A survey has revealed leading housebuilder Linden Homes has the backing of the public over its proposed alternative to government plans for stricter green regulations which will bring massively increased costs to build new properties.
The news comes as ministers intend to impose by 2016 the toughest energy and water efficiency levels on statutory building regulations for all newly built homes – forcing them to be carbon neutral through a combination of structural measures and off-site schemes.
But the industry, spearheaded by Linden Homes, has warned the extra costs of up to £30,000 per plot* would make many developments unviable and choke off house-building at a time when the UK’s stalling economy needs it most to provide jobs and tackle the housing crisis.
Linden Homes seized the chance to speak out as consultation recently ended on less controversial changes to the building regulations in 2013.
These are a step towards 2016 when the regulations are intended to incorporate much of the highest Level 6 demands of the Code for Sustainable Homes – an existing non-binding measurement of homes’ green credentials.
Linden Homes says a different solution to “Code 6” as it has become known, would be to make a levy on each new-build property and create a central fund to upgrade existing homes - creating employment and business for local traders, and matching the government’s energy efficiency targets.
And the public agrees: in a commissioned survey of 2,000 people, 57 per cent said existing properties should make a bigger contribution to energy saving rather than relying on new homes, while only 18 per cent said Linden Homes’ funding idea would not be a “positive step”.
Only 26 per cent felt it was fair to place additional regulations on the house-building sector.
In one key finding, only one in 10 were prepared to spend more than £5,000 extra for a more energy efficient home produced by the house-building industry – compared to the £30,000 it is anticipated would be added per new home to achieve the government’s proposed building regulations.
Reaching that level would force water-saving systems into people’s homes, some of which the survey revealed are not wanted. For example, 74 per cent would not be happy with shallow baths, and 71 per cent unhappy to have very low flow showers and taps, all of which would be required to achieve these new targets.
Linden Homes has taken the lead in solving these flaws by proposing to protect the existing already high efficiency standards, as an alternative to bringing in Code 6.
Existing properties, particularly social housing, would instead be made more energy and water efficient by upgrades paid for through a central grant-making fund created by making a levy of between £3,000 and £5,000 on each new-build.
That could better target water, heating and insulation in particular – as the survey showed 59 per cent still had an old boiler and just 36 per cent had recently installed insulation.
Linden Homes’ scheme would shrink the extra cost per new home, and would not only provide an immediate solution to meet the government’s building regulations’ carbon-saving target, but also a flexible, value-for-money strategy to generate and sustain local trade jobs.
The recently revealed public survey follows a positive response from meetings between company executives and government ministers and MPs, plus the backing of the Home Builders Federation and the Zero Carbon Hub to what is the sole proposed alternative to come from the housing industry.
Finished new homes in England totalled 109,020 in 2011*, which is just over 0.4 per cent of the total housing stock of 25 million – any of which could start to be made more energy efficient under Linden Homes’ plan.
The proposal could also see areas worst hit by climate change – such as drought-zones – targeted with plumbing upgrades to save water and cut bills, for example. Residents could also enjoy the benefits of dual flush toilet cisterns, better insulation and more efficient boilers.
And where Code 6 would have the same effect for all new houses regardless of the income of those buying them, Linden Homes’ suggested alternative would enable the funding to be targeted first at those who need most help shrinking their bills: the elderly, poor and vulnerable, tackling the growing issue of fuel poverty.
The survey formed part of Linden Homes’ submission to the government in time for the deadline on Friday April 27 2012 for the Consultation on Changes to the Building Regulations in England.
Also revealed in the survey were the UK’s most popular energy saving techniques; with 86 per cent turning off lights when they left the room, and 66 per cent stopping the tap while cleaning their teeth.
Fifty-eight per cent admitted turning down the thermostat and wearing a jumper. The most common energy-saving feature at home was double glazing (81 per cent), followed by energy saving lighting (80 per cent).
Only four per cent had renewable energy devices such as solar panels – which were described as “unattractive” by just a quarter of respondents.
This is not the first time Linden Homes, Building magazine’s Housebuilder of the Year 2012, has taken a lead in sustainable house-building. The company’s flagship Graylingwell Park development in Chichester, West Sussex, is the UK’s largest carbon neutral new build project.
The company, working with joint venture partners Affinity Sutton and the Homes and Communities Agency, is transforming an 85-acre former hospital site less than a mile from Chichester city centre into a sought-after development of 750 new and converted homes, including 300 affordable homes and community buildings.
Linden Homes Group managing director Ian Baker explained: “I have always said this is a positive idea and this survey shows the public agree with us. We are pleased it is not just us and our industry that are saying this but consumers too.
“One of its key advantages is that unlike other green upgrade initiatives, the improvement works would be funded by grants so households would not be landed with the burden of extra debt to deliver carbon savings. And the levy to fund those grants does not act as a disincentive to housebuilding.
“This is only one of many ideas we have been developing, and we have taken it to a number of stakeholders. It forms part of a robust and comprehensive submission we are handing in to the government.
“Rising to the challenge of climate change is a responsibility for all of us, and is why we have taken a lead in the housing industry. I have always felt that it is an initiative that makes sense – both environmentally and economically.
“We want to work in partnership with the government and its proposals to agree a joint solution that satisfies everyone and has long-lasting benefits for the environment, communities and house-building.”
*Department for Communities and Local Government
For further information, contact Lyndsay Scanlan or Amy Bryant-Jeffries at Remarkable Public Relations on 01962 893 893.
16 May 2012
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