Net-zero-homes proposal ‘could lower standards’

A coalition of built environment groups have said the government’s net-zero housing plans do not go far enough.

Low Energy Transformation Initiative (LETI), a network of 1,000 professionals in the sector, says the Future Homes Standard could see housing built to lower environmental standards than today.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is consulting on plans to allow the Building Safety Regulator or local authorities to allow developments not to meet Regulation 26 of Part L of the Building Regulations if they “judge the requirement to be unreasonable in relation to that specific building work”.

Regulation 26, which is already law, is a requirement not to exceed the target CO2 emission rate for the building, calculated using the national methodologies.

The department said in a consultation document published in December that unlike fire-safety or structural requirements, Regulation 26 cannot currently be “relaxed or dispensed with” by councils or regulators, due to its origins in EU law.

“We do not believe that this necessitates less ambitious standards, and would propose that, instead, we allow dispensation or relaxation in these exceptional circumstances,” it said.

The department asked for examples of where developers would feel the requirements might be unreasonable.

LETI workstream lead Michela Ravaglia said the proposed move was worrying and ill-defined, adding: “In theory those buildings could be built to lower standards than today.”

LETI also objects to the new standards not using energy-use intensity as a key metric, not encouraging onsite renewable-energy generation or addressing embodied-carbon emissions.

It has joined forces with the Good Homes Alliance and UK Green Building Council to encourage other professionals to respond to the consultation on the standards before the 6 March deadline.

A joint open letter signed by the groups and dozens of other companies calls for another, higher Future Homes Standard to be put out to consultation.

“Higher standards are not a constraint on housing supply; they are an investment in a sustainable future that benefits both homeowners and the environment,” a spokesperson said.

The consultation on Future Homes and Buildings Standards can be viewed here.

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