2019 has been referred to as the year the world woke up to the climate crisis. The year saw flooding fires, climate strikes, rebellions and an increased overall focus on sustainability and conservation. It closed with the European Parliament’s declaration of a climate and environment emergency and a push to limit global temperature rises to 1.5oC.
This new decade is crucial for combating global warming and governments all over the world are looking for ways to minimise the carbon footprint of their countries.
In the UK, the built environment accounts for a large proportion of total carbon emissions so it is unsurprising that housing has become a focal point. In March 2019, the UK government announced the introduction of the Future Homes Standard to be implemented for all new-build homes by 2025. The 2019 Consultation is currently reviewing the ventilation (Part F) and the energy efficiency (Part L) requirements of the current Building Regulations with the aim of cutting energy use of new buildings in half by 2030. In June 2019, the UK government passed a 2050 net zero carbon emissions target into law.
These targets are extremely ambitious and meaningful uplifts to minimum energy performance standards and insultation standards can be expected imminently to start paving the way towards a carbon neutral future.
Amendments to Part F of the Building Regulations will look to address the air quality inside buildings, particularly in cities.
It is the proposed amendments to Part L that are particularly substantial. Heat loss from new homes is to be significantly decreased through triple glazing and high fabric standards for the insulation of walls, floors and roofs. Photographic evidence may be required to prove compliance with the new minimum standards. More new homes are also to include installations of low carbon heating systems such as heat pumps, heat networks or direct electric heating to replace the typical gas boiler. It is envisaged that new homes will not be able to connect to the gas network as of 2025 but this is under consideration due to the potential increased demand on the electricity grid and increase in energy bills.
An advanced option using on-site renewables such as solar panels is also being considered which would deliver higher rates of energy efficiency but would carry significantly higher build costs.
Transitional arrangements for compliance are to be much more stringent than we have previously seen in order to prevent developers continuing to build properties that do not meet the new requirements. The arrangements will apply to individual buildings, rather than whole developments, where work has not actually started within a reasonable period. This will mean that, after the transition period, any building on a site for which construction has not actually commenced will be subject to the new standards.
The Future Homes Standard is expected to reduce carbon emissions from new homes by 75-80% compared to those built today. New homes built to the Future Homes Standard are expected to achieve net zero carbon by 2050 without further intervention as the electricity grid is gradually decarbonised and fossil fuels are phased out.
A second consultation will consider how improvements can be made to existing homes and new and existing non-domestic buildings. All buildings across the UK need to be decarbonised if we are to meet the 2050 deadline. This consultation will also address overheating in buildings which currently results in around 2,000 deaths every year in England and Wales and is expected to become more prevalent as temperatures rise.
Zero carbon homes are coming and is a start but there is still much work to be done to achieve a carbon-neutral future.