Part L, the Code for Sustainable Homes and the definition of Zero Carbon Homes have all been brought into the forefront following a quick-fire succession of press releases and consultation announcements from various Government departments. Now the dust has settled, we can focus on the key changes and timescales.
Part L details may be released next month
Starting with Building Regulations – we know as a certainty that a new Part L is going to go live in April 2014. We are still waiting on the finer details to be released (which are expected in the next month), but we know a few nuggets of information for certain:
The Target Emission Rate in England is going to be lowered by 6% for the domestic sector and 9% for commercial. The Welsh emission rate is being reduced by 8%. These cuts are lower than many in the industry thought.
Also, a second target, measuring Fabric Energy Efficiency (FEE) is being brought in to the SAP assessment for England. This will ensure houses will be insulated to a particular standard, which means builders will not be able to rely on low carbon heating systems or renewable technology alone.
These changes will come into force on new developments from next April, so it’ll be at least eight months before anybody has to start building to this tighter standard. When Part L has been updated previously, there has been a 12 month transition allowance (meaning you could register a site before the regulations changed, and then have 12 months to start on site). It’s not yet been confirmed how a transition will work this time.
The Housing Standards Review
Elsewhere, the Housing Standards Review has released a consultation document which looks at removing unnecessary regulations in eight key areas, which includes energy and water efficiency, materials, space and accessibility.
It suggests many areas which are currently covered by the Code should no longer be enforced, either because some elements will soon be commonplace (such as smart meters and renewables), or because there are better ways of doing things (such as allowing the market to lead on materials standards, rather than dictating specific requirements.)
This consultation is open until October 22nd, which means you can have your say on the findings. If the report is left unchanged it is highly likely that the requirement for Code will be phased out over the next couple of years. We’re expecting some definite news around the time of the Part L release next April.
2016 and the Zero Carbon Homes target
The final chunky document is another consultation – this one is looking at 2016 and the Zero Carbon Homes target. The Government is still committed to having a Zero Carbon Homes policy in place by the end of 2016, but the definition of ‘Zero Carbon’ is to be made easier to achieve.
Another term - Allowable Solutions - is going to become a more common phrase in the industry. The Government has acknowledged that it won’t be possible for every new building to produce zero emissions, so ‘Allowable Solutions’ are ways of working around this. Ideas range from creating a CO2 bank account where renovations to old buildings could offset new buildings, to an offset payment to a local authority who could then invest in wind and solar farms. Again, this paper is open for comments; you have until October 15th to have your say.
There has been no announcement yet on when Allowable Solutions will be properly defined, but as this won’t be going live for another three years, there’s unlikely to be a rush.
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