A-Rated EPCs and ‘near’ zero carbon targets for Welsh affordable homes
18 Aug 2020
Affordable Homes should be designed and built to be just that… homes which are affordable to live in.
And this month the Welsh Government has released an ambitious vision for how affordable homes will look in years to come.
The Mandatory Quality Standards for New Homes consultation is open for public scrutiny until the end of October.
The vision includes A-Rated EPCs as standard, minimum floor space requirements and targeting ‘near zero carbon’ performance.
Currently, if a builder wants to apply for a Social Housing Grant to fund construction work, they need to follow the guidance of the Development Quality Requirements.
This document sets the standard for all affordable housing in Wales, but it was written in 2005 so is overdue a rewrite.
Its replacement – working title of Beautiful Homes and Spaces – promises simplified standards, but some of the suggestions are likely to push developers outside their comfort zones.
Firstly, they are proposing that all new affordable homes built in Wales should achieve an A Rated EPC as standard.
Very few houses currently reach such a high standard of energy performance. This would ensure cheap fuel bills for occupants, but construction companies will need to consider how to balance an enhanced fabric requirement with low carbon heating and renewable technology as part of their standard design.
This could bring an increase in the amount of prefabricated housing, as high levels of insulation and low levels of air leakage are more consistent using this approach.
Another point up for consideration is the early introduction of new building regulations. Part L (fuel and power) and Part F (ventilation) are currently under review and are expected to be changed next year. ‘Transitional Arrangements’ give the construction industry time to read, understand and adapt to the new rules before they go live.
This consultation looks at ignoring the Transitional Arrangement time frame, which means these Part L and Part F changes, when announced, could apply to new affordable homes with immediate effect.
The Government is yet to confirm the details of these building regulation changes, but we believe the Target Emission Rate will be enhanced by more than a third, U-Value targets will be stricter, and new requirements on air quality and overheating may be introduced.
The third statement to note in the Mandatory Quality Standard consultation is the proverbial can which has been kicked down the road for several years – zero carbon homes.
The review is calling for all new affordable homes from 2021 to be ‘near zero carbon’, with the same targets rolled out to all homes from 2025.
This phrase ‘near zero carbon’ describes the energy performance of a home built to the proposed new Part L targets. This means houses built to meet these new Approved Document targets will be automatically considered to be ‘near zero carbon’.
In England, the Future Homes Standard consultation sets out similar targets for all new dwellings in 2025. Affordable Homes in Wales may be expected to meet this 2025 energy efficiency target from next year.
Although these targets haven’t yet been confirmed, we are expecting the biggest shake up since SAP calculations were first made mandatory in 2005. Our articles on the Future Homes Standard cover this in more detail.
If developers in Wales are interested in replying to the consultation, it is open until November 1st