Policies that will influence the Government’s review into Part L – what changes can we expect?

Later in 2019 the Government intends to issue consultations for England and the Welsh Government for a review of Part L of the Building Regulations (England and Wales), due in 2020. But what can we expect to come out of the review? Existing policies that will likely inform the review give away big clues, as we explain here.

History of energy efficiency in Building Regulations

It’s worth taking a quick look back at how energy efficiency – and Part L – has evolved over the decades, before considering its future.

Energy efficiency in homes has its roots in efforts to control condensation, dating back to provisions made in 1962 and previously through the Public Health Act 1936. It wasn’t until 1972 that energy conservation measures were introduced.

The 1984 Building Act laid the groundwork for Part L, a functional requirement to “make reasonable provision for the conservation of fuel and power.” A 1995 update focused on energy efficiency but it wasn’t until 2002 that the first reference to CO2 was made. A year later the EU-driven Energy Performance of Building Directive (EPBD) was adopted, which calculated whole-building carbon emissions for the first time. These measurements (SAP for dwellings) became the new way to show compliance from 2006.

In 2008 the UK produced its Climate Change Act and there was a further tightening of standards in 2010, but since then, aside from updates for replacement gas boilers, Part L has not been significantly altered.

That will likely change in 2020. Here are the policies whose aims may drive changes to Part L.

Eliminating use of fossil-fuel-based heating

Building a Britain fit for the future: Industrial Strategy white paper

Despite the title, the Government’s Industrial Strategy white paper is driving the review into Part L for residential buildings as well as non-residential. The paper sets out four “challenges”, one of which – the Clean Growth Challenge – has a mission to at least halve the energy use of new buildings by 2030. The mission includes the following objectives:

  • Making sure every new building in Britain is safe, high quality, much more efficient and uses clean heating
  • Innovating to make low energy, low carbon buildings cheaper to build
  • Driving lower carbon, lower cost and higher quality construction through innovative techniques
  • Giving consumers more control over how they use energy through smart technologies
  • Halving the cost of renovating existing buildings to a similar standard as new buildings, while increasing quality and safety

In his 2019 spring statement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond also signalled that a “future homes standard” would aim to end the use of fossil fuel-based heating systems in all new homes from 2025.

The Government recognises that “decarbonising heat is our most difficult policy and technology challenge to meet our carbon targets.”

Consultation and tests for new standards promised in the Clean Growth Challenge

The Government has made the following commitments in updating Part L requirements:

Strengthening standards for new homes: The Government will consult on strengthening energy performance standards for new homes under Building Regulations, including “futureproofing new homes for low carbon heating systems.”

Strengthening standards for work in existing homes: Again, the Government will consult on making improvements to Building Regulations so that “any new work…to existing properties meets a high standard of energy efficient.”

Tests for any new standards: New standards will be weighed against tests where evidence shows there are “cost-effective and affordable opportunities and that it is safe and practical to do so.”

Healthy Homes and Future of Mobility Challenges

Another two of the four challenges will impact on new home build.

The Ageing Society Grand Challenge aims to create healthy homes and ensure that people “can enjoy at least five more years of healthy, independent life in their homes by 2035.” In practice, the intention here is that Building Regulations will support creating healthy homes by considering issues of overheating and ventilation standards, as well as accessibility standards.

Electric cars spearhead the Government’s Road to Zero Strategy and the Future of Mobility Challenge shares that strategy’s mission, namely to make all new cars and vans “effectively zero emission” by 2040. The challenge in particular wants to ensure houses are electric vehicle (EV)-ready and, where appropriate, have a chargepoint available. There is an intention to consult on “introducing a requirement for chargepoint infrastructure for new dwellings in England.”

Subject to Brexit, it is currently the Government’s intention to transpose the requirements of the EPBD, which has specific targets with regards to EV charging:

Scope Building Type Obligation Date effective
New-build and renovation projects Non-residential buildings with more than 10 parking spaces Install at least one recharging point. Install ducting for at least one in five spaces 10 March 2020


Residential buildings with more than 10 parking spaces

Install ducting infrastructure for every parking space

10 March 2020

Existing buildings

All non-residential with more than 20 parking spaces

Lay down requirements for the installation of a minimum number of recharging points

10 March 2020

Applicable from 2025

Other policies with potential Part L implications

Two Government departments, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy have policies that may feed into the Part L review.

MHCLG Policies

  • Building Regulations – minimum standards for the energy efficient of new buildings and work to existing buildings
  • Planning – National Planning Policy Framework supporting the transition to a low carbon future
  • Energy Performance Certificates – labelling system when buildings are constructed, sold or let
  • Social Housing – Decent Home Standards requirements for reasonable comfort, insulation and efficient heating

BEIS Policies

Consultation, research and funding

The Government has committed to consulting on Part L in 2019, including a call for evidence and a competition to design “The Home of 2030”. In particular, the consultation will look at issues around ventilation and overheating homes, and explore links to accessibility standards. BEIS is also running a research project called Building for 2050, designed to help house builders meet the challenge of delivering low cost, low carbon housing.

The Industrial Strategy is supported by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. The buildings challenge falls under the fund’s Transforming Construction arena with £170m of public money available for innovation in this area. The fund is delivered by UK Research and Innovation and current opportunities can be found here.


Please Note: Every care was taken to ensure the information in this article was correct at the time of publication. Any written guidance provided does not replace the reader’s professional judgement and any construction project should comply with the relevant Building Regulations or applicable technical standards. However, for the most up to date LABC Warranty technical guidance please refer to your Risk Management Surveyor and the latest version of the LABC Warranty technical manual.


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