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The Labour Government set out the original plans for zero carbon homes in their consultation document ‘Building a Greener Future’ in 2006. The coalition Government has amended the proposals with the aim of striking a balance between zero carbon goals and the stimulation of growth in the house building industry. The concept of ‘Allowable Solutions’ has been introduced to widen the possibility of what off-site carbon reductions can be considered.

A commitment to delivering zero carbon homes from 2016 was included in the Budget 2013. A written statement on 30 July 2013, announced the Government’s plans to amend Part L of building regulations. The aim was to strike a balance between reducing the regulatory burden on developers and the Government’s zero carbon home commitments.

The Government introduced the proposals as part of the Infrastructure Bill. The Bill as originally presented in the Lords did not include the section on off-site carbon abatement measures. The Government introduced them as an amendment and they are now clause 32 of the Bill. The clause would amend the Building Act 1984, to extend the matters that may be covered by the Building Regulations to, “the action to be taken as a result of a building’s contribution to or effect on emissions of carbon dioxide (whether or not from the building itself)”.

Homes would have to be built to at least level 4 of the Code for Sustainable Homes, but developers under a certain size would be exempt from the allowable solutions requirement. The government has not yet made a decision, but is minded that this would be developments of 10 units or under, nor has it finalised what the allowable solutions will be. It published a consultation on this in November 2014.

The provisions on allowable solutions, now section 37 of the Infrastructure Act 2015, where intended to come into force through regulations. However the Government announced on 10 July 2015, when it published its productivity plan, Fixing the foundations: Creating a more prosperous nation, that it would not proceed with the zero carbon allowable solutions, or the proposed 2016 increase in on-site energy efficiency standards. Instead it would keep energy efficiency standards under review.

In response to the cancellation of the scheme a successful amendment was tabled at Report stage of the Housing and Planning Bill 2015-16 in the House of Lords. This would require the Government to put in place regulations for a carbon compliance standard for new homes by 2018. The amendment was removed in the House of Commons and replaced by a commitment to a review the energy performance requirements under Building Regulations.

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