Future Homes Standard explained

13 September 2021 Kingspan Insulation UK
CaseStudy_Bushels_02_K108_UK

Our homes account for around 22% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions. In order for the country to reach our net-zero carbon commitment by 2050, it is vital to ensure that new homes can achieve carbon neutral performance (or better). For this reason, the Government has announced that a new Future Homes Standard will be introduced in England from 2025, with a target of reducing household carbon emissions by at least 75% compared with existing levels.

The Government has now published a response to its consultation on the Standard, giving some further detail on what it will look like and the implementation timetable.
 

What is the Future Homes Standard?

The Future Homes Standard will provide an update to Part L of the Building Regulations for new homes in England. These sections govern the energy demand of properties

Homes built to the standard will need to be “net-zero carbon ready”. This means they will require no additional energy retrofit work to reach net-zero carbon emissions once the national grid is decarbonised.

Learn more about net-zero carbon buildings and energy decarbonisation.

To achieve this, all new homes will need to have outstanding fabric performance, with potential thermal bridges carefully addressed, and to be heated by low carbon technologies such as air or ground source heat-pumps. 

It is recognised that this change will require significant upskilling within the construction industry. To assist this, new versions of Part L and Part F in England will be published at the end of 2021 - acting as a stepping-stone to the Future Homes Standard.

Learn more about Part L 2021 New Homes England. 
 

What metrics will the Future Homes Standard use?

At present, it appears that the Future Homes Standard will retain the same metrics as those used within the proposed 2021 version of Part L for New Homes in England:
•    Primary Energy  – limiting the amount of Primary Energy a property can use;
•    Carbon Emissions – limiting the carbon emissions from a property;
•    minimum fabric and services performance values; and
•    Fabric Energy Efficiency Standards – limiting the energy demand for the property.

A number of responses to the Future Homes Standard consultation argued that an “operational energy” metric should also be introduced, based on using metered data from properties. In addition to confirming whether properties are performing as they should, this metric could also greatly benefit the construction industry, providing data at scale on how different building methods and approaches perform in the real world.

The Government has chosen not to introduce this within the Part L 2021 for New Homes in England, and it will be interesting to see if this makes it into the final draft of the Future Homes Standard following the planned technical work and engagement.
 

What will a Future Homes Standard home look like?

An indicative notional dwelling (shown in the table below) is contained within the consultation response, providing an example of the type of performance which may be expected from properties built to the Future Homes Standard. 
 
Element type Current (2013) Notional Building 2021 Notional Building Indicative Future Homes Standard specification
All roof types 0.13 0.11 0.11
Walls 0.18 0.18 0.15
Floors 0.13 0.13 0.11
Party wall 0.00 0.00 0.00
Windows 1.40 1.20 0.80
Doors 1.00 / 1.20 (semi-glazed) 1.00 1.00
Air permeability 5.00 m3/m2/Hr@50Pa 5.00 m3/m2/Hr@50Pa 5.00 m3/m2/Hr@50Pa
Ventilation Natural with extract fans Natural with extract fans Natural with extract fans
Heating appliance 89.5% gas boiler 89.5% gas boiler* 

*However minimum efficiency as defined ErP for new systems must meet 92%
Low carbon heating e.g. heat pump
Heat emitters Regular radiators Design flow temperature = 55°C Low temperature heating
Waste water heat recovery No Yes No
Photovoltaics No 40% of ground floor area No

This suggests a fabric-first approach, with modest improvements in the U-value targets for the building element, supported by the replacement of conventional radiators and a gas boiler with a low carbon heating appliance and emitters. 

In addition to these requirements, installers will also need to play close attention to detailing around junctions within the property to prevent heat loss through thermal bridges. This will be especially important as technologies such as heat pumps run at lower temperatures and can be more expensive to run if heat demands for a home are not addressed, meaning that underperformance in fabric performance may lead to more expensive to run, colder and potentially unhealthy homes.

 

How will the Future Homes Standard affect construction methods?

As ever, the notional recipe offers just one route for properties to meet the key performance metrics within Part L. With so much focus on addressing the performance gap, it is perhaps surprising that the notional recipe retains the existing air leakage requirements supported through natural ventilation. It had been thought that the Future Homes Standard might favour more airtight constructions, such as those used for Passivhaus properties, with air supplied via mechanical ventilation heat recovery systems (MVHR). 

An MVHR system in a well-built, airtight home, can help ensure a good level of air quality, whilst reducing the heating demands that a good building fabric offers, through pre-heating the air brought into a home using a heat exchanger, recovering heat from the already warmed air that is being removed. 

Although the additional airtightness measures require careful workmanship, Passivhaus properties have been shown to frequently meet or exceed their energy performance targets. In addition, by greatly limiting space heating requirements, they also avoid the need for much larger heating emitters which may be required for many properties as a result of the switch to low temperature heating systems. 

Modern methods of construction, such as structural insulated panels, have been shown to reliably and simply meet these requirements at scale and may be worth considering as developers plan for how they will meet these requirements.

 

What is the timetable for the Future Homes Standard?

To provide clarity for the construction and housebuilding industries as they prepare for the 
new requirements, the consultation also provides a clear roadmap for the implementation of the Future Homes Standard (shown below). This will include several opportunities for the industry to engage with the development of the standard, including a further technical consultation in 2023.

Phase 1 - Introduce interim 2021 Part L uplift for all building types
Dec 2021 - Interim Part L, Part F and Overheating Regulations made for domestic and non-domestic buildings.
June 2022 - Interim Part L, Part F and Overheating Regulations come into effect − Developers must submit building notice / initial notice or deposit plans by June 2022 and begin work on individual units by June 2023 for transitional arrangements to apply

Phase 2 - Technical work and engagement
Ongoing - Industry engagment, including through BRAC and technical working groups
Autumn 2021-Summer 2022 - Research and analysis to develop proposed technical specification
Summer 2022-2024 - Develop sector-specific guidance and embed understanding of the technical specification of the Future Homes & Buildings Standard

Phase 3 - Consultation & policy development
Spring 2023 - Technical consultation on the proposed specification for the Future Homes Standard 

Phase 4 - Full FHS / FBS implementation
2024 - Part L FHS / FBS Regulations made
2025 - Part L FHS / FBS Regulations come into effect


 

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