UK plumbing regulations: staying ahead of industry changes

Architect looking out over a construction site.

With an ever-greater focus on sustainability in plumbing and heating, Richard Bateman – Product Marketing Manager at RWC – explores the UK plumbing regulation changes that will impact specification moving forward.

‘Sustainability’ is at the forefront of today’s plumbing and heating industry – and it’s triggering significant changes that are driving the industry forward. From product innovations that are helping to redefine industry standards, to changes in UK plumbing regulations that are reshaping our industry, sustainability continues to influence recent developments.

In 2023, for instance, we saw significant changes to Part L of the Building Regulations implemented, directly affecting requirements around flow temperatures, pipe insulation and system sizing. For installers, these changes have directly impacted ways of working and helped to improve the performance of systems across the board.

As we move ever closer to the government’s 2050 target for net zero, installers should expect further changes over the coming years. This will change their approach to individual jobs, the products they choose to use, and the service they ultimately deliver to each and every customer.

In this blog, we’ll explore how sustainability will continue to shape the industry over the coming years, and what installers can do to stay ahead of the curve.

Moving towards a sustainable future

With the introduction of the new UK plumbing regulations, Future Homes Standard (FHS), expected for 2025, all eyes are on the specific details that will define this legislation. Currently, a consultation is underway to gather feedback from across the industry on specific elements of the legislation, however, a much-anticipated outcome will be the ban on traditional fossil fuel boilers.

As the overarching regulatory change for the industry, the ultimate goal of the FHS is to improve the energy efficiency of buildings and reduce their collective environmental impact. Homes and commercial buildings account for around 30% of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, presenting a significant opportunity to improve efficiency and reduce negative environmental impacts.

As most of the homes and buildings in the UK today will still be in use by 2050, the adoption of energy efficient solutions is one way of reducing their environmental impact. Likewise, new buildings can be created with efficiency at their core, having an even greater impact on carbon reduction.

Despite not coming into effect until next year, the Future Homes Standard is already having an impact on the industry and inspiring change amongst homeowners who want to improve the performance of their properties. In practice, this means installers are already needing to advance their skills to keep up with shifting consumer demand.

What do regulation changes mean for installers?

Phasing out of gas boilers

There has been much talk about the phasing out of gas boilers, particularly over the past year, as viable alternatives – such as heat pumps – have entered to market. In reality, boilers will remain commonplace in existing homes for at least the next decade, however with the Future Homes Standard banning gas boiler installations in new build applications from 2025, high efficiency, low carbon heat sources will quickly become the norm.

Heat pumps are already growing in popularity for both new build and existing homes. For new build properties, these emerging technologies can be straightforward to integrate as whole buildings can be designed to maximise their impact, including the insulation and heating systems being specified. In existing homes, installers will also see increased interest in heat pumps – particularly with programmes such as the government’s Boiler Upgrade Scheme providing grants to cover some of the cost for homeowners.

Improving efficiency elsewhere

Besides heat sources themselves, plumbing and heating systems more broadly can also contribute to significant savings. Installing underfloor heating (UFH), for example, rather than traditional radiator systems, will have a significant impact on efficiency. By operating at lower temperature outputs, UFH is also perfectly suited to properties with a heat pump. Elsewhere, selecting pipes and fittings that contribute to more efficient performance will make a positive impact on a property’s overall sustainability.

Material choices are an important factor in creating futureproof plumbing and heating systems, with plastic being a viable option. Plastic pipes and fittings are suitable for a broad range of applications in a successful plumbing system, underpinning reliable long-term performance to create genuinely efficient systems. Solutions from JG Speedfit also promote straightforward installation, which is a further consideration for installers.

Andy Lea presenting at the HIP Meet the Lecturer event

Expanding skillsets to facilitate change

Of course, it’s not just about the solutions themselves. Installers also need to be comfortable with every system to get the most out of it, making upskilling essential for many professionals.

The current consultation on the UK plumbing regulations, Future Homes Standard, outlines the requirement for “cost-effective, affordable, practical and safe building solutions” that are “deliverable by industry given likely capacity, skills and supply chains”.

Where heat pumps and other renewable technologies are concerned, specific training and certifications will be required for installations to be carried out. Where plastic pipes and fittings are being used, however, every installer is able to adopt them immediately to have a positive impact on every job.

Featuring push-fit technology, plastic pipes and fittings from JG Speedfit ensure consistently high standards across every installation, with no requirement for tools or flames. Plus, being resistant to corrosion means they’ll deliver the same performance for decades to come.

Prepare for the future

With significant UK plumbing regulation changes on the horizon, now is the time for installers to familiarise themselves with the breadth of options available for successfully creating buildings which prioritise long-term efficiency. 

Plastic plumbing and heating systems, such as JG Speedfit, are just one part of the puzzle, contributing to reliable performance over long system lifespans – which are backed by a 50-year guarantee – and working in conjunction with bigger changes such as the introduction of heat pumps and the continued adoption of underfloor heating. Together, properties can become more efficient and play their part in supporting overarching net zero ambitions.

By incorporating these systems into their offerings, installers can expand their skills and services and play an active role creating a more sustainable future.

Our family of brands

As a manufacturer, RWC and its family of brands - including JG Speedfit. JG Underfloor and Reliance Valves - is on hand to drive innovations that make every installation a success.

Richard Bateman Headshot

Richard Bateman

Product Marketing Manager Plumbing and Heating

About the author

A highly experienced and passionate professional, I have over 15 years' experience as a commercial and domestic plumber and hold NVQ Level 3 qualifications from City and Guilds

Since joining RWC in 2015, I began as a technical engineer, utilising my extensive knowledge to provide exceptional support. Currently, I am thrilled to be working with the marketing department as a Product Marketing Manager. 

This role allows me to combine my technical background with a keen eye for market trends, ensuring that RWC's products meet the evolving needs of the industry. With my wealth of experience and commitment to excellence, I am proud to serve as a spokesperson for RWC, sharing our innovative solutions and contributing to the growth of the plumbing and heating sector.