Zero-carbon home plan unveiled

The Government fleshed out its plans to make all new homes zero-carbon within a decade in the new Code for Sustainable Homes, with all homes to be rated on energy efficiency by 2008.

Under proposals set out by communities secretary Ruth Kelly on Wednesday regulations will tighten progressively to reach the highest levels of energy efficiency for all new homes by 2016.

By 2008 all new homes will come with a star rating on a scale of one to six reflecting their energy efficiency.

The Code for Sustainable Homes, which sets out a schedule for achieving the zero-carbon target announced in last week’s pre-budget report, aims to cut the energy used to heat and light UK homes which currently accounts for 27% of all of the UK’s carbon emissions, or an annual 40 million tonnes of carbon.

“With a rising population and more people living in smaller households the demands on housing are only set to increase. So it is vital that homes and other buildings are as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible,” Ruth Kelly said.

“Further tough action is still needed to deliver significant energy use reductions in existing homes, but within a decade I want every new home to be zero carbon. This country is the first to set this ambition, and we look forward to our international partners matching it.

“This consultation paper sets out the need for action across all areas of housing from existing stock to new build. The Code outlines environmental standards for new homes and I encourage housebuilders to go further and faster in designing environmentally-friendly housing for the communities of the future,” she said.

Planning strategy should not only encourage energy efficiency in individual homes, but also create communities designed to produce less emissions from sectors such as transport, she said:

“The Planning Policy Statement on which we’re consulting today sets out where and how planning can contribute most effectively to reducing CO2 emissions.”

The proposals received a cautious welcome from environmental groups which called it a “step in the right direction” but said quicker changes were needed.

“The Code is a big step in the right direction, and more importantly it sets out the further steps required over the next few years to ensure that all new homes are built to minimise environmental impacts and in particular the contribution they make to climate change. WWF is pleased to have played a very active role in initiating and developing this Code that will make sustainable, zero carbon homes a mainstream reality in under 10 years,” said the WWF’s Paul King.

Friends of the Earth’s Hugh Ellis said the code “gives local authorities some important powers to cut carbon emissions – the onus is now on them to use them.”

“The Code for Sustainable Homes contains lots of positive recommendations, but unless it is made mandatory it is unlikely to have a significant effect. We have limited time to make the cuts in carbon dioxide emissions which are needed. Carbon zero homes could be built now – so why wait ten years before insisting that builders construct them.”

The UK Home Builders Federation said it was “looking forward to working closely with the Government to determine the detail so that we can deliver the right results for all stakeholders.”

The Code for Sustainable Homes can be accessed here.

Goska Romanowicz

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