Low and Zero Carbon Homes Threatened by Government Policies, Report Finds

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The Government’s ability to meet EU targets for delivering low carbon homes following the Paris international climate change agreement has been challenged by a new report. The report entitled ‘Future of policy and standards for low and zero carbon homes’, by academics from the University of Westminster and the University of Hertfordshire, highlights the serious implications of Government policy changes and the scrapped plans to make all new homes carbon neutral from 2016.

The publication of the report comes at the same time as news of the forthcoming closure of the Zero Carbon Hub following loss of funding. Set up in 2008, the Government and industry-funded Zero Carbon Hub has been focusing on improving building standards and reducing the risk associated with implementing the Zero Carbon Homes policy.

Funded by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the ‘Future of policy and standards for low and zero carbon homes’ report evaluates policy and standards for promoting the delivery of low and zero carbon homes in England in the context of the 2012 Housing Standards Review and the withdrawal of the zero carbon target.

The report makes a number of policy recommendations, including:

  • The need for Government to support the construction and housebuilding sectors in addressing the profound challenge of developing skills and working practices required to translate policy targets into practice. This should be implemented through initiatives and partnerships with industry, such as the Zero Carbon Hub
  • The significant costs and hindrances to innovation caused by ongoing uncertainty about the future of policy and standards
  • The need for industry standards to encourage greater engagement with sustainability issues from the home buying public

Dr Dan Greenwood, lead researcher of the report and Senior Lecturer at the University of Westminster, said: “The need to build more homes in England has rightly moved up in the political agenda, but how these new homes will be low carbon and sustainable or not doesn’t have the same prominence. The task of establishing effective policies and standards for new homes is one that the Government and industry have both been wrestling with for ten years as part of the broader challenge of the UK and EU CO2 emissions reduction targets.”

“As our report shows, whilst there has clearly been a need for streamlining policy and standards, this is not the same as the deregulation agenda we have seen from the Government. A smart approach to defining policies needs to include promoting skills development, learning and innovation across the housebuilding sector.”

Authored by Dr Dan Greenwood and Martin King from the University of Westminster and Dr Alina Congreve from the University of Hertfordshire, the ‘Future of policy and standards for low and zero carbonhomes’ report is available at http://bit.ly/1Qsla1t