In his 2006 pre-Budget speech the Chancellor at the time, Gordon Brown mentioned his wish to see Carbon Neutral homes being built throughout the UK, and this year, Communities Minister Ruth Kelly fleshed this wish out with solid Governmental plans. These include tightening local planning and building regulations, to emphasize the preference for Carbon Neutral initiatives, and the introduction of a star rating scheme, similar to the way washing machines, dishwashers and fridges are now labeled for energy efficiency, that will show each property’s energy values in a clear and easy manner to potential purchasers. This will be called the Energy Performance Certification Scheme. Also, exempting carbon neutral homes from stamp duty is planned as a financial incentive for developers.
Furthermore, all newly-built houses will have to be operating as carbon neutral by 2016. The Government plans, still at this stage a document for public consultation, not yet a prosed bill or legislation, are called ‘Building a greener future: Towards Zero Carbon Development’.
Why These Plans are Being Developed
The UK Government has set itself a target of 60% reduction of its total CO2 emissions by 2050. Statistics show that of that total, buildings within the UK are responsible for 21%. This includes both residential houses and business buildings, including industrial.
The UK population is rising sharply, and there is a current trend of people living in smaller households, with a younger population living alone for longer, and the older population living longer, so these factors create a higher demand for housing. This puts further pressure on both brown field (urban) and greenfield (agricultural and recreational) land. See our pages on these issues on this website.
The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) published a recent report warning that key environmental targets, such as the plan to reduce CO2 by 60%, would be “undeliverable” unless every household within the UK takes responsibility to reduce the amount of resources consumed.
How it will Work – the Plans Summarised
The Government is planning to put incentives in place to appeal to property developers to build carbon neutral houses, as well as eventually making it a legal requirement to build with energy efficiency in mind, and by encouraging the property-buying public to put carbon neutral at the top of the ‘must have’ list when purchasing.
Tightening Local Planning and Building Regulations
A star rating scheme, to be known as the properties Energy Performance Certificate (all potential self-builders should explore the implications of this for their project).
Exemption from Stamp Duty (also relevant for self-builders).
The Government Minister also launched a consultation into including water efficiency measures within building regulations. This will also be a very important environmental development.
Further considerations, both for a self-builder, looking to ensure the property to be built will be carbon neutral and energy efficient, and a larger-scale property developer, could include consulting with the Low Carbon Building Programme, and the Carbon Trust.
These are Government initiatives already in existence, and mentioned on our page ‘low carbon building initiatives’. The plan, along with the initiatives and incentives already in place, give a strong framework for compliance with the target reduction of carbon emissions. Going ‘carbon neutral’ should be seen as a target, to be reached sooner rather than later, with a series of steps to help everyone in the property chain, from self-builder, developer to purchaser, and including everyone in between, such as tenants and communal house owners, get there.