Building standards technical handbook 2022: domestic

Provides guidance on achieving the standards set in the Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004. This handbook applies to a building warrant submitted on or after 1 June 2022 and to building work which does not require a warrant commenced from that date.

7.0 Introduction

7.0.1 Background

Sustainable development has been defined as meeting “the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” by the Brundtland Commission of the United Nations in 1983. It follows that the process of sustainable development and the quality of ‘sustainability’ to aspire to within the built environment should account for:

  • social, economic and environmental factors

  • the potential for long-term maintenance of human well-being in and around buildings

  • the well-being of the natural world and the responsible use of natural resources, without destroying the ecological balance of the area where these resources originate or are processed, and

  • the ability for the built environment to be maintained.

The Building (Scotland) Act 2003 allows Scottish Ministers to regulate for the purpose of furthering the achievement of sustainable development. In Scotland, sustainability is embedded into the building regulations for all new buildings, rather than reference being made to new buildings achieving levels within a voluntary system. Since 2005, progress has been made by strengthening the standards on, for example, energy efficiency and accessibility for all new buildings so they are comparable with the best in Europe.

Whilst the standards within Sections 1 - 6 of the 2013 Technical Handbooks deliver a level of sustainability in a number of areas such as energy efficiency, surface water drainage and sound insulation, there is always the possibility of going beyond the minimum standard. Scottish Ministers consider that it is not practicable at this time to require every building to incorporate higher performance standards or further sustainability measures. However developers may wish to gain recognition for building to higher standards. Additionally, organisations such as planning authorities or funding bodies may choose to make constructing to a higher level of sustainability a condition of approval or funding.

Defining higher standards to measure sustainability will enable higher quality buildings to be created and for such benefits to be formally recognised. The introduction of Section 7 is the next step in encouraging the sustainable design and construction of all new buildings within a broader context of sustainable development. Further reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from new buildings will also assist in meeting targets within the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.  

7.0.2 Aims

The intention of the standard in Section 7 is to:

  • recognise the level of sustainability already achieved by the building regulations. By setting the 2010 Standards as the benchmark level, credit is given to meeting the standards within Sections 1 - 6 of the building regulations. This will emphasise that a degree of sustainable design and construction is not a niche market but must be achieved in all new buildings

  • encourage more demanding sustainability standards through enhanced upper levels.

  • encourage consistency between planning authorities that use supplementary guidance to promote higher measures of sustainable construction in their geographical areas. By making reference to this standard, local aspirations can be met by selection of clear national benchmarks. Levels of sustainability have been defined that must include a low or zero carbon generating technology, with reference to Section 72 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.

7.0.3 Scope

The measures on sustainability are broadly related to the built form but some matters that are associated with sustainable development such as location and transport cannot be adequately delivered by the building standards system. The scope of the measures can be divided into two sets:

  • Climate change, energy and resource use - Promote the more efficient use of energy, fuel and water in buildings. Reducing water use will reduce the energy consumed and the carbon emissions associated with distributing, processing and heating of water. It is also important that building occupants have the opportunity to understand how their behaviour can reduce use of these resources.

  • Quality of life; material use and waste - Homes should be designed to accommodate flexible living, working and studying patterns for individuals, groups and families. More aspects of designing for well-being, such as daylighting rooms more effectively and protecting from noise from adjacent buildings, should be promoted for all new home occupants.

There are areas considered inappropriate for inclusion in the optional upper levels for domestic buildings due to the complexity of some subjects related to building design such as material sourcing and embodied energy. However the Sullivan Report ('A Low Carbon Building Standards Strategy for Scotland'; published by Scottish Ministers in 2007) recommends total-life zero carbon buildings by 2030. This standard can respond in due course to the growing relative importance of embodied energy as the performance of new buildings improves further. At present these areas are outside the scope of this standard. Reference to external examples of guidance that allow appraisal of local or ethical construction material sourcing, embodied energy and use of recycled materials are the BRE's Green Guide to Specification ( and the materials section on

7.0.4 Explanation of terms

Aspect is a term used for a subject area of sustainability. Due to the coverage of building standards and the position of the warrant process in the overall development process, aspects covering resource use and performance are more prominent in this standard. Examples of aspects named and defined in this standard for dwellings are:

  • Energy for water heating

  • Well-being and security, and

  • Material use and waste

Within the aspect of flexibility and adaptability a ‘home office’ is a space for a desk in a dwelling to allow work or study. A mobility space is a space that could accommodate an electric wheelchair or an infant’s pram or a bicycle.

Level is the term used as a banding, where all the aspects of sustainability have reached a certain cut-off point. Upper levels in some aspects may become absorbed into guidance in Sections 1 to 6 to meet revised mandatory functional standards following future reviews of these sections. However, they should not be seen as predictions because the process for review of these sections are independent of Section 7. It is possible that levels that are more demanding may be added into Section 7 in the future.

7.0.5 Latest changes

The following change has been introduced since October 2013:

  • Standard 7.1 - amendments have been made to guidance with regard to the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions target within the Silver and Gold level of Sustainability labelling in relation to the CO2 emissions target introduced by the 2015 energy standards.

7.0.6 Relevant legislation

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 introduced clause 3F into the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997. This places an obligation on local authorities within their development plans to avoid a specified and rising proportion of greenhouse gases by use of low and zero carbon generating technologies. Some of the levels in this standard could be referred to by local authorities when setting local policy in response to this legislation.  

The EU Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/EC states that by December 2014 Member States shall, in their building regulations and codes or by other means with equivalent effect, where appropriate, require the use of minimum levels of energy from renewable sources in new buildings and in existing buildings that are subject to major renovation.

7.0.7 Retrospective application

Scottish Ministers have powers under Section 25 of the Building (Scotland) Act 2003 to make a Direction to local authorities where they consider that buildings of any description to which building regulations apply ought to comply with a provision of the regulations.  

This power has been used to direct local authorities to apply Section 7 to buildings that have been assessed by verifiers. This would only be relevant for buildings that met Sections 1- 6, that have been in force since October 2010 and where, an applicant seeks the recognition that a specified level of sustainability on a label offers. Directions to local authorities, which enable the following measures, are published on the Building Standards Division website.

7.0.8 Certification

Scottish Ministers can, under Section 7 of the Building (Scotland) Act 2003, approve schemes for the certification of design or construction for compliance with the mandatory functional standards. Such schemes are approved on the basis that the procedures adopted by the scheme will take account of the need to co-ordinate the work of various designers and specialist contractors. Individuals approved to provide certification services under the scheme are assessed to make sure that they have the qualifications, skills and experience to certify compliance for the work covered by the scope of the scheme. Checking procedures adopted by Approved Certifiers will deliver design or installation reliability in accordance with legislation.

7.0.9 Other sustainability indicators

Other tools to assess a level of sustainability for new buildings exist and are used in Scotland. These indicators may be selected as appropriate for some developments because they cover issues such as location, orientation on site, or transport that are broader than building regulations can include. Other established indicators place greater emphasis on the sourcing and embodied energy of construction materials, an area flagged up in this section for future review. Other tools could be complementary in an assessment of sustainability but they cannot be used as a method to meet an optional upper level of sustainability within building regulations.

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