Spotlight falls on zero-carbon homes

The vision of the Chancellor Gordon Brown of zero carbon emissions from every new home in the UK has thrown into the spotlight a range of Government initiatives. Clarification by the Treasure after the pre-Budget statement defined a zero-carbon home as one that does not make an overall contribution to global warming. One incentive is for zero-carbon homes to be exempt from stamp duty. A consultation document published last month by the Department of Communities & Local Government, ‘Building a greener future’, seeks views on Government proposals to reduce the carbon footprint of new housing development. It sets out the Government’s views on the importance of moving towards zero carbon in new housing and explores the relationship between the planning system, code for sustainable homes and Building Regulations in delivering the Government’s ambitions for zero carbon. It also proposes a timetable for revising the Building Regulations so as to reach zero-carbon development in all new housing in England and Wales. The consultation period runs up to 8 March 2007. The report highlights that 27% of UK carbon-dioxide emissions are from housing. 53% of home energy use is for heating and 20% for hot water. The consultation document also expresses concern that climate change itself could lead to a growth in the take-up of home air-conditioning units. The average household currently emits 1.54 t of carbon per year. Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for DCLG, says, ‘The publication of the Code for Sustainable Homes aims to increase the environmental sustainability of new homes and give home owners better information about the sustainability of their home. ‘From April 2008, after learning from the voluntary phase, we intend to propose that all new homes should be required to have a mandatory code rating, indicating where they have been assessed and the performance of the home against the code.’ A Planning Policy Statement (PPS) is also at draft stage, with the expectation that planning strategies will be tested on their carbon ambition. The PPS expects new development to be located to optimise its carbon performance and make the most of existing and planned opportunities for decentralised, renewable and low-carbon energy supplies.

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