Following COP26, we reported on calls that were made by Alex Rowley, MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife to require all new-build homes in Scotland to meet Passivhaus standards - the full Article can be viewed here. The MSP has taken the first steps to materialise his agenda by publishing a consultation for the Domestic Building Environmental Standards (Scotland) Bill. The Bill aims to introduce new minimum environmental design standards for all new-build housing, which will meet Passivhaus standards (or a Scottish equivalent) with the aim of improving energy efficiency and thermal performance. We take a closer look at what the proposals are and what this might mean for the housebuilding industry in the near future.

What are the proposals?

The proposed legislation will set recognised energy efficiency standards for new-build housing in Scotland, based on the internationally recognised Passivhaus standard. It is not yet clear whether the Bill will require new-build houses to be built strictly to Passivhaus standards or whether a new Scottish equivalent, perhaps based on Passivhaus principles, will be established. The Bill does anticipate that the key construction methods that we outlined in our previous Article will be adopted in order to achieve an energy efficiency certification. The Bill currently envisages a similar process for verification and certification to that required for Passivhaus. In order to receive the energy efficient standard certificate, a new-build house is expected be inspected by an accredited verifier who will certify that the building meets the set standard. Note that the consultation does not specify in detail what the compliance process might look like, who the verifier will be, whether the verifier will be part of the relevant Building Control Department and how this will interact with existing building control requirements. As currently drafted, the proposed Bill only focuses on new-build homes, however there is intention to introduce the new standard into retro-fittings and extensions at a later date.

What does this mean for Housebuilders?

The Consultation is in its very early stages, and it is clear that the details of what the standard will be, how it will be implemented and how it will be certified must be ironed out. There is some doubt cast over whether Scotland has the skilled workforce required in order to deliver new-build homes that meet Passivhaus' "gold standard" which has previously been described as ambitious, practical, and forward thinking.

Housebuilders should be alive to the possibility of increased complexity, increased design costs and potential time impact to build programmes. There is no doubt that alleviating fuel poverty, minimising carbon emissions and building more efficiently (all of which could be achieved under the Bill if properly executed) are all outcomes that would be welcomed. However, clarification as to how these concepts will be practically achieved is imperative in order that the industry has time to adapt, prepare and deliver tangible results. Collaboration across the board is undoubtably required if the Bill is to materialise and achieve its purpose.


Anna Reilly

Senior Solicitor