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Legal changes

Changes to building regulations will come into play in June 2022 producing homes capable of reducing carbon emissions by 30%.

New homes to produce nearly a third less carbon

New homes and buildings in England will have to produce significantly less CO2 under new rules announced by the Government to help the country move towards net zero. A press release was issued by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on the 15th December 2021 stating that:

  • changes to building regulations will help UK deliver net zero
  • new homes will have to produce around 30% less CO2
  • this is an important step for industry ahead of Future Homes and Buildings Standard in 2025.

The press release confirms that under the new regulations, CO2 emissions from new build homes must be around 30% lower than current standards and emissions from other new buildings, including offices and shops, must be reduced by 27%.

All new residential buildings, including homes, care homes, student accommodation and children’s homes must also be designed to reduce overheating, making sure they are fit for the future and protect the most vulnerable people. Improvements to ventilation will also be introduced to support the safety of residents in newly built homes and to prevent the spread of airborne viruses in new non-residential buildings.

The changes are being implemented, following a public consultation, through updates to the building regulations, which set the standards in England for the design, construction and alteration of buildings and will come into effect from June 2022. The changes to building regulations come ahead of the introduction of the more ambitious future homes and buildings standard, which aims to make all future homes "net zero ready" but has been criticised for the fact it does not come into force until 2025.

Housing Minister, Eddie Hughes, confirmed that:

The changes will significantly improve the energy efficiency of the buildings where we live, work and spend our free time and are an important step on our country’s journey towards a cleaner, greener built environment”.

The new regulations come alongside £6.6 billion of direct investment into improving the energy efficiency of buildings during this Parliament. The Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, Local Authority Delivery scheme and Home Upgrade Grant scheme make grants available to low-income households for insulation, solar panels, heat pumps and other efficiency and decarbonisation measures.

The press release confirms that there will be a six-month period before the new regulations come into force on 15 June 2022. Transitional arrangements are in place which mean that if a building notice, initial notice, or full plans for building work are submitted to a local authority before 15 June 2022, then provided the building work commences by 15 June 2023, work on that individual building is permitted to continue under the previous standards.

Whilst welcomed by most commentators there is a clear concern that not enough is being done quickly enough to get the housing sector where it needs to be as far as net zero is concerned. The future homes and buildings standard is not coming into force until 2025. The construction industry is used to change but what is being questioned here is the pace of that change. Legislative changes can facilitate a shift in culture and, it is clear, that the UK sees itself as leading the way to net zero, with wide-ranging opportunities for skills and supply chains and scope to export knowledge.

If you would like any further information or would like to discuss any energy-related issues, contact us for energy legal advice.