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Part L revisions set new energy-efficiency targets for non-domestic buildings

Eagerly awaited amendments to Part L energy-efficiency regulations on houses and non-domestic buildings have been unveiled, but delayed from coming into force until 2014.

The government predicts the changes will help lower fuel bills and deliver savings of £16m per year for businesses, along with 6.4m tonnes of carbon dioxide through a 6 per cent improvement on 2010 housing standards for newbuild homes.

This is slightly below the 8 per cent target for home carbon emissions originally planned.

The CO2 target for new non-domestic buildings has also been strengthened, with a 9 per cent improvement on 2010 standards.

The amended regulations are to be put before parliament shortly, with an impact assessment published at the same time.

The changes themselves are not due to come in before 6 April 2014, a move the government claimed was to give the industry “enough time to prepare.”

They were originally scheduled for October 2013.

In a response to the Part L consultation that took place over a year ago, a number of changes to the regulations were laid out today by Baroness Harman, having been overseen by Building Regulations minister Don Foster.

Part L of the Building Regulations relates to the conservation of fuel and power and is a crucial step towards the 2016 zero-carbon homes target.

“At a time when energy costs are rising, these measures mean anyone buying a new home knows it will be built to tough energy-saving standards to drive down their fuel bills”

Don Foster, communities minister

Minimum energy-efficiency standards when specific building services work is carried out in commercial buildings – including air conditioning and lighting replacements – is one area in which targets will be strengthened.

However, the energy-efficiency standards for extensions and replacement windows on existing homes will not be strengthened, with Baroness Harman saying this would be “inconsistent” with permitted development rights reforms to the planning system.

“It is not the right time to impose additional costs on hard-working families trying to improve their homes,” she said, adding that revenues were currently insufficient to cover the costs.

However, she did not rule out the possibility of reforms to these standards in the future.

“The delay in implementation is disappointing but sadly inevitable. It needn’t knock us off course from the zero-carbon targets, which it is encouraging to see government remains committed to”

John Alker, UK Green Building Council

The government will also not be proceeding with plans for a new homes quality assurance process, as it claimed more evidence was needed on where the problems lie, with solutions to be reported by next spring.

UK Green Building Council director of policy and communications John Alker said: “There can be no excuses for the length of time this has taken, but finally industry has the clarity on Part L that it craves.

“We’re still waiting for details on Carbon Compliance, Allowable Solutions and the Housing Standards Review – so the government is not out of the woods yet.

“The uplift is less ambitious than any of the options originally consulted upon – even less than government’s previously ‘preferred options’, particularly for non-domestic buildings.

“However, the fact there is any uplift at all is good news – it’s a victory for all those who know that industry can continue to innovate, to improve standards and reduce carbon cost-effectively.”

Association for the Conservation of Energy director Andrew Warren said the change was “better late than never”.

“Effectively the new standards will come into force an entire year late, which is no way to encourage the construction industry to have any faith in government timetables,” he added, pointing out that the anticipated savings were far lower than the original consultation projected.

The UK Green Building Council made a plea last month for the government to push ahead with its zero-carbon policy to avoid “putting growth in the construction sector at risk” as Part L revisions were delayed.

The government’s consultation on the energy-efficiency requirements in Building Regulations closed in April 2012 and the implementation date was due to be October 2013.

Chancellor George Osborne had originally stated that the government would publish a “detailed plan” setting out a response to the 2012 consultation on Part L of the Building Regulations by May 2013 and remained committed to zero-carbon homes from 2016.

The announcement was hailed as “the one shining green beacon” in the Budget at the time by UKGBC chief executive Paul King. However, the delay to the response caused the UKGBC to warn that the government could be “putting growth in the construction sector at risk”.

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