Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Carbon-neutral housing: England and Wales race to the bottom

Following the Welsh government's 2014 relaxation of building regulations, HM Treasury has decided to abandon the commitment to make all new homes in England carbon-neutral. No doubt the First Minister will point to the 20% rise in new housing construction in 2014-15, but one wonders who will benefit long-term apart from gas and electricity providers.

It will certainly not be go-ahead builders if a letter in the latest Private Eye is to be believed. Andrew Warren writes:

for the past 15 years the entire building industry has been working on a trajectory agreed with government, of gradually tightening energy standards. This has allowed components manufacturer to introduce altered product lines for windows, doors, boilers and insulation; and training on new on-site technologies and techniques to occur; on a systematic, phased basis.

All these arrangements have now been overturned, without any prior notice and without even a whisper in public; it is only a few months that Conservative (not Liberal Democrat) ministers were providing reassurances  that, of course, there was absolutely no intention of letting the 2016 target slip, let alone be postponed indefinitely.

The result is that whilst some new homes may theoretically be a lot cheaper to buy - always assuming the volume builders pass on any tiny savings made - occupants' fuel bills will forever more be far higher than they should have been. [this U-turn is designed to help meet housing targets] It doesn't explain why the Chancellor has also torn up a similar trajectory towards zero-carbon for non-residential buildings. Precisely who is that bit of spite supposed to help? First time office-buyers?

It should be remembered that from the time of the 2010 election manifesto Liberal Democrats had a target of a carbon-neutral Britain by 2050.

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