How will the UK net zero target affect construction?

21 September 2020 Kingspan Insulation UK

The construction industry faces significant upheaval over the next decade as legislation comes into place to set the UK on the path to net zero emissions. In the previous blog in this series, we explored the key requirements for net zero properties. Now we consider the road ahead and the legislative steps already laid out by the government.


2020 – Launch of Green Homes Grant and Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, publication of changes to Part L requirements for new homes 
In his summer statement, the chancellor announced significant new funds for energy improvements to existing buildings. From September, UK homeowners will be able to apply for Green Home Grants of up to £5,000 (£10,000 for those on low income) towards the cost of energy efficiency measures such as retrofitting insulation. £1 billion of funding has also been announced for public buildings through the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme. Whilst these represent a step in the right direction, more incentives and funding will be required. We have published a series of further recommendations to support improvements to UK homes.

Later in the year, revised versions of Part L to the Building Regulations (which governs energy use) for new homes in England and Wales will also be published. We’ll take a detailed look at the key changes within these regulations in the final blog in this series, however, in both cases, these changes are seen as a stepping stone to more stringent requirements coming in 2025. In effect, they are an opportunity for the construction industry to upskill and familiarise themselves with the techniques and approaches which will become the new normal by the middle of the decade.

In addition to the changes for new homes, consultations are also expected into changes for all other building types in England and Wales by the close of the year and the Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is due to publish its Buildings and Heat Strategy later on in 2020 – setting a clear direction of travel for the construction industry, including clarity on energy retrofit schemes. The Scottish Government is also set to publish its update to Section 6 (Energy) of the Building Standards for new buildings in Scotland in October.

2021 – Further updates to Part L and Section 6 (Energy), PAS 2030 & 2035 become compulsory
The changes to Part L for new homes in England and Wales are expected to come into force in the Spring of 2021 with the changes to Section 6 (Energy) in Scotland for new buildings due 1st October. Assuming consultations go ahead to the expected timeline, it is also possible that changes to Part L for all other buildings in England and Wales will be published and come into effect by the close of the year. 

From 1st of July, it will also be compulsory for all firms wishing to carry out energy retrofit work under the TrustMark scheme to be certified to PAS 2030: 2019 and to carry out the work in compliance with the process laid out within PAS 2035:2019. Together, these publicly available specifications set out a clear process for the design, scheduling and implementation of energy retrofits, including designated roles and responsibilities. It is expected that only Trustmark certified contractors will be able to deliver future government funded retrofit work, so it is essential for firms to ensure they are compliant (you can read more about these changes in our PAS 2035 blog.)

2022-3 – Unlawful to let non-domestic properties with an EPC of below E
The Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) were introduced in England and Wales in 2018 and already make it compulsory (subject to certain exclusions) for properties which require an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) to achieve at least an E before they can be let to new tenants. Similar requirements have now been introduced in Scotland for domestic type properties. These will be extended to include all existing domestic tenancies in Scotland from 1st April 2022 and to private and domestic tenancies in England and Wales from 1st April 2023.

2024 – Renewable or Low Carbon Heating in Scotland
From 2024, it will be compulsory for all new homes in Scotland to use renewable or low carbon heating. Similar systems will also be phased in for non-domestic buildings.

2025 – Major Part L changes and update to domestic let requirements in Scotland
In 2025, England and Wales will publish further changes to Part L including the Future Homes Standard. It is expected that emissions from an average home built to these standards will be between 75-80% lower than at present and that these properties will be effectively “net zero ready” for when the grid is decarbonised. 

To deliver this, whilst hitting government housebuilding targets (300,000 per year in England alone), it is expected that offsite methods such as the Kingspan TEK Building System of structural insulated panels (SIPs) or the Kingspan KingBuild and Kingframe steel frame systems will be more widely used. These methods allow greater speed and predictability of build whilst also supporting excellent envelope performance.

Scotland will also tighten the requirements for domestic let properties to an EPC of D.

2030-40 – Significant improvements in existing property performance
By the close of the present decade, significant progress will need to have been achieved on energy efficiency retrofit work on all buildings where “practical, affordable and cost effective”. All regions have committed to raising homes currently in fuel poverty to an EPC of C by 2030.

Privately let domestic properties in Scotland will be expected to reach an EPC of C and England and Wales have consulted on raising the requirements for all privately let properties to an EPC of C or B by this point.

All remaining homes will then be expected to be raised to an EPC of C by 2035 in England and Wales and 2040 in Scotland. Clear performance targets are also expected to be confirmed for non-domestic buildings during this period.

2045–50 – Net zero targets met
Scotland is aiming to reach its net zero target by 2045, with England reaching this goal in 2050 and Wales at 95% net zero by this point.

Part L 2020 – The First Step
In the final blog in this series, we take a look at the recommendations within the Part L consultations in England and Wales – and how construction should use these to guide upskilling processes over the coming years.

Other blogs in this series

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