Evaluating the sustainability credentials of renewable roofing solutions

domestic home use integrated solar panels With the changes to Part L into effect, now is the time to investigate the sustainability and energy efficient credentials of renewable roofing solutions such as solar PV, says Stuart Nicholson, roof systems director at Marley.

The UK Government has, for a significant period, been setting out its plans and policies to steer the nation towards a more sustainable and low carbon future. Its proposed Net Zero Strategy, together with an ambitious carbon reduction programme, is now beginning to become a reality that will impact the way we live our lives and construct the society we build around ourselves.

As a major contributor to carbon emissions, the need to make the nations’ housing stock more energy efficient, is a central tenant of the Net Zero Strategy and one that puts the future specification of sustainable building and roofing solutions under the spotlight.

Change starts now

In June this year, changes to Part L of the Building Regulations come into force with the expectation that all new homes built will produce 31% less carbon emissions. This is a milestone on the journey to the introduction of the Future Homes Standard in just three years’ time. At that point, the requirement will be that all new homes are specified and constructed to be highly energy efficient, utilise low carbon heating solutions, and, ultimately, be zero carbon ready by 2025.

As previously stated, this year the government’s sustainability recommendations and intent turn into a time of practical reality for the construction and roofing industry. Architects and specifiers are being tasked with delivering design and product solutions that underpin the stringent carbon emission targets the sector is now faced with. We are at a crossroads that will define future success, and the specification industry needs to be fully acquainted with what it needs to do and the potential solutions it can access.

In this respect proven, high performing, cost effective and sustainable roofing solutions are set to help make a significant contribution when it comes to creating the greener homes needed.

This is because improvement in energy efficiency (and lower carbon emissions) cannot simply be delivered by enhancing the building fabric alone. It also requires the specification of solar PV, with an efficient gas boiler, or a heat pump, to achieve the required levels.

In the short term, solar PV on the roofscape, combined with an efficient gas boiler, appears to be the easiest and most cost-effective way for specifiers to meet the new 2022 Part L carbon reduction targets, partially because some of them will already have a supply chain and trusted installers in place.

Solar PV technology is tried and tested, readily available and has become much more affordable in recent times. Indeed, such is the momentum behind this powerful combination, Solar Energy UK predicts that the changes to Part L could lead to a five-fold increase in the number of new homes built with solar technology.

This demand should also be maintained during the coming years as gas boiler installation in new homes is phased out due to the 2025 Future Home Standard. The specification of heat pumps is set to then become the sustainable heating solution of choice on all new builds. Again, the combination of heat pumps with solar technology will help drive the energy efficiencies and the carbon cutting success the government has outlined. It will also help to keep running costs under control for buyers of new homes and sustainably support the increasing requirement to charge electric vehicles as well.

Whilst specifiers may have previously had concerns about the appearance of bulky, on-roof solar panels, the latest integrated PV roof systems offer a more visually appealing, cost effective and easier to install option. Replacing a section of roof tiles, integrated solutions provide a sleek aesthetic and act as a seamless part of the overall roof aesthetic. This type of solar panel can also be installed at the same time as the rest of the roof tiles.

The new, enhanced version of the integrated Marley SolarTile® offers an install time of just 45 minutes per kWp. Its higher power rating makes roof integrated solar panels a more cost-efficient option, with properties requiring fewer panels and roofing kits to reach the required energy target.

Marley SolarTile® can be integrated with any of the company’s roof tiles as part of a full roof system and also comes with a 15-year warranty. This means specifiers can select the entire pitched roof system, with integrated solar panels, from a single source, making it easier to incorporate solar into any house type and helping to navigate a cost-effective route along the road to net zero.

As a new era dawns with the Part L changes and the Future Homes Standard, the subsequent sustainability and low carbon performance of buildings will start to adopt a central place in specifiers’ minds. Now is the time to work alongside product manufacturers to better understand the current and planned product solutions that will assist them.

Informed specification choices will help to define future success for the construction and roofing sector. Taking advantage of the current technical expertise, product training and project support on offer from sustainable product solution providers should be a strategic imperative for specifiers. This is essential if they want to stay ahead of the curve and help create energy efficient homes that are to be a given – not a wish - in the decades ahead.