The ink is barely dry on the consultation document, but the UK government’s proposed standards for future homes and buildings has already prompted criticism that it is a pale ‘imitation’ of past ambitions.
Earlier this week, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) opened the consultation on the Future Homes & Buildings Standard, setting out requirements for properties built from 2025, with the deadline for responses closing on 6 March 2024.
However, the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has accused the government of going for the “least ambitious option”, claiming that the draft sets out energy efficiency standards lower than many of the homes built today.
Simon McWhirter, the UKGBC’s deputy chief executive, 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.
“On the last day of the global climate negotiations when we’re in the last chance saloon to keep temperatures under 1.5 degrees, it’s unconscionable that the government is consulting on scrapping the expectation that new roofs should have solar panels, when this is already widely delivered through current regulations.
“While the government is right, of course, to finally end the era of burning gas and oil in our new homes and buildings, fitting low-carbon heating sources such as heat pumps is already commonplace, and the standard provides no improvement in energy efficiency.
“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 one 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.
“The best developers have spent years and millions gearing up for modern green building standards, which shows that higher standards are possible. UKGBC will be convening our members to submit a detailed response to the consultation that sets out how higher standards can be practical, affordable and protect climate and nature.”
Ian Rippin, chief executive of standards certification body for the home renewables sector, MCS, welcomes some of the proposals, but is left disappointed by others.
“Mandating [that] all space heating and hot water demand in new homes should be met through low-carbon sources will ensure the UK makes quicker progress towards decarbonising our housing stock. It also gives homeowners assurance that they are making the right decision in installing a heat pump, which is a proven technology for heating our homes,” he said.
“We are disappointed that no clear stance has been declared on mandating Solar PV for all new homes, but remain hopeful that the outcome of the consultation will conclude that solar is a must-have for new build homes, supporting homeowners by decreasing electricity bills, securing energy independence, and reducing their carbon impact.
“It is particularly pleasing to see that the government has proposed mandating that all battery storage systems must be safely and efficiently installed in compliance with MCS standards.
“Our homes generate almost 20% of the UK’s carbon emissions and creating a standard for new homes goes a huge way to supporting our shared national journey towards a Net Zero 2050.”
Heat pump manufacturer, Kensa Group was more welcoming, referring to its proposals zero carbon heating in new homes as “bold”.
Tamsin Lishman, the company’s chief executive, said: “The publication of proposals requiring all new homes to be low-cost, low-carbon and energy efficient to run is a major step forward for the decarbonisation of homes and heat.
“This new standard will boost heat pump installations drastically, expanding the market from 50,000 to over 250,000 almost overnight, providing companies like Kensa with the confidence to go ahead and invest heavily in new manufacturing facilities and the continued development of our supply chains.
“It is particularly important that these proposals intend to make heat pumps and low-carbon heat networks the default options for heat in new homes, effectively banning new gas grid connections and so-called hydrogen-ready boilers from installation.
“Allowing these technologies to continue to be installed in new homes would simply have maintained confusion about the future of home heating and short-changed hundreds of thousands of new home buyers who would have inevitably had to replace their fossil fuel heating system in the years to come.
“In an extremely busy policy landscape, establishing these standards is the single most important step the government can take to fire up the heat pump market and drive investment in the sector.”
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