The Welsh Government has committed to renewable energy and cutting edge technologies in its new-build standards and banned fossil fuel boilers in new social housing from the 1st October.
The Welsh Development Quality Requirements 2021 – Creating Beautiful Homes and Places guidance, updated on the 17th August, sets out the Welsh Government’s housing priorities, which include that homes should be of high quality, innovative and sustainable. The guidance champions Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), such as the use of timber and factory built homes, as a preferred delivery solution and encourages the adoption of best practice in moving to a decarbonised and circular built environment.
The Welsh Government says homes will need to reach the highest energy efficiency standards to reduce carbon use during build and when inhabited. Developers will need to also consider recycling and food waste storage under the new rules. Wales currently ranks number three on the world recycling leader board, but is striving for a zero waste future.
This bold move underpins the Welsh Government’s commitment to build 20,000 high quality, low carbon homes for rent over the next five years. Social housing built with Welsh Government funding will ‘trailblaze’ the new standards.
The new rules are significant to the Welsh Government’s response to the climate emergency and commitment to drive down emissions to reach the ambitious ‘net zero carbon by 2050’ goal. In Wales, residential emissions make up 10% of all carbon emissions.
As well as setting sector leading space standards, the guidance says homes should be flexible and responsive to the changing needs of the households who will occupy the building over its life and requires new properties to be ‘gigabit ready’.
Minister for Climate Change Julie James said: “Our new ‘Creating Beautiful Homes and Places’ building standards show the bold and immediate action we are taking in responding to the climate emergency. How we live and heat our homes over the coming years will be pivotal in reaching our net zero goals.
“Curbing the worst impacts of climate change is a matter of social justice, but so is ensuring people have access to Internet in their homes, and enough space to live well. These standards ensure all of these targets are met as they reflect our modern ways of living and changing lifestyle needs.
“Making use of innovative construction methods and design, I have every confidence the social housing sector will prove themselves trailblazers of the ambitious standards, as they deliver on our pledge to build 20,000 low carbon homes for rent over the next five years.”
Clarissa Corbisiero, Director of Policy and External Affairs and Deputy Chief Executive at Community Housing Cymru commented: “These new standards for social homes put Wales at the forefront of measures to ensure housing can play its full role in tackling the climate emergency. They will mean lower energy bills for tenants, as well as increased space and access to high-speed broadband. Ahead of this year’s Senedd elections, we were clear in our manifesto that these were all key priorities for housing associations in Wales, and we welcome this step towards creating homes that are fit for the future.
“To support housing associations to deliver on these commitments, Welsh Government must ensure that recent record investment in social housing continues and is focused on the new technologies and materials required to build new good quality affordable homes at pace and scale.”
John Morris, Renewables Business Development Manager at Grant UK welcomes the announcement, citing it as a positive step forward to a net zero future: “The news will encourage the market to move forward and bring more benefits, such as a drive towards more installer training and increased product knowledge. We are optimistic that there will a number of options available to help decarbonise hard to heat homes with minimal disruption and relatively low costs, such as biofuels.
“Trials are underway exploring the use of sustainable biofuels in oil-fired home heating systems, which have produced very promising results. Renewable heating technology, such as heat pumps, are also already being used in social housing to great effect in Wales and throughout the rest of the UK as a cleaner alternative. On our part though, we will help social housing providers ensure that their move away from fossil fuels is as smooth as possible, both for them and their tenants.”
Mark Wilkins, Technologies and Training Director at Vaillant UK, welcomes the Welsh Government’s announcement: “We fully support the Welsh Government’s Development Quality Requirements 2021, which bans fossil fuel boilers in new-build social housing from October this year. The Welsh Government has also set an ambition for private developers to adopt the same standards by 2025.
“We applaud the Welsh government in setting these standards and ambitions, following its commitment of £250m to help build 20,000 low carbon homes for social rent by 2025. The announcement comes in a timely manner alongside the UK’s hydrogen strategy also announced this week. Whilst hydrogen is one solution to decarbonise home heating, climate change is happening now therefore, the UK needs to prepare for the hydrogen option of tomorrow whilst acting on today’s available solutions: heat pumps and heat networks. The new standard will encourage heat pumps into new-build social homes which are efficient, green and cost-effective heating appliances that help tackle fuel poverty.
“It is a concern that there is a lack of heat pump installers across the entire of the UK but with courses being developed by the industry and heating manufactures, installers and contractors should feel encouraged and confident to upskill themselves to fit heat pumps.”
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