The Government’s plan to set England on course for building more energy efficient homes – The Future Homes Standard – is coming under fire from industry experts who claim the new regulations will bring a reduction in fabric performance for new homes.
There is certainly an argument for this as the Target Fabric Energy Efficiency – which sets a maximum energy demand for a dwelling’s heating, hot water, ventilation and lighting – is set to be scrapped. This means a builder could reduce the amount of insulation in a new home providing the overall specification meets the new targets.
The TFEE was introduced in 2013 to Part L in England to avoid builders creating a below standard shell, and then using PV panels or heat pumps to make the SAP work overall.
If plans to remove the TFEE are carried forward into the next version of ADL, there are concerns that we could see this approach being taken more regularly, which flies in the face of the Building Regulation Title ‘Conservation of Fuel and Power’.
However, there is another side to this coin...
The new Part L is expected to have tougher U-Value targets, so builders will have their hands tied concerning the minimum thicknesses they can use. It’s true these new U-Value targets aren’t particularly challenging, but this will catch out some builders who are used to the current thresholds which have gone unchanged since 2010.
The proposed new energy and emission targets are also much stricter than current ones – with the Government promoting a 31% cut to the Target Emission Rate this will be the biggest reduction in the history of Part L. Skimping on fabric insulation and installing PV panels isn’t going to be enough to reach compliance.
You could also say there is a whiff of London-centricity about the argument for keeping the TFEE. Developers in the capital are pushed into creating better insulated homes due to planning policies overseen by the Greater London Authority. Some new developments must show a 10% improvement over Part L targets just through fabric enhancements.
As well as removing the TFEE, The Future Homes Standard is also considering putting a block on planning authorities from overstepping the energy efficiency targets as set by Building Regulations.
If that becomes reality, you could say with near certainty that developers in London will have more freedom for reducing insulation levels while still complying with ADL. But building projects elsewhere, which aren’t being pushed to make such big improvements over current targets, will see things differently.
If the Future Homes Standard is taken forward using the Government’s preferred approach, we’re going to see a more standardised set of targets, regardless of which part of England you are building in. Whether you see the proposed changes as a leap forward or a step backward in terms of fabric performance, most will agree that creating a level playing field is a good thing.
And a little note to Wales and Scotland – we haven’t ignored you. The TFEE doesn’t apply to you. Both countries have stricter U-Value thresholds than England instead of a specific fabric target.