What do plumbers & developers need to know about proposed 2020 Part L Building Regs

November 2019

A drive to heat pumps and low carbon heating, a 2020 introduction of SAP 10, building to the latest Building Regs – no matter when planning was granted…

Those are some of the key Part L Building Regs changes that are potentially on the horizon as the government looks to accelerate the implementation of its Future Homes Standard. In this month’s blog we ask (and answer!) where the proposed changes come from, and how can plumbers and developers prepare?

Where have these proposed Part L changes come from?

With new and existing homes accounting for 20% of all the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions1, it’s no surprise there’s a drive to legislation that delivers top notch energy efficiency in UK housing.

We already know the government wants all new build homes to be off the gas grid from 2025, as announced by the Committee on Climate Change.

The Future Homes Standard gets into what that might mean in practice, with a drive to low carbon heating, and new homes that “might have a heat pump, triple glazing and standards for walls, floors and roofs that significantly limit any heat loss.”

The government has committed to introducing the Standard in 2025, with the expectation that the average home “will have 75-80% less carbon emissions than one built to current energy efficiency requirements.”

However, there’s a desire to get the ball rolling earlier, with a proposal for some changes to Part L and Part F of the Building Regulations to kick in from 2020. This proposal is currently under consultation until 10 January 2020, with implementation pencilled in later in the year.

The 2020 proposal has two options: Option 1 being a 20% reduction in carbon emissions compared to the current standard. But it’s option 2 that is the government’s favoured approach - a 31% reduction focused on carbon-saving technologies and better fabric standards, and it’s this option that is the most likely to be adopted.

What do the Future Homes Standard and proposed Part L changes mean for plumbers?

Low carbon heating, and starting the process of future-proofing new homes are the key themes. As a minimum, that will mean space must be allocated for a hot water cylinder in new homes, even if one isn’t installed ready for handover to the homeowner.

It also seems the trend towards heat pumps is gathering pace, installed with a twin-coil or even triple-coil hot water cylinder to maximise renewable heat sources like solar.

Heat pumps and other low carbon heating systems may not in themselves form part of the 2020 acceleration proposal, but Kingspan’s advice to plumbing businesses would be to get ready now, as they’re coming! The government has the same view, saying: “We also expect that it [Option 2: 31% reduction in carbon emissions for new homes] would help to prepare supply chains for heat pumps and increase the number of trained installers.”

Don’t be surprised if schemes and incentives for existing homes, beyond the current Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive, follow. It’s already on the agenda as part of the December 2019 General Election campaign.

Kingspan’s recommendations:

Keep an eye on the Future Homes Standard consultation’s progress.
Make sure your skills are up to date, for example ensuring you are G3 qualified to work on unvented systems, being able to advise on, install and maintain heat pumps, solar, or other low carbon heating systems. Accredited heat pump courses such as this one by BPEC are available throughout the country.
Use retrospective hot water cylinder installations – for nearly new homes that have already been handed over to the homeowner but where the developer didn’t install a cylinder – as a major opportunity for your business.

What do the main proposed Part L changes mean for developers?

The Future Home Standard consultation recommends 2020 adoption of SAP 10, the most recent Standard Assessment Procedure for energy rating new build homes.

Initial findings show that heating systems featuring a direct hot water cylinder, or particularly hot water cylinders used with a heat pump, fare better than combi boilers against the new SAP 10 standards. Heating isn’t the only element of SAP10, but it’s one that can have a big impact.

The consultation also proposes that builders build to the latest Building Regulations; rather than to those that applied when planning permission was granted. This is to avoid situations where planning was granted years before building work started.

Kingspan’s recommendations:

Make sure you’re familiar with SAP 10 requirements and the consultation’s content and progress.
Understand the performance trade-offs and homeowner expectations, costs and SAP implications when specifying hot water and heating systems in new homes:
The time taken to heat water vs time taken to use water
The availability of the heat source and the time the hot water is needed
The energy used vs the time taken to heat the water
Work out your off-grid gas strategy now. Start phasing it in before 2025, as it’s going to take time to up skill all your installers and contractors. This is especially important as the government accelerates the change from one set of building regulations to the next.

What’s the timetable for the Future Homes Standard consultation?

The consultation is currently due to run until 10 January 2020; with implementation pencilled in for mid to late 2020.

Full details are available online, and you can respond to the consultation here.

The consultation is England only, although the commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 is UK wide and is enshrined in law.

Resources for KINGSPAN Hot Water Cylinders