Northern Ireland takes step closer to 'nearly zero energy buildings'

Proposed changes to building regulations could see 'nearly zero energy buildings’ (NZEB) becoming the legal standard in Northern Ireland.

A MOVE to update building regulations to set new energy efficiency requirements in Northern Ireland has been welcomed by the Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA).

Finance Minister Conor Murphy launched the consultation process on Tuesday. If approved, it will mean ‘nearly zero energy buildings’ (NZEB) becoming the legal standard in Northern Ireland.

Commercial property insiders have said the trend toward ‘greener’ buildings in the north, and the targets being set by private sector companies, means many older office buildings in Belfast face becoming obsolete in the next decade.

RSUA director Ciarán Fox, said Northern Ireland currently lags behind all other regions of the UK and Ireland in terms of energy efficiency regulations for buildings.

He said while architects and the whole supply chain have already demonstrated the ability to deliver to higher energy performance standards, he warned the bigger challenge will be upgrading existing buildings

“The levels of greenhouse gases from home heating in Northern Ireland in 2019 were almost identical to the levels in 1999.

“We now need to quickly make up for two decades of insufficient action. Higher energy performance standards for new buildings will help but if we are serious about lowering emissions we need a region-wide retrofit programme to better insulate existing buildings and decarbonise heating systems,” he said.

He described the proposed changes published yesterday as an important first step on the road to reducing heating bills and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings.

“There has been a lot of news recently about gas prices rocketing up. The best way to protect people from rising home heating costs is to build houses which don’t require much heating at all.”

Launching the consultation Conor Murphy said: “The new standards my department is proposing are designed to ensure new buildings are greener, with lower emissions helping to protect the environment. Better energy efficiency measures will also help minimise energy bills for hard working families and businesses.

“I would encourage everyone to have their say on this important consultation before it closes on 19 December.”

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