Low-carbon rules for new homes should come sooner, experts say

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The government has announced updated rules for new buildings that should lower their carbon footprint, but critics have said they should be implemented sooner than the current 2025 date.

The rules are intended to make homes as energy efficient as possible, such as by banning of gas boilers in favour of low-carbon heating such as heat pumps.

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) believes the rules will see homes producing 75-80 per cent lower carbon emissions compared to current levels. An interim target expecting new homes to produce 31 per cent lower carbon emissions will be introduced this year.

Existing homes will also be subject to higher standards, with a significant improvement on the standard for extensions, making homes warmer and reducing bills. There will also be a requirement for replacement, repairs and parts to be more energy efficient, including the replacement of windows and building services such as heat pumps, cooling systems, or fixed lighting.

Green campaigners had hoped the new rules might be implemented earlier, and were disappointed when the Prime Minister rolled back commitments to ban gas boilers for new homes by 2023.

Jess Ralston, an analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit said: “Backtracking on suggestions that these measures would be delivered two years earlier is bad news for England’s housing stock. There is little reason for the delay, with the result being more than half a million leaky houses that will be occupied by families facing higher bills than necessary.”

“However, there are positive signs elsewhere. Backing heat pumps as the main clean source of heat is in line with expert recommendations, while removing much-criticised proposals to strip the ability of local councils to set higher standards will avoid a lessening of ambition in many cities.”

“Moving away from polluting and unreliable gas boilers is essential if the Government is to make our homes net zero compatible. Starting with new houses is the lowest hanging fruit and should give the clean heat industry a leg up to begin climate proofing tens of millions of homes.”

The government plans also include a new requirement for additional ventilation and indoor air quality monitoring in high-risk non-domestic buildings such as offices and gyms, a new overheating mitigation requirement in the Building Regulations, as well as the launch of a consultation on higher performance targets for non-domestic buildings.

Housing minister Christopher Pincher MP said: “improving the energy performance of buildings is vital to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 and protecting the environment for future generations to come. The radical new standards announced today will not only improve energy efficiency of existing homes and other buildings, but will also ensure our new homes are fit for the future, by reducing emissions from new homes by at least 75 per cent.”

“This will help deliver greener homes and buildings, as well as reducing energy bills for hard-working families and businesses.”

Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said: “The government is absolutely right to be working towards a Future Homes Standard that will improve energy efficiency of new homes, and we welcome the proposal that local authorities will have continued freedom to insist on higher standards in planning policies. But there needs to be more action more quickly to ensure this scheme doesn’t become a postcode lottery.”

Last year, rules were put in place to ensure that housing developers installed gigabit-speed broadband connections in new homes.

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