Government has backed down on proposals to make existing homes more energy efficient.

Radical proposals to make existing homes more energy efficient under proposed changes to Part L of the Building Regulations have been dropped by the government.

Housing minister John Healey announced the launch of the government’s long-awaited consultation on proposed changes to Part L (Conservation of Fuel and Power) and Part F (Means of Ventilation) of the Building Regulations for England and Wales in a speech to the Royal Town Planning Institute in London yesterday.

The proposals will require a 25% improvement in the energy efficiency standards for all new buildings from October 2010.

But changes to the regulations that would have required existing homes to be made more energy efficient if a building is substantially altered through refurbishment, extension or a loft conversion – known as consequential improvements – have been dropped.

David Strong, chief executive of sustainability consultancy Inbuilt said that the proposal for consequential improvements was the most important change proposed to Part L. He said: “Consequential improvements is the single measure that would have delivered the maximum carbon savings per Pound invested”.

He said it was “bizarre” that government should have dropped the reference to consequential improvements in the light of the requirement for the UK’s 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Andrew Warren of insulation trade body ACE said: “CLG appears to have been taken over by UKIP, because they are not paying any attention to what is happening in Europe”. Warren said that changes to the Energy Performance of Building’s Directive due to come into effect from 2011 will require the government to implement consequential improvements a year after the proposed amendments to Part L are due to come into effect.

The proposal that all new conservatories will have to comply with the new energy regulations is still included.

Another significant revision is in the value of CO2 emissions per kWh of fuel used.

The proposal is to base the emissions factor on the value used in SAP 2009, which means the CO2 emissions factor for electricity will increase 40%, from 0.422 to 0.591 kg CO2 per kWh. This will make it more difficult to achieve low- and zero-carbon homes and it could affect the viability of electric heat pumps, mechanical ventilation systems, air-conditioning units and other systems using.

The proposed changes to Part L are aimed at dealing with many of the failings and loopholes in the existing energy regulations. Proposed changes include:

  • The adoption of Accredited Construction Details to reduce heat losses caused by thermal bridging
  • The use compliance software to list the key features that enable a building to meet its energy performance target
  • Designers will have to submit a commissioning plan at the start of a project
  • The 25% improvement in energy efficiency for non-domestic buildings will be an aggregate value for all new buildings
  • A revised limit on solar gains for non-domestic buildings
  • Proposed changes to SAP to include updated weather data

Under the changes to Part L buildings will become more airtight so that government is also proposing changes to Part F of the Building Regulations to ensure homes are adequately ventilated.

The consultation closes on 17 September 2009

To view the consultation click on the link