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Government's 2016 zero-carbon homes target 'too unrealistic'

Architects, housing developers and engineers have branded the government’s aim for all new homes to be zero carbon by 2016 as ‘high risk’ and ‘unrealistic’.

The Good Homes Alliance (GHA), a group which includes Edward Cullinan Architects, the Bartlett School of Architecture, and developer Bioregional Quintain, has called on the government to rethink its commitment to level six of the Code for Sustainable Homes.

GHA chairman Neil May (pictured) said: ‘We don’t want to be seen as resisting the need to build sustainable buildings, but the gap between aspirations and reality is too great.’

May believes the industry should aim to build to Code Level 3++, which calls for a more conservative target of a 70 per cent reduction in carbon emissions, as opposed to zero carbon.

He added: ‘[The Code] has been pushed through far too quickly. If we don’t get the building tightness or the ventilation systems right, we run the risk of building sick houses.’

John Callcutt, author of the Callcutt Review of Housebuilding Delivery, believes May could ‘be proved right, unless radical changes are made’.

He said: ‘There needs to be a massive investment in the industry, but as the targets are so ambitious even a modest failure would set the UK as one of the leading housebuilders in Europe.’

Carol Costello, of Edward Cullinan Architects, backed the GHA code and also warned that the UK doesn’t have the skill base to achieve the code levels.

She said: ‘The code prescribes the standards you need to reach whatever level, but it doesn’t tell you how you get there in terms of the details of construction.’

Getting the government to sign up to the 2016 target was hailed by the UK Green Building Council as one of its major successes, and its chief executive, Paul King, stood by the move.

He said: ‘I still believe placing the 2016 target is the right thing to do. We were stuck in a rut about lowering carbon – the
code has galvanised the industry.

Sheppard Robson’s head of sustainability Alan Shingler – who designed the Lighthouse, the UK’s first code level six house – said that attaining level six is a ‘huge task’, but added that ‘high targets have to be set to make the industry work harder’.

A DCLG spokesperson said: ‘We recognise the challenges of achieving the 2016 zero-carbon standard. The government is working closely with industry to address those issues’.

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