What does the new Future Homes Standard mean for building regulations?

27 January 2021

On 19 January 2021, the government published the outcome of its 2019 consultation on the Future Homes Standard. This consultation set out the government’s plans for a new green Future Homes Standard and sought views on changes to building regulations in England to improve energy efficiency and cut carbon emissions in new build homes. Our response to the 2019 consultation is available here.

What are the key outcomes of the consultation?

The government has confirmed that it will change building regulations so that from 2025 the Future Homes Standard will deliver homes that are zero-carbon ready. Homes build under the Future Homes Standard should produce 75-80% less carbon emissions compared with current levels and become net zero as the electricity grid continues to decarbonise. The intention is that homes built to the Future Homes Standard will not need to be retrofitted with any additional measures or technology to become net zero.

The Future Homes Standard should see homes fitted with low carbon forms of heating. The expectation is that heat pumps will become the main source of heating system for most new homes.

The government has also confirmed that it will introduce an interim uplift in building standards from 2021 as a first step towards the Future Homes Standard in 2025. Homes build to the interim standard should produce 31% less carbon dioxide emissions compared to current levels. More details on the interim uplift that will take effect (through Part L of the Building Regulations) is set out in the government’s response to the 2019 consultation paper.

What else did the government say?

The 2019 consultation sought views on whether or not to keep the fabric energy efficiency standards (FEES) as a metric. This generated some concern. The government’s response makes clear it will keep FEES as a performance metric but is consulting further on whether there is scope to introduce a more stringent FEES target in Part L 2021.

The consultation also sought views on the practice of councils setting more robust energy efficiency standards that those set out in Part L. The government response states that councils can continue to set local targets but that its planning reforms would ‘clarify the longer-term role of local planning authorities in determining local energy efficiency standards’.

The government has said that transitional arrangements will apply as we move toward the new standards but these will be tougher than previous transitional arrangements. The transitional arrangements applying to the new Part L will apply to individual homes (and not whole developments) and be limited to one year.

What’s next?

The interim uplift in standards will be delivered through an updated Part L of the Building Regulations. The final version of Part L will be published in December 2021 and will come into force in June 2022.

A full technical specification for the Future Homes Standard will be consulted on in 2023. Legislation will be introduced in 2024, ahead of implementation in 2025.

The government has also launched a second consultation on additional changes to Part L (conservation of fuel and power) and Part F (ventilation) of the Building Regulations, and on proposals to address overheating in residential buildings.