New Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard for Zero Carbon Homes

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Housing Minister, John Healey, today announced his decision on the minimum standard for the energy efficiency of zero carbon homes.

His decision has been strongly informed by the specialist Task Group he asked the Zero Carbon Hub to assemble following his Policy Statement on zero carbon homes earlier in the summer. Members of the Task Group presented the report to the Minister following an intensive period of consideration and consultation and the report is now published.

Presented as a new Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard, the Task Group's recommendations aimed to deliver a high yet practical energy performance level for all new homes. The Standard focuses on the fabric of the home, to secure long lasting benefit for home owners and occupiers, and to ensure that energy efficiency plays a proportionate part in the ultimate delivery of zero carbon homes.

Announcing the recommendations, John Healey said that the new standards signalled "real momentum to change and radically re-think how we design our towns and homes for the future."

Neil Jefferson, Chief Executive, Zero Carbon Hub, said "The Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard is a critically important step towards the delivery of zero carbon homes from 2016. The Group has agreed upon a performance level that it has judged to be stretching and appropriate for mass scale production in the UK."


The Zero Carbon Hub was able to convene a Task Group of senior industry experts to critically evaluate existing knowledge and to work urgently to develop proposals.

These proposals were then evaluated through a wider consultation process involving 450 people to build awareness of the proposals and assess their acceptability within major interest groups. The consultation process strongly endorsed the core recommendations of the Task Group and provided valuable insights which informed the final recommendations.


The Task Group recommendation focused on the building fabric, essentially covering the thermal performance of walls, floors, roofs, windows and doors.

A range of energy metrics were considered by the Task Group. Energy demand (measured in kWh/m2/year) was selected and two levels of performance proposed (see Figure 1):

  • 39 kWh/m2/year is the target for apartments, and mid terrace homes
  • 46 kWh/m2/year is the target for end terrace, semi detached and detached homes.

To provide a reference this level of energy demand equates to an approximate 20-25% reduction in CO2 emissions compared with current regulations for a gas heated home.

At these levels the construction specifications of the mid and end of terrace are similar, with the detached home (because of its high proportion of external wall) requiring a slightly higher specification. As this is a performance based specification, in all cases a range of solutions supported by guidance will be available to designers and builders.

The Minimum Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard will assist designers on the journey towards meeting the 'Carbon Compliance' requirement of 70% (see Figure 2).


The Task Group's work gives a priority to understanding the capital cost uplift associated with increased levels of energy efficiency.

For the build specifications required to meet the standard, the capital cost increase over a house built to today's standards would be between 3% and 9%* with the detached home at the higher end of the scale. However, this is incorporated in the cost of achieving overall Carbon Compliance.


After gauging the reaction of the industry to a range of different timing options, the Task Group is recommending that the Standard is fully implemented from 2016, with an intermediate step in 2013.

Crucially the industry has called for a very early announcement, in 2010, on the finalisation of the Standard.


The Task Group has given detailed consideration to how the Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard relates to wider aspects of sustainability and energy policy objectives, such as energy security, broader environmental concerns and minimising future risk of fuel poverty.

During consultation, technical, social and financial risks associated with an increase in energy efficiency were evaluated and these contributed to the selection of the final performance Standard put forward.


David Adams, Director of the Zero Carbon Hub and Chair of the Task Group said
"The Task Group had to balance a wide variety of considerations in order to set an ambitious but achievable standard. These included environmental and consumer concerns and practical implications for design, cost and buildability.

The Group believes its recommendations propose a practical but challenging target which is achievable with a variety of design approaches, enabling innovation and encouraging a high level of performance for the fabric of new homes."

Stewart Baseley, Executive Chairman of the Home Builders Federation, said
"The Zero Carbon Hub has done a good job in a short time in considering what a future energy efficiency standard for new homes might look like. Its recommendations are broadly pragmatic: the technology required for delivery already largely exists. The industry will, however, need to assess the merits of specific delivery options and keep a close eye on the cost implications as part of the wider issue of ensuring the zero carbon policy is affordable."

Lynne Sullivan RIBA, Member of RIBA Sustainable Futures and CLG's Building Regulations Advisory Committee, said
"In the context of the UK Carbon Compliance definition, this standard demands an advanced level of energy efficiency on a par with leading European standards, whilst safeguarding contextual sensitivity to prevailing technologies and cladding options. Architects and fellow consultants are keen to embrace higher standards and play our part in ensuring the energy savings they represent will be actually delivered in use."

John Tebbit, Industry Affairs Director at Construction Products Association said
"It is essential to get the long life fabric right as part of any zero carbon home. This is the stuff that just sits there, that you don't have to turn off on or off, doesn't need to be fed energy and keeps the heat in and the rain out. It's not sexy, it's not exciting, but just like the brakes in your car you'd really miss it if it wasn't there."


For media enquiries please contact 0845 888 7620.

For technical enquires regarding the report please contact the Zero Carbon Hub at Copies of the full report and executive summary, are available to download here [link to the FEES Resources here – table?]

* These costs are for second quarter 2009, and do not include any adjustment for learning curves, inflation or economies of scale in 2016.


The Zero Carbon Hub was established in the summer of 2008 to support the delivery of zero carbon homes from 2016. It is a private/public partnership drawing support from both government and the industry and reports directly to the 2016 Taskforce, chaired by the Rt Hon John Healey MP, Housing Minister, and Stewart Baseley, Executive Chairman of HBF.

Fig 1. Fabric energy efficiency levels in the Standard

Fig 2. Zero carbon hierarchy


Fabric Energy Efficiency Specification Task Group:
Project leaders David Adams - Zero Carbon Hub,
Rob Pannell - Zero Carbon Hub
Project manager Anser Project Managers
Technical manager Tessa Parnell - Zero Carbon Hub
Technical author Ross Holleron - Energy consultant to the Zero Carbon Hub
Cost consultant Davis Langdon
Architect Richards Partington Architects

The Zero Carbon Hub is very grateful to the following organisations for their involvement and contributions in developing these recommendations.

Association for Environment Conscious Building (AECB) Aecom Barratt Developments plc British Electrotechnical and Allied Manufacturers' Association (BEAMA) Building Research Establishment (BRE) Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC) Construction Products Association (CPA) Countryside Properties plc Crest Nicholson plc Davis Langdon Energy Saving Trust (EST) Fairview New Homes Ltd Federation of Environmental Trade Lighting Industry Federation (LIF)

Associations (FETA) Federation of Master Builders (FMB) Fulcrum Consulting Good Homes Alliance (GHA) Heating and Hotwater Industry Council (HHIC) Heatrae Sadia Home Builders Federation (HBF) Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) Hot Water Association (HWA) House Builders Association (HBA) Ian Andrews Associates Inbuilt Leeds Metropolitan University

London Borough of Barnet (Building Control) Haringey Council (Planning) National House-Building Council (NHBC) Richard Partington Architects Robust Details Limited (RDL) Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Space Air University College London (UCL) Vent Axia WWF


Representatives from Department of Communities and Local Government, Department of Energy and Climate Change, The Scottish Government and The Welsh Assembly have also been group observers.