Should housebuilders be responsible for the lifetime carbon emissions of their dwellings?
The proposed allowable suolutions suggest that the housebuilder should be responsible for the first thirty years of the buildings carbon emission reductions. Why stop there? We know that many of our homes will have to last hundreds of years at current replacement rates, and there is not sign on the horizon that this government knows any better than the last one how to change that. Why not make developers in general responsible for the CO2 emissions of their buildings for life? It is not necessary that they pay for the emissions, simply that they be responsible for ensuring that the emissions meet the required reductions. This could take the form of periodic checks on the heating systems and air-tightness of dwellings through their life and ensuring that homeowners understand how to get the most out of their dwellings.
Landlords of commercial buildings are going to be encouraged to reduce the emissions of their stock under the provisions of the Green Deal. Wouldn’t if be easier if the builders of the nation’s housing stock were to be responsible for the dwellings that they built in the past as well as those that they will build in the future?
Social landlords will be responsible for the stock they own and rent, and in many cases they will have to take responsibility for the leaseholders that have bought stock in the middle of terraces and in apartment buildings. Without dealing with the leaseholders they will be left with ‘literally’ holes in their emission reduction policies.
If developers were to be made responsible for the stock that they have built, it would simplify the issue for the government, and it would reassure society that the companies who have profited by building homes will be involved in solving the problem that they helped create, even if it was unwittingly. In other words it meets the ‘polluter pays’ principle.
It would be unfair to expect developers to pick up the tab for this, as they are not the ones using the homes and producing the emissions. But by making them responsible for solving the problem, i.e. for organising the Green Deal activities on a property by property basis, then a useful principle would be established, that the business of building property should no longer be a matter of ‘fit and forget’ but rather a matter of lifelong care.
This would also simplify the matter of the implementation of the Green Deal considerably as huge swathes of post-war housing could be allocated to the housing developers responsible for them.
This is also an opportunity for the developers, although it might not sound like it. Where will people live while the works are being carried out? Will they stay at home? Or perhaps they might prefer to just move and let the work be done while the house is vacant between owners? This is a marketing, learning and business opportunity for the nation’s housing developers. Will they act on it?