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Green building group accuses Government of U-turn on zero carbon homes

Greenwise Staff
24th March 2011
The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has accused the Government of a U-turn on its 2016 zero carbon homes policy, claiming it will damage green growth and emissions reductions in the housing sector.
The UKGBC has launched a scathing attack on the Government following publication of its 'Plan for Growth’ document, which accompanied the Chancellor of Exchequer’s Budget announcement yesterday. In it, the Government says new 2016 zero carbon homes regulatory requirements will require housebuilders to be responsible for those carbon emissions covered by Building Regulations only. Building Regulations cover carbon dioxide emissions from energy use through heating, fixed lighting, hot water and building services. The UKGBC said the Government’s announcement effectively means that new homes built from 2016 will not have to source all of their energy from carbon neutral sources.

"A zero carbon home will no longer do what it says on the tin," said Paul King, chief executive of the UKGBC. "The world leading commitment that new homes would not add to the carbon footprint of our housing stock from 2016 has been scrapped despite a remarkable consensus between industry and NGOs in support of it."

UK housing stock is responsible for 27 per cent of carbon emissions and designing and constructing more sustainable housing is seen as a crucial part of achieving the Government’s long-term goal of an 80 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050. Since October 2010, new building regulations have required property developers to achieve a 25 per cent reduction in carbon emissions on new buildings and from 2016 all new homes are set to be zero carbon.

Zero carbon definition
Government and industry have been working for some time on a definition for zero carbon homes and yesterday’s announcement sets out the Government’s position on the new definition.

In a prepared statement, a Communities and Local Government department spokesman said: "The Government has delivered on its commitment to nail down a definition for zero carbon homes. The zero carbon standard is an historic turning point in the nation’s commitment to slash carbon emissions and tackle climate change. It paves the way for the green transformation of Britain’s homes – making them warmer and more comfortable to live in, and at the same time cheaper to run."

The UKGBC, however, called the policy "anti-green" and "anti-growth" and said it would result in the direct mitigation of only around two-thirds of emissions from a typical home over the course of a year.

"Thanks to a crude de-regulation agenda we now have a policy that is not only anti-green but anti-growth. Low carbon construction has been one of the few sectors showing genuine green shoots of growth. This U-turn will result in loss of confidence leading to lower investment, less innovation, fewer green jobs and fewer carbon reductions. It is a backward step by a Government that wanted to be seen as 'the greenest ever’," said King.

Practical solution
The Government has defended its position saying that it is not dropping requirements for renewable energy, such as heating and lighting, but removing "the unfair requirement" for developers to also cover emissions from appliances, like hairdryers and computers.

"The new approach is a practical and realistic solution to achieve a 100 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions from new homes, without piling unfair costs on housebuilders," the GLC said. "Carbon savings will be made through increasing the energy efficiency of new homes, and also beyond the bricks and mortar – by building homes both with renewable energy technologies on site, such as solar power, and through off-site measures such as a local tariff. All new homes started after 2016 will be built to this standard, so housebuilders can now start working towards this date."

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Green building group accuses Government of U-turn on zero carbon homes
The UKGBC has accused the Government of performing a U-turn on the definition of a zero carbon home
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