Housebuilders set to reintroduce chimneys in designs after rule change improves their carbon rating

The use of chimneys on new housing has been given a reprieve just four months after they looked set to be axed.

Chimney and flue manufacturers had feared for their industry when early drafts of the Part L revisions, released in January, gave chimneys poor energy efficiency scores. This would have forced housebuilders to install extra insulation or undertake other energy-saving measures.

Under changes to the regulations introduced this month, however, housebuilders will gain carbon credits for incorporating chimneys and flues in their designs. A chimney used in conjunction with an efficient gas, multi-fuel or wood-burning appliance will be rewarded for cutting carbon usage compared with electrical secondary heating.

Housebuilders will be able to use this benefit to save money elsewhere, such as by cutting down thermal insulation and glazing specifications.

Robert Burke, president of the British Flue and Chimney Manufacturers' Association and technical manager at flue maker Hanson Red Bank, said the ODPM and the BRE had forgotten to account for secondary heating in the calculations on energy efficiency.

Burke said: "It took a lot of hard work to get to this position. It's a relief - we would have been in trouble if this had not been corrected."

Under the revision, 10% of household heating is now assumed to come from secondary sources and 90% from central heating.

It took a lot of hard work to get to this position

Robert Burke

Persimmon is understood to have responded to the change by commissioning architects to include chimneys again in most of its designs. At present they are only included in the premium Charles Church range.

They are now set to be used in Persimmon's lower cost houses following a presentation by Schiedel Chimney Systems, a subsidiary of materials giant Lafarge, this month.

Dr Wolfgang Marka, Schiedel's UK and Ireland chief executive, said: "The chief chimney buyer arranged a meeting with his architect immediately. Not only do chimneys save the housebuilders money in carbon credits, they increase the sell-on value for the housebuyer as open fires are a valuable feature."

Marka said chimneys that cost about £700 could save housebuilders up to £5000 through carbon credits.

He admitted that housebuilders had been confused because of the Part L oversight. He said: "There is a big perception in the market that chimneys are dying."

He added that Morrison Homes was another firm that had been considering scrapping chimneys from some of its housing designs before the Part L revision was made.