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Zero-carbon homes set to be reintroduced

Green Deal

The House of Lords has overthrown the government’s decision to scrap zero-carbon homes requirements 

The move was made on Monday (25 April) in the final session of the report stage of the Housing and Planning Bill and will see the reintroduction of the zero-carbon homes standard, which was scrapped by the government in July last year.

The government announced it was ditching the minimum green standards as part of the Infrastructure Bill in 2014 in a bid to boost housebuilding.

Yet at the time a survey carried out by National Building Specification (NBS) suggested that 48 per cent of architects, consultants, clients and contractors thought that zero-carbon standards should be made compulsory.

The backlash by the Lords, which saw the government defeated by 48 votes, could mean that all new homes built from April 2018 will now have to achieve the carbon compliance standard.

The House of Lords also backed an amendment which would see local authorities require developers to build affordable housing on small-scale developments and another which would require all new schemes to include sustainable drainage systems.

Commenting on the House of Lords defeat, Julie Hirigoyen, CEO of the UK Green Building Council, said: ‘During the ten years prior to July 2015, the leading players spanning the housebuilding industry – developers, product manufacturers, contractors and engineers – got behind Zero-Carbon Homes, investing heavily and innovating to make it a reality.

‘The unexpected and unwanted scrapping of the policy made a mockery of the government’s green credentials, and demonstrated complete disdain for the quality of the nation’s new homes and the industry’s investment.’

She added: ‘Having supported the Paris climate agreement with much fanfare, cutting carbon from new homes and buildings will be vital to achieving our commitments. Reintroducing the zero-carbon homes standard would be a clear next step on this journey, and would provide the certainty the industry needs to continue investing in new skills and technologies.’

Robert Sakula, co-founder of Ash Sakula Architects, added: ‘Fantastic news, if it means that the zero-carbon standard is reintroduced. Every forward thinker in the whole industry had been working towards this and it was a bit dim of the government to run scared. A great opportunity, I hope, because we know how to do it, but we can’t if regulation allows us not to.’

Further comments

Ben Derbyshire, partner at HTA

’Lords Best and Kerslake are doing a great job reminding the Commons of our commitments to achieve carbon reduction and live up to the manifesto promise of the ‘greenest government’ we have yet seen.

’Delivering on this is not about hugging huskies. It’s technical. All the industry needs is a level playing field, consistency and continuity. Give us that, and we will deliver a more sustainable outcome. We are not afraid of high standards. We need and want them to compete internationally.’

Clare Murray, head of sustainability, Levitt Bernstein

’Whilst it is fantastic news that the government may be forced to think again, we should take the opportunity to question whether zero carbon is the right target to be pursuing. 

‘Calculating zero carbon using the crude methodologies required by building regulations is very much a paper based exercise, one which we know is not reducing carbon emissions in reality. The industry should instead be considering a move to as-built compliance methodologies.’


Readers' comments (3)

  • fantastic

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  • Michael Bach

    The Government is committed to reversing their defeats in the Lords - don't hold your breath

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  • J Hawkins

    From Building magazine 21 July 2015:

    'Architects are among more than 200 business from across the construction and renewable energy industries that have urged chancellor George Osborne to reconsider his scrapping of the zero carbon homes target.

    In an open letter to the chancellor organised by the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), senior leaders from 246 organisations warned that the policy u-turn has “undermined industry confidence in government” and will “curtail investment in British innovation and manufacturing”.

    One of the signatories was Clare Murray, who now gives her revised view above moving to 'as-built compliance methodologies'. Part of any methodology would be the fabric of the building? Its thermal mass characteristics; etc as modelled in the SAP. In practice we will be waiting until 2020 until the EU Directive comes into play (or not, for the UK.) There is also the Bonfield review which is supposed to publish its report around now.
    There is a reported announcement from Angela Leadsom in Building magazine today that 'zero carbon homes' are to be scrapped.

    I would think that most 'in the industry' would like to know if they should just stick with the 2013 part L1A Building Regs until possibly 2020; when all will be revealed on a kWh/m2/year target basis ? The more the target keeps moving the more consultants are employed?
    Sorry this comment was so long and detailed...

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