The push towards more energy-efficient housing
Climate change is never far from the global headlines, whether it be storms, heatwaves, or environmental pollution. We try to do our bit by recycling and reusing, and avoiding single-use plastics. But do we really consider how our homes might be contributing towards global warming? Are green homes the future and, if so, how do we get there?
How we heat and power our homes accounts for more than 20% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to official figures (BEIS 2018 UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions).
This is a staggering figure, and one the government wants to tackle if it is to meet its target of reducing all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.
One of the ways it wants to do this is by encouraging energy-efficient improvements to the UK’s homes. This includes measures such as increasing insulation, installing photo-voltaic panels, and moving away from gas boilers towards low-carbon heating such as ground or air source heat pumps.
There are many benefits to this, and not just for the environment. Lower energy bills could lift many households out of fuel poverty, demand for retro-fitting services could support the creation of new jobs in the green economy, and a more energy-efficient housing stock would reduce demand on the national grid.
So how do we get there?
The Future Homes Standard
The government has thrown down the gauntlet with the Future Homes Standard. From 2025, new-build homes must be ‘future-proofed’ for zero-carbon use. That means better-performing building fabric – the walls, floors and roofs – and energy-efficient heating systems that don’t rely on gas.
Homes built to these standards could have 75% lower CO2 emissions than those built to current regulations. It won’t happen overnight, so the government is paving the way through incremental changes in the Building Regulations, specifically Part L Conservation of Fuel and Power, and Part F Ventilation.
But how green are our existing homes?
It is one thing setting high standards for new build homes, but what about our existing homes? And, when thinking about moving to a new house, do we really consider environmental issues, or are we more concerned about whether there are good schools in the area, local crime rates, and proximity to family and friends?
To stand a chance of meeting the government’s emissions target, we must start to view an energy-efficient home as a desirable home.
Some mortgage providers already facilitate this by providing ‘Green Mortgages’. Green Mortgages offer lower rates for loans on energy-efficient properties, typically those with an EPC rating of A or B. As demand for Green Mortgages increases, more lenders may soon follow this trend. We may also start to see lower-cost mortgage products when homeowners want to upgrade their existing properties, or lower-interest loans for energy-efficient improvements.
Energy Performance Rating
As the market for green mortgage products grows, a property’s energy performance rating is likely to become an increasingly important factor when buying, selling or remortgaging.
Landlords and renters will already know that a property cannot be let if the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) has a rating lower than E. From next year, any new tenancy must have a minimum rating of D, and the government’s aim is to ensure that this applies to all rented properties from 2025.
The government wants as many homes as possible to achieve EPC level C by 2035 as part of its Clean Growth Strategy. It is proposing a periodic ‘stock check’ of average EPC bandings as a barometer of the energy performance of the national housing stock.
New RICS Home Survey Standards
At e.surv Chartered Surveyors, we are already looking at the best ways of recording and reviewing details about energy-efficient measures as these become a more integral part of the property-buying-and-selling process.
In fact, we’re currently working on updating our home survey products in line with the new RICS Home Survey Standards. The new products will provide a much greater focus on a property’s energy performance and the measures that can be taken by the vendor or home buyer to make “green” improvements.
So, net zero by 2050?
We’re pleased to see that green homes are so high up on the national agenda but architects, builders, surveyors, homeowners, home buyers, and many others all have a part to play – particularly if the government is to achieve its target of being net zero by 2050.
Ben Sharp, Surveying Quality Manager, e.surv Chartered Surveyors