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The Future Homes Standard aims to regulate the delivery of homes to ensure that they are zero carbon ready from 2025.

It’s part of the government’s strategy to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, and will see energy efficient, low carbon homes “become the norm”.

Many stakeholders responding to the Future Homes Standard consultation – including designers, engineers, local authorities, builders, and developers – highlighted the importance of taking a ‘fabric first’ approach when setting the new standard.

In response, the government has stated: “We have settled on a revised package of performance metrics that will ensure a fabric first approach is at the heart of all new homes alongside a low carbon heating system.”

Here we explore what a fabric first approach is and what to consider when selecting high performing, energy efficient materials with the right design to achieve the optimum results.

What is a fabric first approach?

When we talk about the ‘fabric’ of a building, this refers to the building envelope that separates the indoor environment with the outdoor. In other words, it’s the physical parts – such as the structure, windows, doors, frames and insulation – that all work together to create the building.

Taking a ‘fabric first approach’ means considering the materials and the design of a building in the early planning stages. If you use high performing materials and design to achieve air tightness, and minimise issues like thermal bridging, this reduces the energy needed to heat and cool the building. By making homes more energy efficient in this way helps to reduce the impact on the environment, while cutting energy bills and potentially making the space more comfortable for the user.  

And it’s an approach many in the industry are in favour of. As explained in the Future Homes Standard consultation document: “Stakeholders supported a fabric first approach to improving airtightness and reducing energy consumption as far as possible.”

So what do you need to consider when taking a fabric first approach?

The fabric first check list

To improve the energy efficiency of a home through a fabric first approach, there are a number of key points to consider.

  1. Energy efficient materials: Using high quality insulation – whether loft, floor, or wall – will help to retain heat and reduce heat loss. Other materials like high performing glazing can also help to keep heat in.
  2. Solar gains: Double or triple glazing is required, however you should also think about the position and location of the building and its windows, doors and skylights. Too much glazing in the wrong places can cause over heating and make a home feel like a greenhouse. But with clever design and the latest innovations in glazing, you can avoid overheating while taking advantage of the sun’s natural light and heat.
  3. Increase air tightness: Gaps in the building envelope can cause heat to escape or drafts, so you want to avoid any unwanted spaces where possible. You should also check the frames on windows and doors. A designed and considered air tightness strategy which most importantly is buildable is a key consideration.
  4. Avoid thermal bridging: Thermal bridging occurs when parts of the building fabric connect (namely junctions and details), breaking the continuity of the insulation layer resulting in localized areas of increased heat loss. Correct design and installation of insulation will help to reduce the risk of this happening.

Future Homes Standard metrics

Because the government sees a fabric first approach along with low carbon heating as key in achieving energy efficient homes, it has said that the Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard will be retained as one of four performance metrics to measure and achieve this balance.

The consultation document explains: “Under the Future Homes Standard, we will be pushing building fabric standards further than ever before while ensuring that low carbon heating is integral to the design of all new homes.”

Although specific targets and requirements are yet to be confirmed, the below table compares the draft suggestions under the Future Homes Standard with previous standards.


Fabric and services comparison with the 2021 Part L and draft Future Homes Standard specification


For more information about the Future Homes Standard and how Saint-Gobain can help you meet the upcoming requirements, download our free guide.