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Builders demand new carbon pledge

House builders have questioned who will pick up the bill for the Government’s reiterated pledge for all new homes to be zero carbon by 2016.

Housing minister John Healey last week renewed his pledge to zero carbon, despite expectations in many quarters that the Government would revise its target and aim for 70 per cent of new homes to make the zero carbon grade from 2016.

House builders have criticised the move, claiming it is unrealistic for them to be burdened with the extra costs given the current economic climate.

One major house builder said: “It is all well and good reaffirming a pledge to be greener, but there needs to be clarity on how the cost will be met. We want to know what assistance we will be given.

“The targets were originally set out in the summer of 2007, pre-Northern Rock and everything else that has followed. We need a post Northern Rock pledge.”

Mr Healey said a hierarchy for carbon reductions would be set, beginning with high levels of energy efficiency for the fabric of the home, followed by a 70 per cent level of carbon mitigation achieved on-site and finally an investment in off-site renewables.

Home Builders Federation figures show building a three bedroom home under the code for sustainable homes to a level 3 standard adds £6,000 in costs, level 4 adds £12,000 and level 5 adds £23,000.

The federation said the challenge of delivering “a zero carbon standard from 2016 is enormous”.

Executive chairman Stewart Baseley said: “In pursuing the ambition set out, the Government must support the industry wherever necessary on research funding, mitigating cost and other commercial issues.

“It must also be prepared to take into account the lessons we are bound to learn along the way in rolling out the policy.

“Unless these issues are taken on board we will not succeed in pursuing zero carbon while also meeting the equally important need to increase the supply of new homes.”

Mr Healey has also been forced to form a specialist task group to examine the energy efficiency metrics and standards and find the highest practical energy efficiency level possible across all dwelling types.

He said the Government’s consultation found that there was no appropriate established standard of energy efficiency for the purpose of measuring zero carbon homes.

Mr Healey added: “Our definition of ‘energy use’ will cover both energy uses currently regulated by the building regulations and other energy used in the home.”

The results will be announced by the end of this year.

As well as zero carbon homes, subject to consultation, from 2016 all new schools are pledged to be zero carbon and from 2018 all new public sector buildings need to be zero carbon.

Out-building our neighbours

A new report has highlighted the United Kingdom’s aim to reach zero carbon housebuilding by 2016 as one of the most ambitious such targets in the world.

The National Housebuilding Council’s Zero Carbon Compendium compares worldwide low carbon housing efforts, focusing on 15 nations including China, the USA, Australia and Japan.

It claimed the UK was one of the only countries to propose including both regulated energy (primarily heating and hot water) and unregulated energy (including appliances used within the home) in the criteria for zero carbon measurement.

NHBC chief executive Imtiaz Farookhi said: “The UK, in particular, is setting the bar extremely high with aspirations that look beyond those of many other countries – indeed, we are the only country to propose including carbon emissions from appliances in our targets.”

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