A group of leading architects and engineers have criticised government plans that ‘will make buildings less energy efficient’.

Proposals to reform Part L and Part F of the Building Regulations are set to take effect this year, and remove what is known as the Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard from Part L. 

But removing the Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard is “a step backwards” according to London Energy Transformation Initiative (Leti), a voluntary group of over 1,000 architects and engineers. Leti warns the move could reduce the energy efficiency of new homes.

“The proposals are framed as an improvement, but they actually represent a reduction in the energy performance standards of buildings,” said Clare Murray, head of sustainability at architecture firm Levitt Bernstein and member of Leti.

“They make the building look like it is performing better, when the reality is it could be much worse.”

What is Part L?

Under Part L, building a new home requires extra considerations for energy efficiency. The government’s introduction of these changes lay the ground for the 2025 Future Homes Standard, which will require new build homes to be future-proofed with low-carbon heating systems when it is rolled out in 2025. 

Leti also asserts the changes mean a building designed in the future could prospectively be allowed to perform to a lower level of energy efficiency compared with when the regulations were first introduced in 2013.

Instead, the government intends to introduce a new factor into the assessment of whether a building meets the criteria of part L, relating to the energy efficiency of the National Grid rather than the building itself. This, Leti says, will make a home look like it is performing better and have a lower carbon footprint, without the advantages of better energy efficiency.

The proposals have also been criticised for removing local authorities’ existing powers to insist on greater energy efficiency in buildings that Building Regulations demand. 

“Not only are the building regulations going backwards,” said Murray, “but local authorities won’t be able to set their own rules appropriate to their areas. It will roll the whole country backwards.”

‘A massive disappointment’

Joe Giddings, co-founder of the Architects Climate Action Network (Acan) campaign group, shared his displeasure over the proposals. He said: “From disregarding the performance of a building’s fabric to ignoring the embodied energy of materials, the proposals represent a total loosening of regulations. And it’s all hidden in a dense consultation document that seems designed to confuse. It’s a massive disappointment.”

Currently, all new building designs must meet the performance of a ‘notional’ design of parameters such as the thermal performance of materials and heating and ventilation systems. 

Self builders need to meet a series of measures to ensure that their build meets Part L1A (relating to new homes), which is achieved through a Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) test.

(MORE: Self Build: All You Need to Know About Building a Bespoke Home)

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