Zero carbon

All new houses to be zero carbon by 2016 – what does it mean for you?

In December 2008 the Government set out the proposals for making all new homes zero carbon from 2016.

More than 25 per cent of the UK’s carbon emissions are produced by our housing, and with the Government committed to reducing carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, both existing and new homes must become more carbon efficient. The Government has already set out its plans to make all new homes zero carbon by 2016 and the consultation process being launched will enable the detailed requirements to be set.

The Housing Minister said “Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing the world, and introducing zero carbon homes is an important part of our plans to tackle this, as well as further action to tackle emissions from the existing housing stock. I am absolutely committed to our 2016 target, and this demanding goal is already spurring action here and abroad”. 

The consultation proposes a system that both meets the green objectives and recognises the difficult economic conditions facing the housing industry. This includes:

- Requiring a greatly increased level of energy efficiency in the fabric of new homes.
- Setting a minimum level of carbon reduction that developers must achieve on the site of the housing development, such as through improved insulation, or providing onsite renewable energy.
- Requiring developers to tackle the remaining carbon emissions of the new homes, by choosing measures from a list of “allowable solutions”, such as providing energy efficient appliances with the home or exporting low and zero carbon heat and cooling to surrounding developments.
- Setting a limit on the amount expected to be spent on these allowable solutions, to provide the house-building industry certainty over maximum costs of the policy.
- Reviewing the list of allowable solutions in 2012 to ensure they will be sufficiently available within the cost limit that has been set and to check whether the proposed list of allowable solutions needs to be updated.

Zero carbon status is measured against the annual emissions from heating, ventilation, hot water, fixed lighting, and the expected use of appliances.  The proposed definition of a zero carbon home includes a very high level of energy efficiency, a minimum level of carbon reductions that would need to be achieved, compared to today’s Building Regulations, through a combination of energy efficiency measures, onsite energy supply and/or connections to low carbon heat. This is referred to as the ‘carbon compliance’ level. The DCLG are consulting on reductions between 44% and 100% of emissions from the home (not including cooking and appliances, which are not at present covered by Building Regulations).  These targets are closely linked to energy requirements built into The Code For Sustainable Homes.

The 2016 zero carbon target is not a new concept, having been announced in the July 2007 publication Building a Greener Future and in the 2008 Budget.  Indeed step changes in the Building Regulations Part L (Energy Conservation) requirements are proposed for 2010 and 2013.  Although not yet confirmed, the 2010 amendments are likely to see a further 25% reduction in the permitted carbon emissions for new housing.  These reductions are also likely to be accompanied by controls over domestic water usage.

The transitional arrangements which accompany all changes in regulations have not been announced but if they follow recent trends, any new build residential projects not approved and/or started before April 2010 will be subject to these changes.