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Healey: Building momentum for future homes

He pledged an extra £3.2m to boost long-term research into how we design and build energy efficient homes. The research will use new technologies and materials to provide valuable evidence for future standards and how to drive down energy bills. He also announced that a new government consortium will use their combined green buying power of potentially over £10bn to boost green skills and technology, while also driving down costs.

Mr Healey said that the nation must step up the UK drive on climate change ahead of Copenhagen. He said that the new standards signalled "real momentum to change and radically re-think how we design our towns and homes for the future".

One in three homes in 2050 will be built between now and then, so he made clear that the new standards are necessary in order for the country to meet low carbon targets. He said the standards also met a desire to change the way we live, lower our fuel bills and increase the market value of our homes with improved green credentials. He said that "we’re determined to see a cut in Britain’s carbon emissions but to do that we have to design and build to new green standards in the future."

The announcements were made during a speech to the UK Green Building Council. He called on the building industry to use the public and market momentum to take action.

Housing and Planning Minister, John Healey, said:

"There’s a driving force behind the green homes movement from homeowners, developers and local authorities, to reduce energy bills and carbon emissions. We’re pushing at an open door, and there is a lot of momentum to change and radically re-think how we design our homes and buildings for the future.

"While pushing for international change at Copenhagen, we also need to act here in Britain too. These proposals present big changes ahead at a time when we are firming up Britain’s green credentials and strengthening our position for negotiations at the conference in a few weeks time.

"Future growth must be green, that’s why we’re setting standards for new homes and new offices, factories, shops and other buildings.

"New homes are 40 per cent more energy efficient now compared to 2002, but we must and can do more. The green movement is growing from the grand designs of a few, to a national movement. Recent research has even suggested that eco-factors have become just as important as location and value for money.

"As a country, nearly half of our carbon emissions come from the built environment. That’s more than roads, railways and airports combined.

"But communities and towns are made up of more than just homes, so today I have launched proposals for all new public sector buildings to be zero carbon from 2018 and all new commercial buildings from 2019. I want to gather all of the expertise out there so we have the best, practical solutions to do this.

"These new green initiatives underline the unique role that the government has in working alongside businesses and developers to legislate for change and act in the interests of the environment and the economy."

The confirmation of the energy efficiency standards and proposals for non-domestic buildings gives the building industry and stakeholders the opportunity to engage and aim higher.

As with zero carbon homes, non-domestic buildings will be able to reduce their emissions by going further with energy efficiency solutions or through the addition of onsite renewables. The proposals launched today outline how those emissions can be reduced both on and off site, including through community scale low carbon heat production for district networks.

These solutions could be linked with homes, to create a combined market for heat generation, which in turn helps nearby homes and other buildings lower their emissions.

Mr Healey’s announcement for the allocation of £3.2m of Technology Strategy Board funding will boost the research into low carbon homes, gathering valuable evidence and driving innovation for the long term. The money will be used by a consortium – including Barratt Developments, Crest-Nicholson, Stewart-Milne, H + H Celcon, Oxford Brookes University and the BRE – to build demonstration homes to the energy/carbon standards of Level 4 of the Code for Sustainable Homes using energy efficiency measures alone, without on-site renewables.

These homes will be built and sold alongside existing homes, to test how homes will perform with ventilation, warmth and comfort levels. The results will provide valuable evidence to support the way that the zero carbon homes of the future are built.

In July, John Healey announced that a specialist task group would examine the energy efficiency metrics and standards that should be part of zero carbon homes. Following an intensive period of analysis and wider stakeholder engagement, the task group, co-ordinated by the Zero Carbon Hub, has recommended an energy efficiency standard based on the amount of energy used to provide space heating and cooling, per square metre of the home.

David Adams, Director of the Zero Carbon Hub and Chair of the Task Group said:

"The Task Group had to balance a wide variety of considerations in order to set an ambitious but achievable standard. These included environmental and consumer concerns and practical implications for design, cost and buildability.

"The Group believes its recommendations propose a sufficiently challenging target which is achievable with a variety of design approaches, enabling innovation and encouraging a high level of performance for the fabric of new homes."

Stewart Baseley, Executive Chairman of the Home Builders Federation, said:

"The Zero Carbon Hub has done a good job in a short time in considering what a future energy efficiency standard for new homes might look like. Its recommendations are broadly pragmatic: the technology required for delivery already largely exists. The industry will, however, need to assess the merits of specific delivery options and keep a close eye on the cost implications as part of the wider issue of ensuring the zero carbon policy is affordable."

John Healey and Communities Secretary John Denham are linking up this week in a departmental drive on climate change. On Thursday, John Denham will say that real progress on tackling climate change will only be made by harnessing the potential and vision that lies in local government. He will urge councils to be ambitious and innovative and grasp the opportunities that this challenge presents to deliver not just for their residents but to support the nation in driving down carbon emissions. He will pledge to work with those authorities already engaged in this agenda and encourage them to go further but also raise the bar for all authorities.

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