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Architects call on government to rethink zero-carbon u-turn

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Dozens of architects have joined a construction-industry-wide call for the government to reconsider its plans to ditch the zero-carbon homes target due to take effect next year

More than 200 businesses signed the open letter to chancellor George Osborne urging the government to think again over its zero-carbon u-turn, which emerged as part of the Treasury’s ‘Fixing the Foundations’ productivity plan earlier this month.

Among them are Wilkinson Eyre, Rab Bennetts, PRP, and Pollard Thomas Ellis Architects. They joined senior figures from companies including Argent, Bouygues, Lendlease, Sir Robert McAlpine and Willmott Dixon, as well as the British Property Federation.

The policy, launched by the Labour government in 2007, would have required all new homes built from 2016 to meet the zero-carbon standard, with businesses already having invested billions of pounds to ensure compliance. Two years ago the coalition government renewed its commitment to the tough eco-standards in its 2013 budget (see AJ 20.03.13).

In the letter, the 246 business leaders wrote: ‘This sudden u-turn has undermined industry confidence in government and will now curtail investment in British innovation and manufacturing in low-carbon products and services.

‘There is no evidence to suggest it will increase housing supply or boost productivity.’

The letter was organised by the UK Green Building Council. Chief executive Julie Hirigoyen said: ‘The speed and the stealth with which this administration has destroyed some of the long-term policies supporting the renewable and low-carbon industries has been breathtaking.

‘We have witnessed an unparalleled wave of support from our members and the wider industry who are deeply concerned about how the government’s sudden, regressive and arbitrary decision to scrap the long-established zero-carbon policy will impact their business and investment.

‘This u-turn not only means our new buildings will be less energy efficient and more costly to run, but it comes at a time when the UK should be taking strong action on climate change ahead of the UN conference in Paris in December.

‘We urge government to reconsider its position for the sake of future confidence in the UK’s low-carbon economy.’

Letter to the chancellor: full text

Dear Chancellor,

For the best part of a decade, in response to a long-established government target, the construction and property sector has been gearing up to deliver zero-carbon homes and buildings.

Last Friday, we were extremely disappointed to learn that this policy is being arbitrarily scrapped, despite the fact that the necessary primary legislation only acquired Royal Assent in February this year.

There was a broad consensus in support of the zero-carbon policy, which was designed to give industry the confidence it needs to invest and innovate, in order to drive higher energy efficiency standards and low-carbon energy solutions.

Since the policy was first launched eight years ago, business has invested heavily in preparing for future standards.

This sudden u-turn has undermined industry confidence in government and will now curtail investment in British innovation and manufacturing in low-carbon products and services.

There is no evidence to suggest it will increase housing supply or boost productivity.

The weakening of standards will mean our future homes, offices, schools and factories will be more costly to run, locking future residents and building users into higher energy bills.

It also runs counter to advice from the committee on climate change, impeding our ability to meet our statutory carbon targets cost-effectively at a time when we should be showing international leadership on this issue.

Abandoning the zero-carbon policy will have regressive impacts and be harmful to British industry.

We urge you to reconsider and engage with us in dialogue to find a mutually acceptable way forward.

Architecture-sector signiatories

  • Karen Turnbull, Sustainability Leader, ADP (Architects Design Partnership)
  • Andrew Catto, Director, Andrew Catto Architects
  • David Sumsion, Director, Arbour Architecture
  • Steven Harris, Co-Founder, Architecture and Energy
  • Nick Donaldson, Architect, ARCO2 Architecture
  • Chris Askew, Askew Cavanna Architects
  • John Christophers, Associate, Associated Architects
  • Rab Bennetts, Director, Bennetts Associates Architects
  • Tony Duckworth, Associate, Black Architecture
  • Dr Jason Palmer, Director, Cambridge Architectural Research Ltd
  • Paul Cayford, Founder,Cayford Architecture
  • Clare Nash, Founder, Clare Nash Architecture
  • Clive Jones, Founder, Clive Jones Architect Ltd
  • Derek Scoble, Derek Scoble Architects
  • James Traynor, Director of Architecture, ECD Architects
  • Andrew Goodman, Owner, Good Architecture    
  • Jenny Bishop, Director, Green Architect
  • Ian McHugh, Principal, Green Triangle Studio
  • Gil Schalom, Principal, GSD Architecture
  • Phil Hawdon, Hawdon Russell Architects
  • Jonathan Hetreed, Director, Hetreed Ross Architects
  • Chris Bannister, Partner, Hopkins Architects
  • Rory Bergin, Partner, Sustainable Futures, HTA Design
  • Joanna Lindley, JL Studio Architecture
  • Julian Bishop, Julian Bishop-Architect
  • Dr Stephen Pretlove, Associate Professor of Architectural Science + Technology, Kingston University London
  • Kirsty Maguire, Director and Lead Architect, Kirsty Maguire Architect
  • Mark Pellant, Director, koru architects
  • Clare Murray, Head of Sustainability, Levitt Bernstein
  • Chris Richards, Lilly Lewarne Practice Chartered Architects
  • Frances Grant, Architect, Livedifferent
  • Chris Morgan, Principal, Locate Architects
  • Richard Lomas, Principal, Lomas Architecture Ltd
  • Keith Miller, Low Energy Architecture
  • Paul Lucas, Director, Lucas Hickman Smith
  • Richard Asbury, Founder, Maack Architects
  • Neill Lewis, neill lewis architect
  • Malcolm Newton, Director, Newton Architects
  • David Rhodes, Director, Origin3 Studio
  • Terry Pinto, Director, PAAD Architects
  • Mhairi Grant, Director, Paper Igloo Limited
  • Chris Parsons, Director, Parsons + Whittley Architects
  • Paul Testa, Paul Testa Architecture
  • Tom Dollard, Head of Sustainable Design, Pollard Thomas Edwards
  • Peter Holmes, Director, Potter & Holmes Architects
  • Robert Prewett, Director, Prewett Bizley Architects 
  • Andy von Bradsky, Chairman, PRP
  • Richard Dawson, R Dawson Architect
  • Stuart Shand, Shand Architecture
  • Rob Bumby, Director, Stack Architects
  • John Wright, Sustainability Director, Stride Treglown Architects
  • Mark Richards, Founder, Studio24 architects LLP
  • Mark Parsons, Director, Studio Polpo
  • Mark Wakelin, Director, Tangent Space Architectural Design
  • Ruairi Kay, Director, Taylor Kay Architecture
  • Steven Johnson, Owner, The Architecture Ensemble
  • Peter Ranken, Senior Associate, The Tooley & Foster Partnership
  • Judith Tranter, Director, TM Architects
  • Tom Foster, Principal, Tom Foster Architecture
  • Professor Will Swan, School of Built Environment, University of Salford
  • Estelle Littlewood, Director & Passivhaus Designer, Verve Architects Ltd
  • Professor Phil Jones, Chair Architectural Science, Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University

Jim Eyre, Founding Director, Wilkinson Eyre Architects

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