Proposed changes to the Building Regulations for new homes are not ambitious enough to positively impact the environment, according to The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

The proposed changes to Part L (Conservation of Fuel and Power) and Part F (Ventilation) of the Building Regulations for new homes will be introduced this year, laying the framework for the Future Homes Standard.

The Future Homes Standard is a new set of Building Regulations, set to be implemented by the government from 2025, which will ensure all new build homes are future-proofed with low-carbon heating systems to encourage environmentally-friendly building practices.

A public consultation on the changes to Part L and Part F closed on 7 Feb, and the government will now collate the public feedback before publishing its outcome. The proposals were criticised last week, and RIBA president Professor Alan M Jones has added his voice to the growing displeasure over the government’s unwillingness to go further. 

Jones said: “The proposed changes to building regulations are simply not ambitious enough to meet the scale of our environmental challenge. If we are to stand a chance of meeting net zero by 2050, the government must urgently embed much clearer and more demanding targets on operational energy and embodied carbon into building regulations.”

Building Regulations Proposals Fall Short

A prominent criticism of the proposed changes to Part L has been the proposed removal of the fabric energy efficiency standard.

During the consultation RIBA warned, “Keeping the fabric energy efficiency target is a positive measure to ensure that energy efficient fabrics are chosen for new homes.”

The fabric energy efficiency standard is the proposed maximum space heating and cooling energy demand for zero carbon homes, and removing it has led to concerns that the energy performance standards of buildings could drop.

RIBA says that this would hide the use of poor building materials, and risks homes being built with less insulation than was required in Part L of the 2013 Building Regulations.

RIBA also asserts that the government should be tackling three key measures within the proposed changes:

  • Using ‘operational energy’ (energy used at the meter) as the primary metric to determine a building’s energy efficiency
  • Embed embodied carbon targets into building regulations
  • Cracking down on loopholes which are exploited by developers to build new homes according to ‘out-of-date’ regulations 

To help architects meet net zero (or better) whole life carbon for new and retrofitted buildings by 2030 RIBA has developed the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge. This includes a series of targets to reduce operational energy, embodied carbon and drinking water.

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