than the minimum standards likely to be set by the Building Regulations from 2025 so as to avoid the need to ‘retrofit’ their plans at a later date,” she said.

Transitional arrangements have been put in place which mean that, with very limited exceptions for certain of the amendments, 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 is permitted to continue under the previous standards. The previous site-wide approach to transitional arrangements will not apply.

In a second set of amendments to the building regulations, requirements have been introduced for the installation of specified minimum numbers of numbers of charging points for electric vehicles in new buildings with associated parking in England, as well as buildings undergoing a material change of use to residential or major renovations to buildings where the material change of use or major renovations involve work to a car park. There are exemptions from these requirements and provisions for more minor works in certain circumstances – for example, where certain cost caps are exceeded or where there is insufficient electricity supply to a building.

These requirements also come into force on the 15 June 2022 and are subject to transitional provisions in the same form as those for the building regulation amendments which introduce the interim standards for energy efficiency, ventilation and overheating.