Response to Government ‘Fixing the foundations’ Plan

Here’s our response to the government’s “Fixing the foundations: Creating a more prosperous nation” published today.

Improved Energy Efficiency for new homes is apparently a ‘barrier to keeping the country building’ and to ‘hard-working people’s dreams of home ownership’.

That is the message that can be read between the lines from the government’s accompanying press release and page 46 of the government’s new productivity plan, which can be found on the website at:

The accompanying press statement quotes Communities Secretary, Greg Clark as saying:

“The top-down targets of the past planning system did nothing to deliver the homes our country needs. In contrast, putting local people in control has led to record numbers of homes being granted permission and support for housebuilding to grow.”

“Today’s proposals ensure we go further and faster, removing the barriers so we can keep the country building and support hard-working people to achieve their dream of home ownership.”

The relevant paragraph from the planning process section of the report states:

“The Government will repeat its successful target from the previous Parliament to reduce net regulation on house builders. The government does not intend to proceed with the zero carbon Allowable Solutions carbon offsetting scheme, or the proposed 2016 increase in on-site energy efficiency standards, but will keep energy efficiency standards under review, recognising that existing measures to increase energy efficiency of new buildings should be allowed time to become established”.

In one brief paragraph, the government has sent the message that improving the energy performance and sustainability of new buildings is not a priority. This reverses a policy first announced in 2007 (with cross party support), but which has been slowly watered down ever since in both scale and ambition. The policy, it seems, has been dropped entirely – for now.

Allowable Solutions, the underlying framework for which was included in the recent Infrastructure Bill, has been dropped. Also dropped is the 19% improvement in new homes standards that was outlined by the previous administration for introduction in 2016 (which was itself significantly poorer than the proposed on-site target that was suggested by the Zero Carbon Hubs work, developed over a prolonged period by Industry experts and volume house builders).

There was already no indication of any changes proposed for non-domestic buildings in 2016 and now it appears that there will be no further changes to Part L in any form.

The next potential policy driver for Part L targets is ‘nearly zero energy buildings’, which in line with EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive requires delivery of nearly zero energy buildings from 2021 (and 2019 in the public sector). That of course assumes that we’ll still be part of the European Union by then (or haven’t renegotiated to opt out of those provisions).

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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.

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