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News 6 February 2020 Updated 16 November 2020

Zero Carbon New Build – nine principles to underpin building standards

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Please note that this page contains information and links most relevant for people living in England.

Energy Saving Trust has put together nine principles designed to underpin any changes to energy and building regulations across the UK. In line with the UK Government and devolved Welsh and Scottish governments’ current and forthcoming consultations on this issue, we’ve been thinking about the key features of energy and building standards for new homes that we want to see in place in building standards across the country.

Increasing numbers of individuals and organisations are aware that energy use in homes makes up around 14% of the UK’s emissions of greenhouse gases. Without the near complete decarbonisation of the housing stock, we will not meet the UK’s climate change targets.

The fact is, the energy involved in building and then operating every new UK home adds to the UK’s overall CO2 emissions at a time when there is an urgent need to reduce them.

As a result, the UK Government’s consultation on changes to energy standards in building regulations for new homes in England has received unprecedented attention. The proposals in this consultation will only apply in England. Each of the other UK nations – Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – have devolved responsibility for building standards in their country.

Wales and Scotland also have clear plans for revising minimum standards for energy use in new homes. Wales also has a consultation out currently and Scotland is expected to issue one in the next few months.

There’s a common approach being taken across England, Wales and Scotland: reviews are looking at tightening current energy/building standards in 2020 or 2021. Moreover, each government is planning for a further change to regulations in 2024 or 2025 to require low carbon heating in all new homes.

In Northern Ireland, no equivalent steps have been taken but Energy Saving Trust believes they are as urgently required. The restored government and plans for a new Energy Strategy may mean proposals will shortly be forthcoming.

At Energy Saving Trust, we work across the UK, so we’ve been thinking – not just about the proposed changes in England – but also about this wider UK context. What are the key features of energy and building standards for new homes that we want to see in place in building standards across the country?

Here are the key principles that Energy Saving Trust have identified that we think should underpin changes to energy and building regulations – whatever part of the UK you live in. We’ll shortly be publishing a detailed report to look at each of the key principles below, to inform policy makers across the UK.

Summary of principles

  1. New homes should be built to the most efficient fabric standards.
  2. Homes built from 2024/25 should only be heated by low / zero carbon heating systems and homes built from 2020 should be future proofed in readiness for low carbon heating systems in the future.
  3. New build homes should generate as much low carbon power as realistically possible.
  4. Local planning authorities should be allowed to go beyond national standards, but within a national trajectory for standards.
  5. Builders must not be able to build to out of date energy standards.
  6. Reducing water use in new homes is inseparable from energy saving. A mandatory government-led water efficiency label for the UK should be introduced and used as a basis for fixture-based efficiency standards in building regulations.
  7. Compliance and enforcement measures for building regulations must be strengthened, and incorporate in-use energy monitoring.
  8. Governments across the UK should set out timetables for introducing requirements for cutting the carbon used in the construction of new homes, and targets for reductions.
  9. Further delays are not acceptable. Zero carbon homes are affordable to build, deliver wide benefits for occupiers, and are vital to help tackle the climate emergency. Governments across the UK must require homes that meet an operational zero carbon standard by 2025 at the latest.

Status of proposed changes to energy standards in new build homes across the UK




Northern Ireland

Section of the building standards / regulations that relates to energy Part L Section 6 Part L Part F
Last time there was a major revision 2013 2015 2014 2012
Key announcements Chancellor’s Spring Statement 2019:

A Future Homes Standard, to be introduced by 2025, future-proofing new build homes with low carbon heating and world-leading levels of energy efficiency.’

‘…we will introduce a Future Homes Standard, mandating the end of fossil-fuel heating systems in all new houses from 2025’.


Scottish Government’s  Programme for Government 2019/20 commits to:

‘…new standards to reduce energy demand, and associated carbon emissions, within new buildings by 2021’

and to requiring:

new homes consented from 2024 to use renewable or low carbon heat

Welsh Government’s Prosperity for All report notes they have:

recently commenced a further review of Part L, which is intended to be the next step on our journey towards a low-carbon built environment.’

No announcements to date.

With the recent restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland, and the publication of a major new consultation on Energy Strategy, we expect announcements in this area over the coming months.

Next steps Current consultation due to close 7 February 2020, with subsequent consultation due in 2024. Consultation due in Spring 2020 Consultation currently underway. Next review of Part L due to start in 2022 with subsequent consultation due in 2024. TBC

More on this…

Last updated: 16 November 2020