New homes must have higher sustainability standards, urges UK Green Building Council

13 June 2024 by Acre
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​The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has urged the government to reconsider the future of new houses and spend £64bn to retrofit homes, offices and public spaces over the next decade.

The industry network, comprising more than 700 house builder members, is working to drive solutions and radically transform the sustainability of the built environment to ensure it is economical to run, resilient to floods and droughts and has sufficient insulation to reduce heat loss.

According to UKGBC, 29 million homes must be retrofitted by 2050 and 50 per cent have uninsulated walls. It calls for a robust net zero standard to drive green investment, innovation and skills through its building process.

Consultations on the Future Homes and Building Standard took place at the end of last year and provided the opportunity to ensure every new building in Britain is part of the solution, not the problem.

However, UKGBC discussed its concerns over the draft Standard with Baroness Swinburne, the minister responsible for Net Zero and Energy Efficiency.

The UKGBC claims the draft Standard could see a decline in new builds fitted with renewable energy devices such as solar panels and lower fabric standards and is expected to cost households an average of £400 in energy bills, burdening the country with the cost of an oversized electricity grid.

Members of the UKGBC are already reportedly building homes that produce their own solar power with smart controls to reduce pressure on the grid at peak times but require better standards to prevent other building companies undercutting them with low quality developments.

The meeting with Baroness Swinburne followed UKGBC’s submission to the Government’s consultation and joint letter which received 250 signatories across the sector.

A spokesperson for UKGBC said: “We joined allies including the Good Homes Alliance, RICS, Bioregional and LETI in the meeting.

“Together we called for the highest version of the standard consulted on, and for a new voluntary standard that local authorities could adopt as a stepping stone towards more ambitious standards with the next government.

“We want to see in-house energy performance testing of all new builds to help drive up installation quality and provide assurance to new owners and investors.”

UKGBC developed five tests of the draft Standard to gauge its effectiveness for a net zero benchmark, these were:

1. Energy performance levels that won’t require retrofitting

2. A move away from the ‘notional’ building to regulations based on absolute performance

3. Responsive homes that enable a net zero electricity grid

4. Regulation that drives the measurement and mitigation of embodied carbon

5. New homes designed for our changing climate

Based on the results, the UKGBC has submitted recommendations for improvements.

Ben Flint, Client Director – Real Estate EMEA at Acre, said: “The UK’s housing stock is in desperate need of an overhaul to prevent heat loss and large energy bills.

“The UKGBC’s reaction to the draft Standard is a clear sign that the next Government must prioritise more effective ways to ensure homeowners are better protected behind closed doors.

“Our future depends on a green economy, and a more sustainable way of living. Homeowners deserve to have their basic needs met and a better Standard would help achieve this.”

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