Council pushes for compulsory solar panels on new homes

City of York Council sees building standards for future homes tightened up to cut carbon emissions.


A city council is ready to lobby government to make it compulsory for solar panels to be installed on all new houses.

City of York council sees building standards for future homes being tightened up to reduce carbon emissions by 31% – if government proposals go ahead.

Measures proposed include triple glazing, waste-water heat-recovery systems, and better insulated walls, floors, and roofs to meet regulations.

The move is part of efforts to build zero-carbon homes – and York is set to support the plans.

A report prepared for a council ‘decision session’ on the Future Homes Standard recommends highlighting councils should be able to set their own efficiency standards including use of Photovoltaics (PV) on all new and renovated buildings.

For York, that means urging the government to move toward a compulsory requirement for PV to be installed in new buildings and renovated buildings where there are no significantly adverse implications in terms of any heritage assets.

Before the government introduces the Future Homes Standard in 2025, it will consult on the full technical details and the associated impact assessment with costings.

The York report, however, says the government has provided an indication that it expects an average semi-detached home built to meet the [standard] would produce 75-80% less carbon-dioxide emissions than one built to the 2013 requirements.

In response to the consultation, the council has said it thinks the aim of a 75-80% reduction is too low, saying: “There is seemingly a strong appetite for significant change and that this change needs to take place sooner than 2025 to slow down the rate of carbon emissions from new dwellings.”

York city council is already planning to build more than 600 new homes to rigorously energy-efficient Passivhaus standards during the next five years – as part of its own housebuilding programme.

The plans are part of a bid to tackle climate change and significantly reduce fuel bills for future residents.

The Chancellor’s 2019 Spring Statement contained an announcement on energy efficiency standards for new homes and a commitment to zero carbon, collectively now known as the Future Homes Standard (FHS).

In October last year, the FHS consultation was published proposing a tightening of the standards on energy efficiency through Building Regulations and ventilation in new homes as early as 2020 – with a roadmap to zero-carbon homes in 2025.

The consultation also proposes new regulations to improve compliance and performance – with the deadline for responses due this week.

Chapter 3 of the consultation provides detailed options for an uplift to the energy efficiency standards in Part L (Conservation of Fuel and Power) and Part 6 of the Building Regulations in 2020.

It seeks views on two options to strengthen the energy-efficiency standards in 2020.

The first option is a 20% improvement on carbon dioxide emissions which is expected to be delivered predominantly through an increased fabric standard.

This increased fabric standard would typically be achieved through measures such as triple glazing and a waste-water heat-recovery system.

The second option would result in a 31% improvement on carbon-dioxide emissions, which is expected would typically be delivered through a more minor increase to fabric standards, alongside use of low-carbon heating and/or renewables, such as photovoltaic (solar) panels.

Both options outlined deliver a greater improvement in carbon dioxide emissions than the 19% improvement on the 2013 Part L requirements which was proposed as the minimum on-site energy efficiency requirement of the former Zero Carbon Homes policy.

The government considers that the FHS will have very high fabric standards. It will mean every new home should typically have triple glazing and standards for walls, floors, and roofs that significantly limit heat loss.

It is also considered that although reducing the demand for heat through improved fabric standards in new homes has an important role to play it will not, on its own, meet ambitions for the Future Homes Standard or the government’s target of net-zero emissions target by 2050.

So, in addition to a high level of fabric efficiency, it is also proposed that a low-carbon heating system is integral to the specification of the FHS.

Heat pumps, heat networks, and direct heating electric are also outlined as measures required going forward, but further work is required into how these are integrated in developments.

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