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New homes:

  • The ‘Code for Sustainable Homes’ is used in the UK as a holistic environmental assessment method (BREEAM) although it is typically voluntary for private sector housing developers. The Code covers a range of assessment criteria including Energy, Water, Materials, Construction Impacts, Pollution, Health & Well being, Ecology. Six rating levels are possible, level 6 being net zero carbon homes in use.
  • The Zero Carbon Hub (ZCH) task force produced a final report in 2011 aimed at setting more realistic standards for zero carbon new homes by 2016 to be introduced through our national building regulations. Residual household emissions can be ‘bought out’ with the paymentas used for ‘allowable off site solutions’ to make the home the equivalent of zero carbon. First Wessex is currently doing some work with ZCH and the Technology Strategy Board to assess how practical the proposed new standards are to achieve.
  • There are many case studies of zero and nearly zero new housing projects in the UK assessed under the Code and also a small number of certified Passive Housing projects which are gathering momentum. Many of these projects have been undertaken by housing associations. See Radian’s Stoneham Green for example.
  • Many planning authorities in the UK require a minimum percentage of the site wide energy demand of a development to be met by renewable sources before planning consent is approved. This is known as the ‘Merton’ rule. Minimum Code levels are also sometimes stipulated.


  • The findings of the ‘Retrofit South East’ ERDF project led by Radian is a good example, see final project report and case study. This included business assistance / skills training for SME’s to deliver the outputs, however, SME recruitment was challenging during the economic decline and as low customer interest / demand for energy efficiency.
  • The ‘Retrofit for the Future’ run by the Technology Strategy Boardproject funded 87 exemplar housing retrofit projects in the UK to drive new innovation forward with mixed success.
  • The Green deal initiative is the UK Government’s flagship policy to deliver / fund mass retrofit in the UK and is due to be launched this Winter. See the DECC website for details. Good early work undertaken by Geentoo and Affinity Sutton’s Eco-fit.
  • The Revolving Guarantee Fund mechanism has been highly successful in providing sustainable and affordable finance for retrofitting in central and eastern Europe over the past decade and is now being piloted in the UK, see Global Environmental Social Business.

General comments:

  • There are several good examples of energy and water based behaviour change programmes such as ‘Relish’, Count us in’ and those using IT systems.
  • In the UK in my opinion we are too concerned with energy ‘in use’ of the home rather than cradle to cradle implications in terms of climate change emissions, however, this is more complex to measure.
  • Many types of renewable energy technologies have not been as successful as anticipated in the early stages of adoption for a range of reasons e.g. higher than expected running costs, poor performance against expectation, users not controlling systems properly, poor product or poor installation and commissioning etc.
  • A better appreciation of through life cost / carbon studies needs to be built in the UK.
  • Residents of housing associations are included in the design process via a panel although there are limitations to what they can contribute.
  • Finding a workable and realistic definition of fuel poverty, see Prof John Hills report March 2012.
  • Estate agents do not understand how to correctly value energy efficient housing.
  • Skills gap in low carbon construction techniques remains an issue.
  • Passive versus active solutions and health issues such as mechanical ventilation in air tight homes.
  • Getting the technical solution and occupant ‘fit’ right still needs more work.
  • While retrofit of heritage buildings continues to be a challenge, the National Trust have shown that this can be achieved and were 2012 Ashden award winners for sustainable energy.

PAC 17.07.12