Government launches consultation on measures for “zero-carbon ready” homes

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Plans to bring forward the next generation of green homes and buildings across England have been unveiled as part of a new consultation launched by the government this month.

The Future Homes and Buildings Standards 2023 consultation sets out proposed amendments to energy efficient standards for new build homes and non-domestic buildings, including the requirement to be “zero-carbon ready” from 2025 once the electricity grid is fully decarbonised.

Among the other key proposals highlighted in the consultation is the improvement of minimum standards for fixed building services and on-site electricity generation, as well as minimum standards and guidance surrounding heat loss from building services to directly support the installation of technology – described by the government once again as “zero-carbon ready”.

Views will also be sought through the consultation on improving standards for dwellings created through material change of use (MCU), given the poorer performance of these developments compared to new housing. The proposed new MCU standards aim to protect consumers from high bills and reduce emissions as far as practical, while capitalising on building work already being done.

Support is proposed for the expansion of cleaner heat networks to ensure new and old networks alike by upholding the performance requirements being set out with any new homes being added to existing networks matching the low carbon heat generation capacity of the network.

The consultation also includes two options in relation to solar panels – one with and one without. This recognises higher bills saving and reduced emissions that solar can offer whilst acknowledging the noticeable stalling in pace of decarbonising the electricity grid and the subsequent minor contribution solar panels make to the carbon savings of individual homes.

Alongside the other proposals coming through the consultation, the government is also aiming to make changes to the Building Regulations to repeal redundant aspects and reflect the need to make reducing carbon emissions a central aim. Separately, the government is also consulting on the new “Home Energy Model” for domestic buildings, which will replace the Standard Assessment Procedure for the energy rating of new homes, and on improvements to the current “notional building” approach to setting energy efficiency requirements. Meanwhile for non-domestic buildings, the National Calculation Methodology is set for an update.

Running until 6 March 2024, the 12-week consultation seeks the input of individuals and organisations from a range of sectors including in development, construction, academia and local government. It also presents two options for the transition to the new standards – six months and 12 months – allowing the industry enough time to adjust their practices so that it can support the progress towards the country’s 2050 net zero target. For more information about the consultation and to make a submission , click here.

Fred Quartermain, Partner in Thrings’ Planning and Environment team, said: “With the government continuing to push the net zero target as a golden thread across many of its policies, the themes being explored in this consultation will be of no surprise to the development world.

“It is important for anyone that could be impacted by the proposed changes to review them and ensure they have their say by submitting their views to the government.”

Thrings’ Planning and Environment lawyers have extensive experience in navigating complex local and national planning policy and legislation and has successfully supported commercial and residential applications through the approval and appeal processes. To find out more and for advice on your development proposals, including how to address enforcement notices, please do get in touch.

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