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What happened in 2019? An Overview: Part 2

09 Jan 2020

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2019 wasn’t just all about the Future Homes Standard and banning fossil fuels. Technical Specialist Jon Ponting looks at some of the other stories that hit the headlines over the last year.

The year started with confusion for developers in the capital after the Greater London Authority (GLA) began insisting that SAP10 emission factors were used for Energy Strategies to meet planning conditions on all major schemes.

The new figures, taken from a draft publication by BRE, encourage the use of electric heating while moving builders away from Combined Heat and Power (CHP) engines.

But as these new emission factors were not implemented by Building Regulations, it created a two-level assessment where the GLA required compliance with one set of figures for planning purposes, while Building Control required compliance with the original emission factors.

Developers were given the puzzle of how to satisfy both council departments. Although this feels like a disjointed approach, planners argue this method ensures new developments are being designed to be more compatible with the next set of Building Regulations.

Other cities around England have followed London’s approach.

With momentum growing behind the use of SAP10 emission factors at planning stage, a BREEAM amendment was released that allowed assessors to measure their ENE1 credits against the hybrid calculation.

It was necessary for BRE to introduce this change as developers found themselves in a near-impossible scenario trying to find a perfect specification that could tick the boxes for local planning authorities while earning decent BREEAM credits and keeping Building Control happy.

Confusion has continued throughout the year with developers trying to use SAP10 for Building Control compliance – something which isn’t expected to be added to Building Regulations in England until the end of 2020.

While on the subject of planning conditions, new laws were introduced in September to force councils into publicly sharing how they spend money collected from property developers.

It’s fairly routine for developers of larger sites to pay into a Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) to help fund local projects and improvements.

In 2016, local authorities collected £6billion from developers as part of negotiations for letting housing developments go ahead.

But how this money is spent is often shrouded in mystery. Now, members of the public can submit a request to their local council to learn how this money has been spent.

From the end of 2020 councils will be required to publish reports listing every CIL agreement and how the cash has been invested.

We keep hearing about ‘uncertainty due to Brexit’, but this doesn’t seem to be getting in the way of housebuilding.

Figures released in summer showed the number of new homes being built was at an 11 year high – 170,000 new dwellings over a year.

This is still short of the Government’s long-held target of 250,000, but it’s heading in the right direction.

The newly appointed Secretary of State for Housing, Robert Jenrick, has committed to scrapping and overhauling parts of the planning process to speed things up, and is supporting the Government’s Future Homes Standard.

With available space for new development in our cities running low, a scheme by Homes England was launched encouraging more builders to consider using Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) on existing rooftops.

The idea behind the project is to show how the inconvenience of shutting a road overnight and craning components of a pre-built flat into place is a quicker and cheaper approach than building rooftop extensions in the traditional way.

The revamp of prefabs continues to gather momentum and is becoming a popular choice for housing sites in the north of England where several MMC factories have been built.

But of all the stories to catch our eye in 2019, the most promising was a Government plan to create the world’s first hydrogen powered gin distillery.

The proposal involves renovating an ageing distillery in the Orkney Isles to test if this emerging technology is viable.

£390 million has been reserved for hydrogen based projects across the UK, as fossil fuel alternatives continue to be researched.

The only bi-product of hydrogen energy is water, meaning no carbon emissions would be produced.

Boiler manufacturers are already experimenting with hydrogen and hybrid technologies – hopefully without the gin component.

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Author

Jon Ponting

Energy And Sustainability Specialist

Email

Jon Ponting

Energy And Sustainability Specialist

jonp@energistuk.co.uk