New building regulations impose tough conditions on the construction sector, but it is essential that we rise to the challenge, Andrew Mellor says 

Andrew Mellor_PRP_crop

Two weeks ago, the housing minister announced the publication of the government’s response to the Future Homes Standard consultation, as well as the launch of the second part of the consultation which considers a proposed Future Buildings Standard. 

The standards propose changes that will decarbonise England’s building stock as well as reduce the impact of climate change (warmer temperatures) on those who occupy buildings, which is of course all of us. 

While the Future Homes Standard consultation considered new homes, the Future Building Standard consultation considers changes to energy and ventilation standards for non-domestic buildings, existing homes and includes proposals to mitigate against overheating in residential buildings and non-domestic buildings incorporating residential accommodation. 

Both the Future Homes and Future Buildings Standards are proposed to be introduced in 2025. The interim changes to building regulations, seen as a major step towards the Future Standards, were proposed to be introduced in 2020 but, due to the covid pandemic, the government has delayed introduction of the changes to Part L (Conservation of Fuel and Power) & Part F (Ventilation) until 2021.

Interestingly given the pandemic, it is proposed that there will be a new requirement for additional ventilation and indoor air quality monitoring in high-risk non-domestic buildings such as offices and gyms, to minimise the risk of infections being spread indoors.

The 2021 changes will apply to new homes, work done to existing homes, new non-domestic buildings as well as work done to existing non-domestic buildings. The interim energy performance standard for new homes is now confirmed as being a 31% reduction and, for non-domestic buildings, it is proposed to be a 27% reduction in emissions, both compared to the existing Part L standards.

The interim steps aim to help the construction industry to prepare for the much bigger change that is coming in 2025

Besides having an immediate impact on the energy performance of new buildings and carbon emissions associated with energy use, the interim steps aim to help the construction industry – including product suppliers – to prepare for the much bigger change that is coming in 2025.  

Given that we are already in 2021 and the second part of the consultation period is only just published, we can probably assume that the changes will not become legislation until much later this year, with the implementation happening in 2022. This still does not give the industry much time to prepare; especially since the calculation software is not yet published, to enable us understand what the required fabric and system changes will be required to meet the new performance targets.   

Local authorities will be able to continue to set their own energy standards for new residential developments, at least in the short term.  So, we could still have planning policy standards above and beyond the 2021 Part L standards.  

The transitional arrangements for Part L 2021 have been published for works to new homes and we can only suppose at this stage that they will similarly apply to new non-domestic building and works to existing buildings too.

We will see a plethora of new home starts in spring 2021 to avoid the new legislation and additional costs

For new homes, a building regulations application must be made by June 2022 and work on individual dwellings must have commenced on site before June 2023 otherwise the Part L 2021 requirements will apply. The current system applies to the start of the development on site; the change is that it will apply to the start of work on the individual home.

This is to prevent large developments being built out over a number of years to the current Part L 2013 requirements. We will therefore undoubtedly see a plethora of new home starts in spring 2021 to avoid the new legislation and additional costs.  

The next 12 months are going to be challenging for the construction sector for many reasons. The new regulations alone will require much time and consideration for designers, developers, contractors and product suppliers to understand the changes and develop compliant solutions. 

There is, however, an absolute need for us all to respond positively to the change. We must ensure that what we design and build has an absolute minimal impact on the environment.

Environmental impact has been demoted by other concerns in recent years. I for one applaud its promotion to the premier league again.

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