Construction

The transition period for the Government’s changes to Building Regulations will end on 15th June 2023. Projects where a building regulations application has been made before this date will benefit from the old regulations, provided they have an onsite start date for the project before 15th June 2023.

Why are building regs changing?

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy figures state that heating and powering buildings represent 40% of the UK’s total energy usage, a significant number. These new building regulations are designed to reduce the need for heat and power in buildings to contribute to the country’s net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Introduced in 2022 with a 12-month transitional period, these regulations form part of the 2025 Future Homes Standard. All newly built homes are required to be carbon neutral.

What are the new regulations?

Subject to the new regulations, all new planning submissions will likely incur additional construction costs. Developers estimate the new rules will cost the industry more than £10 billion over the next 70 years.

The latest changes affect:

  • conservation of fuel and power
  • ventilation for new and existing buildings
  • a new Approved Document for Overheating in new residential buildings

These changes aim to improve building performance requirements. Increased insulation, ventilation, thermal heat pumps, reduced glazing, and electric charging points will add to the budget.

Carbon emissions targets will be more stringent, meaning that thermal elements such as walls, floors, and roofs will require more insulation, and more renewable technologies, such as solar panels, will be introduced.

  • From 15th June, new homes must produce at least 31 per cent less carbon emissions. The installation of electric heating systems combined with renewable energy sources such as solar are both seen as enablers for doing so.
  • New non-domestic builds are required to produce at least 27 per cent fewer carbon emissions with similar low energy measures to the previous in place.
  • ‘Primary energy’ will be used to measure the efficiency of a building’s heating as well as the energy required to deliver fuel to a building (this even extends to including the efficiency of the power station supplying the electricity).
  • In all new domestic builds, the new U-value for walls will be 0.18 W/m2, 1.4 for windows and roof lights and 1.4 for doors. In non-domestic builds, there’s a lowered U-value of 0.26 for walls, and the majority of windows/curtain walling must achieve 1.6 W/m2.
  • New and replacement heating systems in both domestic and non-domestic builds must have a maximum flow temperature of 55°C.
  • Existing non-domestic buildings must improve the efficiency of heating and hot water boiler systems by installing new controls. In new buildings (non-domestic), the minimum lighting efficacy has been raised to 80 luminaire lumens per circuit watt for display lighting and 95 for general lighting.
  • Background trickle vents have been recommended for non-domestic buildings, and a new requirement for CO2 monitors in all offices. The recommended minimum air supply rate is 0.5 l/s.m2.
  • The Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard (FEES) level in new homes will be set by a ‘full fabric specification’, and SAP compliance will now be applied to extensions built on existing properties.
  • Document O introduces glazing limits in new-build homes, care homes, schools and student accommodations to reduce unwanted solar gain. It also enforces new levels of cross-ventilation.
  • Document S requires all domestic new builds to have the preparatory work completed for future installation of an electric vehicle charging point.

The key changes for developers

These changes are significant, but the year transition period has provided time for developers to prepare. Some local councils have adopted energy targets (usually contained within Planning conditions) that exceed those set out in the new Building Regulation requirements. This will require developers to introduce more stringent thermal design standards to achieve compliance.

This note is not intended to give legal or financial advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon for such or regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. In preparing this note, we have relied on information sourced from third parties, and we make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein. You should not act upon information in this bulletin nor determine not to act without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. We and our officers, employees or agents shall not be responsible for any loss whatsoever arising from the recipient’s reliance upon any information we provide herein and exclude liability for the content to the fullest extent permitted by law.