The government has bolstered energy efficiency standards for new homes and non-residential buildings amid criticism that the changes don’t go far enough. 

Following a lengthy consultation period, new houses will have to improve efficiency and reduce emissions by 6% more than the 2010 regulations state and 9% more for offices and other non-domestic buildings.

The government hopes the plans will help it progress its plans for zero carbon homes by 2016, an idea reaffirmed in this year’s budget. 

Announcing the plans, parliamentary under secretary of state Baroness Hanham said: “Strengthening these requirements takes the next step towards our zero carbon ambitions, will contribute to national emission reduction targets and help to lower people’s fuel bills. The changes are projected to deliver savings of £16 million per year to business and 6.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.”

Industry groups are not entirely satisfied with the outcome from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). 

“The uplift is less ambitious than any of the options originally consulted upon – even less than Government’s previously ‘preferred options’, particularly for non-domestic buildings,” said John Alker, director of policy and communications at the UK Green Building Council.

“However, the fact there is any uplift at all is good news – it’s a victory for all those who know that industry can continue to innovate, to improve standards and reduce carbon cost-effectively,” said Alker.

“There can be no excuses for the length of time this has taken, but finally industry has the clarity on Part L that it craves,” he said adding that there were still more details pending so the “Government is not out of the woods yet”.

Paul Barwell, CEO of the Solar Trade Association (STA) said the modest changes failed to make the most of renewable heat and other technologies that could tackle volatile energy bills.

“Homeowners are ill-served by policies that fail to drive established renewable heat and power generation technologies in new homes. Neither can we see how such modest Part L changes will help the construction industry to develop the skills it needs to build genuinely low or zero carbon homes,” he said.

Paul Thompson, head of policy at the Renewable Energy Association (REA) called the announcement a failed to make the most of the potential of renewables. 

“As new build is excluded from the domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (except self-build), industry was counting on strong carbon targets in the Building Regulations to incentivise new build green heating,” said Thompson.

“This is a real missed opportunity, as it is often much cheaper to install renewable technologies during construction rather than retrofit. DCLG’s strong focus on reducing costs is also undermined by its reliance on out-of-date cost data for solar PV.”