What are the 2025 Future Home & Buildings Standards and how will they affect you?
- AuthorNick Fielding
Following on from the 2022 revisions to the Building Regulations, the government is set to introduce some landmark changes to improve energy efficiency in UK new builds from 2025, known as the Future Homes and Buildings Standards (FHBS). While existing homes and properties will also be subject to regulations as the UK sets out to achieve its Net Zero strategy by 2050, the FHBS will primarily affect new builds. So, what exactly are these new building standards and how will they affect you?
What are the Future Homes and Buildings Standards?
The government has put plans in action to decarbonize UK new builds and prioritise retrofit and reuse in existing builds. These plans were initially conceived in 2019. To reach global climate change targets, quick action is required as residences and non-domestic buildings account for 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the UK. Enter, the Future Homes and Buildings Standards:
“The Future Homes and Buildings Standard will produce highly efficient buildings which use low-carbon heat and have the best fabric standards possible, ensuring they are better for the environment and fit for the future.”
—Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, 2021
What do the changes look like?
The FHBS wants new builds to use a low-carbon alternative to gas central heating as one of its goals. From 2025, new builds will not be connected to the gas network, so, what are the options? Heat pumps are being considered by the government as a potential heat source for new construction, however due to their high upfront costs, this may not be feasible until more study is conducted. Electric heaters are another low-carbon substitute. 2.2 million houses in the UK already have electric radiators as a standard fixture. They produce heat by convection and radiation, providing enduring comfort while using the least amount of energy possible. They are an inconspicuous, cost-effective low-carbon alternative to gas since they are built to incorporate a plethora of features and programming options.
- 100% efficiency – Converting every watt of energy drawn from the mains into useable heat, absolutely nothing is wasted.
- Easy installation – With DIY-friendly options, installing one or two heaters in a property can be done in minutes. For a full refit, hardwiring electric heaters is a quick and simple job for an electrician.
- Zero maintenance – With no boiler connection or risk of carbon monoxide leaks, electric heaters require no mandatory servicing. Long lifespans and simple installation ensure minimal upkeep.
- Superior controllability – With precision thermostats, 24/7 programming, WiFi app and voice control compatibility, electric heaters offer users a wider scope for managing their energy usage.
- Future-proofed – Pairable with renewable energy sources, like wind turbines and solar panels, electric heaters are primed for a sustainable future.
Uplift in building fabric standards
New builds built under the FHBS will adopt a ‘fabric first’ approach. New builds will not only emit a smaller carbon footprint because of improvements in insulation and efficiency through the components and materials used during construction, but also won't require the installation of more modern technology in the future.
Main aspects of a ‘fabric first’ build:
- Thermal mass – Heavyweight construction materials like concrete which reduce temperature fluctuations.
- Maximising airtightness – Internal building components and flexible/sealed joints that will act as a barrier against heat loss.
- Overheating prevention – Limits to how much glazing and unwanted solar gain a building gets.
- Natural ventilation – Supplying and removing fresh air to a building via passive forces (wind & breezes).
- Minimum standard U-values – Thermal elements that prevent heat loss, such as doors, windows, walls and roofs will need to fall under a minimum standard.
Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) overhaul
Since the 1990s, the Standard Assessment Procedure has been the primary tool used in the UK to evaluate the energy efficiency of residential buildings. SAP particularly evaluates the amount of energy a property will use in relation to standardised occupancy patterns and behaviour. Although it has gone through several iterations since its beginnings, the FHBS will give it the biggest overhaul yet. Known as SAP 11, it will adhere to tougher insulation standards and have a new target primary energy rate. For new builds that favour decarbonizing technologies, the improved methodology will help produce a more accurate EPC rating.
Zero carbon ready homes & buildings
The government has adopted the term ‘zero carbon ready’ to establish the future-proof status of new builds post 2025. The concept is as follows: all new builds will work in tandem with the National Grid to decarbonise over time without the need for future retrofitting. With this in mind, here’s a general overview of what the Future Homes and Buildings Standards will look like on the road to zero carbon emissions:
Roadmap to Net Zero
2023 – Technical specifications for the FHBS published
2024 – New legislations to be introduced
2025 – Full implementation of Future Homes and Buildings Standards
2035 – All homes to have an EPC rating of C or above
2040 – End of fossil fuel heating in all non-domestic buildings
2050 – Deadline to achieve Net Zero carbon emissions
How will the 2025 Future Homes and Buildings Standards affect you?
Self-builders must now assume specific duties, such as on-site audits, EPC assessments, and U-value increases, in order to ensure they are in compliance with building requirements as a result of the 2022 Building Regulation changes. Self-builders will have a clearer notion of what to anticipate after 2025 once the full technical specification for the FHBS has been published.
When buying a new build, your Completion Certificate will outline proof of all building work that has been completed in accordance with the new standards and has been deemed acceptable by an inspector. You are legally liable for any work performed on an existing property. Extensions and the replacement of thermal elements like walls, floors or windows must meet the new fabric efficiency standards.
The legal obligation for landlords to offer tenants homes and business facilities that are energy efficient will increase. Granting new leases, renewing existing ones, or continuing to rent out a non-domestic property with a F or G EPC rating will be illegal as of April 2023. When the FHBS is put into effect, new tenancies must have a C grade or higher. This will start to apply to current leases in 2028. One option to raise your EPC rating is to install low-carbon, economical heating systems like electric radiators, therefore it's crucial to get started on this as soon as possible.
Hundreds of thousands of jobs will require upskilling or see an increased demand in the coming decades as the green jobs market continues to grow. The government is encouraging tradespeople to gain and develop ‘green skills’ in order to smooth the transition to Net Zero. For instance, construction workers and oil and gas professionals all have transferable skills for careers in renewable energy.
If you have a site going through planning currently or are in the formative stages of design, or if you have any questions about the contents of the article and the implications for your plan, Chattertons' Commercial Property and/or its Land Development & New Homes Team can help discuss your options.