Future Homes Standard

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government published its consultation on changes to Part L and Part F of the Building Regulations for new dwellings on 1 October 2019.

The Ministry published its response to the consultation on 19 January 2021 (see results at foot of this page).

Homes, both new and existing, account for 20% of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK according to the Climate Change Committee.

This is a first step in setting out the Future Homes Standard for new-build dwellings and is critical to decarbonisation of heat by electrification using heat pumps. The consultation acknowledges the significant reduction in the carbon factor for grid electricity, which removes a large barrier to the uptake of heat pumps.

The consultation set out the plans for achieving the Future Homes Standard, including proposed options to increase the energy efficiency requirements for new homes in 2020 as a first step towards the full Future Homes Standard which is due to introduced by 2023.

The following paragraphs from the consultation paper set out the views of the Ministry:

2.9. The Climate Change Committee stated in its report Net Zero: The UK's contribution to stopping global warming that achieving the net zero target will require the full decarbonisation of buildings by 2050. There are a number of existing low carbon heating technologies with the potential to support the scale of change needed. We anticipate that low carbon heating may be delivered through heat pumps, heat networks and, in some circumstances, direct electric heating.

Heat pumps

2.10. We anticipate that the installation of heat pumps, particularly air-to-water and air-to-air heat pumps, will play a major role in delivering low carbon heat for homes built to the Future Homes Standard. Heat pumps come with the same low-carbon benefits as direct electric heating, but can deliver heat much more efficiently, which can help to overcome the affordability and grid-resource constraints associated with direct electric heating.

ICAX comment: ICAX agrees that heat pumps are the most effective route to low carbon heating. Ground source heat pumps are more efficient than air source heat pumps, particularly in cold weather, although they are more expensive to install.

2.11. However, the installation of heat pumps in the UK is at a level much lower than that necessary to meet the ambition of the Future Homes Standard. The Climate Change Committee states that there is a need to establish heat pumps as a mass market solution for low carbon heating and there are opportunities to start this with new build properties. The Committee also recommends that ‘new homes should not be connected to the gas grid from 2025’. This has informed our thinking on how we should frame the Future Homes Standard.

ICAX comment: The reason that the installation of heat pumps in the UK is at a low level is because the Renewable Heat Incentive induced consumers to switch to installing biomass boilers.

Heat networks

2.12. Heat networks (sometimes referred to as district heating) are a distribution system that takes heat from a centralised source and delivers it to a number of different buildings. These heat networks also form an important part of our plan in the future of low carbon heat, in particular in cities and high-density areas. Heat networks can decarbonise more easily compared to most other heat sources because new technologies can be added to the system with little disruption to individual householders. They provide a unique opportunity to exploit larger scale, renewable and recovered heat sources that can’t be accessed at an individual building level. Heat networks also provide system benefits such as thermal storage and reducing the energy demand of the grid at peak times. It is estimated by the CCC that around 18% of UK heat will need to come from heat networks by 2050 if the UK is to meet its carbon targets cost-effectively. We expect that heat networks will have a strong role to play in delivering low carbon heat to new homes in future.

ICAX comment: ICAX agrees that heat networks can play a role in low carbon heating, but this will not be significant unless the source of heat is free of combustion: this means using heat pumps in heat networks.

Direct electric heating

2.13. We anticipate that direct electric heating will play a minor role in our plan for the future of low carbon heat. Direct electric heating is a well-established technology that produces heat through a near 100% efficient process, with no emissions at the point of use. Despite this, direct electric heaters are very expensive to run, and if deployed at scale may have a significant effect on the national grid. Under some circumstances it may be an appropriate technology where heat demand is particularly low, for instance where a home is built to the very highest fabric standards.

ICAX comment: heat pumps will achieve much lower carbon emissions than direct electric until the grid becomes carbon free. There can also be a place for using solar thermal technology in conjunction with ground source heat pumps, and solar PV arrays.

Other technologies

2.14. Other technologies, such as hydrogen, may have a role to play in heating systems of the future. However, for new homes, we anticipate that heat pumps and heat networks (and to a lesser extent direct electric heating) will be the principal means of producing low-carbon heat for buildings built to the Future Homes Standard.

ICAX comment: we believe that any role for hydrogen is far into the future. Hydrogen is likely to cost three times as much as natural gas and will not be low carbon until Carbon Capture and Storage has been developed at reasonable cost and proven at scale. There are also real concerns about air quality as burning hydrogen in air will emit up to six times the quantity of NOx as burning natural gas in air.

We believe that heat pumps will be the principal means of producing low-carbon heat for existing homes, as well as for new homes.


Future Homes Standard – Response by Government

Responses to the Future Homes Standard Consultation were published on 19 January 2021.

ICAX welcomes the response which can be summarised in the sentence, "We expect heat pumps will become the primary heating technology for new homes under the Future Homes Standard."

The responses also noted that, "Respondents agreed with the proposed flow temperature of 55°C and recognised that this would future-proof homes for different types of low-carbon heat and provided immediate efficiency benefits for other heating systems, while allowing a degree of flexibility in heating system design."


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