How is the Clean Growth Plan affecting UK housing plans for the future?
It’s no secret that there is a significant housing shortage in the UK. In fact, a recent government Housing Whitepaper indicated that there is a need for 250,000 new homes per year. The reality is that only around 160,000 are being constructed annually . At the same time, climate change has also risen to the top of the agenda with the need to reduce carbon emissions now a crucial goal. If the UK is to achieve 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, decarbonisation of housing stock has an essential role to play. The key tension between these two urgent needs is cost. Is it possible for the UK to follow strategies such as the Clean Growth Plan while creating enough housing stock to meet future need?
A 2050-ready home
Given the emissions reductions targets that have been set for 2050, this is clearly a key date. With this in mind, organisations such as The Energy Savings trust have been debating the idea of a ‘2050-ready home,’ one that is designed to have minimal energy use and net carbon emissions in line with the Clean Growth Plan, and which will also meet UK housing need. So, what might that home really look like?
A higher Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard
The Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard is already part of building regulations but for a 2050-ready home the standard would need to be increased. This would likely entail improved energy efficiency and low water use fittings.
A zero carbon home
The thinking behind this is to essentially offset carbon emissions from grid electricity and the natural gas used in heating and lighting with clean energy generation. This could be achieved via the use of various insulations and renewable energy technologies.
Building a property to be fully zero carbon within a reasonable cost-effectiveness threshold is a tough challenge and is not something that can be achieved every time. For example, it is often difficult to connect properties in some areas to a renewable energy source. Carbon offset has been effectively used to counteract this – the housebuilder pays to save carbon elsewhere in the community.
Is a 2050-ready policy really necessary?
In terms of the costs that building to Zero Carbon standard could add to a build this is roughly £6,700-7,500 for a detached home, £3,700-4,700 for a semi detached property and £2,200-2,400 for a low rise flat . However, without these changes being made, assuming 200,000 homes are built each year up to 2032 those homes would emit around 43m tonnes of avoidable carbon dioxide emissions up to 2050 . A 2050-ready home also has benefits for the homeowner, including a warmer home and lower bills – and these advantages can be used by developers to help sell properties.
While the Clean Growth Plan may set new standards for housebuilding – and require some negotiation – the impact on future housing plans could be positive if compromise can be found. It will also have a very positive impact on climate change targets and may benefit consumers too.
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