New energy regulations for buildings slammed as too little too late
Ministers have announced long-awaited measures to make homes more energy efficient, claiming this will save up to one million tonnes of carbon every year.
The changes to parts F and L (ventilation and fuel conservation) of the Building Regulations and the implementation of the Energy Performance in Buildings Directive will mean new homes will have to be better insulated and make use of more efficient heating systems.
The revised part L will also make air pressure leakage testing of buildings mandatory. This should also improve energy efficiency through cutting down on unnecessary leakage.
Housing and Planning Minister Yvette Cooper said: "We are driving up standards for new homes so that housing can do its bit to combat climate change. These new standards are good news for consumers energy bills and for the environment too. This is the latest in a line of improvements ranging from refurbishing social housing to tightening boiler regulations which are helping to cut carbon emissions."
However, the changes were criticised for being "deliberately weakened" since they were officially consulted upon in 2004.
Andrew warren, director of the Association for the Conservation of Energy said: "They will not deliver the promised one million tonnes of carbon savings by 2010."
"When he launched the Government's new energy strategy in February 2003, the Prime Minister stated that these new regulations would come into force during 2005. Manufacturers invested based on that timetable. In fact, it will be well into 2006 before the Regulations start operating."
Mr Warren added that the Prime Minister had initially said that buildings would be 25% more energy efficient and that the initial consultation package would have achieved that level. However, the measures announced this week amount to an average energy saving of just 18%.
"And there have been subtle changes to thermal bridging requirements, which officially reduce the current standards operating - making it appear as though the required changes are more significant than they are."
Philip Sellwood, Chief Executive of the Energy Saving Trust welcomed the mandatory pressure testing of new homes but said he was disappointed that there would be no mandatory energy efficiency improvements for homes where significant extensions are being built.
With almost 300,000 planning permissions granted each year, the exclusion of this measure would result in some 2.25 million tonnes of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere by 2010.
"With the UK due to miss its 2010 climate change targets for CO2 reduction, the Government can not afford to pas up environmental savings of this kind," Sellwood said. "Doing so could also cost homeowners dearly, as installing energy efficiency measures reduces home energy use up to £250 a year for the average household; costs a fraction of the overall cost of an extension, and is much cheaper to install whilst extending than at a later date."
Both EST and ACE pointed out that there were still no policies to improve the energy efficiency of existing housing stock although the ODPM will be leading a review of this with a view to consulting stakeholders in Spring 2006.
Households are currently responsible for roughly 30% of total UK energy use and all new homes are already expected to meet basic energy efficiency standards.
However, as Andrew warren pointed out in a recent article for edie news, nearly half of all builders are breaking the law and failing to meet basic requirements (see related story).
Philip Sellwood said that local authority building officers must have a clear understanding of their role and that they should be given sufficient resources to enforce the legislation.
By David Hopkins
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