Climate Change – building a carbon neutral future

Andrew Leslie

By Andrew Leslie, associate, at Gillespie Macandrew

IT was in the news last week that UK government advisers are recommending that new homes should be banned from connecting to the gas grid to tackle climate change. With 14% of UK greenhouse gas emissions coming from homes, it’s surprising that more is not being done to encourage low carbon building.

Over the past few years alone, we’ve seen the Code for Sustainable Homes come and go, and the Green Deal fiasco, yet despite the failing of these ‘attempts’ at making buildings more sustainable, nothing has been mooted to replace them.

This recommendation for new-build homes is an interesting suggestion, but it throws up many questions and considerations. The obvious question – for the full supply chain – will be how much does it cost, and who will pay for it? If building materials become more expensive and lead times increase, the cost will inevitably be added to the home, and financial pressure will be placed upon the homebuyer. In the current climate, and with many people already being priced out of owning their own home, this will inevitably lead to further problems for the government.

If an obligation is put through councils and written into the section 75 Agreement, the cost will then be passed on to the landowner, and this will affect supply and price.

As the cost of building sustainable homes will always come down to the end user, more needs to be done to promote the long term value of carbon neutral homes. An energy efficient building offers numerous benefits, from a warmer home to reduced energy bills, so over the lifetime of the building, the initial outlay will more than make its money back. However, the initial cost will undoubtedly be higher, and this can be off-putting.

The challenge is to educate the house-buying public so they seek out energy efficient, sustainable homes when making a new build purchase. Considering comments that adding technology such as an air source heat-pump would add at least £5,000 to the price of a new-build property, it is only when the public accepts that there is an additional cost and still demands it, that it will really take hold.

While the short term costs may be more for all involved, the long term impact is substantial. We all have a part to play in mitigating the effects of climate change, and the only way it can be successful is with greater collaboration between stakeholders. It’s time for the government, housebuilders and homebuyers to work together to make a difference.