Not such a bold step after all…

Welsh building regulations


The Welsh New Build consultation proposals considered earlier this year were a bold step forward  towards low / zero carbon housing.  The decided upon level announced by Carl Sargeant, Minister for Housing and Regeneration on 17th July has massively scaled back those aspirations.

The consultation considered two main options for the CO2 emissions target for Part L:

  • 25% CO2 emissions reduction
  • 40% CO2 emissions reduction. (the Welsh Government’s preferred option)

Instead, the Minister announced that the Welsh Government will introduce, through amendments to Part L, a requirement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 8% from 2010 levels. This is lower than the 40% originally consulted upon, lower than the poorer level of 25% considered in the consultation and potentially lower than the English Part L consultation proposal of an 8% improvement in fabric + Improved Services.

The Ministerial Statement  highlights this level as being a close to cost neutral affect on building costs, arguing that this is  important given the nature of the current housing market and the need to stimulate housing supply.

The statement elsewhere considers ‘savings for the house building industry’.

Dwellings subject to the policy set out in Section 4.11 of Planning Policy Wales  are already expected to meet Code for Sustainable Homes Level 3 and to obtain 1 credit under issue ENE1 – Which is a requirement to achieve an 8% improvement in the Dwelling Emission Rate over the Target.  This policy therefore equates to no change from the current level.

The overall tone seems to highlight that this scaling back of aspiration is all about trying to boost the economy through more construction, whilst not alienating the housebuilders, who otherwise might avoid building new homes in Wales.

The statement  notes that this is an interim step towards meeting our legal obligations for all new buildings to be built to zero carbon (and nearly zero energy) set out in EU law by 2021.

This next step for Welsh building regulations was proposed to have been a bold one – straight to the fabric targets considered necessary for low energy/zero carbon construction.  Instead it now looks like it may be more of a baby step forward, if indeed there is any forward momentum at all, with an early warning thrown in, that the aim for new houses to be low/zero carbon by 2016 is a goalpost that may be slipping…

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Jon Ducker is a qualified energy assessor working for Kingspan Insulation Ltd. He has an extensive knowledge of energy efficiency, renewable energy systems and sustainability in buildings with an expert knowledge of the relevant sections of buildings regulations and standards and their interactions with SAP. He provides authoritative advice regarding energy assessments for a wide range of public and private sector clients.