Linden Homes has welcomed the Infrastructure Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech this week, which will introduce the use of carbon offsetting into new build housing whilst maintaining building fabric performance at affordable levels. The Bill forms part of the coalition’s final legislative programme prior to the General Election in May 2015.
Under current plans, house builders will have to develop to new zero carbon building regulations from 2016, which will be set at Code 5 of the Code for Sustainable Homes. Linden Homes has previously warned that this would place a financial burden on house builders and could result in fewer homes being built, at a time when the country is facing a chronic housing shortage.
But under the Government’s proposed Bill, house builders would build to enhanced standards but with significant offsetting, which would be based upon an agreed carbon price. This is similar to an idea Linden Homes has been promoting for the past few years – a retro-fitting scheme for existing homes (funded by a levy on each new home built) which would cost less per home than developing to the previously drafted 2016 regulations but save the same amount of carbon.
Andrew Richards, group managing director for Linden Homes commented:
“This is undoubtedly a step in the right direction from the Government. There seems to now be a recognition that the desire to develop zero carbon homes could have a real impact on housing delivery, at a time when we need to be building more homes, not less.
“For some time now, Linden Homes has been promoting the ‘payment fund’ solution – we’ve called it our New Homes Sustainability Bonus. It’s geared to retrofitting the existing housing stock, rather than imposing additional regulation and disproportionate additional costs on to the house builder, and ultimately the home owner. One of the benefits of our proposal is the immediacy and deliverability of the carbon savings.”
Linden Homes has been warning for some time that the cost of developing to the zero carbon regulations could have a detrimental impact on the number of new homes built. While figures1 released recently purport to show that building a zero carbon home is now cheaper than ever before, Linden Homes remained concerned that they reflected only the best possible scenario.
The regularly quoted numbers from the Zero Carbon Hub report reflect the lowest cost optimal route to compliance, while the wider study shows that other solutions can be up to three times more expensive. For example, sometimes the cheapest route – PV panels – is simply not possible due to planning restrictions. The figures are also based on house types smaller than industry standards. This combination of small property sizes and lowest projected cost has created a favourable headline. But if we accept that some fall in the additional costs has occurred, the huge unaccounted costs already being shouldered by the house building industry have certainly played a part. As the price of new technologies has fallen, so the baseline has also been creeping higher.
Last year Linden Homes welcomed the Government’s long-awaited announcement on its “Allowable Solutions” proposals, which included several ideas that the company has been promoting itself, including the retro fitting of existing homes, the option to pay into a fund which would invest in carbon abatement programmes and the over-arching principle that house builders should decide for themselves how they meet their obligations.
1Cost Analysis: Meeting the Zero Carbon Standard, Feb 14, Zero Carbon Hub
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