“It’s now very hard to see how the construction industry will be ready to implement zero carbon standards in 2016,” said David Bownass, sustainability director at consulting engineer WSP.
“The whole timescale for achieving zero carbon is in danger of being derailed by government delays and setbacks,” said John Sinfield, managing director of Knauf Insulation Northern Europe.
Andrew Orriss, head of business development at building materials supplier SIG360, said: “The delaying of Part L changes to April 2014 is undoubtedly going to cause some concern among industry from those who think this will undermine the 2016 zero carbon target.”
But Mr Orriss backed the decision to delay the orignally-planned October 2013 implementation date on the basis that it was “better to get Part L right late, than not get it right at all”.
The government announced the new Part L regulations yesterday, asserting that the new energy standards would cut £200 from the fuel bills of a typical new semi-detached house and more than £60,000 from the fuel bills of large businesses, compared to build standards before 2010.
It also denied that the Budget commitment for zero carbon homes from 2016 in England was in jeopardy from the delay.
The measures coming into force in April 2014 mean new homes and non domestic buildings will have to include energy saving features such as better fabric insulation and more efficient heating and lighting. They mean a 6% cut in carbon emissions for new build homes, and a 9% cut for non domestic buildings.
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.”
The small increase in construction costs will be heavily outweighed by subsequent energy savings, the government says, and imply a £384m net saving over the average lifetime of the new features.
Mr Foster reckons that 6.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide should be saved as a result of the new regulations.
No changes are being made to rules on existing homes. The government also announced last December that building a conservatory or extension would not a trigger a requirement, known as ‘consequential improvements’, for homeowners to carry out energy improvements throughout their property.
Owners of existing homes and buildings can benefit from the Green Deal, allowing them to fit energy saving measures such as insulation and solar panels with government support, repaid through a small levy on otherwise reduced energy bills.
At SIG360, Andrew Orriss approved: “As unpalatable as it might seem, if moving the amendments to April 2014 means we get more realistic timelines and a clearer pathway to zero carbon, then the government’s decision to delay is the right one. Better that than rush into an October 2013 target that we won’t be able to meet.
“Housebuilders should use this delay as an opportunity to really get to grips with zero carbon – to understand the principles behind the latest revisions and what they will actually mean in practice.”
WSP’s David Bownass was more dismissive, however, saying: “It’s difficult to understand how these figures were derived as they didn’t form part of the original consultation. It seems to be a lot of cost and disruption for such a small improvement over a limited period of time, and if it is intended to be a step towards 2016 zero carbon new dwellings it’s so small you wouldn’t need to lift your foot to get over it.
“It’s now very hard to see how the construction industry will be ready to implement zero carbon standards in 2016. This would be less important to the overall UK carbon emissions if the Green Deal was delivering a step change in existing building performance.”