BRE Group, the world-leading body for improving the built environment, builds on its response submitted to the government’s proposed Future Homes Standard in February
Back in March 2019, then-Chancellor Philip Hammond announced in the Spring Statement that the government would introduce a Future Homes Standard mandating the end of fossil fuel heating systems in all new houses from 2025 to lower carbon output and also resulting in lower fuel bills for households.
In October last year, the government published its consultation on the standard, which proposed changes that would require new build homes to be future-proofed with low carbon heating and “world-leading” levels of energy efficiency. This move by UK policymakers was the first stage of a two-part consultation about proposed changes to the Building Regulations, with the initial stage of industry engagement running from 1 October 2019 to 7 February 2020.
BRE Group’s view on the government’s approach
Our homes are more important than ever: they are our sanctuary, workplace, school, TV set and more. We all think about our homes differently.
Getting the economy going after the pandemic has passed will mean a focus on housebuilding. We must ensure that our homes are resilient to any future health crisis, but also not forgetting climate change by ensuring we keep making progress in this area.
In order to tackle the global climate challenge, we must capitalise on the desire for more sustainable, safe, quality homes. Therefore, government policy should encourage innovation to go above and beyond, bringing with it new technologies and techniques. It should confront our shared problems holistically, ensuring that we deliver new homes for our changing demographics that are also safe, resilient, secure and affordable.
Nearly 100 years ago, as the UK exited the First World War, housebuilding was a high political priority. At this time, BRE was founded to research and test new materials and techniques. With disruption in supply chains and new safe working practises required, with even greater pressure on housebuilders to deliver, there needs to be a renewed effort into research and testing of new materials and techniques. All of which can support the economy in being able to export high quality innovative products and knowledge.
BRE’s view is that the government’s initial proposals risked falling short of delivering on these objectives as they are likely to encourage a culture of design for compliance rather than performance. A true Future Homes Standard should not only be considered in relation to Building Regulations; we need a holistic framework covering key sustainability issues to be made available much sooner than the proposed timetable for regulations. This framework can be used by other government levers such as procurement via Homes England, for planning purposes, or as part of help to housebuilders as we exit the Covid-19 crisis.
New homes should be a force for good
They should be something that people want and communities celebrate. The current unprecedented and rapidly changing environment we are facing today means that the way we see homes, and the role they play in our everyday lives, is evolving: they will need to work better as more people work from home more often, with a greater focus on private outside space.
Meanwhile, creating market pulls for more high quality, truly sustainable new homes will also encourage greater improvements in our existing housing stock, potentially using similar mechanisms, financial drivers and frameworks.
We welcome the published details of the Future Homes Standard as a trajectory to future iterations of Part L. However, in order to live up to its name, the scope of the standard would need to be significantly enhanced. By calling Building Regulations a “Future Homes Standard”, it suggests that the proposed standard is an aspiration but we strongly believe that higher aspiration is both necessary and possible and will have public support. Minimum standards within Building Regulations should be just that – minimum requirements – not an aspiration. If government was to publish its own framework of standards that provide the sector with an aspiration to go beyond, the market is likely to drive these higher standards through better investment, meaning costs will be absorbed and create savings in the future.
BRE, working with others, seeks to support the further development of a true Future Homes Standard that includes ideas such as embodied carbon and innovations to support our ageing population. We believe that a digitally enabled framework that provides consumers, developers, manufacturers, financiers and planners with the assurance in what is being delivered would be valuable way of driving this agenda forward.
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