Housebuilders draw inspiration from far and wide in working towards achieving Net Zero Housing
10 October 2022
Decarbonisation has been put front and centre of Housebuilder’s policies as new government regulations are implemented to drive those responsible for the building of new homes and building into producing significantly less CO2. Over 30% less in fact – and it is all part of the overarching effort to help the UK meet its obligations of reaching “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050 under the Paris Agreement.
So what can Housebuilders do to achieve these challenging targets and will how will their buyers respond?
As energy bills and inflation rise buyer are, of course, looking for cost efficient ways in which to heat their houses. In addition, we hear from our Housebuilder clients that buyers and looking for “greener” houses.
Housebuilders are working hard to create and adapt to make them more environmentally accountable in order to comply with legislation but also to aid them actually making a difference and being able to deliver what their buyers want.
We have already seen a shift in most of our Housebuilder clients not providing gas at their sites. For some this is voluntary for environmental reasons and for some this is in anticipation of Part L Regulations coming into effect in 2023.
In order to reach the targets referred to above new homes will need to be built differently. Inspiration can be taken from Scandinavia – for example the use of heat pumps in conjunction with low-flow temperature underfloor heating. (Who said they only export from Scandinavia was flat pack furniture and gritty dramas?) The Committee on Climate Change estimated that almost a third of the UK’s total carbon emissions come from heating. Heat pumps and other similar heating systems can use renewal energy sources and so as well as reducing emissions, should hopefully also reduce energy bills, a win win for house buyers!
The focus should of course not just be on new homes. Government reports suggest that more emissions come from older homes and buildings, especially those constructed pre-1940 and there needs to be steps in improving energy efficiency and decarbonisation of existing buildings. For example, there is the Boiler Upgrade Scheme which will offer grants of £5,000 for homeowners to have air source heat pumps installed with £6,000 granted to those who install ground source heat pumps. This policy is in its infancy and is yet to take off. Further, innovative schemes which will need to be backed by government grants are needed in order to make existing homes more energy efficient.
Various other areas of reform have been mooted to incentivise Housebuilders to build in a carbon neutral way, such as setting a minimum EPC rating for new build homes. There are currently no legal requirements on a minimum EPC rating for new build homes, although the government has proposed that all social housing, including existing homes, must meet a minimum standard of EPC C by 2035. Tax incentives have also been deliberated. Proposals such as an increased SDLT rate if a new property fails to meet a specified EPC rating, and favourable tax treatment should the property be below that rating, discussed. Also, for Housebuilders who utilise finance, incentives of banks and building societies to lend at favourable rates to those who build energy efficient buildings is an area to watch closely and a potential opportunity to take advantage of.
Housebuilders will need to look across the board for areas to make efficiency savings in order to meet their obligations. From utilising new technology and innovation, both in terms of materials and across the supply chain, to taking advantage of any other incentives introduced in the future, reductions in carbon emissions can be made. In fact, Camden recently welcomed the country’s first ‘net zero carbon’ residential home. Although widespread carbon neutral homes may be some way off, drawing inspiration from what has already been achieved in other parts of the world is surely a good place to start.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at October 2022.