Is fabric first the key to achieving zero carbon standard?


When the UK government committed to ensuring all new homes built from 2016 be ‘zero carbon’, the aim was to cut emissions and energy bills for householders and push the country closer to meeting its low carbon commitments. The standard may be a far cry from its original vision, but will these changes have any effect of the way we design and build zero carbon homes?

In reality, whether you are building a zero carbon home or just looking for points to get you the sustainability levels in The Code or BREEAM, it’s vital to get the fabric right, first time every time. The thermal performance of a building envelope makes a significant contribution to reducing the overall building energy usage – so tighter U-values in walls, floors and roofs will help to deliver the standards required.

For PIR insulation manufacturer Celotex, the ‘fabric first’ approach has always been the most direct route to compliance.  With a continual commitment for innovation, technical excellence and an unrivalled product and service package, Celotex continually develops products and environmental credentials in line with current and future Building Regulation policy.


Part and parcel

Changes to Part L occurred in 2006 and 2010 and the CO2 reductions put in place were seen as stepping stones towards the goal of Zero Carbon in 2016. Part L limits the CO2 emissions associated not only with the construction of new buildings but also those linked to the extension and refurbishment of existing buildings.

Coming into force on April 6th 2014, Part L 2013 was originally proposed as a further 25% reduction in CO2 over 2010 regulations. In reality the final numbers after consultation were a 6% reduction for domestic and a 9% reduction in CO2 emissions for non-domestic buildings.

Whatever the emissions target, the fabric will play a crucial role in a building’s success or failure. If the structure is built correctly, it will perform as intended whilst meeting and exceeding building regulations, whilst also helping to address the ‘Performance Gap’ – a growing concern for the government that could undermine the entire zero carbon housing policy.


Closing the gap

The issue of a ‘Performance Gap’ between design and as-built energy performance has started to garner more industry attention. A Government-commissioned report produced by The Zero Carbon Hub, ‘Closing the gap between design and as-built performance’, investigates the possible causes and how to eradicate them.

If the recommendations in this report are implemented it will result in more energy efficiency buildings which is good news for the consumer. However, if low carbon emissions are so important then there is an argument that all new houses should be produced with the best EPC rating possible, rather than the one that results from just meeting Building Regulations.  But this, of course, is down to reasons of cost and market forces and requires customers in the shape of house buyers to understand the value of a low carbon, low energy house and create a real demand for such dwellings.

With the construction industry contributing 5 to 6% of GDP, a shortage of new housing and the recent recession, the Government is trying to steer a path towards recovery with one eye on the zero carbon agenda. A tricky task which may explain the watering down of the latest CO2 reductions in Part L 2013.

The next step

Although the new 6% and 9% demands may be seen as baby-steps, the new FEES (Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard) energy target will play a crucial role in achieving zero carbon. Based on fabric performance, FEES ensure a good minimum standard for fabric (the longest-lasting part of a home) is embedded in all new homes.

FEES will add to the builder’s costs, but making small changes now will help them to operate in a far more sustainable way than if suddenly presented with a zero carbon obligation in 2016. And if suppliers and manufacturers such as Celotex continue to invest in products, this can only help architects, specifiers and contractors to meet the ever changing and challenging demands of the construction industry and regulators.


For further information, please contact Kelly Slociak at CFA on:

Telephone: 01622 754295


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