Future Homes? Tell the Government to raise ambition for zero carbon homes

At the moment the UK lags behind other European countries when it comes to home energy efficiency - and also in fuel poverty, and excess winter deaths. As well as investing in insulating our existing housing stock, the Committee on Climate Change has urged the government to ensure that new homes are built to ultra-high energy efficiency standards, as well as being water-efficient and resilient to the impacts of climate change.

Action on this is well overdue - the Zero Carbon Homes standard was scrapped by George Osborne in 2015, just before it came into force.

Now the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government are proposing new regulations which would actually weaken energy efficiency requirements, and prevent local authorities from setting their own higher standards.

What's wrong with the plans?

The London Energy Transformation Initiative (LETI), a group of more than 1,000 architects and engineers, have warned that rather than taking the opportunity to raise standards, they are a step backwards, hidden in what has been described as "a dense consultation document that seems designed to confuse"

The group is calling for stronger standards for home energy efficiency. The loophole in the government's proposals is that new homes would be able to pass the standards if their carbon emissions are reduced by general decarbonisation of the National Grid, plus technology such as air pumps. But homes of the future will need to be zero carbon, with high energy efficiency standards. It's not sensible to build them to lower energy efficiency standards now and retrofit insulation later.

The government is proposing to scrap the Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard. (In this context, the 'building fabric' refers to structural materials of the roof, external walls, windows, doors, lowest floor, plus insulation - anything that separates the inside of a building from the outside!). LETI says it is important to keep this and strengthen it.

The new proposed standards also ignore carbon emissions involved in building the house (embodied carbon).

At the moment local authorities can set higher energy efficiency standards than the national building regulations demand. Many have already done so and it could be an important practical step for others (around two-thirds of local authorities have now declared a climate emergency). But this would be prevented and overwritten by weak national regulations if these proposals go ahead.

Take action

You can comment on these proposals until Friday 7th February.

Raise the issues with your MP (Suggested wording in downloadable Word doc). You could also contact any sympathetic local councillors who may be unhappy about their freedom to set higher standards being taken away.

You can use the suggested responses to respond to the official consultation questions - or if you only have a few minutes, Manchester Friends of the Earth have set up a quick action page to do this. Feel free reword or add additional comments on any issues, for example asking that local authorities remain free to set higher standards

Read more

Full briefing from LETI