Future Homes Standard and beyond: A new era for new builds

Future Homes Standard and beyond: A new era for new builds

Dan Love, Head of Commercial at Polypipe Building Products

Housing design and construction methods have completely transformed over time, with significant changes occurring roughly every 20-30 years and being largely driven by new innovations and regulations. As it stands, we’re at the very end of one of these cycles, with typical properties of today remaining relatively unchanged throughout the ‘80s, ‘90s and ‘00s – until now.

Today, we’re beginning to see a shift in the way that homes are designed and built. One of the primary drivers of this change is sustainability – designing homes to require less energy and use lower carbon energy sources as we move further away from reliance on fossil fuels and towards renewable alternatives.

With the grace period for updates to Part L of the building regulations having already ended in June this year, the industry has had to make considerable adjustments. Part L’s target of a 31% reduction in CO2 emissions has already led to a seismic shift both in how we retrofit existing homes and build new ones. Yet, to achieve the targets of the Future Homes Standard (FHS), which is set to legislate a 70-80% reduction in carbon emissions from 2025 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 for new builds, the way homes are fundamentally designed and built will need to change significantly.

Future Homes Standard and beyond: A new era for new builds

Considering that domestic buildings account for 27% of total UK emissions and space and hot water accounts for 72% of all domestic emissions, it is impossible to meet these ambitious targets without making significant changes to plumbing and heating systems in homes. So, as an industry, we need to transform the fundamental composition of the UK’s housing stock.

To do this, we’re going to see a greater emphasis on the fabric of buildings being more airtight, better insulated and well-ventilated both to circulate fresh air and also to dramatically minimise heat loss. By ensuring all of this is achieved, we will then be able to reduce the energy requirements of any source to heat homes.

We’re already seeing steps from the government to aid the phasing out of gas-powered heating, with aims to ban sales of new gas boilers from 2035 and the introduction of grants such as the Boiler Upgrade Scheme. Yet, while heat pumps appear to be the government’s favoured heating source, the rate of adoption to date is a cause for concern. Recent data shows that just 60,000 heat pumps were installed in the UK last year, which is just 10% of the government’s goal of 600,000 per year by 2028. This makes the UK one of the slowest adopters in Europe. In fact, at current rates of installation, it would take more than 400 years before every British home has a heat pump.

While it’s clear that much more needs to be done for heat pumps to become more accessible and affordable, they’re not the only alternative. We’re also likely to see increased uptake of hydrogen boilers and photovoltaics as heat sources. When it comes to heating emitters, we’re likely to see steel radiators being upgraded to larger radiators, or replaced with radiant heating sources that can heat a room at a lower temperature, such as underfloor heating. Elsewhere, double glazing will be replaced with triple or even quadruple glazing, and there will be an increased focus on insulation requirements, air tightness solutions and pipe insulation. We’re also seeing a transition to an era of modern methods of construction (MMC) and minimalism, with a recent rise in partial offsite construction to help decrease carbon emissions before buildings are even in operation.

Future Homes Standard and beyond: A new era for new builds

Although the future of new builds undoubtedly looks cleaner and greener, whether developments happen at the required rate to meet FHS and net zero by 2050 targets remains to be seen. And while the onus of meeting these targets doesn’t directly sit with specifiers, this will undoubtedly have implications for professionals in this role.

Significantly reducing carbon emissions across entire projects requires a greater understanding of all the areas where carbon emissions are generated and to what extent. For this, scope 3 is a widely accepted method of calculating carbon emissions. It takes into account scope 1; the emissions of the developer themselves in their day-to-day activities, scope 2; the emissions from purchased energy that the developer uses, and scope 3; the total emissions of all upstream and downstream third parties involved in the construction of a property. This includes suppliers, construction activity, and the use of the property itself for its useful life.

Choice of materials and products make up a significant part of this calculation and will become an even bigger consideration in the drive to meet new regulations and targets. Suppliers to the UK construction industry play a major role in the total emissions of the construction process as they touch it at several points – in upstream activities in terms of purchased goods/services and related fuel and energy, and downstream in terms of transport and distribution, use of sold products and end of life of products.

For this reason, specifiers need to take into account factors like the weight of products and materials, ease of transport, ease of installation, energy consumption throughout their lifespan, operational emissions and what happens with them at end of life – can materials be reused and recycled or are they simply redundant and sent to landfill?

Looking forward, and as the FHS deadline rapidly approaches, design, tender, construction, and post-occupation will become heavily data-driven, and any changes or breaks in specification from the design will have major implications. The focus will be on improving information management and providing accurate, up-to-date, easily understandable data across all areas of a project to ensure developments are fully compliant with building regulations and have energy efficiency embedded at their core. Otherwise, meeting net zero by 2050 will be nothing more than a pipe dream.

Find out more at: https://www.polypipeufh.com/futurehomeshub/

ABOUT POLYPIPE BUILDING PRODUCTS

Polypipe Building Products is the UK’s leading manufacturer of plastic piping systems and low-carbon heating solutions for the residential market. We design, develop, and manufacture over 20,000 product lines which are stocked in plumbers and builders’ merchants nationally.

Polypipe Building Products works with national and local developers, plumbing and heating engineers, general builders and groundworkers to deliver above and below ground drainage systems, rainwater solutions, as well as hot and cold plastic plumbing products.

We provide innovative products and services to our customers, including UFH site support and our Approved Engineer network. With Polypipe Building Products, we’ve got you covered.

For more information, please visit www.polypipebpfuturehomes.com