We’re still feeling the effects of the newly updated Building Regulations that came into force in June 2022. The main point of contention remains the implementation of trickle vents in replacement windows.

However, we cannot remain fixated on the changes that have just happened. 2025 is going to see the implementation of the Future Buildings Standard in England.

In many ways, these updates to Building Regulations in a couple of years’ time will dwarf the effects on our industry we have seen with 2022 changes.

Why Future Building Standard matters

In 2019, the Government set legally binding regulations for the UK to become a net zero country by 2050. That meant the Government had to commit to major changes in all areas of the economy in order to be able to meet that goal.

The UK has some of the worst-performing housing stock in Europe. We have some of the leakiest and inefficient homes, with millions upon millions in desperate need of retrofitting in order to bring them up to scratch. The Future Building Standard will also aim to reduce carbon emissions in homes by 75% compared to current rates.

These are bold targets to aim for, and perhaps questionable whether they are achievable in the real world. Nevertheless, the Government has set its own rules and must therefore abide by them. And to be able to do so means taking some bold steps in the next couple of years to make sure that the products that are going into homes are able to meet these stringent new targets.

For fenestration, the single most important area to keep an eye on will be the new minimum requirements for U-Values. At the moment the current minimum U-Value for windows and doors, as per the 2022 changes is 1.4W/m²K. According to ongoing reporting, the new minimum U-Value for 2025 will be set as low as 0.8W/m²K – a reduction of 0.6.

This is a major shift in what is a relatively short time period. I understand that this is going to be the requirement for both new-build homes and replacement installations. The work required for our industry to meet this new level is going to be vast, and the work has to begin right now.

All change

To meet the new 0.8W/m²K U-Values, there are going to have to be massive changes to a lot of window and door systems currently in circulation.

There are some new products coming to market right now, both in the aluminium and PVCu spheres, which will meet the new 0.8W/m²K already, which is good news. But the number of new products won’t be able to replace all the various versions of all the current systems in circulation. Shelving them isn’t an option as too many fabricators both in the residential and commercial markets will rely on them.

It means there are going to have to be updates to all the PVCu and aluminium systems that syscos intend to keep online as the Future Building Standards are implemented. In short, that means money. Some systems will need vast changes, and some will need a few tweaks here and there.

Although we’re only a couple of weeks into 2023, the R&D cycle runs typically 2-3 years. That means any new products that intend to be launched by systems companies really need to be started now. Ideally, that process should have started in H2 of 2022. It takes a lot of time to research and develop any product, let alone an entirely new window and door system, or at least one that has to be reworked to meet strict new criteria.

Positive opportunity

What I would hope is that our industry can respond in a much more positive manner to these Building Regulation changes than the last time. To be frank, our collective reaction and performance towards the 2022 changes were pathetic. Infighting, the inability of the sector to coalesce behind a singular position, and the incredibly poor uptake during the consultation period all combined to demonstrate to the Government that we’re unable to take these matters as seriously as we should.

The Future Building Standard, at least with the lowering of the minimum U-Values, I see as a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate to both the Government and the public that our products can help deliver on meeting net zero targets and make a tangible difference to the living standards of millions of households.

I’d like to think that we all agree on the general principle of progress and things going better over time and that our industry must do all it can to help homes become more efficient and reduce our carbon footprint. This should be a given. This then should also make for a fantastic marketing opportunity.

I think now would be a good time for the industry to start to talk to homeowners about the new regulations due to take effect in a couple of years. Education should start now, which will allow installers to sell products which meet the new regulations well in advance of 2025 as and when those products become available. Being able to advertise future-proofed windows and doors well ahead of new regulations would be quite an advantage I would think.

I don’t think we should underplay the significance of the changes coming down the road. Two and a half years is not that long to wait, and there is going to be vast changes to existing products and a whole host of new window and door systems coming online just to be able to meet the new minimum U-Values. It’s going to change the sector profoundly.

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