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Allowable solutions: delivering zero carbon homes from 2016

30 July 2014

A zero carbon standard for new homes will be introduced in 2016. What does this mean and how will developers meet the new test?

The government is firmly committed to introducing a zero carbon standard for new homes in 2016.

To achieve this, it proposes to tighten up building regulations on energy performance so that the requirements are equivalent to Level 4 of the Code for Sustainable Homes.

It will also introduce "allowable solutions" to help developers meet the higher zero carbon standard. 

Allowable solutions

There will be 4 allowable solutions that developers will be able to "mix and match" to meet the zero carbon standard:

  • on-site carbon abatement or connection measures (eg a heat network)
  • off-site carbon abatement carried out by the developer (eg retro-fitting buildings);
  • contracting with a third party to deliver off-site carbon abatement measures, and/or
  • paying into a fund, which will invest in carbon abatement projects.

The government proposes to set a cap on the maximum payment into a fund, to be set following further consultation and reviewable every 3 years. The other allowable solutions will remain uncapped, with the emphasis being on abatement measures that are measurable. Verification and certification procedures will be established. 

Developers will be pleased that allowable solutions will be set out in a national framework, rather than each local planning authority having their own allowable solutions. 

Small sites

The government intends to introduce an exemption for small sites. Further consultation will take place on how the exemption should be implemented.

The Committee on Climate Change ("CCC") has recommended the exemption is dropped, on the basis that it is unclear why the economics of delivering carbon abatement measures on smaller sites would be different than for larger developments. 

Housing Standards Review

The implementation of zero carbon homes forms part of the government's Housing Standards Review. As part of the Review, the government proposes to wind down use of the Code for Sustainable Homes, and tighten up Building Regulations.

The Deregulation Bill, which is making its way through Parliament, includes measures meaning that planning authorities in England will no longer be able to require residential development in their area to comply with energy efficiency standards exceeding those set out in the Building Regulations. 

Final thoughts

There are elements of the proposals that will be welcomed by developers. Embedding sustainability requirements into building regulations will increase certainty for developers.

An interesting question arises for developers with existing planning consents containing conditions relating to sustainability.  It may become apparent over the next few months that such conditions are more onerous than requirements under the new rules. 

If so, developers may wish to seek advice on whether there is merit in revisiting the conditions and applying to vary them, allowing the new homes to be built to a less onerous standard.

This article was written by Claire Fallows.

For more information please contact Claire on +44 (0)20 7427 1046 or claire.fallows@crsblaw.com