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Proposed changes to Building Regulations: will they improve energy efficiency?

Proposed changes to Building Regulations: will they improve energy efficiency?

Proposed changes to Part L of the Building Regulations for England were put out for consultation in 2019, a process that concluded on February 7, 2020. According to the Gov.uk website, the changes to the The Future Homes Standard “…will require new build homes to be future-proofed with low carbon heating and world-leading levels of energy efficiency; it will be introduced by 2025.”

Currently, Part L sets a “notional” benchmark that new builds are measured against – covering thermal performance of materials used in construction, alongside the orientation and size of the windows, heating and ventilation systems – and of course, air permeability.

However, a number of figures within UK architecture have criticised the proposals.

Speaking to the Guardian, Clara Bagenal George, a building services engineer at Elementa Consulting and founder of the London Energy Transformation Initiative (Leti), said, “The proposals are framed as an improvement, but they actually represent a reduction in the energy performance standards of buildings.”

Critics suggest that because the Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard is being removed from Part L, a building designed next year might perform considerably less well than a building constructed in 2014. Conversely, a building that would have failed under current standards, would pass under the proposed changes.

Focus on overall carbon footprint

The proposals have also been criticised because they emphasise the building’s overall carbon footprint, which is heavily influenced by the carbon emissions of the National Grid. Since the Grid has rapidly decarbonised in recent years, new builds appear to have a much lower carbon footprint – but only due to the efforts of the National Grid, not the design and construction of the building.

Critics of the proposed changes to Part L of the Building Regulations suggest they represent a missed opportunity to tackle climate change, particularly since the UK’s built environment accounts for around 40% of national carbon emissions.

Joe Giddings, co-founder of the Architects Climate Action Network (Acan), called the proposals a “massive disappointment”, suggesting that they “represent a total loosening of regulations”.

Giddings added: “And it’s all hidden in a dense consultation document that seems designed to confuse.”

While the proposals have met with criticism, some say even the current system struggles to rate a building’s carbon emissions performance accurately.

View the The Future Homes Standard proposals here.

The role of air permeability testing

Air tightness will of course remain fundamental to a building’s energy performance, whether or not the proposed changes come into effect.

Here at Air Tightness Testing Ltd, our ongoing objective is to test new builds to the current air permeability standards, and, should there be a problem, help developers find a solution quickly and effectively – so the building can be placed on the sale or rental market in a timely fashion.

Talk to us today

Are you a developer based in England that needs fast, professional air permeability testing? Get in touch with our friendly team today to discuss your project.

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We are registered with iATS (Independent AirTightness Testing Scheme) and use equipment calibrated by UKAS laboratories. Our testing procedures are also recognised by UKAS.