Building regulations - energy standards and associated topics - proposed changes: consultation

Consultation on proposed changes to energy standards within Scottish building regulations, including related topics such as ventilation, overheating and electric vehicle charging provision.

Part 1 – Introduction and how to respond to this consultation

1.1 Introduction

1.1.1 Purpose of this review

The purpose of this review is to consider further improvements to the standards set within The Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (as amended)[1] (Building Regulations) to limit greenhouse gas emissions and energy use, both in new buildings and where work to existing buildings takes place.

The review considers the technical, commercial and wider policy implications of improvements to energy standards and offers proposals, as part of broader action by the Scottish Government on climate change, to further our ambition of becoming a net-zero society by 2045. It also presents proposals on the provision for electric vehicle charging infrastructure or facilities in buildings.

1.1.2 The Scottish building standards system

The building standards system in Scotland[2] is established by the Building (Scotland) Act 2003[3] (The 2003 Act). The system regulates building work on new and existing buildings to provide buildings that meet reasonable standards which:

  • secure the health, safety, welfare and convenience of persons in or about buildings and of others who may be affected by buildings or matters connected with buildings,
  • further the conservation of fuel and power, and
  • further the achievement of sustainable development.

The Building Standards Division (BSD) is part of the Scottish Government Directorate for Local Government and Communities. Our purpose is to provide and maintain a robust legislative framework to ensure that the building standards system in Scotland protects the public interest.

We work in partnership with Local Authority verifiers and other key stakeholders across the construction industry, key stakeholders in policy development, and other parts of Scottish Government. As a Division, we contribute to wider policy objectives of government with regards to issues such as energy efficiency, climate change and building safety.

The BSD prepares and updates building standards legislation and guidance documents, conducting any necessary research and consults on changes as The 2003 Act requires.

Requirements applicable to building work are set through Building Regulations as a set of mandatory functional standards. These are simple statements on what outcomes must be achieved when undertaking building work. These standards are supported by a body of guidance set out in Domestic and Non-domestic Technical Handbooks[4]. This published guidance assists by defining the scope of action expected under each standard providing one or more examples of how compliance with the standard can be achieved. Noting that the standards can also be met through solutions not included in published guidance.

1.1.3 Energy standards within building regulations

Since the introduction of national building regulations to Scotland in 1964, there have been energy standards, in one form or another. Initially these only applied to the external fabric of certain residential buildings and were minimal in nature. Later, they evolved to take account of commercial and industrial non-domestic buildings and to address the energy efficiency of the building services which are instrumental in providing comfort to the occupiers of buildings.

Prior to 2000, reviews of energy standards were less frequent, with the outcome of such reviews result in modest standards that kept pace with change but which could be comfortably achieved by all aspects of industry. An impact assessment carried out on subsequent changes over this era would show a cost-benefit for modest improvements that would pay back quickly through the occupier’s energy bills.

Following the introduction of the Building (Scotland) Act 2003 and our current system of building standards in May 2005, energy standards within section 6 of the Building Standards Technical Handbooks were reviewed and improved in 2007, 2010 and 2015. For new buildings, The Building (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2007 saw the introduction of a single means of demonstrating compliance for new buildings on the basis of calculated carbon dioxide emissions targets, using a Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) for dwellings and Simplified Building Energy Model (SBEM) (or equivalent) for non-domestic buildings.

Each review introduced further staged improvement to standards and it is assessed that emissions arising from energy use in new buildings constructed to the 2015 standards are, on aggregate, around 75% lower for new homes and 80% lower for new non-domestic buildings, compared to the standards in force in 1990.

Following a commitment by Ministers within the Programme for Government 2019/20[5] to ensure that, from 2024, all new homes are required to use renewable or low carbon heat, this planned review of energy standards is aligned with ongoing work on this theme, as set out in our draft Heat in Buildings Strategy[6].

1.1.4 Review 2007 to 2013 - The Sullivan Report

Soon after the introduction of the 2007 energy standards, Ministers convened an expert panel to advise on the development of a low carbon building standards strategy to increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. The panel was tasked with recommending challenging but realistic future targets for domestic and non-domestic buildings, both new and existing.

  • The output of this process was The Sullivan Report[7] ‘A Low Carbon Building Standards Strategy for Scotland’. This made 56 recommendations for the Scottish Government, the majority of which are within the remit of the BSD. The Scottish Government has acted in response to the panel's recommendations (a progress report[8] was published in early 2011). Key recommendations for section 6 (energy) included:
    • staged increases in energy standards in 2010 and 2013 to substantially reduce carbon emissions from new buildings;
    • the aim of net zero carbon (NZC) for space heating, hot water, lighting and ventilation within the next 10 years, if practical; and
    • the ambition of total-life zero carbon buildings by 2030.

Whilst policy objectives have evolved over time, the principle objectives discussed in the Report remain relevant to this ongoing review:

  • Research into 2021 newbuild targets includes the pre-NZC improvement levels recommended by the Report as a comparator for progress on deliverable levels of abatement;
  • A revised ‘net zero’ goal for 2045 is at the heart of Ministers’ Climate Change Plan and is led by current work on heat in buildings for 2024; and
  • Consideration of mechanisms to deliver ‘total life’ zero emissions buildings, whilst outwith the scope of this current review, reflect the growing agenda to account for and manage embodied emissions across all sectors.

2006 to 2020 – The EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.

From 2006 until the end of 2020, Directive 2010/31/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on the energy performance of buildings (the Directive) committed the UK, as a Member State, to review the energy performance requirements for buildings at intervals not exceeding 5 years. The Directive also required the setting of minimum energy performance requirements for new buildings and new building work and the application of a calculation methodology for the former. Transposition of much of the Directive was devolved in Scotland.

This review includes elements which transpose 2018 amendments to the Directive[9]. These are noted in each relevant part of the consultation text. Beyond these specific changes, Scottish Ministers have expressed a desire to ‘keep pace’ with EU law within areas of devolved responsibility, where this is practicable.

Amendment of building regulations in 2016[10] also made provision for new buildings in relation to requirements under Article 9 of the Directive for ‘nearly zero energy’ new buildings. The definition of such buildings was drawn relatively broadly and, accordingly, whilst the UK has demonstrated transposition, the term is not currently being used to describe the outcomes from national regulations. Ministers are of the view that further improvement is needed, focussed on reducing delivered energy, before new buildings can be considered ‘nearly zero energy’ in the broader sense.

Accordingly, the current review continues a focus on actions which are effective in reducing energy demand and the delivered energy needed at a new building. This also supports the intent set out in our recent draft Heat in Buildings Strategy (see section 1.2.2 below) to further reduce space heating demand in new buildings.

1.2 Drivers for current review

1.2.1 Scotland’s Climate Change Act

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 (The 2009 Act), which originally received Royal Assent on 4 August 2009, remains a key commitment of the Scottish Government and is the most far-reaching environmental legislation considered by the Scottish Parliament during the first ten years of devolution.

The Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019 (The 2019 Act), which amends The 2009 Act, sets targets to reduce Scotland's emissions of all greenhouse gases to net-zero by 2045 at the latest, with interim targets for reductions of at least 75% by 2030 and 90% by 2040.

Our target of net-zero emissions by 2045, five years ahead of the rest of the UK, is firmly based on what the independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) advise is the limit of what can currently be achieved. The levels of all of Scotland’s targets are regularly reviewed following advice from the CCC.

We published our Climate Change Plan update in December 2020 which reflects the increased ambition of The 2019 Act. This update maintains the commitment to investigate the potential for further, significant improvement on 2015 energy standards and also how building regulations can support the achievement of these targets and other emissions and energy policy outcomes, including our decarbonisation of heat agenda.

It is recognised that, within their scope of application, Building Regulations already deliver a significant contribution to emissions reductions. However, it is the potential for practical delivery of further improvements to building performance through energy standards, and the extents to which regulation can support other policy work, which is being investigated by this review. This is subject to the caveat that such proposals should be subject to robust assessment of both benefits and costs and the implications to the construction industry in Scotland.

1.2.2 2021 Draft Heat in Buildings Strategy

Building on the policies and actions set out in the 2020 Climate Change Plan update, the draft Heat in Buildings Strategy sets out a pathway to zero emissions buildings by 2045 and details a series of near-term actions to put us on a clear path towards this, as well as a range of further, longer-term commitments to accelerate and further scale the transformation of the nation’s building stock.

Heating and powering buildings currently accounts for 40% of the UK’s total energy usage – a figure which must be both significantly reduced and delivered through a transition to low and zero emissions heating systems if we are to achieve our goal of net zero by 2040.

We must continue to review standards set by building regulations for both energy and emissions performance, and to consider related issues such as the provision of ventilation and the risk of summertime overheating. These should be ambitious enough to drive improvement and innovation, support our Green Recovery and deliver buildings which are fit for purpose to meet our 2045 target and consider how our climate is likely to change over the coming years.

2024 New Build Heat Standard

As part of our Heat in Buildings Strategy, the Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that, from 2024, new buildings must use heating systems which produce zero direct emissions at the point of use.

A scoping consultation[11] on proposals was undertaken from December 2020 to March 2021 which set out our high-level vision for the new Standard. This focused upon regulation of new buildings to meet the commitment set out in the 2019 Programme for Government to require new buildings to use renewable or low carbon heat.

The Scottish Government is currently developing more detailed proposals for further, detailed consultation on this issue. Provisions within this energy standards consultation are framed in the context of the anticipated use of ‘zero direct emissions’ heat solutions in the very near future. Proposals offered include the need to ‘futureproof’ new buildings, by delivering very high levels of heat demand reduction and setting out information on simple, low cost adaptation where such solutions are not included on initial construction.

1.2.4 Decarbonisation of Transport in Scotland

The transport sector is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Scotland, accounting for 29% of all emissions in 2019 with road transport making up the majority of those emissions at 66%[12].

The Scottish Government’s Climate Change Plan update (CCPu), published last December, set out the pathway to meet Scotland’s statutory greenhouse gas emission reduction targets by 2032[13]. This includes an aim to phase out of the need for new petrol and diesel cars, and vans by 2030.

Part of that pathway is our commitment to the decarbonisation of transport in Scotland. The National Transport Strategy 2 sets out the strategic vision for Scotland’s transport system and the Mission Zero for transport commitment - to reduce our emissions by 75% by 2030 and to net-zero by 2045 - underlines the seriousness with which we are tackling the climate emergency[14].

The transition to Electric Vehicles (EVs) will contribute significantly to these goals and, with demand for EVs growing rapidly, we want people to have access to convenient and reliable EV charging infrastructure at home, at work and when out and about.

Therefore, through this consultation, we are seeking feedback to help inform the requirements we intend to set out in legislation and supporting guidance for the installation of EV charge points and enabling infrastructure in residential and non-residential buildings going forward.

1.3 Proposals to improve the emissions and energy performance of buildings

1.3.1 Scope of this consultation

Recognising the improvement already delivered by previous reviews, the current programme of work is seeking to look at opportunities for further improvement and can be summarised, briefly, under the following themes:

  • Newbuild standards – level of ambition, impact and deliverability;
  • Specific provisions to support the transition to low and zero emissions heat solutions, including a focus on reducing energy demand for heating;
  • Changes to improve the specification of individual elements in new and existing buildings which are also deliverable and, for building services, aligned to a UK-wide specification/approach;
  • Assurance that change does not increase the risk of unintended consequences for other aspects of building performance or function – ventilation and overheating risk;
  • Reviewing how the building standards process can support better outcomes and performance in practice through more robust compliance processes; and
  • Implementation of EV charge provision in new and retrofitted buildings.

For new buildings, this consultation proposes two specific levels of further improvement based upon research into solutions which are deliverable, reflecting levels of specification and construction solutions already in use in the development of new homes and new non-domestic buildings.

1.3.2 Review Topics

The following topics areas are identified within this review. An introduction on the issues being addressed is provided within each section:

  • The setting of overall energy performance standards for new buildings (section 2);
  • Revision of elemental provisions for both building fabric and fixed building services, applicable to new buildings and work to existing buildings (section 3);
  • Consequential changes to standards for building ventilation in response to energy provision (section 4);
  • Introduction of overheating risk assessment and mitigation measures for new homes and other new residential buildings (section 5);
  • A summary of action being taken to improve compliance with standards and the performance of buildings (section 6); and
  • Provision for the installation of electric vehicle charging infrastructure in new buildings and those subject to major renovation (section 7).

In addition, action to improve compliance with building regulations is discussed, examining the delivery of energy related measures in the context of parallel development of the Compliance Plan approach to design and construction.

1.3.3 Consultation documents

In addition to this consultation paper, the consultation package comprises of nine further supporting documents published in pdf format:

1.3.4 Supporting research

Research which underpins both the development and costing of options for revised performance targets for new buildings and an assessment of the risk of peak summer overheating in domestic/residential buildings is published in support of this consultation.

Links to these documents are provided below:

1.3.5 Timetable for implementation

Subject to the outcome of this consultation, Ministers’ would propose to introduce further improvements as set out in sections 2 to 6 (provisions for energy, ventilation and overheating) via amendment of Building Regulations and supporting guidance in late 2021, bringing changes into force in 2022.

Changes arising from proposals within section 7 (electric vehicle charging provision) will be subject to further development and implementation during 2022.

1.4 Responding to this Consultation

This consultation runs for 12 weeks. We are inviting responses to this consultation by Friday 15th October 2021.

1.4.1 Why we are consulting

Consultation is an essential part of the policy-making process. It gives us the opportunity to consider your opinion and expertise on a proposed area of work.

You can find all our consultations online: Each consultation details the issues under consideration, as well as a way for you to give us your views, either online, by email or by post.

Responses will be analysed and used as part of the decision-making process, along with a range of other available information and evidence. We will publish a report of this analysis for every consultation. Depending on the nature of the consultation exercise the responses received may:

  • indicate the need for policy development or review;
  • inform the development of a particular policy;
  • help decisions to be made between alternative policy proposals; and
  • be used to finalise legislation before it is implemented.

While details of particular circumstances described in a response to a consultation exercise may usefully inform the policy process, consultation exercises cannot address individual concerns and comments, which should be directed to the relevant public body.

A series of questions on specific topics are posed, many of which are asked separately for both Domestic and for Non-domestic buildings, reflecting differences in proposals and also acknowledging that many respondents may only have an interest in one or other of these building categories.

When responding to the numbered questions which offer a choice of responses, please also provide information or evidence to explain your view on the topic wherever possible. This assists us in assessing the reason for your view and presenting the overall picture in reporting on each issue.

1.4.2 Replying on-line using Citizen Space

Please respond to this consultation using the Scottish Government's consultation platform, Citizen Space. You can view and respond to this consultation online at

Using Citizen Space, you can save and return to your responses while the consultation is still open. Please ensure that consultation responses are submitted before the closing date of Friday 15th October 2021.

If you are uploading a supporting document to Citizen Space as part of your response, please wherever possible include a summary of the issue it covers against the relevant consultation question or in the general comments’ question for each section for the consultation.

1.4.3 Replying by post

If you are unable to respond online, return your response, including the Respondent Information Form (see 'Handling your response' below) to:

2021 Energy Consultation
Building Standards Division
Denholm House
Almondvale Business Park
EH54 6GA

It would be helpful to have your response by email or using the electronic response form. The electronic response form can be accessed at the following website address:

You can also email your response to

1.4.4 Handling your response

If you respond using Citizen Space, you will be directed to the ‘About You’ page before submitting your response. Please indicate how you wish your response to be handled and, in particular, whether you are content for your response to be published. If you ask for your response not to be published, we will regard it as confidential, and we will treat it accordingly.

If you are unable to respond via Citizen Space, please complete and return the Respondent Information Form which is downloadable as a supporting document on the consultation webpage.

All respondents should be aware that the Scottish Government is subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 and would therefore have to consider any request made to it under that Act for information relating to responses made to this consultation exercise.

To find out how we handle your personal data, please see our privacy policy:

1.4.5 Next steps in the process

Where respondents have given permission for their response to be made public, and after we have checked that they contain no potentially defamatory material, responses will be made available to the public at: If you use Citizen Space to respond, you will receive a copy of your response via email.

Following the closing date, all responses will be analysed and considered along with any other available evidence to help us. Responses will be published where we have been given permission to do so. An analysis report will also be made available.

The Scottish Government will review responses to the consultation and the issues raised during engagement with stakeholders to inform development of the final version of the proposed changes to published standards and guidance set under Building Regulations.

1.4.6 Comments and complaints

If you have any comments about how this consultation exercise has been conducted, please send them to:

Building Standards Division

July 2021



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