6 Nov 2010

Zero carbon homes - or not?

There has been speculation that the 2016 Building Regs requiring new build to be Carbon Neutral will be watered down due to pressure from the construction industry - see here recent statement that indicates the 2016 target stays.

Photo: first net carbon home - see here

Now many of us have long campaigned for Zero Carbon homes and my fear is that any changes to that water down and confuse the issue. However are there possibly better ways of spending the money at this point? At the moment policy standards aspire to an absolute target of zero carbon new homes by 2016. However Pareto’s Principle warns us against absolute targets: it anticipates that 20% effort achieves 80% of a goal but the last 20% of the goal demands 80% more effort. So with 80% improvements readily afforded but the last 20% a stretch too far, might funding the last step be better redirected towards older, less efficient, dwellings? This could be the Community Energy Fund the Coalition are talking about, but it mustn't be an excuse to avoid funding.

Download a very useful article Debate 38 - 80:20 at:

Here are two comments from colleagues:

There is merit in this argument, but we do need to reach 100% eventually because it is 100% likely the carbon will run out. Every level 3 or 4 home built is another one to retrofit later on. The case for a switch to the existing stock for a few years should be assessed.

Worth remembering that the more efficiently insulated a building the easier it is to be 'zero carbon' simply by having solar panels (PV and or thermal), ground source heat etc to provide the relatively small amount of energy required. Also economies of scale mean that if all buildings require the technology, the cost per unit comes down through creating mass demand for it.

No way we must stick to 2016 and invest in the changes top existing housing - that would also help kick-start our economy

Any other thoughts out there?The household sector represents 27 per cent of our total emissions and achieving deep cuts here is an imperative. Of the homes we will inhabit in 2050, around 80 per cent are already standing today and these have to be the main focus for carbon-reduction policies.

No comments: