Long-awaited changes to Part L of the Building Regulations focusing on the energy efficiency of new homes and non-domestic buildings were unveiled by the Government yesterday (30 July).
The new energy standards could cut £200 on typical new homes' fuel bills and large businesses over £60k, compared to build standards before 2010.
Communities Minister Baroness Hanham announced a 6% carbon reduction target for new build homes and a 9% cut for non-domestic buildings, compared to 2010 levels.
Effective from 6 April 2014, the changes mean that new homes and non domestic buildings will have to include energy saving features such as better fabric insulation and more efficient heating and lighting.
The Government says the changes will also further cut carbon emissions, help tackle climate change and ensure it is on track to deliver its Budget commitment for zero carbon homes from 2016 in England.
Communities Minister Don Foster said: 'At a time when energy costs are rising and everyone is watching their wallet these measures mean anyone buying a new home knows it will be built to tough energy saving standards to drive down their fuel bills. Businesses will also benefit with new rules to make buildings such as offices, shops, warehouses and pubs more energy efficient.'
He continued: 'Today's measures mean businesses and householders will not only benefit from reduced energy bills but they will also know they are doing their bit to tackle climate change.'
It is estimated that 6.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide should be saved as a result of the new measures. No changes are being made to rules on existing homes.
The Government's announcement has been welcomed by The UK Green Building Council.
John Alker, UK-GBC's director of policy and communications, said: 'There can be no excuses for the length of time this has taken, but finally industry has the clarity on Part L that it craves. Although we're still waiting for details on Carbon Compliance, Allowable Solutions and the Housing Standards Review - so Government is not out of the woods yet.
'The uplift is less ambitious than any of the options originally consulted upon - even less than Government's previously 'preferred options', particularly for non-domestic buildings. However, the fact there is any uplift at all is good news - it's a victory for all those who know that industry can continue to innovate, to improve standards and reduce carbon cost-effectively.'
He added: 'The delay in implementation is disappointing but sadly inevitable. It needn't knock us off course from the zero carbon targets, which it is encouraging to see Government remains committed to.'
However, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) claims that the new building standards will hinder the supply of new housing. FMB chief executive, Brian Berry, warns that the measures will hit smaller developers harder and faster than the rest of the industry.
He said: 'FMB surveys of house-builders indicate the cost implications for smaller developments will be significantly above those estimated by the Government's impact assessments.
'In a still fragile housing market, in which homebuyers are not prepared to pay the extra for energy efficiency, these extra costs will continue to come off the bottom line of builders, threatening the viability of many developments and further hindering hopes of a boost in housing supply. Smaller house-builders without large banks of prior planning consents will be hit first by these changes.'
He continued: 'As well as increased costs, the new fabric energy-efficiency standard will involve complex calculations and a steep learning curve. For those small house-builders who have not been building recently, the barriers to re-entry will be raised again.'
'We support the idea that 'zero carbon' should be the end destination, but the timetable for achieving it must be realistic and deliverable. The overwhelming feeling in the industry is that policy is running well ahead of the industry's ability to deliver on these commitments,' Mr Berry concluded.
Meanwhile the Renewable Energy Association (REA) has expressed its disappointment at the Government's decision to introduce only minimal increases to carbon targets in the 2013 Building Regulations. It says the carbon targets are lower even than the relatively weak proposals contained in the original consultation.
REA Head of Policy Paul Thompson said: 'This is a failure of ambition which seriously undermines the Government's intention to fully implement Zero Carbon standards in 2016. As new build is excluded from the domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (except self-build), industry was counting on strong carbon targets in the Building Regulations to incentivise new build green heating.
'This is a real missed opportunity, as it is often much cheaper to install renewable technologies during construction rather than retrofit.'