From 2025 onwards, all new builds in the UK will have to comply with the Future Homes Standard (FHS) – legislation requiring homes to be more energy efficient.

The FHS aims to cut carbon emissions by 75% per home compared with properties built under current regulations. Achieving this ambitious target will require a multifaceted approach including low-carbon heating, ventilation, insulation, air tightness, low-carbon electricity, and more.

However, the FHS has been criticised for not going far enough. Maximum efficiency cannot be achieved by individual industries working in isolation. Instead, cross-industry collaboration – including between manufacturers, energy suppliers, property developers, and others – is needed.

The Future Homes Standard – what it gets right and what it gets wrong

The FHS primarily focuses on the following areas:

  • Low-carbon heating. In a shake-up to plumbing, gas boilers will no longer be installed in new build homes. Instead, low emission alternatives like heat pumps will be used – with the aim of installing 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028.
  • Improving hot water systems. Note that, for plumbing and heating installers working in this sector, being Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) registered will also become a must
  • Reducing heat waste by improving insulation. This includes – for example – rules on building fabrics, insulation levels, and triple glazing standards.

While these are commendable aims, the FHS could go further.

For instance, there is no mention of home battery storage. The installation of home batteries would allow homeowners to store the energy they generate from renewable sources for later use. In the process, they can reduce strain on the grid (i.e., charging when energy is free or off-peak, then discharging during times of peak demand).

But battery storage is just one step in making homes ‘smart’ – something which cross-industry voices want to be standardised through a ‘Smart Building Rating’ (SBR).

According to Centre for Net Zero and independent research organisation, Energy Systems Catapult, inclusion of the following would help determine a building’s SBR:

  • EV charger
  • Heat pump
  • Smart thermal storage
  • Battery storage
  • Solar panels

In short, an SBR would be a measure of how energy flexible a building is. In combination with existing energy efficiency ratings, this would encourage households to use less energy overall and shift use times to when energy is abundant, clean, and cheap.

That SBR covers such a broad range of areas only serves to emphasise the need for cross-industry collaboration.

The call for cross-industry collaboration

So, as we can see, heating, ventilation, and plumbing are far from the only considerations for sustainable construction. Building energy-efficient homes takes more than one kind of technology. It takes more than one service provider.

To ensure maximum impact, homebuilders, electricians, plumbers, and various service providers need to work together from planning through to build.

From a cost perspective, installation costs will always be lower if chosen technologies are integrated into the build plan – not retrofitted down the line. And, from a results perspective, a holistic, strategic approach is always the most optimal.

Let’s look at some real-world industry examples.

How cross-industry collaboration can deliver energy efficient properties

Improving energy efficiency for 27,000 homes

Together Housing Group – a leading social landlord in the north of England – is partnering with GivEnergy (for battery storage), solar PV companies, and air source heat providers in a project aimed at making 27,000 social homes energy smart.

By bringing multiple technologies together, and using an aggregator to control and monetise the system, Together Housing was able to enable the social housing occupants to power their lives cheaply and cleanly.

Indeed, the Group’s framework will be made available to all social landlords across the country. So, together, service providers can continue in a collaborative push to decarbonise housing stock.

Unlocking the potential of solar and storage for ‘zero bills homes’

In collaboration with homebuilders and technology manufacturers like GivEnergy, Octopus Energy has successfully delivered Zero Bills Homes. This ground-breaking programme enables customers to move into new homes guaranteed to have no energy bills for a minimum of five years.

To enable this optimal energy efficiency, the homes combine high construction standards with industry-leading clean energy technology, such as smart meters, solar PV, domestic battery storage, and smart tariffs. 

So, once again, cross-industry collaboration has proven the key to allowing residents to unlock maximum energy savings, from homes built to meet best-practice efficiency standards.

Housebuilder to install heat pumps as standard in new homes

Home construction company Redrow recently announced that all their new build properties will use air source heat pumps and underfloor heating as standard.

Mitsubishi, Vaillant, and Daikin will collaborate with the company to install the technology.

As part of a Mitsubishi Electric heat pump trial, which included a lived-in customer experience over the period of a year under real life conditions, Redrow monitored usage to compare energy consumption for heating and hot water against a benchmark home with a traditional gas boiler.

According to the company, the results show that heat pumps consume significantly less energy than gas boilers, operating at an efficiency of around two to three times that of an A-rated boiler.

The residential sector accounted for 17% of all UK carbon emissions in 2022, mainly from the use of natural gas for heating and cooking. The installation of heat pumps will play a huge role in the implementation of the FHS and in achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Working together to go further on energy efficiency

Cross-industry collaboration has already proven to be essential in implementing FHS and in achieving net-zero carbon emissions.

Simply, no single industry can achieve national decarbonisation alone. Truly taking positive energy action requires robust, strategic collaboration between energy suppliers, service providers, technology manufacturers, and policy makers.

Only by working together can we go further on energy efficiency and sustainable construction.