We’re struggling to get all the stuff we need on the ground floor... there’s technology, accessible WCs but hardly any room for a family-sized dining table.

Future homes will be designed to higher standards of insulation with greater wall thicknesses. Heating will be from a low carbon source such as a heat pump and designed to work efficiently, the radiators will also be bigger and deeper, projecting further into the living space. To provide hot water efficiently from the heat pump a larger hot water cylinder will be needed (250L-300L). The future home may also have a battery store and equipment to manage the electricity generated by Photovoltaic (PV) panels.

The ground floor layout of the home has to accommodate many ‘functional’ requirements including adequate circulation and an accessible WC and if the water cylinder is also located on the ground floor, there will be further encroachment on the living space.

When working with current space standards (the Nationally Described Space Standards) designers and housebuilders will be aware of the challenge of trying to accommodate useable ground floor living space within an economical and energy efficient footprint. To provide everything that will be needed in the future home it is likely that ground floors plans will need to increase in area.

However, a home that has a ground floor area that is different from the floors above will create compromises in thermal performance, increasing the form factor and introducing inefficiencies in the detailing and continuity of insulation (see also NHBC NF72 The Challenge of Shape and Form).

When other aspects are considered, for instance the increasing likelihood of space required for home working, it is unlikely that commonly used house types will accommodate all of these changes. Together with the technological challenges on the horizon there will be spatial, house planning, and site layout design challenges.

Things that can go wrong:

  • Encroachment on living space from ‘functional’ areas;
  • Compromises in the usability of space from conflicting requirements;
  • Complex building forms and increased ground floor areas decrease thermal efficiency and increase construction complexity.

Future-proofing recommendations:

  • DESIGN: Plan the ground floor and living space to be proportionate to the size of home and occupancy and ensure there is flexibility and practicality in the layout;
  • DESIGN: Consider furniture and radiator positions and the extent of encroachment on door swings, lobby sizes and turning space for wheelchairs;
  • DESIGN: Allow for larger plan areas and wall thicknesses in site appraisals and layouts.

Further Reading

  • Gov.uk, Statutory guidance: Conservation of fuel and power: Approved Document L

    Approved Document Part L 2021 requires heating systems to be designed for low flow temperatures, anticipating low carbon heat from heat pumps. (Gov.uk, Statutory guidance: Conservation of fuel and power: Approved Document L, 2021)

    Demand reduction should be first priority
  • Building, news, 14 June 2021

    10,000 qualified heat pump installers are required in the UK by 2025, eight times more than the current number. (Building, news, 14 June 2021)

    Demand reduction should be first priority
  • Energy Saving Trust, blog post

    Working with industry, the government is aiming to develop 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030, enough to power around 1.5 million homes. (Energy Saving Trust, blog post, 28 May 2021)

    Demand reduction should be first priority

Find below relevant NHBC standards/reports for further reading:

NHBC NF72 - The Challenge of Space and Form

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