A new report from the Committee on Climate Change has concluded that if the UK is to meet its environmental targets significant changes must be made to both new and existing housing.
The report, ‘UK housing: Fit for the future?’ was jointly written by the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) Mitigation and Adaptation Committees and looks at both the energy efficiency and climate change resilience of the housing stock. From this analysis, the report makes recommendations in five specific areas.
1) Performance and compliance
One of the key proposals here is to focus on closing the performance gap – the difference between the as designed and as built performance of new and refurbished homes. The report estimates that in addition to lowering carbon emissions, the reduced energy usage could save the household between £70 and £260 per year on energy costs. The CCC suggests that there should be an immediate change to more strictly enforce all current standards as well as adapting the assessment criteria to focus on achieving the designed levels of building performance.
2) Low carbon skills gap
As decarbonizing domestic heating is a vital part of reducing the UK’s carbon emissions it is essential that heating and ventilation installers are trained to fit and maintain low carbon systems such as heat pumps. The report advocates the government using measures outlined in the Construction Sector Deal to help tackle the current lack of skilled individuals.
3) Retrofitting Homes
The report also confirms the need to make substantial improvements to existing homes to bring them in line with the required standard. It gives the example of the homes being retrofitted using the ‘Energiesprong’ approach, a form of ‘deep retrofit’ that makes significant improvements to the fabric of the building and makes use of renewable energy technologies such as heat pumps and solar.
4) Building New Homes
As building new homes to a high energy efficiency standard is far more cost effective than retrofit, the report also stresses the importance of taking immediate action to ensure that all new homes are designed and built to the proper standard. Figures stated in the report suggest that introducing low carbon heating and a highly energy efficient building fabric in a new build is around one fifth of the cost of retrofitting the property at a later date. The CCC also recommends that by 2025 no new homes are connected to the mains gas grid and that new developments should focus on enabling more sustainable travel.
5) Finance and funding
To enable the move towards energy efficient, low carbon homes the report identifies a need to put funding and finance measures in place. This includes long term government support for low-carbon heating and incentives to help homeowners invest in improvements to their properties.
The conclusion of the report is that the current approach is not sufficient to achieve the medium and long term environmental targets. It echoes previous publications that state the UK must adopt new methods and invest in new technologies in order to future-proof the housing stock.