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All UK New Homes Must Be Zero Carbon Within A Decade

Published on January 10, 2007 at 5:45 AM

Our climate is already changing. Our planet is already warming up. Homes account for over a quarter of our carbon emissions - that is why it is so important that new homes meet much higher standards in future. We need a revolution in the way we build new homes - both to cut carbon emissions and to respond to our changing climate.

We need to learn from countries like Denmark and Sweden, where higher standards of insulation and local energy generation are common place. But as our climate is changing, we will have to learn lessons from the Mediterranean as well as Scandinavia. It will be pointless to have homes that are well insulated in winter but need air conditioning each summer. Last summer there were reports of big increases in people buying portable fans and air conditioning units, just to keep cool. The homes of the future need to be designed for hot summers as well as cold winters. We should be building green houses not greenhouses for future generations.

We have set a ten year timetable for higher standards, so that all new homes must be zero carbon within a decade. These are ambitious targets, and we know of no other country that has yet done the same. It will require a revolution in the way we build homes. We cannot do it simply with incremental changes to traditional methods of building homes.

I strongly welcome the commitment of the Home Builders Federation to working with us to deliver the cuts in carbon emissions we need. But house builders cannot do this alone. Better standards of insulation won’t be enough on their own. We need to change the way we heat and power our homes. We need new partnerships between house builders, utility companies and local councils to deliver local energy and renewable energy to our homes as well. Whether it be turf or solar panels on the roof, wind turbines in the garden, heat pumps below the cellar, we need to develop the environmental technologies of the future. This is an opportunity for us to lead the way across the world. Our aim should be to develop the technologies we can apply to existing homes as well.

We have ten years to plan, invest and innovate to deliver zero carbon homes. It is vital that we invest now to bring down the costs of new technologies and deliver low cost, low carbon homes. The homes of the future must be affordable as well as sustainable.

The level of new building we need is an opportunity to raise standards, to develop and implement new technologies and reap the benefits of economies of scale. For example industry analysts have predicted that the cost of Micro CHP units could fall from around £2,000 to £400 if millions of them were produced and installed. Many Housing Associations are already leading the way by building to higher standards. Now we need new partnerships to go further and deliver affordable and sustainable homes of the future that are even more sustainable for the future too.

There is now a strong consensus among the major housebuilders that we can and must do far more to cut carbon emissions from new homes. Everyone recognises that this is ambitious, but today’s event demonstrates there is growing support for a revolution in the way we design and build our homes.

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