Introduction

 
11% of survey complete.
The Government has announced that from 2016 all new homes built in England will have to be ‘zero carbon’. This means that there should be no carbon emissions generated from the energy required to heat and light a home.

This is a challenging policy objective, but one that the Government believes is important in order to tackle the impact of climate change. The amount of emissions currently generated by homes is around a quarter of the total amount of carbon emissions generated overall in the United Kingdom.

The delivery of ‘zero carbon’ homes is also important for the consumer. The average bill for heating and lighting an older home is around £1200 a year. A new home built to current standards would be significantly less. The Government wants to reduce this cost even further in order to help hard working families.

The starting point for energy efficiency and requirements to reduce carbon emissions in new homes is set out in the energy efficiency requirements of the Building Regulations including Part L (Conservation of Fuel and Power) of Schedule 1. This Government has already strengthened those requirements by over 30% since we came into office. All new homes already have to meet a challenging target for energy efficiency and carbon emissions reductions. In practice this requires good levels of fabric insulation, high performing windows and efficient boilers.

From 2016, the Government will further strengthen the minimum requirements for energy efficiency in the Building Regulations. This will be set at a level equivalent to the energy standard of level 4 of the Code for Sustainable Homes, which, on average across the build mix, is a 20% improvement from the current standard. It will do so after a separate consultation with industry on how this can be achieved cost effectively.

However, it is not always technically feasible or economically viable to eliminate all carbon emissions by using on site measures, such as fabric insulation, energy efficient services, or the use of renewable energy sources such as solar panels. The Government, therefore, is bringing forward its proposals for allowable solutions, to allow house builders to offset residual carbon emissions from new homes against savings made on- or off-site, in order to achieve net zero carbon emissions.

The allowable solutions scheme is being introduced through the Infrastructure Bill currently before Parliament. A summary of responses to the earlier consultation has been published alongside further detail on how the scheme will work – see https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/next-steps-to-zero-carbon-homes-allowable-solutions

Alongside this policy structure for delivering zero carbon homes, the Government needs to consider how to balance strong environmental protections alongside the need to ensure continued growth in the economy.

The number of small builders has been steadily declining in recent years, however. Research recently published by the National House Building Council showed that there had been a significant decline in the number of small firms active in house building in recent years – halving between 2007 and 2013, with only 2,710 estimated to have been building in 2013. It also found that despite encouraging signs of house building growth, the early stages of the recovery do not appear to have improved prospects for smaller builders (defined as companies building less than 100 homes annually) .

The Government recognises that achieving the zero carbon standard could be particularly challenging for small builders. With this in mind, the Government has decided that smaller housing sites in England should not face the total cost burden of delivering zero carbon homes. The purpose of this consultation paper is to explore how this proposed exemption might work.

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