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The government recently published its updated Building Regulations for England which includes amendments to Approved Documents Part F (ventilation), and Part L (conservation of fuel and power), as well as the release of a new Approved Document for overheating (Part O). They are all viewed as a part of the country’s journey towards net zero and are aimed at driving energy efficiency up and carbon emissions down in commercial and residential buildings.
The new regulations are set to come into force on 15 June 2022, when new homes and buildings in England will have to produce around 30% less CO2 than current standards, and emissions from other new buildings, including offices and shops, must be reduced by 27%. This is regarded as a first step towards making all buildings ‘net zero ready’ from 2025 when the Future Homes Standard (FHS) comes into effect, mandating a 75% reduction in emissions.
The scope of the new regulations will affect both existing and new build properties, and will change how heating and ventilation is specified. For existing homes, uplifts to both Part L and F mandate new minimum efficiency standards. This includes a new way of calculating whole house heat losses for new extensions.
All new residential buildings, including care and children’s homes, and student accommodation, will have to be designed to reduce overheating under changes to Part F, and with the introduction of Part O. Higher standards of ventilation will be introduced to improve IAQ and reduce the spread of airborne viruses in new non-residential buildings, including additional standards for recirculating ventilation systems in new offices, along with the compulsory installation of CO2 monitors.
Amendments to Part L are focused on measures that enable a building to produce less carbon emissions and will act as an interim uplift before the stricter demands of the Future Homes Standard come into force in 2025.
The new edition raises the threshold for efficiency with new requirements for insulation, thermal bridging, primary energy targets and air leakage testing requirements. In addition, there has been a change in carbon factor of electricity, meaning the use of electrically powered heating systems (especially heat pumps) is especially incentivised.
New heating systems will need to be designed with a maximum flow temperature of 55°C or lower, and zones within a property will require self-regulating control devices for heating systems.
The new guidance in Part F (means of ventilation) was written as a companion piece to Part L (conservation of fuel and power) to ensure the provision of good indoor air quality in buildings with an airtight envelope. This will help protect the health and wellbeing of inhabitants from indoor air pollution and protect buildings from damp, condensation and mould caused by moisture not being able to escape.
To support homeowners, Part F now recommends advanced ventilation solutions, such as mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) and continuous mechanical extract ventilation instead of natural ventilation. Natural ventilation is now only suitable for dwellings with a design air permeability higher than 5 m3/(m2·h) meaning many new build dwellings will not be suitable for this technology.
Ventilation guidelines will include a requirement for trickle vents in replacement windows and a new method for ensuring ventilation is not compromised when energy efficiency improvements are carried out in existing buildings.
Industry reaction to the changes to the Building Regulations has been broadly positive, and manufacturers and industry bodies say they are prepared to meet the new demands.
Neil Sawers, commercial technical manager, Grant UK
“We will be looking into the finer detail of the documents over the coming months, but as it stands today these changes form a very real beginning for the decarbonisation of heat and takes away any doubt over what the future looks like.
“Starting now, there are real challenges ahead – like upskilling the workforce to ensure our industry have the numbers of highly trained individuals required to deliver a lower carbon heating solution to our customers.”
Richard Paine Product and Marketing Director at Vent-Axia:
“We welcome the new Part F of the Building Regulations. Over the last 5 years we have all witnessed the real consequences of sealing up homes and insulating them to make them more energy efficient. It has resulted in indoor air pollution. The new Part F has started to redress the balance of ventilation with energy efficiency since the pandemic has clearly shown the importance of good indoor air quality to health and wellbeing.”
Simon Lomax, CEO of the Kensa Group:
“We welcome the launch of the latest Part L standards which will encourage more housebuilders to consider low carbon heating choices. We remain convinced that our solution – small ground source heat pumps in each dwelling, linked to a communal ground array – provides the best outcomes for the house builder, house purchaser, environment, and electricity system.”