Analysis of the Future Homes Standard Consultation Outcome

On 19th January 2021 the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) published its long awaited response to the Future Homes Standard consultation which closed in March 2020. Since its release Elmhurst has been busy analysing the consultation outcome, and has put together a more detailed look at the response and confirmed changes to Building Regulations.

Future Homes Standard

In the initial consultation it was proposed a home in 2025 would have 75-80% lower carbon emissions than current Part L standards. The expected form of heating would mainly be heat pumps and heat networks, with traditional fossil fuel fired boilers phased out. MHCLG has now confirmed this will be the expected standard for a home built to the Future Homes Standard in 2025.

There were some rumours this may happen by 2023 so MHCLG has clarified the timetable for the Future Homes Standard as follows:

Timing 

Milestone

Jan 2021

Future Building Standards consultation published

December 2021

Interim Part F + L and Overheating regulations published

June 2022

Interim Part F + L and Overheating regulations commence

Spring 2023

Consultation on Future Homes Standard

2024

Future Homes Standard published

2025

Future Homes Standard comes into force

MHCLG has accelerated the move to the Future Homes Standard slightly by bringing forward the consultation on the Future Homes Standard specification from 2024 to 2023.

Finally it was proposed to amend the Planning and Energy Act to restrict local authorities from setting energy efficiency standards above Building Regulations. Whilst the logic to this was to improve understanding and consistency of standards across the country, it was not well received by the industry and consequently MHCLG have opted not to implement this.

Part L 2021

As part of the transition to the Future Homes Standard it was proposed to have an interim change to Part L standards for new dwellings. As shown above this is now projected for June 2022 and will include the following changes.

Energy Efficiency Standards

In the original consultation it was proposed to introduce three compulsory metrics for compliance based on Primary Energy, Carbon Emissions and Cost.

Controversially it was also proposed to remove the fabric energy efficiency standard (FEES) as a compliance metric. This proposal drew much criticism as many felt this could result in dwellings being built to lower fabric standards than the existing Part L, with poor performance being masked by green technologies such as heat pumps. It appears as a result of this criticism MHCLG have changed their mind, and the Fabric Energy Efficiency standard will remain in Part L 2021. The following metrics will now be used to ensure homes are low energy, low carbon and it is assumed by association, low cost;

  • Primary Energy in the form of the dwelling and target primary energy rates
  • Carbon Emissions in the form of the dwelling and target emission rates
  • Fabric Energy Efficiency in the form of the dwelling and target fabric energy efficiency rate

Two levels of uplift over current Part L were proposed; a 19% reduction or 31% reduction in carbon emissions. As expected the 31% uplift has been chosen and Elmhurst will be working on updating our Design SAP 10 Beta software to reflect the new changes as soon as possible.

Minimum standards for Fabric and Services

Due to the proposed removal of FEES it was suggested the limiting fabric parameters for new build dwellings be written into building regulations. However, as FEES is now retained this will not be implemented. The following minimum standards will be required for thermal elements in Part L 2021;

Element

Part L 2021 standard

External Walls

0.26 w/m2k

Party Walls

0.2 w/m2k

Roofs

0.16 w/m2k

Floors

0.18 w/m2k

Windows

1.6 w/m2k

Rooflights

2.2 w/m2k

Doors

1.6 w/m2k

Air Permeability

8 m3/m2/hr @ 50 Pa

Whilst at first sight these standards do not seem very demanding, in practice it will be the FEES that drives high performing standards for fabric.

The suggested minimum standards for building services have also now been confirmed and has seen a slight improvement in standards for heat pumps and light fittings over the standards proposed in the consultation.

Airtightness

There is some good news for Air Tightness Testers as the proposal to remove sample testing and therefore conduct a test on every new home has been implemented into Part L 2021. The government estimates this should see an increase of around 14% in air tightness tests across the industry. This also applies to small sites which currently can avoid air tightness testing if compliance with the energy efficiency standards is achieved using a score of 15 m3/m2/hr @ 50 Pa.

In order to encourage the use of appropriate ventilation for air tight homes, SAP will not show any savings for a test score lower than 3 m3/m2/hr @50 Pa if mechanical ventilation is not used. Whilst Elmhurst agrees that inadequate ventilation for air tight homes causes issues with air quality, we did not agree that artificially limiting the air tightness in the SAP engine was the best way to implement this. We believe this could increase the performance gap and the energy ratings may not be a true reflection of the performance of the dwelling.

Finally as expected the PULSE method of air tightness testing will be introduced as an alternative to the existing blower door test. Further details of PULSE can be found here.

Improving Compliance, Performance and Providing Information

In the FHS consultation a new industry standard report, known as the BREL (Building Regulations England Part L) report was proposed. This will be implemented in Part L 2021, although the format of it may still be subject to change before the final approved document is issued.

One of the more significant proposals was the requirement to provide photographic evidence of the construction of the dwelling to building control bodies, OCDEAs and the home owners. This has been confirmed in Part L 2021 and items such as ground floor perimeter insulation, ground floor to wall junction detail, window positions in relation to cavity closers and space/hot water heating systems, will need to be photographed during the build process. Currently no restrictions have been made on who can take the photographs. This is an important change and all stakeholders will need to fully understand the requirements to ensure it is implemented successfully when Part L 2021 commences.

Transitional arrangements

The current building regulations allow for entire sites (sometimes numbering hundreds of plots) to be built to older versions of regulations, if a single dwelling makes a start within a year of depositing the building regulations application. Whilst there is some logic to this in regards to consistency of specification and budgeting, it does result in homes being built to standards as much as ten years old sometimes. This is fundamentally wrong and something which Elmhurst has lobbied Government to change for years.

For Part L 2021 the site wide approach to transitioning across regulations will change to a plot specific approach. Therefore, plots that do not start within a year of the regulations application, even if on the same site, would need to be built to the latest standards. This will need careful management from all industry stakeholders to ensure the correct regulations are applied and enforced.


Summary

Elmhurst’s On Construction Team Leader, Jason Hewins, commented; “In summary the detail of the Future Homes Standard and Part L 2021 is mostly what we expected and lobbied for in our consultation response. The return of FEES is perhaps the main departure from the initial consultation, and this was something Elmhurst also argued for in our consultation response. The increase in air tightness testing, improved compliance procedures and transitional arrangements are welcomed and we look forward to seeing these implemented in 2022. Elmhurst will keep members updated with further insights shortly to ensure everyone is prepared for the changes to regulations in 2022 and beyond.”


View Consultation Outcome: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/the-future-homes-standard-changes-to-part-l-and-part-f-of-the-building-regulations-for-new-dwellings

View all Open Consultations: https://www.elmhurstenergy.co.uk/government-consultations


Article published: 28/01/2021

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