Future Homes Standard and the domestic market

Jon Vanstone, chair of Certass TA, explains why the industry needs to speak with one voice.

It will come as no surprise to many that when a new government initiative is launching, certain areas of our industry want to go it alone and represent the few as opposed to the collective.

The government is soon to launch the Future Building Standard consultation, the second part of the Future Homes Standards, which will have a wider impact on our industry than the original element that focused on new homes.

This consultation will look at new non-domestic buildings, existing buildings and overheating, and will launch in autumn 2020, leading to an implementation of changes in domestic and non-domestic buildings in 2021.

The original first part of the two-part consultation proposed uplifting the standards for energy efficiency of new homes built in England. The original proposed changes to Part L of the regulations (Conservation of Fuel and Power) were supposedly to take effect in 2020, but now is looking more like 2021.

This rumoured delay is due to government being reasonable about the impact of change when driving toward net zero aspirations in a country hugely impacted by Covid-19.

The new homes consultation asked 69 questions and received over 4,000 responses from industry, and prompted some significant campaigns by green lobby groups. The consultation proposed two options for an uplift to requirements on CO2 emissions than homes built today of 20% or 31%.

The higher saving being based on demanding major developers to install heat pumps which is part of the Future Homes Standard and is very evident in the recently announced Green Homes Grant Voucher Scheme (GHGVS).

A lot of debate has occurred surrounding Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard (FEES), a metric of the fabric efficiency of the building as a whole. The FEES does not take account of the heating technology used in the home but if removed will surely result in low carbon technology being used to meet proposed metrics as opposed to good fabric due to its ease of use.

Many experts are firmly in the camp of ensuring a fabric Ffrst approach, which would support our industry. Government needs to avoid concerns raised under GHGVS that the demand for heat pumps in poorly insulated homes will only result in higher energy bills and therefore be hugely detrimental to the occupant and their finances.

As this debate moves into the existing homes in England, our industry of installers need to be aware of the impact of regulatory change on the work they do.

We at Certass will be entering a collective response from interested members but I think this policy and the implications on future funding into our sector warrants a more cross-industry approach.

If our industry gives different views and takes opposing positions, we may simply cancel each other out in the minds of Westminster. Conflicting advice given during Covid served only to cause confusion in the wider industry, and while our position was proven to be correct it would be better if this had been discussed first.

Recent announcements in the Winter Economy Plan and Green Homes Grant Scheme shows that industry will be propped up financially by government where deemed appropriate. However, if we as a sector wish to be dealt a better hand, we need to start working more aligned than we have ever achieved before.

The success of the Green Homes Grant Scheme will impact future investments by HM Treasury, but it will not stop them as our drive for positive environmental change is aligned to the current state of our housing stock and the need to improve it.

Currently, the relationship between competence to undertake work in line with regulations and funding of energy improvements is somewhat fractured. However, as the Building Safety Regulator becomes more active, and alignment between MHCLG (which owns the Building Regulations) and HSE (which will own the Building Safety Regulator) becomes stronger, so will the drive to ensure the standards of work undertaken.

So much of recent government policy is driven by the need to protect and develop jobs, using the requirement to improve the energy efficiency of our buildings. This is going to need to expand to include safety, skills, regulation and competency.

As glazing, we get a chance to demonstrate what we can achieve, but to truly grasp it we need to stop only thinking of those who pay our trade associations money but rather the supply chain within our industry at large.