The Future Homes Standard is a set of rules that will come into effect from 2025 to ensure new homes produce less carbon emissions.
To help lay the groundwork for the Standard's introduction, the government introduced major Building Regulations changes in June 2022, with new homes in England now needing to produce around 30% less carbon emissions compared to the old regulations.
Ahead of the Standard coming into effect, a technical specification will be consulted on in 2023 by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), with the necessary legislation introduced in 2024, ahead of implementation in 2025.
This is what we know so far about the Future Homes Standard, and how it could affect current homeowners and homebuilders.
What is the Future Homes Standard?
The Future Homes Standard, renamed the Future Homes and Buildings Standard in December 2021, will complement the Building Regulations to ensure new homes built from 2025 produce 75-80% less carbon emissions than homes delivered under the old regulations.
Existing homes and certain home improvements will also be subject to higher standards, although homeowners will only be affected if they are planning on making thermal upgrades or building an extension.
The Future Homes Standard was first announced in the government’s spring statement in 2019, although the full details have yet to be completely mapped out. But we know through the Building Regulations changes that all future homes will need to be net zero ready from 2025 and not require retrofitting.
Additionally, new buildings such as offices and shops will have to cut emissions by 27%.
Why Was The Future Homes Standard Announced?
The built environment accounts for roughly 40% of UK greenhouse gas emissions, with around 14% of this coming from the 28 million homes in the UK, according to the Climate Change Committee. The Future Homes Standard is designed to bring these levels down.
The government hopes the standard will go some way towards tackling climate change, and act as a roadmap for the industry and homeowners to reach its net zero target for 2050.
Former housing minister Christopher Pincher said in 2021 that he expects the proposals for existing homes to help reduce energy bills for homeowners.
The government has previously introduced the Zero Carbon Homes Standard (scrapped in 2015) and the Code for Sustainable Homes (which also wound down in 2015), to help assess and certify the sustainable design and construction of new homes.
What New Regulations Can we Expect?
This year's changes to the Building Regulations means we already have an idea of what the Standard will look like. New homes will adopt the Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard to measure energy efficiency, and an appendix has been included in Part L which sets out a good practice specification for a home built with a heat pump.
We also know that heating systems will be required to run at lower temperatures, enabling heat pumps to work effectively.
But the Standard will comprise a series of further amendments to Part F and Part L of the Building Regulations for new homes. Once the legislation is passed in 2025, all new homes will have to be built according to the Standard.
Eco energy expert Tim Pullen, a contributor to Homebuilding & Renovating magazine, says the new changes to the Building Regulations from 2025 could include:
- Mandatory space for hot water storage
- No more combi boilers
- Significant improvements to insulation and airtightness.
Will Gas Boilers be Banned?
It is expected that no new homes will be able to connect the gas network from 2025 as part of the Future Homes Standard. Instead, they will be equipped with energy-efficient insulation and heated by a low-carbon heating source such as an air source heat pump.
This would mean a gas boiler ban in new build homes from 2025, but the government's language changed when it published its Heat and Buildings Strategy in October.
The government said in the Strategy that it plans to consult on whether it is "appropriate" to prevent new build homes from being connected to the gas grid in England from 2025.
The prospective gas boiler ban is yet to be officially confirmed within the Future Homes Standard guidance.
What We Know So Far
There have been two consultations into the Future Homes Standard, which proposed a raft of measures for new and existing homes.
The Future Homes Standard consultation proposed new energy efficiency measures through changes to Part L of the Building Regs (which took effect in June 2022), and covered the wider impacts of these changes for new homes, including changes to Part F. This uplift is the first step in achieving the Future Homes Standard.
In January 2021, the government issued its 114-page response to the consultation and confirmed that all new homes will be required to be equipped with low-carbon heating and be zero-carbon ready by 2025.
The Future Buildings Standard consultation built on the first consultation by proposing new energy efficiency and ventilation standards for existing homes and non-domestic buildings, such as offices and gyms. Proposals also included reducing the risk of any potential infections being spread indoors.
Additionally, there were proposals to mitigate against overheating in new homes, which was been addressed via a new requirement in the Building Regulations. The government responded to the consultation in December 2021.
David Hilton, director of Heat and Energy Ltd and contributor to Homebuilding & Renovating, said of the new Part O: “Looking at overheating in homes is very important as it is probably the most overlooked aspect of modern buildings in the UK and rapidly becoming a major problem with many new build homes."
Will Renovators be Affected?
You may be affected if you are renovating a house and installing new thermal elements or replacing/renovating existing thermal elements, such as windows.
There will also need to be a “significant improvement on the standard of extensions”, the government says. A new efficiency metric for the whole house calculation method for new extensions came in from June 2022.
In its response to the Future Homes Standard consultation, the government confirmed that the second consultation includes proposals for extenders to meet new standards for making homes warmer.
Home improvers will need to ensure they use energy-efficient replacements and repairs during home improvement work. These include the installation of heat pumps, window replacement and building services, cooling systems and fixed lighting.
Will Self Builders be Affected?
Self builders will have to adhere to the Future Homes Standards, and in the interim meet the new Building Regulations which came in from June 2022, which Hilton says is an opportunity for self builders to embrace.
Although most self builders are generally building to high energy efficiency levels already, Pullen says, and if there is a cost in achieving the required thermal efficiency it will be very small.
"The 30% total CO2 reduction could then easily be achieved with solar panels on the roof and making the accommodation of a heat pump easy, sensible, even natural," he said.
How Will Energy Standards be Assessed?
Primary energy consumption is to be the key metric for measuring building performance. This is the energy potential of the fuel that goes into the power station to generate the electricity used in a home. Carbon dioxide emissions is to be the secondary metric.
In the Future Buildings Standard consultation response, the government said: "The introduction of a primary energy metric will enable us to make good use of our nation's energy resources and prioritise the energy efficiency of each building, regardless of the heat source."
Overall, there will be three metrics to assess the energy efficiency of new homes, one of which will be the Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard (FEES). The FEES sets performance levels for the building fabric that would reduce the amount of energy required to heat a home.
Hilton said: “It is great news that the Future Homes Standard will include a fabric first approach, and if rolled out correctly, it will make fabric first achievable for everybody, and by default rather than expensive design.”
U-Values measure how effective a home's fabric is at preventing heat from transmitting between the inside and outside of the home. The lower the U-value the better, as this means heat is less able to quickly transmit through your home.
U-Values are to become required as a minimum in the Future Homes Standard, and at a slightly more stringent level under the proposed 'Zero Carbon Standard'. This also applies to airtightness.
The proposed new levels published in the government's response to the Future Homes Standard consultation are:
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Thermal Element||Minimum Standard U-Value – W/m2K|
|Row 1 - Cell 0||Wall||0.18|
|Row 2 - Cell 0||Roof||0.13|
|Row 3 - Cell 0||Floor||0.13|
|Row 4 - Cell 0||Windows||1.4|
|Row 5 - Cell 0||Doors||1.0|
|Row 6 - Cell 0||Air Permability||5.0 m3 /(h.m2 )|
Local Authorities Can Set Targets
Local authorities will continue to be allowed to set higher energy efficiency standards for new homes in their area once the Future Homes Standard is published.
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Jack has worked in journalism for 11 years and is the News Editor for Homebuilding & Renovating, a role he has had since 2019. He strives to break the most relevant and beneficial stories for self builders, extenders and renovators, including the latest news on the construction materials shortage and hydrogen heating. In 2021 he appeared on BBC's The World at One to discuss the government's planning reforms.
He enjoys testing new tools and gadgets, and having bought his first home in 2013, he has renovated every room and recently finished a garden renovation.