A group of leading architects and engineers have warned that proposed changes to building regulations in England and Wales will make buildings less energy efficient, not more, regarding this as a step backwards in terms of meeting the UK’s carbon emissions target.

The proposal is to reform Part L of the Building Regulations, which sets the minimum energy performance standards for new dwellings. The proposals have been framed as an improvement, but according to professionals actually represent a reduction in the energy performance standards of buildings.

Under current regulations, all new building designs are assessed against a notional benchmark design, using parameters such as the thermal performance of materials, the orientation and size of the windows, air tightness and heating and ventilation systems. Currently, to pass the test, the building must meet the performance of the notional design.

Under the new changes, the Fabric Efficiency Standard would be removed, resulting in a building designed next year being allowed to perform much worse than one built in 2013, when current standards were introduced. Similar to the above, a building that would fail to meet current regulations, would now pass under the new system.

At a time when the built environment accounts for 40% of UK carbon emissions, an urgent change to the regulations to insist on more stringent energy standards is being demanded by a growing number of architects, engineers, planners and developers, with them suggesting that the proposed reforms of Part L are a missed opportunity to properly address the climate emergency.

The London Energy Transformation Initiative (Leti) wants to see a fundamental shift towards monitoring how buildings actually perform in use, away from the current system of simply measuring abstract design factors in a vacuum, before the dwelling is built. Their research has shown that many buildings don’t come anywhere near meeting their purported Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) band, the official rating of a property’s energy efficiency. Equally, the way the rating system calculates heat loss and gain means it can’t detect factors such as more insulation and better Air Tightness, so good buildings end up being rated lower than they should be.

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