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Government Consultation on the ‘Future Homes Standard’

Oxford Friends of the Earth is a thriving and effective local group that has been active for over 40 years. Our purpose is to work together to promote a healthy and sustainable environment

Government Consultation on the ‘Future Homes Standard’ –
Make your voice heard!

The Government are now (January 2020) consulting on improving building standards. While the proposals are a step in the right direction they are very inadequate.

We need you to add your voice to the calls to improve these standards.  Don’t let the large housebuilders have it their way! Everything you need to respond is on this page.

Housing makes up one fifth of UK CO2 emissions. Current building standards are woefully out of date – new homes being built now will waste energy and add to the climate crisis. Tens of thousands of new houses are planned for Oxfordshire in the next decade: whatever gets built should be helping solve the climate problem not making it worse.

The consultation is open until Feb. 7th – you can find it here:  https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/the-future-homes-standard-changes-to-part-l-and-part-f-of-the-building-regulations-for-new-dwellings

This page has a link to the full document and also allows you to respond online.  There are over 150 questions, but we are asking you to respond to just 3!   Our suggested answers are below.

These three questions are:

Q1 – about how far CO2 emissions from homes should be reduced
Q4 – about how the government might restrict local councils from setting higher standards
Q5 – about how fast the changes are made.

Each question has a,b,or c style answers and ask for ‘reasoning and evidence’.

Our suggested answers are below, and for each question we have added a short evidence text to support your answer.  Entering your data (name and organisation etc.) and answering these three questions takes just a few minutes.  After answering Q5 you will need to click ‘Next’ at the bottom of the page and do that a few times to take you to the end of the survey. Then click “Done” and you are finished!

Please use this to help us get a better deal for new homes!

Q1    Do you agree with our expectation that a home built to the Future Homes Standard should produce 75-80% less CO2 emissions than one built to current requirements?

  1. Yes
  2. No – 75-80% is too high a reduction in CO2
  3. No – 75-80% is too low a reduction in CO2

To provide an appropriate and urgent response to the climate change emergency all new buildings will need to operate at annual net zero carbon emissions by 2030, which means that by 2025 all new buildings must be designed to net zero. Houses built now will be used for at least 50 years. This means that to reach the UK emission targets any houses not built to a zero carbon standard will need an expensive retrofit.  The Committee on Climate Change report (UK housing: fit for the future, Feb. 2019) estimate it would cost £26,300 to retrofit a house compared to £4,800 build to a high standard (table 1.1).

As a stepping stone, we propose that in 2020 the projected energy consumption of all new homes should be outlined (in a format that supports data protection) to understand energy consumption as a driver for improving operational performance. We also propose that compliance is improved to close the widely recognised performance gap between design and build quality.

In 2025 (Future Homes Standard) compliance should be based on operational performance based on (metered) kWh/m²/yr targets (e.g. domestic display energy certificate (DEC)).

Q4     When, if at all, should the government commence the amendment to the Planning and Energy Act 2008 to restrict local planning authorities from setting higher energy efficiency standard for dwellings?

  1. In 2020 alongside the introduction of any option to uplift the energy efficiency standards of Part L
  2. In 2020 but only in the event of the introduction of a 31% uplift (option 2) to the energy efficiency standards of Part L
  3. In 2025 alongside the introduction of the Future Homes Standard
  4. d. The government should not commence the amendment to the Planning and Energy Act

 The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report (October 18) makes it clear that it is now urgent that we reduce carbon emissions, stating that we need to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030 to prevent dangerous consequences of Climate Change.

65% of local authorities across the UK have responded to this by declaring a climate emergency and setting their own stretching planning targets. Local authorities are much better placed to assess local need and viability of their area.

Our ability to slow climate change depends on their ambitious response and their zero carbon plans. Government should therefore not be seeking to take this away but instead be supporting them.

Historically the purpose of Building Regulations has been to set minimum standards as a basic industry provision. We would therefore suggest it is not the purpose of Building Regulations to strip local authorities of their powers or ability to go beyond this minimum.

 Q5    Do you agree with the proposed timings presented in Figure 2.1 showing the Roadmap to the Future Homes Standard?

  1. Yes
  2. No – the timings are too ambitious
  3. No – the timings are not ambitious enough

It must be reiterated we have a Climate Emergency – this has been declared nationally and by the majority of local authorities.  An Emergency requires quick and immediate action.  The IPCC 1.5o report demonstrates we need to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030 and zero by 2060 (at the latest).  Houses built now will still be used in 2060 so it is absolutely essential that we move to zero carbon homes as soon as possible.

It is key that consultation on the future homes standard is carried out as soon as possible, so that developers and design teams can prepare themselves for the changes that are to come.

If you want to write more, remember that we need to call for:

  1. All houses built after 2025 must be zero carbon. Zero Carbon homes should be the standard as soon as possible.
  2. From 2020 the fabric of housing must be improved to zero carbon standards and design must allow for the easy retrofit of new technologies, such as heat pumps and solar panels.
  3. Local Authorities should have the power to improve on these regulations to achieve their emission targets. Currently councils can set higher standards – the new proposals would stop them doing that at just the time when they should be pushing for zero carbon.