Energy-saving and sustainability are the governments' key focus areas for the next decade and beyond. It is essential for the UK to not only build new houses which are sustainable but make changes to our existing houses to reduce carbon emissions.
Currently, the existing housing stock and travel accounts for 40 percent of UK carbon emissions and this are where most of the changes need to take place. However, initially, the government is concentrating on any new build housing and implementing significant regulations to ensure all new houses built are much more energy efficient.
In order to create sustainable housing, the government has introduced the Code for Sustainable Homes. This is a set of six levels which range from a 10% energy efficiency rating right up to 100% which is carbon zero. Carbon zero is when a house does not have any net carbon emissions. The house will still emit carbon into the atmosphere but due to the systems and renewable energy solutions installed in the home, the amount of carbon released is offset by the energy saved or generated.
The government has committed to building 5 Eco Towns throughout the UK which will have little or no carbon footprint. This is a bold step for the government as many builders in the construction industry are struggling to meet even the lower levels of the Code for Sustainable Homes guidelines. However, the long-term plan is that all new homes whether the public or private sector will have to meet level 6 of the Code.
With over 160,000 new homes being built every year this will have a positive impact on the level of carbon emissions in the UK.
By their very nature, sustainable homes will initially be more expensive to purchase but in the long term will save homeowners much more in terms of fuel and energy bills and of course the environment.
The difference between an existing house and a sustainable house might be some of the following aspects:
- Triple Glazing
- Enhanced insulation
- External thermal wall cladding
- Greywater harvesting
- Ground source heating
- Solar Panels
- Photovoltaic cells
- Wood burner or stove
- Timber frame
In order for the UK to really make a dent in carbon emission levels, it is critical for homeowners in older properties to make changes to reduce their carbon footprint.