Part L of the Building Regulations is concerned with the conservation of fuel and power.

Updates to Part L are expected in 2020. They will affect everyone, from architects to developers to contractors. So, what will they look like?

The Building Act

Let’s recap first on how the Building Act has evolved.

‘Making reasonable provision for the conservation of fuel and power’ has come a long way since it was introduced in 1984 as part of the Building Act. CO2 only came into play in 2002. Since then, the EU directive was adopted and, for the first time, whole building carbon emissions were calculated.

Back then, we were some of the first people to start doing these calculations. We became a CIBSE accredited Low Carbon Consultant, taking these calculations further for commercial premises.

[Subsequently we have provided these services for other consultants, architects and contractors. We’ve worked on high-profile jobs like Departure Lounges at Heathrow T2, Admiralty Arch, Soho House Hotel and Christian Dior’s UK HQ.]

Clean Growth Strategy

The UK government’s current Clean Growth Strategy shows us that in 2015, heating alone (in buildings and industry) was responsible for 32% of the UK’s total emissions. This doesn’t take into account general energy usage by equipment.

Fig 2.1 UK emissions by sector, 2015

Low Carbon Heating Rollout

It stands to reason that the Clean Growth Strategy will inform the updates to Part L, even if we don’t yet know exactly how. It’s worth drawing attention to the following area of the Strategy:“

17) Build and extend heat networks across the country, underpinned with public funding (allocated in the Spending Review 2015) out to 2021”;“

18) Phase out the installation of high carbon fossil fuel heating in new and existing homes currently off the gas grid during the 2020s, starting with new homes”;

“21) Innovation: Invest around £184 million of public funds, including two new £10 million innovation programmes to develop new energy efficiency and heating technologies to enable lower cost low carbon homes”.

Consider the HM Treasury’s Spring statement: “A Future Homes Standard, mandating the end of fossil-fuel heating systems in all new houses from 2025”. This, together with the above items, mean that Part L will have to evolve to meet these new targets. Bear in mind that updates typically hit the commercial buildings harder with more rigorous calculations first.

Creating A Net Zero Commercial Building

However Part L evolves, it will be business as usual for Cityzen. We work with our clients to ensure all regulator targets are met and exceeded. But currently there’s no magic bullet. We have to look at all the possibilities for creating a net zero commercial building in the centre of a town that is not on a heat network, with a minimal foot / roof print. It will be difficult as the technology is not there yet. Yes, we can use solar, heat recovery (on air and water) and heat pumps (air, ground and water source). And we can detail an airtight building. But even that, alongside an efficient design using passive solar gain, is often not enough to reach what could be even further stretching targets.

So what does the future look like? Hydrogen fuel cells and hydrogen gas boilers? Smarter technology linked to battery storage locally and in each building? To be honest, we’re not sure. The answers (and technological solutions) aren’t easy and this needs to be led from the top down, to ensure that the legislation pushes us all to be better.

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has recently published their definition for Net Zero Buildings and framework for meeting this, which can be downloaded here. Whilst the strategy is good and methodology correct, the technology and solutions are not part of the documentation.

Part L Needs To Be Ambitious

Is it a case of too little, too late? The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report noting that the world is headed for a dangerous temperature rise of 1.5°C by 2030 if dramatic action isn’t taken. This is far earlier than previously thought. So whatever the updates to Part L are, they had better be significant!

As a practice we are committed to reducing and eliminating the use of fossil fuels, and exceeding building regulations requirements in all the buildings we design going forward.

More soon on the sustainability of materials and the components we use in our buildings, so keep an eye out for that blog post. And as soon as a draft Part L is in the wild, we’ll give you an overview.

In the meantime, if you have a project that could benefit from our expertise in low carbon design and energy consultancy, please get in touch! Call 01273 915010 or email us.

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