New 2019 Building Regulations – New obligations on home builders and owners aimed at boosting energy efficiency

Author: Aideen Farrelly and Paddy Smyth

October 8, 2019

The new European Union (Energy Performance of Buildings) Regulations 2019 (the “2019 Regulations”) will govern all new dwellings commencing construction from 1 November 2019. They will also apply to existing dwellings undergoing “major renovations”.

The Regulations are based on the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive which requires Member States to strengthen their building regulations and to introduce long term building renovation strategies, with a view to decarbonising construction by 2050.

Transitional arrangements apply in relation to dwellings for which planning permission or approval is applied for on or before 31 October 2019, and where substantial work has been completed by 31 October 2020.

New Homes must be ‘Nearly Zero Energy Buildings’

All new buildings must be Nearly Zero Energy Buildings by 31 December 2020.

Which means …..?

Simply put, an NZEB is a building that has a very high energy performance. The EU Directive requires that energy used by homes must be to a “very significant extent from renewable sources”. This is measured by calculating the energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions of the dwelling using the Dwelling Energy Assessment Procedure (“DEAP”) published by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.

The 2019 Regulations sets out some of the measures required to meet the standard. These include the limitation of heat loss, the use of energy efficient space and water heating systems, the use of oil and gas fired boilers with a minimum seasonal efficiency of 90%, and the provision of information to the dwelling owner so that the building can be operated in such a manner as to use no more fuel and energy than is reasonable.

“Major Renovations” to Existing Dwellings

The 2019 Regulations require that where major renovations are carried out on a dwelling, the energy performance of the property must be upgraded to a BER Rating of B2 or equivalent.

Major renovations” means the renovation of a building where more than 25% of the surface of the building envelope undergoes renovation.

The main objectives of the new regulations are:

  • Reduced greenhouse gases emissions. Under the current regulations, a typical new dwelling is built to an A3 BER standard. The NZEB requirements will result in a typical BER of A2, which represents a 70% improvement in carbon emissions levels on the emissions levels of buildings from 2005.
  • Reduced energy bills and alleviation of fuel poverty. It is envisaged that the initial increases in building costs that will come with the Regulations will be recovered within the lifetime of the building, through energy savings.
  • Health benefits arising from improved indoor air quality, higher comfort levels and wellbeing for their occupants.

The new laws do not bring dwellings to a ‘zero energy’ standard of performance but are a step in the right direction in fulfilling Ireland’s low carbon strategy, albeit with some short term financial pain for those renovating.

A copy of the 2019 Regulations can be accessed here.

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