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Zero carbon confusion harming energy efficiency, says report

Confusion over zero carbon continues to be an obstacle to adoption of low carbon living, according to new research by the NHBC Foundation.

In a report, Today’s attitudes to low and zero carbon homes - views of occupiers, house builders and housing associations, the organisation makes a series of recommendations aimed at simplifying some of the jargon.

The report also says that despite being “highly satisfied”, owners of highly energy efficient abodes are not unlocking their homes’ potential because of confusing and inconsistent information.

It finds that occupiers of new or enhanced new homes are “overwhelmingly satisfied” with their property, in terms of living space, comfortable internal temperatures and lower energy bills.

The research also suggest that there has been a positive shift in consumer attitude and engagement towards overall energy efficiency, compared with the findings of similar research conducted in 2008.

But people occupying enhanced new homes also report receiving inconsistent or inadequate information about in-home sustainable technologies, meaning it is unlikely they will be using their home to its full energy-saving potential.

The report also suggests that an opportunity is being missed at the home valuation stage. While the industry believes there is little appetite from consumers to pay a premium for new homes enhanced with renewable technologies, the research suggests home buyers may be willing to pay a premium when there is a clear saving on energy bills. Unfortunately this is currently not reflected by surveyors, who attribute little or no added value to enhanced new homes, the report says.

Neil Jefferson, NHBC Foundation director, said: “This research shows some very positive attitudes towards low and zero carbon homes and new technologies. In 2008, we had virtually no direct experience of occupiers in highly energy efficient homes to draw upon, but four years on, we have been able to gain a unique insight into living in this type of new home and almost all of these occupiers are very happy with their new home and with their lower energy bills.

“There are a number of positive messages for the house-building industry arising from this research, the strongest of these being that many of the occupiers having experienced the benefits of a highly energy efficient new home would never want to move into an older home again.”

The report recommends a series of measures to simplify zero carbon:

- The government should undertake a review of the EPC, mandatory during the purchase or rental of a home, to ensure it better informs consumer views with accurate, actual energy use costs.

- The house-building industry should adopt user- friendly vocabulary and terminology around low and zero carbon that is engaging and easily understood, appealing to all occupier tenures.

- House builders and housing associations should much more clearly emphasise the lower running costs that result from enhanced new homes.

- Valuers and mortgage lenders must recognise that new homes, built to higher levels of energy efficiency, save owners money in running costs and need to factor this into valuations and lending decisions.

- The government needs to confirm the remaining parts of the Zero Carbon definition without delay to give the industry the confidence required to engage with it and rise to the challenge.

- House builders and housing associations should produce clearer instructions on use and maintenance of the home’s technological features, and provide occupiers with comprehensive handover documentation and training.

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