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THE FUTURE HOMES STANDARD AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR UK HOUSEBUILDERS AND THEIR BUYERS

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In November 2021, Housebuilder and Developer magazine1 conducted a survey across the UK housebuilding sector on the Future Homes Standard (FHS). Its findings revealed only 13% of housebuilders fully-understood the new standard, whilst 51% stated their buyers were unaware it even existed. The survey also showed the vast majority of builders claim the government had not done enough to prepare the industry and members of the public for the standard’s potential impact. So, what can be done to bridge the knowledge gap about the coming measures?

Designed to help the UK government fulfil its net-zero greenhouse gas emissions pledge by 2050, the Future Homes Standard sets the parameters for new housing to produce 75-80% less carbon emissions than 1990 levels. It means from 2025, gas boilers will not be permitted to heat new homes, which will be required to be future-proofed in order to use the electricity grid as a means of decarbonisation. This will encourage housebuilders to install electricity-only heat pumps or other adoptive technology. The new measures will also tighten standards for already-built homes in relation to extensions, replacements and repairs. This is intended to save energy, make homes warmer, and reduce fuel bills.

Do new standards come at a cost?

So, what do these new measures mean for builders? The FHS highlights a need for improving energy standards of a building’s fabric through correctly specified and installed insulation, but the construction industry as a whole must come to a general consensus as to how to achieve the future standard with the materials and renewables available to them. As outlined in the Housebuilder and Developer survey, one issue most respondents were agreed upon was the inevitability of the new measures incurring additional build costs, which it was assumed would be priced in as part of a house sale.

Measures to improve living standards

Tighter building regulations are set to be introduced via the FHS. Measures include contractors being required to take photographs as part of a more stringent on-site monitoring process. The pictures will be passed to homeowners, with the aim of giving them a better understanding of how the as-built energy calculation of their property was carried out. Such procedures could help improve living standards – an issue Recticel is seeking to address through its membership of the National Home Improvement Council (NHIC). The non-profit organisation was set up nearly 50 years ago to promote the benefits of safe and sustainable homes as a means of creating comfortable, affordable interiors. This is particularly aimed at occupants facing fuel poverty, a threat that’s been exacerbated for many households nationwide due to the current worldwide rise in energy prices.

The NHIC endorses taking a fabric-first approach to improving a property’s thermal performance, as does another high-profile industry body which counts Recticel as a member: the Sustainable Energy Association (SEA). With a membership comprising retailers, manufacturers, regulators and housing providers, all of which are committed to energy-saving measures, the SEA aims to combine building-level technologies and the wider energy system to achieve a secure, low-carbon future for the UK.

Sustainable benefits of innovative PIR solution 

With its manufacture of Eurowall+, Recticel has created a solution that fulfils the most important criteria – namely thermal performance, as well as speed and ease of installation – when specifying insulation for its all-round sustainability. The rigid full-fill PIR board is the first of its kind to feature a tongue-and-groove joint on all four edges, an innovative detail that makes it capable of achieving a U-value of 0.18 W/m2K in a traditional 100mm masonry cavity wall. Its beneficial size, coupled with its improved airtightness from the tongue and groove joint, means Eurowall+ extracts more performance compared to typical partial-fill solutions without widening the footprint of the external wall.

The 10mm air gap, which is created by a 90mm Eurowall+ PIR board achieving a U-value of 0.18 W/m2K in a traditional 100mm masonry cavity wall, makes for a more convenient fit for bricklayers when it comes to applying the insulation. This speeds-up installation times, thus reduces labour costs and time spent on site.

Domestic thermal efficiency pays-off in the long-term

The Housebuilder and Developer Magazine survey revealed that 25% of its customers considered issues concerning reducing the carbon footprint of homes of little-to-no interest. Additionally, 43% said it was a small factor to buyers. Survey respondents said improved government engagement through TV, social media or via the post was key to persuading the public that energy-efficient homes pay dividends in the long-term. In the UK, the financial benefits of owning a property that has sufficient thermal protection will soon be felt, with fuel costs expected to soar due to the global increase in the wholesale price of gas and energy supplies.

In terms of enforcement, the FHS will comprise a series of amendments to Part F (ventilation) and Part L (conservation of fuel and power) of the Building Regulations for non-domestic buildings and dwellings; and overheating in new residential buildings. The legislation will be there in black and white which if followed correctly, will contribute to a greener environment for future generations to enjoy.

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BDC 319 : Aug 2024