Seven years ago, in December 2006, the Government made a commitment to ensure all new build homes would reach a ‘zero carbon’ target by 2016. They introduced the Code for Sustainable Homes, which is a national standard for sustainable design that aims to reduce carbon emissions and promote energy saving solutions. The code defines nine measures of sustainable design, including energy/CO2, water, materials, waste and pollution, against which all new homes would be rated.
Since this announcement there have been huge steps taken towards achieving the target in both the design and construction industries.
In 2011, the coalition government redefined the term zero carbon to exclude non-regulated energy use, such as energy used in cooking, and last year, the government consulted on changes to Part L of the Building Regulations for 2013, which included proposals to reduce carbon emissions in new domestic builds.
After the 2016 deadline, the next big aim for the low carbon strategy is to reduce UK housing emissions by as much as 80% by the year 2050. So what steps can home builders take to reduce the emissions from their new build properties to achieve the 2016 target and stay on track with the continuing low carbon strategy?
The Chartered Institute of Building believes that taking advantage of renewable energy, such as natural lighting and ventilation, as well as passive cooling, can help to deliver on the Government’s promise, whilst others believe more innovative and extensive steps must be taken.
There are 3 different types of approach to reducing carbon emissions in new build properties, Extreme (Low Carbon) Technologies, Extreme Fabric and Balanced. The Balanced approach is widely applicable and fully conforms to the 2016 objectives. It includes low to zero carbon energy technologies, such as:
- High-efficiency condensing gas boilers
- Solar hot water with thermal stores
- Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR)
- 100% low energy lighting
- Thermal insulation, such as polyurethane spray foam
In this year’s budget the government again reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring that all new builds reach an acceptable zero carbon standard by 2016. That’s why it is essential that the way developers construct new builds is carefully considered, ensuring that they comply not only with the goal for 2016, but also with the design plans to help them reduce energy expenditure.
One of the biggest concerns at the minute is that there seems to be a gap between the emissions targets much newer sustainable housing is designed to meet, and the way they are actually built.
That’s why Communities Minister, Don Foster, recently pledged to improve energy efficiency levels in new homes by closing this gap, resulting in up to a £100 per year reduction in energy bills for homeowners. Speaking at the ‘Eco-build’ Green Building Conference on the 6th March 2013, he introduced a plan for the government to work with the manufacturing and construction industries to find out where and why some new build properties are failing to reach the energy targets, whether it be the materials used or the actual construction methods.
New build homes in the UK are amongst the best in Europe, and already conform to extremely high energy and quality standards – but as we edge closer toward the 2016 deadline and with Foster’s plan to ensure materials, products and building performance meet the design standards, we can expect a huge step up in relation to energy savings and efficiency.