A nearly zero energy buildings (NZEB) future – Minister English reminds construction sector to be prepared for new building regulations on energy efficiency

  • All new homes will be nearly zero energy buildings (NZEB) and have a typical Building Energy Rating (BER) of A2 compared with a current rating for new builds of A3
  • New homes will be 70% more energy efficient and emit 70% less carbon dioxide than 2005 performance levels
  • Typical A-rated 3-bedroom semi-detached house likely to be approximately €800 a year cheaper to heat than a similar house built before 2005
  • Existing dwellings undergoing major renovations will be required to achieve a BER of B2 or equivalent.

Friday 27 September, 2019

The Minister for Housing and Urban Development, Damien English, T.D., has called on the construction industry to be prepared for the revised building regulations that apply to all new dwellings commencing construction from 1st November 2019 subject to transitional arrangements. The new regulations aim to make all new residential dwellings 70% more energy efficient than the performance requirements in 2005.

Earlier this year, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy, T.D., signed into law amendments to Part L of the Building Regulations, giving effect to Nearly Zero Energy Building (NZEB) Regulations and Major Renovation Regulations. In conjunction with this, Minister English, signed into law amendments to Part F of the Building Regulations, which relate to ventilation. The NZEB standard is achieved, in part, through improved air tightness in a building. New builds will require more effective ventilation systems to achieve the improved air tightness.

Commenting on the regulations, Minister English said: “The amended building regulations will mean a future of more energy efficient homes. They will help lower people’s energy bills, reduce the risk of fuel poverty and give people greater comfort in their homes. The new building regulations will place additional obligations on the sector. I would urge all in the sector, both economic operators and end users in the sector, to be prepared in advance of November 1st.”

Minister English added: “Ireland has set an example internationally through its policies on energy efficiency in homes. International reports have shown this. These regulations build on the significant improvements in new builds’ efficiency levels since 2007.”

The Minister also spoke about the regulations’ contribution to reducing Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions. “About forty per cent of Ireland’s energy-related carbon emissions come from buildings. By making the next generation of houses and renovated houses more energy efficient, we can make a significant contribution in the national efforts to mitigate climate change.”

The World Bank’s recent Regulatory Indicators for Sustainable Energy (RISE) report stated that Ireland performed very strongly in the area of energy efficiency, achieving the highest score of 100 for Building Energy Codes. Ireland, therefore, is considered a role model for many other EU countries on how to effectively design and implement energy efficiency strategies for new buildings and building renovation (http://rise.worldbank.org/scores(link is external)). A report by the Global Buildings Performance Network in 2013 ranked Ireland first in an international comparison of energy efficiency policies for new dwellings.

A revised version of Technical Guidance Document L – Conservation of Fuel and Energy – Dwellings will be published shortly and available online at www.housing.gov.ie. A revised version of Technical Guidance Document F – Ventilation is available at www.housing.gov.ie. The software calculation methodology DEAP (Dwelling Energy Assessment Procedure), for checking compliance for NZEB, has been published by the SEAI and is available on its website https://www.seai.ie/energy-in-business/ber-assessor-support/deap/(link is external).


Notes for Editors

  • The Directive defines an NZEB as a building that has a very high-energy performance. It states that the nearly zero or very low amount of energy required should be covered to a very significant extent by energy from renewable sources, including energy from renewable sources produced on-site or nearby. The new regulations will require that 20% of the total energy use of buildings is sourced from renewables. Article 9(1) of the Directive requires Member States to ensure that by 31 December 2020, all new buildings are NZEB.
  • The Directive requires that where major renovations (defined as a renovation where more than 25% of the surface envelope of the building undergoes renovation) are carried on a building, the whole building or dwelling should achieve a cost optimal energy performance insofar as it is technically, functionally and economically feasible. The cost optimal energy performance level for a typical dwelling is equivalent to a B2 BER. The majority of existing housing stock is energy inefficient with 78% having a C2 BER or worse. EU statistics show 0.4 to 1.2% of housing stock are renovated annually
  • The main benefits of the new regulations are:
    • Reduced energy bills and alleviation of fuel poverty: the new regulations are expected to result in reduced fuel bills for new or majorly renovated dwellings compared to bills for existing dwellings.

A typical A-rated 3-bedroom semi-detached house is likely to have heating and hot water costs that are 25% to 33% of those of a dwelling built in 2005. A typical 3-bedroom semi-detached house built between 1994 and 2004 is C rated. A similar 3-bedroom semi-detached house built under the new regulations will be A2 rated and will cost approximately €400 a year to heat.

  • Health improvements:  The 2009 World Health Organisation guidelines provide that as a result of improved indoor air quality, better performing buildings provide higher comfort levels and wellbeing for their occupants and improve health. Health benefits have been reported by the International Energy Agency (Annex 56) as the most important benefit of energy efficiency improvements in residential buildings including low-income households.

Initial reports from occupants of NZEB homes in Ireland are reporting the health benefits of improved comfort and indoor air quality. CSO statistics also show that NZEB Regulations are eliminating the use of solid fuel in new dwellings and also benefitting outdoor air quality.

  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions: Approximately 40% of Ireland’s energy-related emissions are from buildings. Under the current regulations, a typical new dwelling is built to an A3 BER standard. The NZEB requirements will result in a typical BER of A2, which represents a 70% improvement in carbon emissions levels on the emissions levels of buildings from 2005.
  • The implementation of NZEB building regulations for new dwellings and major renovations to a cost optimal level for existing dwellings is a key action for the built environment in the Government’s Climate Action Plan 2019.
  • A modelling and cost study was conducted to estimate the cost impact of NZEB requirements. It found that the average cost uplift across all types of typical new dwellings required to achieve NZEB was 1.9% over current construction costs. The range was from 0.7% to 4.2%. The uplift was calculated for a range of common heating systems, renewables and ventilation systems. This represents high value when set against the energy cost savings to occupants over a dwelling’s lifetime, as well as the benefits in reduced heating costs, comfort, health and action against climate change.
  • Part L of the Building Regulations for dwellings has been progressively improved since 2007:
      • In 2007, regulations requiring a 40% improvement over 2005 energy and carbon emissions performance levels were introduced. It introduced a mandatory requirement for renewables on all new dwellings.
      • In 2011, Part L further advanced the energy and carbon emissions performance by 60% relative to 2005 performance requirements.
      • The revised regulations of 2019 will advance the performance of dwellings to a 70% improvement relative to 2005 performance levels to a typical BER of A2.
      • Amendments to Part L of the Building Regulations (relating to the conservation of fuel and energy in dwellings) give effect to the European Union (Energy Performance Of Buildings) Regulations 2019, published on 03 May 2019 (S.I. 183 of 2019(link is external)). The regulations will come into effect on 01 November 2019. The regulations transpose Directive 2010/31/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on the energy performance of buildings (recast), as amended by Directive (EU) 2018/844 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2018. The Directive sets requirements for Member States to improve the energy performance of buildings and make an important contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
      • Amendments to Part F (Ventilation) of the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations 1997 – 2018 (S.I. No. 263 of 2019) set effective standards of ventilation and support the measures introduced in Part L Regulations 2017 European Union (Energy Performance of Buildings) Regulations 2019 (S.I. No. 538 of 2017(link is external) and S.I. No. 183 of 2019(link is external)).
      • A revised version of Technical Guidance Document L – Conservation of Fuel and Energy – Dwellings will be published shortly and available online at http://www.housing.gov.ie. A revised version of Technical Guidance Document F – Ventilation has been published and is available at http://www.housing.gov.ie. The Department has engaged extensively with the construction industry and stakeholders to ensure all relevant parties are informed of the changes. It will continue to do so.
      • The SEAI has published software calculation methodology DEAP (Dwelling Energy Assessment Procedure) for checking compliance for NZEB. It is available on its website https://www.seai.ie/energy-in-business/ber-assessor-support/deap/(link is external).
      • The Department has engaged with Department of Education and Skills, higher level education bodies, professional bodies, industry bodies and the Waterford and Wexford Education and Training Board to deliver NZEB training programmes for construction professionals and trades persons.
      • On 9 April 2018, Minister English launched a public consultation on the review of Part L and F of the Building Regulations. The consultation ended on 08 June 2018.