Proposed Future Home Standard signals end for fossil fuel boilers in new builds

Feedback is now being invited on the proposals contained in the Future Homes and Buildings Standards (FHS) for new build homes, set to be introduced in 2025.

Government launches consultation on proposed Future Homes and Buildings Standard.

One of the most notable proposals is an effective ban on fossil fuel boilers in new homes from 2025. It is also anticipated that hybrid heat pumps, hydrogen-ready boilers and biofuel systems will not meet the standard.

No place for hybrid or hydrogen-ready

The consultation document states: “We found no practical way to allow the installation of fossil fuel boilers while also delivering significant carbon savings and ‘zero-carbon ready’ homes.

“As such, we do not expect fossil fuel heating, such as gas, hybrid heat pumps, and hydrogen-ready boilers, will meet these standards. The standards proposed are also unlikely to allow the installation of biofuel systems, including wood and manufactured solid fuels.”

The consultation document failed to address any potential role renewable liquid fuels such as Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) may have under the standard.

Designed to deliver zero carbon ready new homes, that will have zero carbon emissions once the electric grid is fully decarbonised, the standard requires all new homes to have high fabric standards and use low-carbon heating systems.

The fabric performance requirements are largely as the standards introduced in 2021 because “increasing fabric beyond the proposed level does not deliver significant gains to the efficiency of heating systems”.

All performance requirements in the consultation are based on notional buildings with an efficient air source heat pump or, for settings such as blocks of flats, a 4th generation heat network that uses air source heat pumps.

Lack of solar mandate is ‘unconscionable’

The consultation proposes two options – one with solar panels and one without – as well as an option with wastewater heat-recovery systems, increased airtightness and mechanical ventilation, and one without.

With regard to solar, the government said it did not think either option would have significant impacts on housing supply and affordability but added: “We are keen to hear evidence from consultees about possible impacts on viability and deliverability of housing developments.”

As solar mandates gain momentum across Europe, the UK Green Building Council has criticised the consultation for its lack of ambition.

“This can’t genuinely be described as a ‘future’ standard. Having already shattered industry confidence with repeated green rollbacks, the Government has opted for the least ambitious option that would deliver ‘future’ homes from 2025 at a lower standard than many homes already built today,” Simon McWhirter, Deputy Chief Executive at UKGBC said.

“It’s unconscionable that the Government is consulting on scrapping the expectation that new roofs should have solar panels, when this is already widely delivered through current regulations.”

Ian Rippin of MCS was similarly disappointed by the lack of stronger proposals for the use of other renewable technologies alongside low carbon heating systems.

“We are disappointed that no clear stance has been declared on mandating Solar PV for all new homes but remain hopeful that the outcome of the consultation will conclude that solar is a must-have for new build homes, supporting homeowners by decreasing electricity bills, securing energy independence, and reducing their carbon impact.”

In October, Ireland confirmed plans for a new grant scheme to support all schools to fit rooftop solar, and November saw the French government outline a mandate for solar panels on all large car parks.

Ian was also pleased to see that “the government has proposed mandating that all battery storage systems must be safely and efficiently installed in compliance with MCS standards.”

The deadline for submissions is 6 March 2024. After analysing responses to the consultation, ministers will legislate for the standard in 2024 by amending building regulations.

To allow the industry to adapt, the consultation proposes two options for transitioning to the standard: a six-month or up to 12-month period between the legislation being published and coming into force in 2025, followed by a 12-month transitional period.

The full consultation document can be found here and responses can be submitted here.