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Future Homes Standard brings ‘much-needed clarity’ but falls short on ambition

Industry leaders broadly welcomed new building regulations aimed at drastically cutting carbon emissions in new homes by 2025 while questioning whether it goes far enough.

In its response to the Future Homes Standard consultation launched last year, the government introduced energy efficiency standards to ensure new homes produce 75-80% less carbon by 2025.

In a step toward that goal, new homes built in 2021 will have to produce 31% fewer emissions than they previously did.

The goal is for homes to be “zero carbon ready” by 2025, meaning that new homes will not need any refurbishments to become carbon neutral once the electricity grid has been decarbonised.

Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, said: “After a long wait, the Government’s response to the Future Homes Standard consultation brings much-needed clarity to our industry.

“We are pleased to see confirmation that the Future Homes Standard will mean new homes will have carbon dioxide emissions 75-80% lower than those built to current building regulations – though it’s regrettable that the Standard won’t be implemented till 2025, despite it being widely trailed that it would be brought forward to 2023.

“We also welcome the interim 31% threshold later this year, which will put us on a path to the Future Homes Standard.”

The government also confirmed that it will not amend the Planning and Energy Act 2008, which allows local authorities to set local energy efficiency standards. Given that many local authorities have declared climate emergencies, this means they can continue setting stricter limits. However, Hirigoyen said she was disappointed that the government has not ruled out restricting those powers in the future.

She added that the government’s decision to ditch plans to scrap the Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard – which sets a limit on the amount of energy needed to maintain comfortable internal temperatures – was a “big relief”, a view shared by the Royal Institute of British Architects.

In its response, however, RIBA said the regulations do not go far enough: “While a 75-80% reduction in carbon emissions is welcome, we’d like to see government implement specific targets for carbon emissions, rather than continuing to compare emissions from existing buildings.

“Disappointingly – and quite significantly – the government has made no commitment calculating the operational energy or embodied carbon of new homes. We will continue to make the case to government about the importance of these metrics.”

Meanwhile, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health questioned the efficacy of the regulations, saying: “The government’s proposals around improving build quality are centred on the creation of the Building Safety Regulator, which is being set up in response to Grenfell and the Hackitt Inquiry.

“However, this regulator’s main focus will be on high-risk buildings rather than all buildings. We will, therefore, need to see how the wider regulatory regime is improved in practice once the new national body is in full operation.”

The Federation of Master Builders said that while new high quality homes are needed, low carbon emissions strategies need to also consider retrofits.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “A focus on future homes shouldn’t forget Britain’s 28m existing homes, many of which are energy inefficient, and 85% of which will still be in use in 2050.

“These homes need to be retrofitted to help deliver the government’s net zero carbon targets as well as creating much-needed jobs and training opportunities in each community across the country.”

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