Net Zero Homes and the push to the Future Homes Standard

Part of the Government’s plans to reach its net zero carbon agenda are coming to fruition, with awaited changes to the Approved Documents coming into force imminently. James Shapland, Surveyor Partner outlines the details.

Net Zero Homes and the push to the Future Homes Standard

The Approved Documents are a suite of guidance documents which set out the minimum standards in construction, under the Building Regulations. They cover items like the ‘Resistance to the Passage of Sound’ (‘Part E’) and ‘Drainage & Waste Disposal’ (‘Part H’) to give two examples.

‘Part L’ relates to the Conservation of Fuel and Power, and in 2021 the most recent edition was published. The new minimum standards set out within the Approved Document seek to reduce carbon emissions from new homes by 31% over the 2013 edition (similarly, the new requirements for the construction of commercial buildings will see a carbon reduction of 27%). The current step is seen as an interim measure, as the industry moves towards ‘The Future Homes Standard’ which is planned to be implemented in 2025.

The new standards will continue to focus on the fabric performance of a new home. This relates to the amount of insulation a certain building element needs to include as a minimum. As a result, the requirement for insulation in the external walls will be tightened. Other areas where these limiting values will be bettered are roofs, floors and windows. This will need consideration early in the planning process, as it is likely to mean that thicker external walls will be required compared to the previous standards (when building with traditional construction methods).

In conjunction, the amount of carbon the new home will produce in occupation will come under more scrutiny, with a more favourable rating given to those schemes which include low carbon technology to produce heating and energy. Briefly, these measures potentially include solar photo-voltaic panels (PV), air and ground source heat pumps and Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery (MVHR). Again, if these types of measures are needed, then this will require consideration early in the planning stage, particularly when planning to build in sensitive areas such as Conservation Areas or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Alongside the changes to ‘Part L’ consideration has also been given to improving the minimum standards which relate to ventilation (‘Part F’). As a result of the warming climate, these changes have been implemented as homes, in summer periods, are also getting warmer. The changes to ‘Part F’ for residential and commercial properties are accompanied by a completely new Approved Document – ‘Part O’: Overheating.

It is also pleasing to see that another completely new Approved Document has been produced. ‘Part S’. This is entitled ‘Infrastructure for the Charging of Electric Vehicles’. The document is divided into 6 sections which deal with the respective requirements when building a new home, when converting a building into a home and when undertaking major renovation to a home, to highlight just three of the sections.

Whilst the new standards have been published for some time, they will become enforceable on 15th June 2022. Transitional arrangements are in place which 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 is permitted to continue under the previous standards.

Some will argue that these new minimum standards are long overdue, and this may be true. However, it is good to see that efforts are being made to try to help combat the amount of carbon our housing stock emits. Whilst, for some, the new measures will take some getting used to, they are no doubt a step in the right direction.

James Shapland is Surveyor Partner within our Building, Survey & Design department based in Wimborne. Find the range of planning, building, refurbishment or property alteration services they can offer here, or contact them on 01202 882103



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