COP26, held from the 31st October – 12th November is a summit aiming to bring together the good, the great, and the relevant to try and tackle one of the biggest issues the world is currently facing. Climate change. Its purpose is both admirable and lofty, and we hope along with everyone else that progress is made. Yet, it’s not just world leaders and policy makers who have a role to play in tackling the climate emergency, house builders and occupiers have an important role to play too.
Is the housing sector energy efficient?
The housing sector is unfortunately one of the biggest polluters. In 2020 it was responsible for emitting 67.7 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, having risen 9% since 2014 and accounting for over a fifth of all UK CO2 emissions. One of the biggest reasons for this is because of the amount of energy people use in their homes, approximately 70% of housing emissions come from heating, and the government estimates that by 2040 the residential sector will be the largest consumer of energy. Granted, one of the key issues here is that the vast majority of the UK’s existing housing stock was built long before environmental standards. However, it’s important to ensure that as we go forward the construction industry is ensuring environmentally sympathetic standards are met.
So, are new builds any better?
Luckily, new homes are in general built to be more energy efficient. Whilst the average EPC rating for existing UK housing stock is a D62, the average for a newly built home is B84, on average that difference is 2.7 fewer tonnes of CO2 generated per house per year. Newly built homes are required to satisfy regulations on the amount of insulation, and are more likely to have efficient heating systems. The result of this is that in the second quarter of 2021 85% of new homes delivered in England and Wales were EPC bands A or B, accounting for the conversions and changes of use included in this data, almost all newly built homes are in the top two bands for energy efficiency. As of 2015 Scottish regulations are even more encouraging of energy efficiency, requiring developers to keep the homes’ CO2 emissions below a certain level. This encourages developers to experiment with different measures, like those in the infographic below, to achieve their emissions target.
There are other benefits too. Whilst the environmental values speak for themselves, for buyers, energy efficiency is a massive benefit of new homes. On average, energy bills for new build homes are £223 less a year, and increasingly mortgage providers are taking into account the green credentials of homes, offering rates discounts of 0.1%. Relatively small figures, but savings all the same, and importantly such financial advantages have the potential to become more significant in the coming years. Eco credentials are beginning to translate into house values too. According to Gowling WLG, house buyers are prepared to pay an extra £2,800 for ‘green features’, although it is only larger homes that seem to achieve a real green ‘premium’. So the impact of energy efficiency on house prices is still small, but as younger, more environmentally conscious, generations increase in their spending power, the significance of that EPC certificate will only grow.
There might be more credentials to be gained as well. The future Buildings Standard Consultation that closed in April is seeking further metrics to assess the energy efficiency of homes, including a Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard and required U-Values. COP26 is all about policymakers working to find ways to help the climate crisis, we can expect that improved standards in homes will be a part of this, and house builders can and should be ready to meet them.
There’s no denying that for the housing sector to really make a difference to the climate crisis millions of existing homes will need to be improved, and their EPC certificates raised. Yet, that is out of the hands of house builders, their role is to ensure that the new homes built are to the best eco standard possible. And there’s still more that can be done. Much of conventional construction still results in waste, up to 30% of which ends up in landfill. However, homes are increasingly being delivered through Modern Methods of Construction, with offsite constructions that can reduce waste to less than 1% of total materials.
House builders are in a strong position to embrace new technologies that improve the energy performance of our homes, they make important decisions about amount of insulation and the heating systems used in new homes. House builders can help to tackle the climate crisis, it’s up to them to use that position to act positively for our planet.
But it's also about the savvy buyer, creating a demand for energy efficient homes.
If you're a planet conscious house builder, get in touch to find out how we can sell your development to the correct target market.
Blog Content Sources
 https://www.savills.co.uk/blog/article/320943/residential-property/climate-change-and-the-residential-sector--what-role-does-housing-play-.aspx 3/11/21 https://www.savills.co.uk/research_articles/229130/318123-0 7/9/21
 https://www.savills.co.uk/research_articles/229130/308724-0 8/12/20 https://www.savills.co.uk/research_articles/229130/319910-0 21/10/21