Adopt and implement clear and future-proofed quality standards for assessing the carbon impacts of all buildings (public and private) using EnerPhit/Passivhaus standards (as a minimum) and integrating whole life carbon costs, environmental impact and operational carbon emissions.

Currently, heat in buildings accounts for 20% of Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing emissions from our homes and buildings is one of the most important things we can do to help end Scotland’s contribution to climate change. Energy efficiency and zero emissions heating investments are long term decisions that require certainty. Clear, future-proofed regulations will help provide that.

Our Heat in Buildings Strategy (published on 7 October 2021) sets a common direction of travel with the Assembly’s full report, including how regulation and other measures will drive the improvement of our existing building stock. The Scottish Government will strengthen energy standards in building regulations in 2022 to improve both the energy efficiency and emissions from heating in Scotland’s buildings, and by 2025 introduce further regulations to align them with our net zero objectives. We are developing our own approach (rather than using existing commercial standards) to meet these objectives.

Following analysis of the Assembly’s recommendations, the Scottish Government will take the following actions:

  • We will ensure the recommendations on standards made by the Assembly are included within the response to a consultation on proposed improvements to the energy standard within Scottish building regulations.
  • We will investigate the feasibility of legislation on the design of buildings for recycling and reuse and provide an update on this before the end of 2022.
  • We will investigate opportunities for whole life emission reporting and will provide an update on this before the end of 2022.

Recommendation 7: Passivhaus Standards for New Build

Update building standards to ensure that, within the next 5 years, all new housing is built to Passivhaus standards (or an agreed Scottish equivalent), to create healthy homes for people while also taking into account whole life carbon costs and environmental impact.

Children’s Parliament: Make sure new houses are built to be environmentally-friendly. This would involve making them energy efficient.

 

Scottish Government Response

The Scottish Government agrees that review of regulation should continue to drive improvement in energy and environmental standards for new homes and is consulting on this for implementation in 2022.

 

We are completing a consultation on proposed improvements to the energy standard within Scottish building regulations. This seeks to identify the scope for further improvement to reduce energy demand, particularly for heating, and support our intent to introduce a New Build Heat Standard from 2024. It also puts forward proposals to address both ventilation provision and overheating risk in response to improving energy standards.

The proposals for new homes within the consultation include an option which approaches, but is not the same as, the performance associated with the Passivhaus standard. We are seeking views on what is achievable at a national level in Scotland at this time and agree that further capacity for improvement remains. We are not proposing adoption of an existing standard, such as Passivhaus, but are investigating how good practice from such very low energy standards can support improved compliance with building regulations and more assurance on performance in practice.

We will publish a consultation response early in 2022, and intend to introduce revised standards later that year. We will ensure the recommendations on standards made by the Assembly are included within the response to this consultation.

Whilst the issue of whole life carbon costs is not currently addressed by building regulations in Scotland or, indeed, anywhere in the UK, we recognise the benefit of any action which raises awareness of the broader environmental impact of development and influences development decisions. We will investigate opportunities for whole life emission reporting, through building regulations or by other means. We will provide an update on this before the end of 2022.


Recommendation 8: Planning Decisions Consider Climate

Local authorities and planning departments need to ensure carbon sequestration, well-being, adaptation to manage extreme weather risk, and biodiversity are all considered in planning decisions for urban areas and buildings.

Children’s Parliament: Protect wildlife and native species. This would involve a ban on hunting animals and making sure no new homes are built in places where there are habitats.

 

Scottish Government Response

The Scottish Government supports this recommendation and is clear that the planning system must embrace and deliver radical change so we can tackle and adapt to climate change, restore biodiversity loss, improve health and well-being, build a well-being economy and create great places.

 

The draft fourth National Planning Framework (NPF4) will have the status of development plan for planning decisions once adopted. Development plans set out the long term vision for where development should and shouldn’t happen and can include policies for the development and use of land. The status of the Framework is important because, along with Local Development Plans, it will form part of the development plan and broadly where planning applications are made for new development they should be approved where consistent with the development plan and refused where they are not.

The draft NPF4 sets out how our approach to planning and development will achieve a net zero, sustainable Scotland by 2045 in a way that also tackles longstanding inequality. The policies included set out a requirement to give significant weight to the global climate emergency in plans and decisions; that development proposals should contribute to the enhancement of biodiversity and expanding blue and green infrastructure to build resilience and improve our health and quality of life; and ensure we adapt to future climate impacts by considering flood risk, infrastructure resilience, temperature change and coastal vulnerability. We welcome comments on the draft at this time and currently anticipate the finalised version will be adopted in 2022. Further information is available from www.transformingplanning.scot.


Recommendation 9: Building Standards Non Residential

Within the next five years, update Building Standards Regulations to make it mandatory to apply EnerPhit/Passivhaus standards (or agreed Scottish equivalent), with an assessment of whole life/embodied carbon costs and the environmental impact of the materials used in construction, to all work on new and existing non-residential buildings.

 

Scottish Government Response

The Scottish Government agrees with the ambition of the recommendation, and is developing its own comparable standards covering both energy efficiency and zero direct emissions heating to meet our objectives in Scotland.

 

Overall, our Heat in Buildings Strategy sets out how regulation and other measures will drive the improvement of our existing building stock. As with the response to Recommendation 7, we support the aims of this recommendation, but rather than using existing commercial standards we are developing an own approach covering both energy efficiency and zero direct emissions heating to meet our objectives in Scotland. The cited commercial standard is focussed solely upon reducing energy demand whereas our Heat in Building Strategy seeks to both reduce energy demand and move to low or zero carbon heat sources. We are therefore seeking practical, balanced and affordable action through regulation.

In respect of energy standards and whole life carbon costs for new buildings, the response to Recommendation 7 (above) also applies here to recommendations for new non-residential buildings. We are taking forward a review of building standards for 2022 and opportunities for whole life emission reporting, through building regulations or by other means, will be investigated in the coming year.

The Scottish Government is also currently developing regulations which will require all new buildings (including non-residential where technically feasible) to use zero emissions heating (and cooling) where a building warrant is applied for from 2024. This will have the effect of ensuring zero direct emissions from the building’s heating system.

For existing buildings, Scottish building regulations only apply where construction work is proposed by a developer or building owner, and set minimum standards applicable to such work. As set out in the Heat in Building Strategy, we intend to introduce regulations by 2025 for all existing non-domestic buildings for energy efficiency and to convert to zero emissions heat by 2045. We are currently investigating the most effective regulatory approach to tackle the diversity of non-domestic stock.

We intend to introduce a bill during this parliament to provide the powers to regulate for energy efficiency and zero emissions heat in all existing buildings (both domestic and non-domestic) from 2025.


Recommendation 10: Building Design for Recycling and Reuse

Introduce appropriate legislation that requires all new buildings to be designed from the outset using techniques that enable demountability, disassembly, material recycling and reuse at end of life.

 

Scottish Government Response

The Scottish Government will investigate the feasibility of legislation on the design of buildings for recycling and reuse.

 

At present, for new homes Scottish building regulations (standard 7.1 – ‘statement of sustainability’) identify voluntary action on designing for deconstruction. These apply where a developer chooses to demonstrate that a building achieves a defined higher level of sustainability.

Over the next year, we will investigate the feasibility of mandating assessment and reporting on this issue for new homes, and whether prescription on the construction solutions implemented would also be beneficial. We will provide an update on this before the end of 2022.


Recommendation 11: New Environmental Impact Assessments

Within the next five years, introduce a new environmental impact assessment for existing and new homes which adapts SAP/EPCs to measure all aspects of sustainability - combining energy efficiency measures; whole life/embodied carbon costs; and the environmental impact of the materials used in construction. This should also be used in the assessment of Council Tax bands.

 

Scottish Government Response

The Scottish Government recognises the need for robust assessment of the energy efficiency of homes and is consulting on EPC reform. We are engaging with the UK government on its plans to revise SAP, and will investigate opportunities for whole life emission reporting. A citizens' assembly will consider the issue of a replacement to the present Council Tax system.

 

The Heat in Building Strategy sets out the Scottish Government’s intention to regulate all housing tenures for both energy efficiency and zero emissions heat by 2045. We are clear that this has to be underpinned by a robust assessment of homes’ standards of energy efficiency and how to improve them. We consulted in the Summer 2021 on reforms to the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) that would be used as the basis for energy efficiency regulations. We consulted specifically on changing the EPC metric from one based on energy cost, to one based on energy in kWh, to provide a more robust basis for improving energy efficiency. This consultation also set out our intention to review the energy efficiency recommendations generated by EPCs to improve their accuracy. We are reviewing the responses to the consultation, and plan to consult further in 2022 on EPC reform, EPC standards and zero emissions heating. We are also working with the UK Government on changes to the Standard Assessment Procedure that is used to generate EPCs. EPCs will continue to focus on energy used in the operation of buildings, and not the wider embodied carbon or environmental impacts of construction.

The assessment of whole life/embodied carbon is separate from and requires a different dataset than is used in the production of EPCs. In our response to Recommendations 7 and 9, we set out that we will investigate opportunities for whole life emission reporting, be this through building regulations or by other means. Whilst the focus of this will be on new buildings and new building work, we will also consider the benefits of reporting on existing dwellings. However for existing dwellings our focus remains on reducing emissions from their use, by improving energy efficiency and converting to zero direct emission heating. We will provide an update on this before the end of 2022.

As set out in the Heat in Buildings Strategy, as part of our work to develop a long-term market framework we will also consider how our local tax powers, such as council tax and non-domestic rates, could be used to incentivise or encourage the retrofit of buildings.

The Bute House agreement commits the Government to a deliberative process to inform reformation of Council Tax to develop a fairer, more inclusive and sustainable form of local taxation.

Linking Council Tax liabilities with the EPC rating for a property would require the legislation that defines Council Tax to be changed, but achieving cross-party consensus on a replacement to the present Council Tax has proven to be difficult. We will therefore be establishing a working group and will engage with COSLA to oversee the development of effective deliberative engagement on sources of local government funding, including Council Tax, culminating in a Citizens’ Assembly process.

Photo newly built energy efficient housing in Scotland

Photo of newly built energy efficient housing in Scotland