The consultation on the definition of zero carbon yesterday raised many interesting issues. In no particular order the three main ones are:
The definition of the allowable solutions are not finalised nor is there a clear timetable for finalising them. Without this work being completed the overall picture will remain unclear and unsatisfactory. Developers will not be able to make long term plans without this. DCLG should work with the housing minister to produce a clear timetable for this and publish it for the industry.
The suggestion was made that local authorities could be able to set the level of Carbon Compliance for their area. This is partially in response to the tenet of Localism that says that a decision should not be made at a higher level if there is someone at a lower level capable of making the decision. So the Carbon Compliance level in Birmingham for apartments could be 12kg/m2/annum but in London it could be 10kg. This is interesting because it would allow for the impact of local weather conditions to be recognised in the compliance system for the first time. Unfortunately what it would mean is that housing in the North of England would become more expensive, since a house in the Borders has to be better insulated to reach the same target as a house in Cornwall, and the market for housing in the Borders is already pretty slow. Perhaps Localism doesn’t mean the same for all of us?
The strong suggestion is that the Carbon compliance target is based on as-built performance. This is ground breaking indeed. The proposal, albeit in its early stages is that sample units would be tested fully to ascertain if the designed performance is actually realised. This is a pretty fundamental change, but I think it is a welcome one, and goes a long way towards bringing housing as a consumer focussed industry onto a par with many others. Cars are sold on the basis of measured performance, so are white goods, so why not housing.
Lots of food for thought there, in just these three issues, and the Zero Carbon Hub should be congratulated for bringing them to the fore for the industry to debate and to discuss.