Following years of delays and discussions in Westminster, energy efficiency standards for new developments in England have taken a big leap forward this week.
On December 15th, 2021, the UK Government published a series of new Approved Documents. These are the guidance manuals for how to comply with Building Regulations.
Four volumes - two rewrites and two brand new - will become mandatory on all new building sites from June 15th, 2022.
We are expecting the Welsh Government to announce a similar set of releases in the coming weeks.
This summary gives a high-level explanation of what’s changing. We’ll be publishing more specific articles in the New Year.
Approved Document L (AD L) – Energy Efficiency
With a clear focus on the UK’s 2050 zero carbon commitments, AD L has been updated to set much stricter goals for carbon emissions and energy use in new buildings.
As well as enhanced SAP and SBEM targets, thicker minimum insulation levels and better heating efficiencies, AD L will also require detailed Home User Guides and a library of photographic evidence throughout construction for every new home.
For those who say this doesn’t go far enough, the Future Homes Standard policy confirms that a second upgrade to AD L, which will push sustainability even further, will be published in 2025.
The 2022 updates mean the standard housebuilding approach of using a good fabric and gas boiler won’t be enough to meet building regulations.
Low energy heating systems (such as heat pumps), renewable technology (like solar panels) and significant fabric improvements (triple glazing, very low air pressure tests) will become the norm.
Approved Document O (AD O) – Overheating
Making our homes more energy efficient while ensuring our homes are comfortable to live in can be a tricky balance.
A dwelling with high levels of insulation and large windows will do well against AD L targets, but is more likely to overheat, causing uncomfortable living conditions for occupants.
Until now, building regulations have only brushed against overheating concerns, leaving local planning authorities to set their own targets.
AD O (which had the working title of AD ‘X’) now sets mandatory requirements for all residential buildings, ensuring the design doesn’t lead to excessive temperatures in summer months.
The new rules mean every home will need to be assessed using either a simplified method of checking window sizes and openable areas, or an advanced 3D thermal model for dwellings which are at a higher risk of overheating, such as central London apartment blocks.
Approved Document F (AD F) – Ventilation
Another issue with constructing buildings to be more energy efficient is that it can have an adverse impact on ventilation.
Our homes need a steady amount of fresh air passing through to avoid the build-up of stale smells, mould growth and condensation. Building homes with lower air infiltration (leaks) means we need to install better ventilation systems to keep the fresh air flowing.
Updates to AD F aim to address this, paying particular attention to the renovation of existing buildings.
Finding a route to compliance with AD L without upsetting the requirements of AD O and AD F is going to be critical for designers of houses from next year.
Approved Document S (AD S) – Car charging
Disconnected from the other three but released at the same time is AD S. This new Approved Document sets out expectations that new developments will include infrastructure for electric car charging points.
This news is hot off the press. We are still reading through the technical manuals and will be giving a more detailed breakdown of the changes in the New Year.
Energist’s Technical Team is busy reviewing these updates to the Building Regulations, and will soon be ready to offer guidance to architects and designers on how to comply with the new AD L and AD O documents.
Look out for further articles in 2022.