News From Eight

Our views on the government’s scrapping of zero carbon homes

06/08/2015

Eight Associates was one of the 246 businesses that signed the UK Green Building Council’s open letter to the Chancellor, asking him to reconsider scrapping zero carbon measures. The full UKGBC letter can be read here: http://www.ukgbc.org/press-centre/press-releases/over-200-businesses-urge-chancellor-reconsider-scrapping-zero-carbon

Chris Hocknell, Eight’s Technical Director, also wrote a letter – to the Editor of our sector’s leading magazine – highlighting what we’ve learned through our ‘2050 compliant’ projects (i.e. achieving 80% reduction in operational carbon emissions), and what is needed to be ready for the EU ‘nearly zero carbon’ 2020 deadline:

Letter to the editor re ‘government scrapping zero carbon homes’ – Were we ready?

There has been no scarcity of “shock and outrage” headlines following the Treasury’s announcement that the government is not proceeding with the zero carbon allowable solutions off-setting scheme or an increase in on-site energy efficiency standards, along with dropping the associated target for non-domestic buildings.

It is a setback. Whilst we could speculate on how the national debt is paramount in the government’s assessment of acceptable payback periods, there should be no surprise here. The announcement, only six months before the obligation was due to take effect, has crystallised government policy. Surely the question is ‘were we all ready’? A leap from today’s (soon to be defunct) Code for Sustainable Homes level 4 to level 6 (‘Zero Carbon’) by next year has been acknowledged as unrealistic by many.

But why is this necessarily the death knoll for zero-carbon homes? While the regulatory certainty has been removed, the UK is – at least currently – bound by EU obligations for nearly zero energy buildings from 2020. The demand for energy-efficient homes isn’t going to disappear. Moreover, there are energy-efficient homes being built to exacting standards today. We are currently working on a number of schemes that are achieving 80% reduction in operational carbon emissions (the 2050 target) – a demanding but achievable standard through a collaborative design team approach.

Now the focus is being ready for 2020, in a way that we weren’t ready for 2016. And now we must address the paucity of the necessary skills, experience and collaboration to make all homes built from 2020 (nearly) zero-carbon.