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Building Control - Energy Efficiency & Electric Dreams

Like the removal of CFCs from aerosol products and the shift from leaded petrol to unleaded, our choice of vehicle may be transformed following a recent Building Regulation consultation on charging points for electric vehicles (EVs).

The consultation, which ran from 15 July to 7 October, proposes to alter the regulations for new residential buildings in England, as well as new and existing non-residential buildings, to include requirements for EV charge points (bit.ly/EVptcons). This proposal stems from the UK government white paper Industrial Strategy: Building a Britain fit for the future (bit.ly/UKIndStrat), which also pledged £40m to support new technologies for on-street and wireless charging as part of its Road to Zero strategy.

However, companies such as Ecotricity that have charge points at motorway service stations see little point in providing facilities in small towns, when statistics show that 80 per cent of EV charging happens at home, and that 98 per cent of all car journeys in the UK are less than 80km, according to the 2016 National Travel Survey for England. The consultation notes that charging cars at home overnight using a purpose-designed point would therefore generally be cheaper and more convenient.

As part of the government’s transposition of the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) into UK law, these changes are viewed as a way of incorporating EVs into our future smart and flexible energy system. The government’s ambition is for 50–70 per cent of new cars to be ultra-low emission by 2030, and for all new cars and vans to be effectively zero-emission by 2040.

Published together with the consultation were a draft approved document, outlining guidance on the proposed changes, and impact assessments. The proposals require that every new residential building with an associated car parking space, including any undergoing a change of use, is to have a charge point provided. Furthermore, every residential building with more than ten car parking spaces having a major renovation is to provide access to a charge point for every space.

Similarly, new non-residential buildings and those being significantly renovated with more than ten spaces are to be provided with one charge point, and access to this point for one in five spaces. The government also seeks to require existing buildings with 20 or more parking spaces to have at least one charge point under the EPBD as of 2025.

All charge points are to have a minimum power rating output of 7kW, which can charge a vehicle three times faster than a standard plug, and be fitted with a universal socket that can charge all EVs currently on the market. This would be a minimum mode 3 system; that is, one specialised for EV charging and running from a dedicated circuit with an untethered unit to allow for different connectors.

Some media coverage recently has highlighted the dangerous practices to which EV owners have had to resort, such as charging from the domestic mains via extension leads (bit.ly/EVdangers). However, all installations will need to meet relevant electrical safety standards as well as accessibility requirements to help prevent such situations.

An upfront installation as part of a new development is estimated to cost £976, substantially cheaper than the £2,040 per home that a retrofit would cost, which is why the government clearly sees significant benefits to requiring them at construction stage. However, it has proposed threshold exemption figures for those areas where the cost of installation is high or not technically feasible, so as not to have a negative impact on housing supply.

The consultation also reviews other options for charge points in new housing: one alternative is to require only the installation of routes for EV cabling as ducting infrastructure, to which the EPBD refers as a minimum. This would be less costly for developers than a full charge point, and help to futureproof new houses by enabling the installation of these later, but the benefits for consumers would be reduced.

Another option is to require the infrastructure, including cabling routes, cables and electrical capacity at the distribution board, but not the charge point itself. This was an optional requirement in lieu of a universal mandatory requirement, and would be left to the discretion of the local planning authority to implement.

However, full installation appears to be the favoured option. With the proposed non-residential requirements, it is envisaged that most large commercial premises, including workplaces, will look to install provisions that exceed the Building Regulations’ minimum requirements, if they have not done so already.

This follows former chancellor Philip Hammond’s announcement in spring 2019 that, by 2025, the government would introduce a Future Homes Standard for new-build homes as part of the Building Regulations. The standard would entail that all homes are futureproofed with low-carbon heating and world-leading levels of energy efficiency.

Although transport is not directly related to this goal, installing EV charging shares its overall aim. I hope it would also help change the culture away from the use of polluting, fossil-fuelled internal combustion engines on which we seem so reliant.

Michael's article was originally published in the RICS Built Environment Journal in February 2020.

Michael Morgan MRICS is technical manager at jhai

michael.morgan@jhai.co.uk

Related competencies include: Legal/regulatory compliance, Sustainability