Domestic housing in the United Kingdom presents a possible opportunity for achieving the 20% overall cut in UK carbon dioxide emissions targeted by the Government for 2010. However, the process of achieving that drop is proving problematic given the very wide range of age and condition of the UK housing stock.
Although carbon emissions from housing have remained fairly stable since 1990 (due to the increase in household energy use having been compensated for by the 'dash for gas'), housing accounted for around 30% of all the UK's carbon dioxide emissions in 2004 (40 million tonnes of carbon) up from 26.42% in 1990 as a proportion of the UK's total emissions. The Select Committee on Environmental Audit noted that emissions from housing could constitute over 55% of the UK's target for carbon emissions in 2050.
A 2006 report commissioned by British Gas estimated the average carbon emissions for housing in each of the local authorities in Great Britain, the first time that this had been done. This indicated that housing in Uttlesford (Essex) produced the highest emissions (8,092 kg of carbon dioxide per dwelling). This was 250% higher than housing in Camden (London) which produced the least (averaging 3,255 kg). Among the 23 towns included, Reading had the highest emissions (6,189 kg), with Hull the lowest (4,395 kg). The variations are due to a number of factors, including the age, size and type of the housing stock, together with the efficiency of heating systems, the mix of fuels used, the ownership of appliances, occupancy levels and the habits of the occupants.
In the December 2006 Pre-Budget Report, the Government announced their 'ambition' that all new homes will be 'zero-carbon' by 2016 (i.e. built to zero-carbon building standards). To encourage this, an exemption from Stamp duty land tax is to be granted, lasting until 2012, for all new zero-carbon homes up to £500,000 in value.
Whilst some organisations applauded the initial announcement of the scheme, in the pre-budget statement from the then UK Chancellor, Gordon Brown, others are concerned about the government's ability to deliver on the promise.
The housing stock in the United Kingdom is amongst the least energy efficient in Europe. In 2004, housing (including space heating, hot water, lighting, cooking, and appliances) accounted for 30.23% of all energy use in the UK (up from 27.70% in 1990). The figure for London is higher at approximately 37%.
In view of the progressive tightening of the Building Regulations' requirements for energy efficiency since the 1970s (see the history section below), it might be expected that a significant cut in domestic energy use would have occurred, however this has not yet been the case.
Although insulation standards have been increasing, so has the standard of home heating. In 1970, only 31% of homes had central heating. By 2003 it had been installed in 92% of British homes, leading in turn to a rise in the average temperature within them (from 12.1 °C to 18.20 °C). Even in homes with central heating, average temperatures rose 4.55 °C during this period.
At the same time, the increase in the number of households, increasing numbers of domestic electrical appliances, an increase in the number of light fittings, reduction in the average number of occupants per household, plus other factors, had led to an increase in total national domestic energy consumption from around 25% in 1970 to about 30% in 2001, and remained on an upward trend (BRE figures).
The figures for energy consumed by end use for 2003.
The Green Deal provided low interest loans for energy efficiency improvements to the energy bills of the properties the upgrades are performed on. These debts are passed onto new occupiers when they take over the payment of energy bills. The costs of the loan repayments should be less than the savings on the bills from the upgrades, however this will be a guideline and not legally enforceable guarantee. It is believed that tying repayment to energy bills will give investors a secure return. The Green Deal for the domestic property market was launched in October 2012. The Commercial Green Deal was launched in January 2012 and released in a series of stages to help with the varying needs and requirements of commercial properties.
The 1965 Building Regulations introduced the first limits on the amount of energy that could be lost through certain elements of the fabric of new houses. This was expressed as a u-value—the amount of heat lost per square metre, for each degree Celsius of temperature difference between inside and outside.
In effect, the Target Insulation is a ratio of 1.33 W/m²·K of wall area (Document L 2006). So to keep your square metre warm, you are limited as to how much power you can use. This is slightly regressive in that richer people live in bigger houses which tend to have a lower surface area/floor area, although this is partially offset by them being detached, as opposed to, say, terraced.
The energy policy of the United Kingdom through the 2003 Energy White Paper articulated directions for more energy efficient building construction. Hence, the year 2006 saw a significant tightening of energy efficiency requirements within the Building Regulations (for earlier regulations, see separate section below).
With the long term aim of cutting overall emissions by 60% by 2050, and by 80% by 2100, the intention of the 2006 changes was to cut energy use in new housing by 20% compared to a similar building constructed to the 2002 standards. The changes were the first to the regulations brought about by the desire to reduce emissions, though some have raised doubts about whether they will actually achieve the 20% cut (see criticisms section).
In the 2006 regulations, the u-value was replaced as the primary measure of energy efficiency by the Dwelling Carbon Dioxide Emission Rate (DER), an estimate of carbon dioxide emissions per m² of floor area. This is calculated using the Government's Standard Assessment Procedure for Energy Rating of Dwellings (SAP 2005).
In addition to the levels of insulation provide by the structure of the building, the DER also takes into account the airtightness of the building, the efficiency of space and water heating, the efficiency of lighting, and any savings from solar power or other energy generation technologies employed, and other factors. For the first time, it also became compulsory to upgrade the energy efficiency in existing houses when extensions or certain other works are carried out.
Some organisations have raised doubts over the claim that the changes will result in a 20% saving. Issues cited have included alleged problems with the calculation methods, the limitations of the modelling software, and the specification of the reference building used in the model. For example, a 2005 study sponsored by the Pilkington Energy Efficiency Trust indicated that the savings would only be in the region of 9%.
There are also concerns about enforcement, with a Building Research Establishment study in 2004 indicating that 60% of new homes do not conform to existing regulations. A 2006 survey for the Energy Saving Trust revealed that Building Control Officers considered energy efficiency 'a low priority' and that few would take any action over failure to comply with the Building Regulations because the matter 'seemed trivial'.
In December 2006, the government announced their ambition that all new housing should be built to zero-carbon standards from 2016; i.e., that the carbon emitted during a typical year should be balanced by renewable energy generation. Despite being the first country in the world to adopt such a policy the initiative was generally welcomed by the industry in principle, despite some subsequent concern over the practicalities.
On 1 April 2011 the WWF resigned from the taskforce on Zero-Carbon homes, stating that 'the zero-carbon policy is now in tatters' after the Government unilaterally decided to change the scope of the 'zero carbon' policy to exclude some emissions not currently covered by the building regulations. The UK Green Building Council estimate that the change, published at the time of the March 2011 budget, will result in only two thirds of the emissions of a new home being mitigated.
In 2004, the Government indicated that the next revision to the energy performance standards of the Building Regulations would be in 2010. In the consultation document Building a Greener Future: Towards Zero Carbon Development it is proposed that the 2010 revision should require a further 25% improvement in the energy/carbon performance, in line with the 2004 proposals. It is further envisaged that there would be a 44% improvement in 2013, compared to 2006 levels. This would then be followed by the adoption of a zero carbon requirement in 2016, applied to all home energy use including appliances. These steps in performance would align the energy efficiency requirement of the Building Regulations with those of Levels 3, 4 and 6 of the Code for Sustainable Homes in 2010, 2013 and 2016 respectively.
Originally, from June 2007, all homes (and other buildings) in the UK would have to undergo Energy Performance Certification (also commonly known as an EPC Certificate) before they are sold or let, in order to meet the requirements of the European Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (Directive 2002/91/EC). The scheme provides the owner or landlord with an 'energy label' so that they can demonstrate the energy efficiency of the property, and is also included in the new Home Information Packs. The scheme has been criticized for its methodology and superficial approach, especially for old buildings. For example, it ignores thick walls with their low heat transmission, and its recommendations for compact fluorescent lamps, which can damage sensitive textiles and paintings.
It is hoped that energy labelling will raise awareness of energy efficiency, and encourage upgrading to make properties more marketable. Incentives may be available for carrying out energy conservation measures.
For new building, SAP 2005 calculations are to form the basis for the certification, while RDSAP (Reduced Data SAP) will be used to assess existing properties. It is estimated that only 10% of the nation's housing will score above 60 on the scale, although most will score above 40.
Another rating scheme of note is the Government sponsored EcoHomes rating, mostly used in public sector housing, and only applicable to new properties or major refurbishments. This actually measures a range of sustainability issues, of which energy efficiency is only one. EcoHomes is to be replaced by the Government's Code for Sustainable Homes in 2007.
The Energy Saving Trust set requirements for 'good practice' and 'advanced practice' for achieving lower energy buildings, while the Association for Environment Conscious Building's CarbonLite programme specifies Silver and Gold standards, the latter approaching a zero energy building.
In Wales where 'zero-carbon homes' are the aspiration for 2011 (although 2012 is more likely) the requirements are for Code for Sustainable Homes or equivalent. This has opened the doors for standards like Passiv Haus and the CarbonLite programme. Another lesser known building type that does not rely on airtightness in order to get its energy rating is Bio-Solar-Haus. This is not a well known type of house, but it has a range of positive advantages like it is built out of renewable resources and it is a breathable structure thus making it much healthier to live in.
The Government's low carbon buildings programme was launched in 2006 to replace the earlier Clear Skies and Solar PV programmes. It offers grants towards the costs of solar thermal heating, small wind turbine, micro hydro, ground source heat pump, and biomass installations. As of January 2007 funding for grants is proving insufficient to meet demand.
Under the Home Energy Conservation Act 1995, local authorities are required to consider measures to improve the energy efficiency of all residential accommodation in their areas, although they are not required to implement any measures. Most local authorities provide free advice on energy conservation and some also provide home visits, often targeting those in social housing and the fuel poor. Some also demand minimum levels of energy efficiency in newly constructed buildings. It was expected that the Act would result in a 30% cut in energy usage between 1996 and 2010. An overall cumulative improvement of 14.7% was reported to DEFRA for the year ending March 2004, but a large part of this would have happened without HECA.
In the South, most local authority housing was sold off in the 1980s-90s under RTB (Right to buy scheme), so the remaining stock is small. Much social housing has also been transferred to housing associations.
One of the most important energy efficiency demonstration projects was the 1986 Energy World exhibition in Milton Keynes, which attracted international interest. Fifty-one houses were built, designed to be at least 30% more efficient than the Building Regulations then in force. This was calculated using the Milton Keynes Energy Cost Index (MKECI), a test-bed for the subsequent SAP rating system and the National Home Energy Rating scheme. Energy World was preceded by the earlier Salford low-energy houses, built in the early 1980s, which continue to be 40% more efficient than the 2010 Building Regulations.
The Beddington Zero Energy Development (BedZED), a non-traditional housing scheme of 82 dwellings near Beddington, London included zero fossil energy usage as one of its key design features. The project was completed in 2002 and is the UK's largest eco-development. As designed, the energy used is generated from renewables on site. In use, BedZED has yielded considerable useful feedback, not least that energy efficiency and passive design features delivery more reliable reduced carbon emissions than active systems. Due to their superinsulation, the properties use 88% less energy (measured) for space heating compared to those built to the 2002 Building Regulations, while the reduction for water heating is 57%. Measured electrical use for cooking, appliances and occupant's plug loads ('unregulated energy' consumption) are some 55% lower than UK norms (bedzed-seven-years-on).
The Green Building in Manchester City Centre and has been built to high energy efficiency standards and won a 2006 Civic Trust Award for its sustainable design. The cylindrical shape of the ten storey tower provides the smallest surface area related to the volume, ensuring less energy is lost through thermal dissipation. Other technologies including solar water heating, a wind turbine and triple glazing.
The Old Home SuperHome initiative features many owner occupied, existing home retrofits which achieve a 60% carbon saving which can be visited by the public. Many of the homes have dramatically improved their energy efficiency to achieve these carbon savings, while some have also installed renewable energy technologies.
International comparisons of particular note include:
In 2005, the Select Committee on Environmental Audit expressed their concern that there was a lack of significant funding for research and development of sustainable construction methods, with funding for the Building Research Establishment having been "drastically" cut in the previous 4 years. As a result, many of the sustainable building materials used in the UK are imported from Germany, Switzerland and Austria—some of the countries that have been prominent in research.
Even if all new housing does become zero carbon by 2016, the energy efficiency of the remainder of the housing stock would need to be addressed.
The 2006 Review of the Sustainability of Existing Buildings revealed that 6.1 million homes lacked an adequate thickness of loft insulation, 8.5 million homes had uninsulated cavity walls, and that there is a potential to insulate 7.5 million homes that have solid external walls. These three measures alone have the potential to save 8.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year. Despite this, 95% of home owners think that the heating of their own home is currently effective.
See UK Government policy for improving home energy efficiency for further information of policies from 1945 to 2016 and their effectiveness.
The u-value limits introduced in 1965 were:
1985 saw the second tightening of these limits, to:
These limits were reduced again in 1990:
Like the 2006 changes, it was predicted that the introduction of these limits would result in a 20% reduction in energy use for heating. A survey by Liverpool John Moores University predicted that the actual figure would be 6% (Johnson, JA “Building Regulations Research Project”).
In the 1995 Building Regulations, insulation standards were cut to the following U-values:
The 2002 regulations reduced the U-values, and made additional elements of the building fabric subject to control. Although there was in practice considerable flexibility and the ability to 'trade off' reductions in one area for increases in another, the 'target' limits became:
Similar limits were introduced into Scotland in 2002 & 2006, though with a lower limit of 0.3 or 0.27 for walls, and some other variations.
It was claimed by Government that these measures should cut the heating requirement by 25% compared to the 1995 Regulations. It was subsequently also claimed that they had achieved a 50% cut compared to the 1990 Regulations.
While the u-value ceased being the sole consideration in 2006, u-value limits similar to those in the 2002 regulations still apply, but are no longer sufficient by themselves. The DER, and TER (Target Emission rate) calculated through either the UK Government's Standard Assessment Procedure for Energy Rating of Dwellings (SAP rating), 2005 edition, or the newer SBEM (*Simplified Building Energy Model) which is aimed at non-dwellings, became the only acceptable calculation methods. Several commercial energy modeling software packages have now also been verified as producing acceptable evidence by the BRE Global & UK Government. Calculations using previous versions of SAP had been an optional way of demonstrating compliance since 1991(?). They are now a statutory requirement (B. Reg.17C et al.) for all building regulations applications, involving new dwelling/buildings and large extensions to existing non-domestic buildings.
Artex Ltd. is an English based manufacturer of building materials.Ashtons
Norman C Ashton was a leading house builder in Yorkshire in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.Building control body
A building control body is an organisation authorised to control building work that is subject to the Building Regulations in England and Wales (similar systems are provided in Northern Ireland, and in Scotland where the term 'building standards' is used). Building control roles are exercised by officers in local authorities and by private sector Approved Inspectors.
The title "Building control officer" (BCO) (also known as a "building inspector" or a "building control surveyor") is used predominantly by local authorities, which confer the title of "officer" to many staff who have regulatory, supervision or enforcement roles. Private sector "Approved Inspectors" generally do not refer to themselves as "officers".Civil Engineering Contractors Association
The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) is a United Kingdom construction organisation. Headquartered in London, it was established in November 1996 to represent the interests of civil engineering contractors.
Its membership currently comprises over 350 companies, ranging from small regional businesses to companies operating across the UK and overseas. Collectively, CECA members account for 75-80% of civil engineering work undertaken in the UK.Code for Sustainable Homes
The Code for Sustainable Homes is an environmental assessment method for rating and certifying the performance of new homes in United Kingdom. First introduced in 2006, it is a national standard for use in the design and construction of new homes with a view to encouraging continuous improvement in sustainable home building. In 2015 the Government in England has withdrawn it, consolidating some standards into Building Regulations.Comben Homes
Comben Homes was a large British Housebuilder.Construction Clients' Group
The Construction Clients' Group is a United Kingdom construction organisation representing major clients of the construction industry. It represents the views of clients to the Strategic Forum for Construction and other major industry forums.
Its members includes public and private sector organisations such as Highways England, Land Securities, Heathrow Airport, Department of Health and London Underground, responsible for significant annual investment in construction projects.EcoHomes
EcoHomes was an environmental rating scheme for homes in the United Kingdom. It was the domestic version of the Building Research Establishment's Environmental Assessment Method BREEAM, which could also be applied to a variety of non-residential buildings. It was replaced by the Code for Sustainable Homes in April 2008.
EcoHomes Assessments fall under one of four versions, Pre-2002, 2003, 2005 or the final 2006 version. It was not possible to compare homes built under one revision of the standard with homes built under another.Good Homes Alliance
The Good Homes Alliance (GHA) is a UK organisation established in 2007 that grew to have over 70 members, including architects, planners, developers, universities, local authorities, urban designers, consultants, building professionals and suppliers whose stated aim is to build and promote sustainable homes and communities and to transform the whole of mainstream UK house building into a sustainable endeavour.It is a not-for-profit Community Interest Company with a board of Directors.
Members subscribe to a charter for responsible housebuilding containing seven principles.
The GHA considers the following actions are necessary to help bring a quality focus back to new housing:
New UK wide near-zero carbon targets for new homes should be re-implemented with a new trajectory and timetable
Housebuilders and Renewable Energy developers must work together to develop new cost effective strategies to meet the new carbon reduction targets
The Building Regulations Part L and F should be reviewed
The compliance system based on SAP and EPCs is not fit for purpose and a new system is required that addresses energy demand reduction targets and post-construction verification
The skills needed to achieve quality construction must be embedded at every stage from concept to completion and for all disciplines, trades and professions
The Quality Control process at every stage from concept to completion must be tightened up and improved
Inhabitants health and wellbeing must be embedded in all aspects of the design and construction processIn addition to promotion of member projects and inititatives the Alliance is involved in education (through seminars, research, and information sharing), lobbying Government and land owners to encourage better quality housing standards via regulation, legislation and specifications, and raising awareness of sustainable development in the media and among the general public.
It also organises specialist cross sector working groups and currently (July 2017) runs the following: alternative housing delivery models; overheating solutions in new housing; zero energy buildings.Green building in the United Kingdom
Both the public and private sectors in the United Kingdom promote green building. Presently, there are already regulatory mechanisms in place that establish Britain's commitment to this kind of building construction. The government, for instance, set out a target that by 2016, all new homes will have zero carbon emission and it also includes a progressive tightening of energy efficiency regulations by 25 percent and 44 percent in 2010 and 2013, respectively. The UK Building Regulations set requirements for insulation levels and other aspects of sustainability in building construction.
For the private sector, there is the case of the Association for Environment Conscious Building (AECB), which promotes green building (or sustainable building) in the United Kingdom since 1989.
The UK is also bound to the European Union policy covering green buildings. Under the Energy Performance of Building Directive (EPBD), Europe has made a mandatory energy certification since 4 January 2009. A mandatory certificate called the Building Energy Rating system (BER) and a certification Energy Performance Certificate is needed by all buildings that measure more than 1,000 m2 in all the European nations. According to the UK Green Building Council, existing buildings account for 17 percent of the UK's total carbon emissions. The Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM), UK's first green building certification system, was established in 1990. Houses are also rated according to the standards set by the Code of Sustainable Homes, which was established in 2007. Here, homes are evaluated against a minimum standards for energy and water usage and are rated from one to six stars based on how they meet the requirements in nine different categories.In Wales, advice on and access to sustainable building is available from a not-for-profit organisation called Rounded Developments Enterprises. They run a Sustainable Building Centre in Cardiff.Keepmoat
Keepmoat Homes Ltd is a housebuilding company in the United Kingdom that provides private homes for sale. Its headquarters are in Doncaster.Linford Group
The Linford Group was a construction company in England which specialised in the restoration of historic buildings. Its headquarters was in Lichfield, Staffordshire.National Federation of Demolition Contractors
The National Federation of Demolition Contractors (NFDC) is a United Kingdom construction trade association representing companies involved in demolition work.
The NFDC represents its sector as a trade association member of Build UK. Who provides both “Corporate Membership for demolition contractors and ISP Membership for industries supporting the demolition industry”Scottish Building Federation
The Scottish Building Federation (SBF) is a United Kingdom construction organisation representing employers in the Scottish construction industry.
The SBF was established in 1895, and aims to raise awareness of the importance of the construction industry in Scotland. With a headquarters in Edinburgh, it comprises 16 regional associations, and represents around 700 companies.
The SBF was one of the founders of the Construction Alliance.Society of Construction Arbitrators
The Society of Construction Arbitrators is a learned society of arbitrators, adjudicators and mediators in the construction industry, based in London. It has as its object the development and support of commercial methods of alternative dispute resolution. Members of the Society include architects, engineers, surveyors and lawyers from around the world.Sweett Group
Sweett Group, formerly known as Cyril Sweett, is an international physical assets management consultancy. It is part of Currie & Brown.Tarmac Building Products
Tarmac Building Products is a British producer of building products, based in Wolverhampton. The company was formerly part of the Tarmac Group, but was bought in 2014 by the joint venture of Lafarge and Tarmac's parent Anglo American, Lafarge Tarmac. Lafarge Tarmac was subsequently sold to CRH plc in August 2015 and rebranded as Tarmac.UK Green Building Council
The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) is a United Kingdom membership organisation, formed in 2007, which aims to 'radically transform' the way that the built environment in the UK is planned, designed, constructed, maintained and operated.
The Council is concerned about the environmental impact of buildings and infrastructure on the environment, in particular the use of water, materials, energy, the impact of greenhouse gas emissions, and the health of building occupants.William Leech PLC
William Leech PLC was a major Tyneside housebuilder.