Scottish sustainability standards anger building industry

New greener building standards announced in Scotland this week have been criticised by house builders who claim they risk causing further damage to an already struggling market.

From October this year, new homes in Scotland must be more energy efficient, have greater sound insulation and better levels of home security.

The Scottish Executive says the revised building standards will reduce emissions, create new jobs in small scale renewables and could save many householders money.

But industry group Homes for Scotland has attacked the plans, saying will add a ‘carbon premium’ of up to £8,000 to the cost of building a house, harming an industry that faces ‘the worst crisis since World War 2’.

The changes will require improved energy efficiency which will reduce carbon emissions by 30% compared with current set of standards published in 2007.

Scottish Infrastructure Minister Stewart Stevenson said: “While Scotland already leads the UK in reducing emissions from buildings, these improvements will give us some of the greenest homes in Europe.

“Energy use in buildings makes up over 40% of all carbon emissions and tightening energy standards will help us tackle climate change.

“I expect higher demand for small scale renewables technologies as developers look at ways to meet the new standards, giving Scotland new opportunities for jobs and investment in low carbon industries.

“Cutting out energy waste will also save money.”

Homes for Scotland chief executive Jonathan Fair was less positive, arguing that refurbishment and retrofitting in existing properties was the way forward.

“The home building industry remains fully supportive of the sustainability agenda and is already leading the way towards a low carbon economy when compared with almost all other industry sectors, but this momentum must be balanced against technical and affordability constraints,” he said.

“At a time when our industry has already reduced the carbon emissions of new homes by 60% from 1990 levels against the Scottish Government’s overall reduction target of 80% by 2050, the big question is whether new home buyers are willing to incur premiums of up to £8000 for low carbon living or ‘bolt-on renewables’ which seem to offer little in the way of pay back, are difficult to understand and operate, or remain unproven with regards to long term performance and maintenance.

“If the Scottish Government really wishes to meet its carbon emission reduction targets, much greater emphasis needs to be placed on systematically improving the performance and energy efficiency of existing dwellings.”

Sam Bond

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