Progress towards net zero carbon 2050 is gathering pace with the Government reinforcing commitments to a series of sustainability pledges. Tom Murray of Baxi Heating discusses the latest developments, and what housebuilders and developers need to consider right now.
The UK’s commitment to a green recovery to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is no mean feat.
Momentum has continued to grow however since the Government first outlined these ambitious plans. In the last 12 months for instance, several commitments have been made in a bid to shift away from predominantly natural gaspowered heating, in favour of lower carbon technology.
Climate change commitments have come in the form of pledges, such as those made in the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan, which demonstrated the centre’s continued prioritisation of heating technologies such as heat pumps and investment into hydrogen trials into 2021 and beyond.
Additionally, low-carbon regulations have also continued to be developed, such as the Future Homes Standard, which will prohibit gas powered appliances from being installed in all new build homes from 2025.
Building on this, more recently the Government published its response to the Building Regulations Approved Documents (Part L&F) consultation from 2019, which will require new homes to achieve a carbon emissions reduction target of 31 per cent (over the current rate for a ‘notional’ dwelling) from 2022. While the update places an emphasis on building fabric considerations, heating technologies will still play an important role.
Further to all of this, a new version of the Government Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP 10) will come into effect as the revised compliance calculation methodology underpinning Building Regulations. This will mean carbon factors for electricity will be changing and dwelling emission targets will be tighter.
MEETING THE CHALLENGE
In order to meet the overarching net zero target, dealing with emissions resulting from the UK’s new and existing building stock will be critical.
Improving the energy performance of new build residential properties will be an early indication of what is to come, and the changes this will represent for our industry.
As a result, manufacturers must prepare to deliver low carbon heating solutions and thereby play their part in tackling climate change.
Getting building services system design right, and knowing how to best use these technologies in the wider context of the building, is a science.
It involves careful selection of components in order to meet both the future property owners’ needs, as well as emissions considerations. This is alongside other factors such as how the fabric, area and volume of the building will impact heat loss, and the overall performance.
It is also worth pointing out that for housebuilders used to working with compact gas boilers, homes with air source heat pumps (ASHPs) will require more space and design planning. This not only includes space outside for the ASHP with adequate free flow air around it, but also for the accompanying hot water cylinder inside the home.
It is important that renovation, maintenance and improvement works carried out now continue to prioritise heating systems that are as energy efficient as possible to future-proof properties and safeguard residents.
Selecting highly efficient gas boilers combined with accessories designed to improve SAP ratings will also help to keep energy bills as economical as possible by preventing wastage throughout the day.
Beyond 2025, housebuilders will need to be confident in the specification of low-carbon technologies exclusively however, such as electric powered boilers, ASHPs and hot water cylinders.
TRAINING & EDUCATION
Such an evolving landscape will rely on heating engineers to upskill in the installation and commissioning of low-carbon technologies. A lack of skilled workers will halt progress to reach targets and result in poor quality installations.
In real terms, only 30,000 ASHPs are currently installed per year across all sectors, which are currently facilitated by less than a 1,000 MCS qualified businesses. This is not feasible in the long term if ASHP installation targets of 600,000 installations per year by 2028 are to be met.
Housebuilders will also need to consider that user education in AHSPs will be important. The majority of end-users will be used to boilers, and in order to better sell new build homes, developers should provide information with the help of manufacturers.
The journey to net zero will not be achieved overnight. But with the support of relevant industry partners, including heating and hot water product manufacturers and those offering the added-value services to ensure projects run smoothly, getting there is not only achievable, but can be tailored to the bespoke requirements of housebuilders across the UK.
Tom Murray is specification director at Baxi Heating