Monday, 30 August 2010

Zero Commitment

News that the 'GGE' (Greenest Government Ever) is watering down the Labour Government's commitment to make zero carbon homes mandatory for new build by 2016 is disappointing. I guess this also means that the commitment to make all new buildings 'zero carbon' by 2019 is also

The 2016 target always stood out as an ambitious government aim and you had to ask yourself why a Labour government that was so lamentable on its action to reduce the emissions of existing homes was being so stringent on new properties. Predictably the members of the Home Builders Federation were resistant from the start and increased cost of building for their membership would be a constant pressure to dilute the target. Ironically the feed in tariff for renewable electricity could completely negate the cost of installing solar photovoltaic panels for developers by assigning the tariff to them ( and would provide them with an income to boot). This could also be the same for renewable heat technologies dependent on the outcome of the Renewable Heat Incentive consultation in October. So ironically the 'eco-bling' as its critics call it, the highest cost could cost the developer nothing and indeed make them a profit.

The Denby Dale Passivhaus
So the real question is around the thermal performance standard of new build housing, the insulation, the airtightness, the recovery of heat through ventilation. The emphasis on the importance of this in the design has been stressed by proponents of the Passivhaus approach where addressing the need for energy demand during the design and construction phase is paramount. Here in Huddersfield, where else, we are ahead of the game with the Denby Dale Passivhaus. This was constructed for a private owner by the Green Building Company and it has raised serious questions about the governments Code for Sustainable Homes on which the Zero Carbon Standard was to be based. Ironically their property would only acheive a Code Level 3 on the Code for Sustainable Homes because of it's calculation methodology not because of its actual carbon emissions. So to put it clearly, one of the best performing homes in the UK in terms of thermal performance ever would be illegal if the zero carbon homes standard became law but would probably produce less emissions. There's some great resources on how the property was constructed including Bill Butcher's excellent construction diary here.

So what are we to conclude from all this. Well the government would not be right to water down the Code for  Sustainable Homes if anything it should be tightened up. Should we ignore microgeneration as many in the Passivhaus movement suggest? I don't think so, electricity consumption by homes remains an issue and if anything the use of photovoltaics should be mandatory on new build houses and the financial mechanisms that make this possible should be retained. The rumblings are that government is looking again at the tariff levels for the feed in tariff. Let's hope that if they are it doesn't take us backwards.


  1. Hi Andrew,

    I know this is not within the topic of your blog post but I would like to pose a question if I may. What is your interpretation of 'Big Society' and what implications does it have for us in Newsome ward?



  2. Gareth

    Worthy of a seperate blogpost in itself. Lots of locally relevant stuff on the 'Big Society', Newsome Ward Community Forum, Growing Newsome, Free Christmas Bus Service, Clean Ups.

    The big questions

    Is it more than just saying volunteering is really good?

    Is there the capacity and the will amongst people to get involved in their community and run services. Is it always appropriate anyway?

    Is it just another way of marketing of cuts by the ConDems?

    By nature I prefer community led approaches such as that promoted by the Transition Towns movement but can we really believe this approach is part of the Conservatives DNA? Actually is it really part of the Lib Dems DNA? Now that is worthy of some examination.

    Thanks for this, obviously I've outlined my prejudices here but I'll give it some thought and do a blogpost on it shortly



  3. Thanks Andrew I'll look forward to reading that post.

    I agree with your Big Question about the capacity and will in local communities. The examples you mention in Newsome I think indicates that there is an impressive degree of social capital in the neighbourhood already, and this is as I'm sure you are aware, the elusive 'money can't buy' component of regeneration projects across the north of England. On the subject of resources, it would be interesting to know just how government intends to distribute the funds of the Big Society Bank and how aspiring citizens and communities can access it.