Skip to main content

Zero Carbon Standards (New Buildings)

Volume 501: debated on Tuesday 24 November 2009

The Government have recognised the serious global risks from climate change and have set in legislation a challenging target to reduce UK carbon emissions by 80 per cent. against 1990 levels by 2050. Emissions from the way we heat, cool and power buildings are important in achieving this target: 17 per cent. of UK emissions are from non-domestic buildings and 27 per cent. from homes. The scale of the challenge means that we need to find ways of reducing emissions from all types of building as part of the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy.

I am today reaffirming the Government’s commitment to the ambition for all new non-domestic buildings to be zero carbon from 2019, and publishing a consultation document that sets out policy principles and options for meeting this ambition. I am also setting out our plans for how new public sector buildings could lead the way, building on the work of a cross-departmental task force of government officials. We are seeking views on these options and their implications for viability for individual developments and sectors. The consultation closes on 26 February 2010.

This follows my statement in July, when I confirmed the Government’s policy that all new homes will be zero carbon from 2016 and announced further details on the definition and standards we will legislate for. One in three of Britain’s homes in 2050 will be built between now and then. So today I am also providing an update on the definition and measurement of zero carbon homes, following the report of a specialist task group.

Zero carbon non-domestic buildings

In December 2008 we published a consultation on options to meet the definition of zero carbon, which included some initial thinking about what this could mean for non-domestic buildings. I am announcing today our more detailed proposals and the next steps needed to enable new commercial buildings to be zero carbon from 2019.

We will adopt the broad framework for zero carbon that has been developed for homes, but adapted appropriately to reflect the differences in the non-domestic buildings market and the variation between non-domestic buildings. This means that, as supported by responses to the 2008 consultation, we will be using the threefold hierarchy of energy efficiency, followed by onsite or linked low and zero carbon technologies (“carbon compliance”), followed by primarily offsite “allowable solutions”.

The policy will also reflect the important differences in non-domestic buildings, including the much wider variation in building types, locations, and uses, which can impact on both potential solutions and costs. We are therefore proposing that new non-domestic buildings should improve through an approach with differentiated targets to reflect the different potential different buildings have for energy efficiency and for onsite levels of carbon abatement. The consultation seeks views on this approach.

Non-domestic buildings often have greater potential for onsite renewables (for example, more roof space) and to play a central role in the viability of community heat or energy networks. We need to determine the extent to which we encourage use of these opportunities, and the consultation covers these questions. Onsite heat and energy generation will also be eligible for financial assistance under Government incentive schemes for small-scale renewable generation, providing future income streams.

Any carbon not mitigated onsite will be dealt with through a range of good quality ‘allowable solutions’. We are proposing that we will bring in some allowable solutions from 2016, alongside the approach for homes, and thus develop a single system for delivery and assurance. This early deployment could help to increase the volume and therefore viability of the allowable solutions market in its early years, and could increase the opportunities for non-domestic developments to contribute to community energy solutions. I have said that I will make a further announcement later about the allowable solutions that will be included.

For non-domestic buildings, the variation in energy uses is considerably greater than for homes—reflecting the range of different uses for individual building types as well as the range of energy-intensity of different commercial activity. As a minimum, the zero carbon standard for non-domestic buildings will include 100 per cent. of energy uses currently covered by the Building Regulations (principally space heating, cooling and internal lighting). We are considering in addition a simplified way of accounting for ongoing energy use in the building (such as machinery, refrigeration, or computers), through requiring either 10 or 20 per cent. extra improvement on top of regulated energy. The consultation seeks views on this and its potential impact on market viability.

The public sector can play a significant role in supporting market development of low and zero carbon buildings. We confirm our ambition from Budget 2008 that the public sector should aim to make the move to zero carbon for new non-domestic buildings by 2018, one year ahead of commercial buildings. The consultation sets out our proposals for a work programme to deliver this.

I have placed a copy of the consultation document and the detailed impact assessment that accompanies it in the Library of the House.

Zero carbon homes

I announced in July that I would set up a specialist task group to examine the energy efficiency metrics and standards that should be part of zero carbon homes, in order to realise our ambition for the highest practical energy efficiency level realisable in all dwelling types.

Following an intensive period of analysis and wider involvement of industry, commercial and environmental bodies, the task group has now reported to me. I am grateful to the task group for their excellent work and am placing a copy of their report in the Library of the House.

The recommendations are for an energy standard that is measured as the amount of energy required to provide space heating and cooling. The proposed standard is 46 kilowatt-hours per square metre per year (kWh/m2/year) for semi-detached and detached homes and 39 kWh/m2/year for all other homes. The further details of what that means are set out in the task group’s report.

I am satisfied that the task group’s recommendations strike the right balance between a high level of ambition and a standard that can be realised in practice by 2016. I therefore intend to use this standard within the definition of zero carbon homes. I will be using our forthcoming consultation on updating the Code for Sustainable Homes to check that there are no unintended consequences from this standard and to seek views on the energy efficiency standard to be adopted in 2013. By aligning our approach to energy efficiency and zero carbon within the Code, we will smooth the transition to zero carbon homes in 2016.

The task group has made a number of additional recommendations for further research and modelling to support the proposed energy standard. I shall be taking these recommendations forward, in collaboration with the Zero Carbon Hub and other relevant research and industry bodies. One of the particular recommendations is that industry will need design guidance to support the standard. I recognise that industry will need such guidance and will work with industry to produce this.

I can also announce that the Government-funded Technology Strategy Board is allocating £3.2 million of funding to boost long-term research into how we design and build low carbon homes. The research will use new technologies and materials to provide valuable evidence for future standards and how to drive down energy bills. This funding is part of the Technology Strategy Board’s £50 million Low Impact Buildings Innovation Platform, which is being allocated to projects in the period to 2011. The money will be used by a consortium—including Barratt Developments, Crest Nicholson, Stewart-Milne, H + H Celcon, Oxford Brookes University and the Building Research Establishment—to build demonstration homes.

These homes will be built without the use of on-site renewables so as to test just how far it is possible to go towards zero carbon through energy efficient fabric measures alone and the implications of doing so. Having designed and built the homes, they will be monitored to find out the energy savings that occupants realise in practice and to learn more about the occupants’ experience of living in highly energy efficient homes. The lessons we learn from these homes will be valuable evidence to support the way that the zero carbon homes of the future are built.