20 Dec 2010, 1:40 PM
A Task Group convened by the Zero Carbon Hub has delivered a report to the Minister for Housing and Local Government setting out its recommendations for carbon compliance levels for new homes from 2016. Carbon Compliance – that is, on-site reductions in emissions – form part of the Government’s overall plan for achieving zero carbon homes; the other part comprises off-site “allowable solutions.” The Task Group has now submitted its recommendations to Government.
Separate compliance limits are recommended for detached houses, other houses and low rise apartments. The Task Group has found that the proposal from July 2009, to tighten the carbon compliance standard from 2016 by 70% (equivalent to 6 kg CO2(eq) /m2/year), may not be achievable in all cases.
The recommendations are that the “built performance” emissions from new homes should not exceed:
10 kg CO2(eq) /m2/year for detached houses
11 kg CO2(eq) /m2/year for other houses
14 kg CO2(eq) /m2/year for low rise apartment blocks
A key element of the Group’s recommendations is to ensure that the potential gap between “as designed” and “as built” standards is closed. For this reason the recommendations cannot be directly compared with current standards.
The recommendations are based on detailed modelling of technical feasibilities. They take account of cost and also reflect a wide range of other factors.
The Task Group also recommends an option for carbon compliance to be assessed across the whole of a development site, instead of the individual dwellings on the site.
In its report the Task Group notes areas for further work to be addressed in its final report, due early in the New Year. These include carbon compliance for high rise apartments, sensitivity to the price of allowable solutions, whether regional weather should be reflected in carbon compliance, and the implications for localism.
The Task Group drew its members from 25 groups in the house building and building supply industries, the professions, consumer and environmental groups, and a range of others. The report and its recommendations represent the consensus view of the Task Group.
The Group was convened by the Zero Carbon Hub in response to an invitation by the Minister for Housing and Local Government in August 2010 to consider appropriate carbon compliance levels from 2016.
WWF today released a statement in response to recommendations published by The Carbon Zero Hub to the Minister for Housing and Local Government, setting out carbon compliance levels for new homes from 2016.
Colin Butfield, Head of Campaigns at WWF-UK, who are part of the Task Group, said:
“WWF supports the recommendations, as set out by the Task Group. Whilst we recognise the steps that housebuilders have already made, we feel these standards are the minimum that can still give us the chance of homes we can genuinely call zero carbon. The UK’s climate targets mean there is no slack in the system, and no other sector that can pick up the shortfall if we don’t get this right. It’s not enough just to have 'more efficient' homes, they need to be worthy of the title 'zero carbon'.”
“It's very good news that these standards will be based on how the houses actually perform rather than how they are theoretically designed. Often, in reality, energy efficiency measures do not perform as well as they appear on paper, so it’s to the Task Group's great credit that it hasn’t hidden behind the easy option and promised grand targets but based them on theoretical performance.“
Whilst one might initially expect a Zero Carbon house to be something more akin to the German Passivhaus, which requires no energy at all other that what it can generate, the Zero Carbon Policy is more complex. Most, if not all, 'zero carbon homes' will require additional energy. That may seem paradoxical but it can work. Looking forward – the credibility of the overall policy will now depend on the final stage of determining 'allowable solutions' for how a home or development gets the additional energy it needs. If they promote genuinely additional, local, renewable energy projects that would not have been built except for the purpose of these houses, then it would be fair to call those homes and this policy 'zero carbon'. If the 'allowable solutions' include things like paying to retrofit existing homes nearby, then that’s just glorified offsetting and by no stretch of the imagination 'zero carbon'.
Colin Butfield adds: “We firmly believe that the will and innovation exists to make the Zero Carbon Homes policy one that Government, house builders and environmental organisations will all view as a big success. It will doubtless be a lot of hard work from all parties to get there and we are looking forward to playing our part. “
John Slaughter, Director, External Affairs, Home Builders Federation said:
"The Hub has undertaken a difficult and complex task very thoroughly - involving all the key parties in assembling the evidence base for its recommendations on performance standards. These will be challenging for the industry to implement, but we are confident that the Hub's ability to work through tough issues will provide a basis for the industry to resolve any concerns it may discover"
David Adams, Director, Zero Carbon Hub and Task Group Chair said:
“It is critical that the industry has a workable definition for zero carbon homes as soon as possible and this proposal to the Minister is an important step forward. I am very pleased with how well the Task Group worked, there is genuine desire to get this right.”
The interim Task Group report is available to download from the Zero Carbon Hub website www.zerocarbonhub.org.