In 2016, it was assumed throughout the industry that building regulation requirements would require that all new homes mitigate their carbon footprint to a ‘zero-carbon policy’ and this has caused consternation and arguments about what is meant by a zero-carbon building, for surely there is no such thing?
What many times is being overlooked is not what the actual words say, but what is meant by various statements in regards to Climate Change and Environmental Protocols (Kyoto, for example), and there is a danger that the debate over the environment is being obscured by the legal jargon that has arisen in the field of environmental concerns, by using special words or expressions used by a profession or group that are difficult for others to understand.
Many terms such as low carbon, zero-carbon or carbon-offsetting have specific meanings to experts, but are at best opaque to most people, but what is meant by the UK Gov’t in this regard is reproduced word-for-word below as set forth by the Zero Carbon Hub, who were established in 2008 as a non-profit organisation, to take day-to-day operational responsibility for achieving the government’s target of delivering zero carbon homes in England from 2016. Since then the Hub has worked with both government and industry with the focus on raising build standards and reducing the risk associated with implementing the Zero Carbon Homes policy. This is what they have to say:
Zero Carbon Policy Ι Zero Carbon Hub
The UK government is committed to sustainable growth and the green agenda. This is demonstrated through various legally binding targets and standards, from which the Climate Change Act 2008 (CCA) is considered one of the most important. The Act mandates an 80% reduction in CO² from the 1990 levels, which are used as a baseline, by 2050.
The Zero Carbon Buildings policy forms part of Government’s wider strategy to achieving the CCA target, while at the same time assists in tackling other important issues including energy security and fuel poverty.
Zero Carbon Policy
The policy, as set out today, requires all new homes from 2016 to mitigate, through various measures, all the carbon emissions produced on-site as a result of the regulated energy use. This includes energy used to provide space heating and cooling, hot water and fixed lighting, as outlined in Part L1A of the Building Regulations. Emissions resulting from cooking and ‘plug-in’ appliances such as computers and televisions are not being addressed as part of this policy.
This policy is well aligned with European Policy, specifically the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (recast) which requires all new buildings to be nearly Zero Energy Buildings from 2020 (nZEB), as described in Article 2 of the EPBD.
There are three core requirements which must all be met for a home to qualify as zero carbon:
1. The fabric performance must, at a minimum, comply with the defined standard known as the Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard (FEES) and
2. Any CO² emissions that remain after consideration of heating, cooling, fixed lighting and ventilation, must be less than or equal to the Carbon Compliance limit established for zero carbon homes, and
3. Any remaining CO² emissions, from regulated energy sources (after requirements 1 and 2 have been met), must be reduced to zero.
Requirement 3 may be met by either deliberately ‘over performing’ on requirements 1 and 2 so that there are no remaining emissions, or by investing in Allowable Solutions.
We at Thir13en transcribe this to mean a Zero-Carbon Policy as addressed above, not exactly zero-carbon homes as there cannot truly be such a thing, while we accept that various authors, editors, writers, journalists et al have the right to argue over interpretations of terminologies that are not clear enough in context. Therefore, we refer directly to the context, as provided by the Zero Carbon Hub, as above.
To us, investing in Allowable Solutions is basically a ‘Get Out of Jail’ free card, and this has engendered as many arguments as Carbon Offsetting has done on a grander scale. Carbon offsetting has proved to be controversial, with many environmental groups questioning its real benefits. Groups such as Friends of the Earth warn the UK cannot “plant its way out” of climate change but instead must reduce its use of fossil fuels. Other groups agree that carbon offsetting does little to counteract the problems causing climate change and does not provide a radical, long-term solution.
In particular the reliance on tree planting to offset carbon dioxide has been questioned. As trees die and decay they release stored carbon back into the environment, meaning benefits of carbon offsetting are lost over the long-term. The Government has recognised this and have called for a technology based approach.
No matter who one listens to, everybody has a right to their own opinions, and our opinion is why enter into that argumentative minefield when one can build to the Carbon Compliance limit established for zero carbon homes in the first place, and just get on with it…
Having said that, on 10 July 2015, the Government published ‘Fixing the foundations: creating a more prosperous nation’, a plan for increasing Britain’s productivity.
Amongst a great number of wide-ranging changes, the report states, ‘The Government does not intend to proceed with the zero carbon Allowable Solutions carbon offsetting scheme, or the proposed 2016 increase in on-site energy efficiency standards, but will keep energy efficiency standards under review, recognising that existing measures to increase energy efficiency of new buildings should be allowed time to become established.’
This announcement was made with no consultation and came as a surprise to much of the industry.
Unfortunately, this was a very short-sighted approach to the fears that building to expected and announced energy efficiencies in Building Regulations from 2016 would slow down the industry’s building of new homes as the industry has made tremendous leaps forward in construction technology and innovation, and this was reflected by the industry’s immediate negative response to this report.
To be fair, though, there is an inordinate demand for new homes, and the Government needs to be assured that this demand is not curtailed by putting what they may feel to be insurmountable obstacles in the way of the home-building industry (as a whole) until enough case studies have been assimilated to prove that building better needs not cost more.
Therefore we have introduced Positive Energy Homes and Inside/Out as trading names for the company that specifies, erects and provides the appropriate legal solution and physical structure to clients while meeting the Zero-Carbon Policy as described above at lower costs than conventional solutions.