Government ratchets up green construction standards to tackle climate change and fuel poverty

Low carbon homes are more airtight than their conventional counterparts, with better insulation, and rely on renewable sources of power generation such as roof-top solar panels or community-scale plants converting food and other waste into energy. In more extreme examples of green homes, door-mounted letter boxes and fireplaces aren’t allowed because of the draughts these allow in.

 

The annual new-build green home market has reared from almost nothing to a £4.8 billion industry in Britain in just five years, as the government ratchets up green construction standards to tackle climate change and fuel poverty. That adds to a potential £390 billion market to upgrade existing homes.

Britain introduced in 2007 new codes for house builders, on a 1-6 ranking where code 6 is zero carbon, based on waste, efficiency and renewable energy standards. From 2016 all homes will have to be zero carbon, a standard which only a handful currently meet.

Many property developers want the definition of “zero carbon” eased, so that instead of building a new home which exclusively uses energy from solar and other renewable sources, they can pay into a fund which cuts the equivalent carbon emissions elsewhere, for example from existing homes nearby.

Already a quarter of the 125,000 new homes built annually in Britain are code 3, which may for example have water-saving toilets and washing machines and thicker, more insulated walls. However, building an even higher standard zero carbon home adds more than £20,000 to the £100,000 build cost of a typical conventional alternative.