Exclusive: Industry warns 2016 zero-carbon homes target is at risk as changes to Part L omitted from 2013 regulations plan

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One Brighton is a zero-carbon housing development

The government has dropped plans to implement changes to Part L of the Building Regulations this year as had originally been intended, heightening fears that further delay will undermine the push towards zero-carbon homes.

The Part L regulations set out the energy efficiency requirements for buildings and are seen as critical to making all new homes zero-carbon by 2016 - a key part of the government’s commitment to cut the UK’s carbon emissions.

The changes to Part L were initially consulted on in January 2012 and had been due to come into force in October 2013, but the government’s response to that consultation has been long delayed.

Now a government document (see attached right), published this month by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), has revealed that there are no plans in place to implement the Part L changes this year.

The DCLG document, which sets out the changes to regulations planned to come into force between now and the end of 2013, omits the proposed Part L changes.

Building understands DCLG still intends to announce its Part L proposals in the House of Lords before it enters recess on 30 July.

But industry leaders are treating this with caution after the government missed the previous deadline for this announcement in May, which it committed to in March’s Budget.

Without immediate and concerted action, the zero carbon timeline is in jeopardy

Zero Carbon Hub

Industry experts now expect that the Part L changes will not come into force until April 2014, six months later than planned, with fears growing that this will make it difficult to introduce the zero-carbon home requirement in 2016.

The news comes as the government’s review of housing standards and regulations was also further delayed (see box).

The confirmation of the delay comes just weeks after the Zero Carbon Hub ramped up its alert level on the progress to the 2016 target from amber/red to red - its worst possible rating and the highest the Hub has ever given.

In its annual timeline update the industry body, set up to oversee progress towards the 2016 standard, warned: “There is simply an enormous amount to do and some intractable issues to solve in a very short time, and without immediate and concerted action by industry and government [this]puts the entire zero carbon timeline in jeopardy.”

Both John Tebbit, Construction Products Association deputy chief executive, and John Slaughter, director of external affairs at the Home Builders Federation, said they had written to building regulations minister Don Foster in recent weeks to urge him to action.

Tebbit said uncertainty was “holding back investment”.

Slaughter added: “When looking at what you can do in 2016 you need clarity as a soon as possible.”

A DCLG spokesperson this week declined to say if the Part L changes would be implemented this year.

“We will be publishing the regulations in due course,” he said.

More delays: Housing standards

The government cancelled its plans to publish its housing standards review this week, with uncertainty over when it will now be unveiled.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) launched the wide-ranging review of housing standards last October, with the aim  of “significantly rationalis[ing] the untenable forest of codes, rules, regulations and guidance that add unnecessary cost and complexity to the housebuilding process”.

The results had originally been due to be published in April, but were then put back to this week.

PRP Architects had been due to host a briefing from the review’s panel alongside the review announcement on 24 July, but had to cancel the event.

A DCLG spokesperson said a new timetable for the publication of the results of the review had yet to be confirmed.