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Zero Carbon Homes consultation launched

The Government’s plans for zero carbon homes have finally been unveiled and they could provide a boost for retro fitting existing properties.

The announcement by Housing Minister Margaret Beckett said 'allowable' measures to help builders achieve zero carbon status could include retrofitting nearby properties to balance out the expected emissions from new developments. 

The Government will now consult on the detailed requirements of homes covered by the zero carbon homes definition which all new homes will have to meet from 2016

Zero carbon status will be measured against the annual emissions from heating, ventilation, hot water, fixed lighting, and the expected use of appliances.

But, the Government consultation will look at what should be the minimum level of carbon emissions that are reduced by onsite measures and the list of “allowable” solutions to counteract emissions which could be either onsite or off site.

The key issues covered in the consultation include:

Energy Efficiency - a requiring for a greatly increased level of energy efficiency in the fabric of new homes

Minimum carbon reductions - setting a minimum level of carbon reduction that developers must achieve on the site of the housing development, such as through improved insulation, or providing onsite renewable energy

Additional carbon targets - requirements that developers tackle the remaining carbon emissions of new homes, by choosing measures from a list of 'allowable solutions', such as providing energy efficient appliances with the home, retrofitting other properties or exporting low and zero carbon heat and cooling to surrounding developments

Cost limits - Setting a limit on the amount expected to be spent on these allowable solutions, to provide the house-building industry certainty over maximum costs of the policy.

Commitment to review - the list of allowable solutions will be reviewed in 2012 to ensure they will be sufficiently available within the cost limit that has been set and to check whether the proposed list of allowable solutions needs to be updated

Mrs Beckett said:  'I am absolutely committed to our 2016 target, and this demanding goal is already spurring action here and abroad.

'With the consultation process we are launching today, we are confident we will be able to achieve our ambitions while giving the industry flexibility for how they get there.'

UK Green Building Council has strong views on 'zero carbon' issue

UK Green Building Council Chief Executive Paul King said: 'The science on climate change tells us action is even more urgent than it was two years ago when the zero carbon target was first set. So Government should be congratulated for sticking by the commitment that all new homes will be zero carbon from 2016.

'UK-GBC has some strong views about what should and shouldn't be allowed to contribute to the definition of a zero carbon home. But as our task group report showed earlier in the year, these are very complex issues and there will be a lively debate over the coming months. The important thing is that, by the end of the process, we have an approach which is clear, provides certainty to all parties and retains the original environmental ambition underpinning it.'

Industry feedback needed

The Zero Carbon Hub's Chief Executive Neil Jefferson said: 'Publication of the consultation is a crucial step in moving beyond the high level policy commitment that was made last year to delivering zero carbon homes on the ground.

'We look forward to working with Communities and Local Government and with industry to familiarise industry with Government's proposals and to help industry feed back its views on the consultation to Government.'

The consultation runs until 18 March 2009.

To see Zero Carbon consultation document click here