New building regulations were introduced in the UK on 15 June 2022 that brought several important changes to the property industry, targeting insulation, ventilation and energy consumption. While the regulations apply primarily to new buildings, they also apply to home retrofitting projects, namely structural renovations such as extensions.
One of the main aims that underpins the new regulations is to boost the green credentials of the UK’s built environment.
Making buildings greener is a key step in reducing their contribution to climate change and supporting the UK’s transition to net zero by 2050, since the real estate sector is responsible for nearly 40% of global carbon dioxide emissions.
The new regulations are an ‘interim uplift’ intended to gear the new construction market towards preparedness for the Future Homes and Buildings Standard (FHBS), which is due to come into force in 2025. For example, under the recent amendment, new houses are expected to produce 30% lower carbon emissions, while the FHBS targets a 75% to 80% reduction.
This is to ensure that all buildings are net zero ready and will not require retrofitting, with guidelines set to change again in the next three years.
However, considering that roughly a quarter of a building’s lifetime emissions are incurred during the construction phase, the current regulations do not go far enough to tackle this issue.
Looking ahead, one can expect new regulations mandating the measurement and reporting of embodied carbon in buildings. Lifecycle embodied carbon analyses are already required as part of the planning process for large construction projects in London, and many in the industry are advocating for their codification as national law under the proposed introduction of ‘part Z’ to the building regulations.
In the meantime, the new amendments to the building regulations are certainly a step in the right direction. In anticipation of the FHBS introduction in 2025, a commensurate increase in levels of training and regulatory awareness among construction professionals will be needed in order to ensure that the UK’s climate goals can be fully realised.
Agathe Kuhn is associate director of policy and legislation at sustainability consultancy Longevity Partners