New Build Heat Standard: consultation - part two analysis

The New Build Heating Standard (NBHS) consultation: Part II was an opportunity for the Scottish Government to understand a wide variety of stakeholders’ views on a number of specific proposals. This independent analysis presents a report on these views both quantitively and qualitatively.

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Chapter Four: Ensuring Equality

Respondents were asked about the possible impact of the proposed regulations on people with one or more of the protected characteristics as defined by the Equality Act of 2010. The Scottish Government is also interested in understanding how the proposal ensures due regard for the three needs of the Public Sector Equality Duty: elimination of discrimination and harassment; advancement of equality of opportunity between people who have protected characteristics and those who do not; and to foster good relationships between those who share protected characteristics and those who do not.

Q9. How might these proposals impact upon people with one or more of the protected characteristics listed in the Equality Act 2010 (for example: a positive, negative or neutral impact)?

Negative impacts

Of the 48 respondents who answered Q9, the most prevalent theme was a belief that the proposed NBHS would negatively impact people with protected characteristics. There is no pattern evident in the types of respondents who provided this answer.

As mentioned in Q2, some respondents believe the cost of running a ZDEH system may be more expensive than a DEH system, due to the higher cost of electricity compared to gas. Given this perception, some respondents at Q9 felt the cost of running a ZDEH system in a new build could be more expensive than alternatives, which could negatively impact on those with protected characteristics who buy those properties. Some others explicitly mentioned the higher cost possibly affecting those living in converted properties. For example, one individual noted that women, particularly single mothers, suffer lower wealth and discrimination in financial support, and they would be disproportionately affected by the conversion regulations if the transition to ZDEH required expensive fabrication or structural upgrades. An anonymous local authority also agreed that if conversion of heating systems was completed in poorly fabricated homes without additional fabrication adjustments, it could exacerbate fuel poverty among groups with protected characteristics as they are typically more likely to suffer from deprivation. However, high fabrication standards and more efficient ZDEH systems could ease some of these concerns according to the Energy Saving Trust.

"Those who are older or with certain disabilities may require greater levels of heating and/or hot water. The potential consequences of higher bills and reduced access to instantaneous water may cause further issues for these householders. It is therefore critical that ZDEH systems have low running costs, which supports the argument that more efficient systems such as heat pumps should be installed instead of less efficient systems such as traditional electric heating. The fact that it is possible to install extremely efficient heating systems means that the introduction of this Standard presents a significant opportunity for people to live in homes with minimal heating costs and to use those systems efficiently – ensuring that homes remain comfortable for all with the minimum amount of energy use." – Energy Saving Trust

Some other respondents noted that the reliability of ZDEH systems, which could be compromised by electrical grid failures for example, may negatively impact groups who depend upon stable heating, such as the elderly, people with certain disabilities, and pregnant women and children.

Other less commonly mentioned negative impacts included:

  • That some groups, especially the elderly, may find ZDEH confusing or complicated. This was also reflected in the discussions at the consultation workshops.
  • Developers delaying or cancelling conversions and new build projects could affect supply of new homes or projects such as care home conversions being abandoned.
  • The unknown aspects of the regulation, such as the overall costs and grid capacity, were noted as possibly causing disruption and stress to vulnerable groups, such as the elderly or women who are more likely to live in social housing or private lets.
  • Discussion in the Consumer and Equality workshop also highlighted the importance of correct ventilation for air quality in ZDEH efficient homes. They suggested using mechanical ventilation with heat recovery systems where stuffiness was an issue.
  • Event participants also noted the need for controls to be wheelchair accessible.

Neutral impact

Several respondents highlighted that they did not believe the proposals would impact or unfairly disadvantage any group. One anonymous respondent noted that people with protected characteristics are protected under other legislation, including the new building regulations coming into effect in December 2022.

"We have previously raised concerns that the Scottish Government's proposals for decarbonising existing buildings risk negative impacts on women, and particularly pregnant women and women with children (as defined by sex), and those vulnerable groups who are deemed to require an enhanced heating regime… However, as this consultation covers new build and conversions these concerns do not apply here. As regards conversions, and our understanding of the likely definition of these, we would expect these concerns not to apply, given that a building owner investing in a significant conversion would be expected to have secured substantial investment and developed a clear assessment of capital and operational costs in order to do so. However, a risk arises if the definition of 'conversion' were to include residential buildings (including residential facilities such as care homes) being converted where the purposes of being used for residential purposes are retained. Therefore, care needs to be taken when finalising this definition." – The Energy Poverty Research initiative; Common Weal; and the Built Environment Asset Management (BEAM) Centre, Glasgow Caledonian University (joint response)

Positive impact

Some respondents mentioned positive outcomes for those with protected characteristics. In contrast to the above, some respondents noted that the quality and energy efficiency of new build homes should improve, reducing the cost of heating. This would positively impact groups with protected characteristics with more affordable living costs and warmer homes. One individual felt it would likely improve fuel poverty rates.

"The new build heat standard overall, should have a positive effect on those with protected characteristics, by building homes that are warm, energy efficient, and offer low-cost heating." - Representative of Scottish Local Authorities


A few respondents provided recommendations to mitigate any negative impacts of the NBHS on groups with protected characteristics. They supported a revision of the Affordable Housing Support Programme grant funding to reflect increased delivery costs of new technology to avert the costs being passed onto tenants.

Q10. How might these proposals help the Scottish Government ensure due regard of the three needs of the public sector equality duty (PSED)?

Advancement of equality in housing

There were 27 respondents who answered Q10. The most common theme in responses was that the proposal would ensure regard for advancing equality in housing between those who have protected characteristics and those who do not. While a few respondents generally noted that the presumed benefits from the NBHS would affect all equally, others provided specific examples. A few noted people on lower incomes would benefit from high efficiency ZDEH systems which would reduce their bills, and the Heat Pump Association suggested the smart technology that accompanies heat pumps could help people monitor and manage their electricity usage. Improved building standards were mentioned by a few respondents, including two local authorities who felt the proposal would assist in eliminating disadvantages across housing tenures.

"These proposals do not aim to target a specific tenure of Housing property and therefore this contributes to ensuring that there is no discrimination across the tenures; a new build house that is built by a local authority for social housing will need to meet the same criteria as one that is being built by a housing developer for private sale and therefore ensures consistency of a standard approach." – Perth and Kinross Council

Recommendations to ensure due regard of PSED

Some suggested pathways to ensure due regard of PSED. These included:

  • Ensuring heating and hot water control systems are easy to use.
  • Upskilling enough technicians to provide assistance during the transition to ZDEH systems and ensure that assistance is accessible to all.
  • Allowing those who can to access private energy sources, such as solar panels and wind turbines, which are on a separate grid, allowing for self-sufficiency and a further economic avenue for households.
  • Ensuring the heating regime of ZDEH systems delivers the same standards as the temperature regime underpinning the Scottish definition of fuel poverty.

Negative effects on equality in housing

Examples of situations where the proposals do not ensure due regard of PSED were mentioned by some respondents. Some felt it could increase fuel poverty due to higher heating costs for those on low incomes. Two others noted that the elderly, some disabled people, pregnant women and children may be disadvantaged by higher heating costs as they may need to keep the temperature warmer in homes.



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