On 11 November, RSUA wrote to the Minister of Finance, Conor Murphy MLA, in respect of the need for clarity on building regulations relating to energy performance of buildings. Despite having written initially in June – and the Department being aware of the pending change from 31 December for some time – key questions remain unanswered.
Current energy performance requirements of buildings in Northern Ireland are the least demanding of any part of these islands and have been described in an official UK Government report as “poorer than the cost optimal level”. From the start of 2021 all new buildings erected in Northern Ireland are to be nearly zero-energy buildings. Despite this deadline having been in place for 6 years, the Department for Finance, has not yet produced a technical booklet on how this requirement should be met. The 2021 nearly zero-energy (NZEB) building law is understood to mean that any buildings completed after 2020 should achieve the standard irrespective of when they were started. It remains unclear what this will mean for all the buildings that are being designed now to meet existing standards or for those already under construction but not due to be completed until 2021.
The Northern Ireland Construction Group (NICG) represents the leading construction trade and professional bodies, and on 12 November NICG Chair Denise McMahon wrote to the Minister of Finance to endorse RSUA’s analysis and to amplify the call for urgent action.
In the interim, and in the absence of official NzEB guidance, RSUA has established a subgroup of the Climate Emergency Committee to draft NzEB guidance focussing on what this means for building design right now and how to meet the NzEB requirements by the end of the year.
RSUA will keep members informed of progress in respect of establishing the position regarding the energy performance requirements of buildings.