Steve Sutton, Technical Manager at the Heating and Hotwater Industry Council, explains the likely impact of the government’s planned update to the Standard Assessment Procedure.

The Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) ratings are an integral part of the heating industry as they provide the UK with a methodology for assessing the energy and environmental performance of homes.

The government uses SAP as a mechanism to meet the UK’s climate change obligations.SAP also sets requirements for newbuild properties to demonstrate compliance with Building Regulations.

In 2016, the Heating and Hotwater Industry Council (HHIC) was delighted by the announcement that industry was being given the chance to have a say on SAP when the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced a public consultation on proposals to amend SAP as part of its energy efficiency in buildings programme.

However, many of the changes proposed in this consultation, we believe, would adversely impact the calculation of regulated energy associated with heating systems, among other aspects of building performance, thereby making compliance with Target Dwelling Emission Ratings (TDER) more difficult.

SAP may seem far removed from the day to day job of an installer, but it is important to be aware of these potential changes surrounding the industry. Changes to SAP will shape the technologies and products installed in newbuild properties of the future, therefore affect the products you will be installing or maintaining in the years to come.

Over 12 months have passed since the consultation closed, and we expect the revision of SAP (SAP10) to be published during 2018, although the government response document advises that “it may be used for government modelling purposes before publication”.

There are also lots of other elements in play that we’re likely to see before real change happens. We do not believe that the proposals should, or could, be adopted independent to a review of Building Regulations. As previously mentioned, developers will need to fully understand the associated impact, and cost, in order to agree or disagree with proposals.

So, while industry waits for news on what changes are coming, HHIC is hopeful of a joined-up approach to changes to SAP and Building Regulations. This approach would enable the supply chain the greatest opportunity to establish how they will be impacted, and plan accordingly.

The implementation of changes to SAP and Building Regulations also need to be phased in appropriately. Changes impacting compliance once plans are approved, e.g. those which impact the Target Dwelling Emission Rate, could result in non-compliance once inspection against design is carried out, potentially causing huge disruption to the construction industry.

It is certainly the case that the original proposals would incur additional build cost in terms of TDER compliance, but also additional time for SAP assessors to carry out the more detailed modelling required, together with impacts on scheme operators and software providers; thereby representing a cost to business.

In order to derive more productivity from the newbuild sector, in line with overarching government aims, the regulatory framework needs to be clear, transparent, consistent, and stable. Introducing fundamental changes to SAP must be undertaken in line with a review of Approved Document L, be fully evidenced, and an associated regulatory impact assessment produced.

In other SAP news, the HHIC is currently working with members, alongside the Building Research Establishment, to enable hybrid products to be listed in SAP.

An example of a hybrid product could be a traditional condensing boiler that is electronically interlocked with an air source heat pump so that the controller decides when to use the heat pump and when to use the boiler, to ensure that the heat demand is always met and the most efficient energy source employed.

Installation of the hybrid technology is not overly complicated, but installers should act now and take the opportunity to make contact with manufacturers about training courses to stay ahead of the curve.

BEIS is currently evaluating the hybrid heating system to fully understand its potential, and when the route for them to be more easily listed in SAP is complete, it will then have the opportunity to show their full potential.

Looking at the bigger picture, the benefit of widening the technologies listed in SAP ensures that properties can maintain a gas connection in the future, while still utilising low carbon heating solutions. Decarbonisation of heat is central to our future climate change obligations.

Using the gas grid is key to this because of its existing reach, cost efficiency, and ability to store energy. Industry is already working on ‘green gas’ solutions, including BioSNG, as we progress with the total carbon solution of converting to hydrogen.