It has recently been announced that the zero carbon homes policy is to be scrapped by the British government.
Established in 2006, the policy would have meant that within ten years, all new residential buildings would be low in energy use and generate its own energy for that which remained such as hot water, lighting and ventilation. “plug in” appliances were not included in the policy. The reason for getting rid of the policy is to “reduce net regulations on house builders”, with the desired outcome being more houses are built.
The idea of improving carbon reduction and energy efficiency is, of course, a good one. With buildings accounting for 50% of all CO2 emissions in the UK, this is naturally a key area for reduction. In principle, the zero carbon homes policy was a great way to make homes more sustainable, however there were issues. The zero carbon agenda often pushed people to think about bolt on renewable energy such as micro wind solar panels, ground and air source heat pumps. In reality, these often required funding through subsidies such as the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) or more recently the Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme (RHI). A more effective strategy may be to come up with a solid, measurable energy efficiency standard that homes should be built to. Once built, if the homes use more energy than specified in an energy efficiency standard, there could be recourse against the developers.
Reducing Carbon Emissions
Many see the scrapping as a step back for improving energy efficiency in homes, and this could well be the case. A large amount of new homes are already built to very poor standards and the large house builders could use this as an opportunity to relax these standards further still. It is time the general public were better informed about the poor levels of performance new homes often deliver. The vast majority of new builds significantly fail to reach the designed performance with around 60% of all energy used in the average UK home expended on space heating. Huge improvements can be made on energy efficiency, which will in turn reduce CO2 emissions, simply by ensuring the building envelope is designed and built to a good standard. A lot of traditional builds struggle to meet the demands required of the building shell to keep the space heating demand low. Natural Building Technologies (NBT) not only provide the most effective materials at delivering low energy buildings, but also provide the construction details to insure that they are used corecty and that the best performance is provided at the most effective construction cost.