The fourth meeting of NLA Expert Panel on Net Zero focussed on mainly on Government’s net zero carbon agenda. The panel discussed the proposed Future Buildings Standard and Government’s 10 point plan for a green industrial revolution. The panel shared their views on level of ambition set by the Government in their proposal and implications for the built environment sector. The discussion then concluded with some thoughts to establish the prominence of London’s built environment sector in the lead up to COP26.
Future Buildings Standard
In January 2021, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government launched a consultation ‘The Future Buildings Standard’ on changes to Part L (conservation of fuel and power) and Part F (ventilation) of the Building Regulations for non-domestic buildings, with the intent to make new non domestic buildings more energy efficient and aligned with UK’s 2050 net zero target. Gary Clark led the presentation on key points included in Government’s proposal and also rightly highlighted the need for better alignment of the Future Buildings Standard with the Planning for future response put forward by the Government last year. Overall, the panel were pleased to see that the proposal allowed Local Authorities to set higher standard above Part L requirements, backstop fabric targets were retained and the loophole for old regulation was closed. However, there was unanimous consensus that the proposed reduction of 27-31% in regulated energy use doesn’t align with the response needed for addressing the climate emergency. The level of ambition was deemed unsatisfactory, leaving us hugely reliant on a bigger step change that will be needed in 2025. The proposal to introduce an alternative compliance route which is based on monitoring operational performance of buildings was also not addressed at this stage. The requirement to not allow fossil fuel heating in new buildings and no mention of embodied carbon was also seen as a missed opportunity by the panel. Knowing very well that by addressing these issues now, the industry would have had the opportunity to innovate on low carbon heating sources, get better at capturing whole life carbon data and more broadly get familiar with the process of delivering which are future proofed and low carbon. These are all issues where the built environment industry in London is leading with these requirements stipulated in the London Plan.
Overall, the proposal is still seen as progress on new buildings front. However the industry urgently needs a long term roadmap to net zero which also includes decarbonisation of existing buildings.
Government’s 10 Point Plan for a green industrial revolution
The 10 Point Plan released in November 2020 sets out the approach government will take to build back better, support green jobs, and accelerate our path to net zero. Ashley Bateson led the presentation on key messages within the ambitious plan, highlighting the over reliance on technology to delivery net zero carbon economy. One of the points addressed the focus on domestic and public buildings, albeit with minimal funding set aside to deliver the energy efficiency of existing building stocks. Whilst public investment is needed, the industry also needs other incentives to boost demand and unlocks private investment. Overall, it was felt that the 10 Point Plan was focussed more on the supply side interventions, instead of boosting demand via end use sector such as buildings.
COP 26 Engagement
In the lead up to COP26 later this year, NLA alongside other leading UK built environment industry organisations are putting the case forward for this sector to have a stronger voice during the negotiations. Alongside that, there will be opportunity for the industry to show best practice and amplify key asks such as the urgent need to decarbonise existing building stock, reduction of embodied carbon, addressing the performance gap in buildings and the need for wider collaboration between public and private sector. With London built environment professionals already leading the agenda on climate commitment and action, the NLA membership is uniquely placed to bring forward heightened ambition and showcase progress at COP26.