Strategies for Zero Carbon Homes
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Anthropogenic climate change is a phenomenon that has received much attention in the last few decades, and for good reason. Since the renowned studies carried out by Dr. Rowland and Dr. Molina, which began in the 1970s on Ozone depletion, subsequent studies have revealed that human activity is causing the planet’s atmospheric and surface temperatures to rise and may also be a major contributor towards climate shift, due by and large by the release of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse particulates and gases in to the atmosphere. The effects of climate shift include severe weather conditions, receding glaciers and ice caps, rising sea levels and drought, with the poorest countries being affected the most.
Since the introduction of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, the UK government is committed to the agreement to reduce UK carbon emission by 80% by the year 2050. It has been suggested that the 21 million homes in the UK account for around a quarter of the total carbon emissions into the atmosphere. With the current government’s indication to increase the number of dwellings to 3 million by the year 2020 due to the rising population, a greater effort is needed to reduce carbon emissions within the housing sector; a drive that will aid the UK Government’s long-term commitment to the United Nations Framework convention on Climate Change and Kyoto Protocol.
The government is responding to the challenge quite firmly and has set out strict targets to reduce energy use in new dwellings. To implement such a monumental task, the government has put in place a scheme called the Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH), which sets out criteria for reducing energy for all new dwellings. Gordon Brown’s Governments’ main objective is for all new dwellings to be Zero-Carbon by 2016. The current research paper sets out to identify the impediments that may prevent Gordon Brown’s policy of achieving the zero carbon homes challenge and also to determine the drivers in achieving zero carbon homes across the board by 2016.
The author would like to thank the individuals who have assisted in the production of this dissertation.
A special thank you must go to my supervising tutor Dr. Michael Coffey, whose wisdom and guidance provided support and inspiration towards completing this dissertation.
I would also like to thank all those persons who responded to the research questionnaire, which made a significant contribution towards the production of this dissertation.
Finally I would like to thank my wife Uzma and children Saqlain, Aaliyah and Owais for their support and for putting up with my neglect towards them in the last few months.
Thank you again!
Section 1 – Introduction
Nature of the Problem
Since the Industrial revolution in the late 18th century, greenhouse gas emissions have increased considerably. Scientists have observed that a third of the Sun’s energy that is directed towards the boundaries of the Earth’s atmosphere is reflected back into space, whilst the remaining energy is absorbed by the surface of the planet and to a lesser extent by the planet’s atmosphere.
Anthropogenic influence upon climate change is partly caused by the escalation of excess greenhouse gases emitted in to the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, principally influenced by the burning of fossil fuels. The effects of climate shift include severe weather conditions, receding glaciers and ice caps, rising sea levels and drought, with the poorest countries being affected the most.
The problem scientists have determined is that the sun radiates tremendous amounts of light energy emitted in short wavelengths, however the heat energy released from the surface of the planet itself is released in long wavelengths. Whilst carbon dioxide does not absorb the sun’s energy, it does however absorb heat energy from the planet i.e. long wavelength energy. Therefore when a molecule of carbon dioxide absorbs heat energy, the molecule goes into an excited unstable state. The molecule becomes stable again by releasing the energy that is absorbed. Therefore much of this energy remains within the earth’s atmosphere, whilst the rest of the energy will go out into space. Carbon dioxide therefore allows the light energy from the sun to pass but does not allow all of the heat within the earth’s atmosphere to be released into to outer space, thus intensifying the greenhouse effect. Ultimately causing the temperature of the planet to rise.
Illustration courtesy of www.dinosaurfact.net
Pro-Active Response to the Problem
In response to the Kyoto Protocol’s commitments to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the UK must reduce it’s baseline greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5% by 2008 - 2012 from a baseline target set in 1990. Furthermore, the draft Climate Change Bill commits the UK to reductions of C02 emissions of at least 26% by the year 2020 and also to a long-term goal of an 80% reduction by 2050 (Energy Saving Trust)
Housing within the UK contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. The UK’s 21million homes account for around 27% of the overall carbon emissions released in to the atmosphere (Skandamoorthy, 2007) and with the current Government’s promise to construct 3 million new homes by the year 2020, the need to address the carbon situation within the housing sector is of paramount importance (BBC News, 2007. New agency to drive home building)
Traditionally the construction industry has had little regard for the environment, which makes common ground for producing buildings without energy efficiency in mind. It is only until recent times has the consumption of energy been an important agenda in the house building industry, as advancements in energy efficiency playing an important role in the design of buildings built today, due partly to the crucial role being played by the stringent building regulations; pushing the boundaries further to make buildings more energy efficient.
In response to the current situation with regards to reducing carbon emissions within the housing industry the government introduced in 2006 the Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH) scheme (a successor to the Eco Homes rating scheme). At the moment the code is a voluntary standard for energy efficiency and sustainability, applying to newly built homes in the private sector however, it is mandatory where public sector (Homes and Communities Agency) funding is involved. The code aims to deliver a standard guideline for house builders in the UK and addresses key areas of sustainability such as water use and C02 emissions in house building and use. A rating system has been developed within in the code, which measures the ability of the building’s efficiency in terms of energy use. The code’s rating system ranges between levels 1 and 6. Level 6 being the highest level of efficiency and is the level that is most appropriate and applicable to the current study, which is the attainment of ‘zero carbon status’ (Code for Sustainable Homes Technical Guide, 2007)
The Government has indicated that the code will become the single national standard for the design and construction of sustainable homes and is set to become a vehicle for the development of sustainable home building practice in the UK (Code for Sustainable Homes, 1997)
The subject of interest is whether the government and the building profession can implement and administer an effective strategy that will allow all new homes to achieve the highly challenging standards of incorporating level 6 rating to dwellings across the board to allow zero carbon status of newly built homes by 2016.
Why is there a lack of zero carbon dwellings in the United Kingdom?
The problem that presents itself is that the conscious world has accepted that the global warming phenomenon is a serious threat to the planet. Up until recent times carbon emissions and the negative effects being imposed by them upon the environment were not clearly understood, or even thought about in many respects and therefore not a major issue in the housing industry. Recent studies have reported that homes contribute around 27% of total UK carbon emissions. For this reason the housing industry may not have grasped the technologies sufficiently to mass-produce zero carbon homes. Because demand may have been low for zero carbon dwellings it may indicate that there may be a premium cost to build zero carbon homes and therefore not in the best interests of financiers and developers, who may not receive healthy returns on assuming risk for building such assets. Lack of enforceability may be another issue why such dwellings have not been mass-produced. Maybe the supply of materials to produce such assets may be lacking in availability; again this may be as a consequence of low demand, which may also contribute towards extra cost.
It is not clear that any of these scenarios are either singularly or collectively responsible for the slow progress in developing zero carbon homes. Therefore the current study will examine the various drivers and barriers that influence the development of zero carbon developments such as cost, legislation, market demand, available technology and the supply chain. The identification of these factors will provide a basic analysis to determine whether the policy of achieving the zero carbon homes policy by 2016 across the board is actually feasible.
Section 2 – Review of zero carbon homes legislation
Few green policies have had quite such an impact on a sector as the zero carbon homes policy has had in housing says John Alker, Head of Advocacy at the UK Green Building Council. In December 2006 the government introduced a commitment plan which formulated a requirement that all new homes are to be zero carbon from the year 2016 onwards. The initial proposal was formally communicated via the Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH) technical guide, which is based on and replaces the Ecohomes national standard for sustainable design and construction for new housing in the UK in April 2007. The code stated that a building would emit zero net carbon emissions from heating, hot water, lighting, appliance use and cooking. All CO2 reductions had to be achieved by local off-site means connected to the building by a direct physical connection. However, more recently the government defined a zero carbon dwelling as one which generates 70% of the energy it uses for heating, ventilation and lighting from on-site renewable energy (The Energy Saving Trust). Meeting the criteria would enable the home to be rated as a code level 6 home; the highest star rating achievable in terms of the Code, thus certificating the home as a zero carbon dwelling. The acquisition of a code level 6 certificate will allow first hand purchasers of zero carbon homes up to the value of £500,000 exemption from paying stamp duty land tax (SDLT). Homes above the £500,000 threshold will enjoy a £15,000 reduction towards the stamp duty bill (Section 58b, 2007 Finance Bill)
It should be noted that the Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH) is currently UK legislation and its implementation is optional to use apart from developments funded by the government (BRE, EcoHomes, 2007). The government has indicated that home builders are encouraged to follow the guidelines of the Code now as adherence to the Code will become mandatory in the future for all new house building (Code for Sustainable Homes, 2006)
The government has also provided an incentive for the installation of energy saving materials and micro-generation apparatus by reducing the VAT to 5%. This VAT decrease only applies to the UK however, “the European Commission is committed to bringing forward proposals for a change to the Principal VAT Directive to allow an EU-wide reduction in VAT for green products, particularly those aimed at improving energy efficiency in buildings” (HM Treasury, 2008)
The UK government aims to reach their stated goal of 80% carbon dioxide reduction in the UK by 2050 through implementing progressive tightening of the building regulations. The tightening of the regulations is to be maintained in three phases in 2010, 2013 and 2016 (Building Regulations - Energy efficiency requirements for new dwellings, 2007).
The graph on the previous page shows the target reductions for each phase. These target reductions equate to the energy performance standards in the governments vehicle for reducing CO2 in housing; the Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH) Levels 3, 4, and 6 respectively; highlighting the governments progressive strategy to achieving carbon zero homes by 2016.
Source: (Building Regulations - Energy efficiency requirements for new dwellings, 2007).
The primary method of measurement of energy efficiency for the Building Regulations is the dwelling Carbon Dioxide Emissions Rate (DER), which is an estimate of CO2 per metre squared of floor area. Currently (2010) the improvement in the DER is said to be 25% compared to the 2006 level. An improvement of 44% is required in 2013 and ultimately a 100% improvement which is incidentally zero carbon for all new homes built in 2016.
An analysis of the Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH)
The code seeks to make improvements in energy efficiency and water usage upon those required by the Building Regulations Part L 2006. The code will compliment the system of energy performance certificates that was introduced in 2007 by the Energy Performance of Building Directive (EPBD).
At present the Code is voluntary, however house builders are encouraged to utilise the Code as a guideline for house building practice, as the government states that the code will be mandatory in the future.
Energy efficiency is measured at every level of the code by assessing nine individual design categories, with higher level of sustainability performance achieving a high code rating.
The Code measures the following design categories:
* Health & Well being
* Surface water run off
The code implements a procedure which mirrors the BRE’s EcoHomes system in its method of assessment, which relies on trained and accredited independent assessors to inspect the homes. Design stage assessments are conducted by the assessors who on completion of the assessment recommend a sustainable code rating for the home being assessed and will issues an interim certificate. On completion of the development a post completion assessment is carried out by the inspector, who will on completion of the final checks issue a final code certificate which states the level achieved and therefore be given a CSH code rating.
A home meeting any level of the Code will have to meet minimum standards for certain items depending on what Level is desired. For Level 6 this means:
The home will have to be completely zero carbon (i.e. zero net emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from all energy use in the home). This could be achieved by:
• Improving the thermal efficiency of the walls, windows, and roof as far as is practically possible (by using more insulation or better glass for example);
• Reducing air permeability to the minimum consistent with health
requirements (a certain amount of air ventilation is needed in a home for health reasons);
• Installing a high efficiency condensing boiler, or being on a district heating system;
• Carefully designing the fabric of the home to reduce thermal bridging (thermal bridging allows heat to easily escape between the inner walls and the outer walls of a home);
• Using low and zero carbon technologies such as solar thermal panels, biomass boilers, wind turbines, and combined heat and power systems (CHP). It would mean for example that energy taken from the national grid would have to be replaced by low or zero carbon generated energy, so that over a year the net emissions were zero.
The home will have to be designed to use no more than about 80 litres of water per person per day. This could be achieved by fitting such items as:
• 6/4 Dual Flush WC;
• Flow Reducing/Aerating taps throughout;
• 6-9 litres per minute shower (note that an average electric shower is about
6/7 litres per minute);
• a smaller, shaped bath – still long enough to lie down in, but less water
required to fill it to a level consistent with personal comfort;
• 18ltr maximum volume dishwasher;
• 60ltr maximum volume washing machine.
To achieve the standard would also mean that about 30% of the water requirement of the home was provided from non-potable sources such as rainwater harvesting systems or grey water recycling systems.
Other minimum requirements are required for:
• Surface water management – this may mean the provision of soakaways and areas of porous paving;
• Materials – this means a minimum number of materials meeting at least a ‘D’
grade in the Building Research Establishment’s Green Guide (the scale goes
from A+ to E);
• Waste management – this means having a site waste management plan in place during the home’s construction, and adequate space for waste storage during its use.
But to get to Level 6 you need a further 64.9 points. So the builder/developer must do many other things to obtain the other points. In fact they will need to do 90% of everything in the Code to achieve Level 6, including:
• Energy efficient appliances, and lighting;
• Supplying accessible water butts;
• Reducing surface water run-off as much as possible;
• Using highly environmentally friendly materials;
• Minimising construction waste;
• Maximum, accessible provision for recycling;
• Improved daylighting, sound insulation and security;
• Building to the Lifetime Homes standard;
• Assessing and minimising the ecological impact of the construction of the home
Source of information: Code for Sustainable Homes – A step change in home building practice guide (2006)
Section 3 - Cost implications of constructing zero carbon homes
During the last ten years house prices have continually increased due to the rising population and a slow response to the demand in terms of house building says Kate Barker in her 2004 survey on housing supply (Barker, K. 2004) See figures 1 and 4 below.
It was the Barker report commissioned by Prime Minister Gordon Brown which gave recognition to the home building industry to investigate into improving the level of housing supply in the UK. The report concluded that the UK had a serious shortage of homes and was in much need of around 120,000 homes per year built by private house builders. The figures are in addition to the 150,000 homes which are currently being constructed per year by the house builders. The Barker report engaged the government to set an objective to increase the supply of houses being built in England of at least 200,000 per year by the year 2020.
The housing market in the UK is considered by the UK government as an important arena in contributing towards regulating the nation’s economy. Putting this into perspective it is ironic that the Labour government since coming into power has changed housing ministers nine times in the last thirteen years. During the first year in office by the Labour government, it has seen a housing crisis which has seen a 190% increase in house prices with a house price to earnings ratio increase from 3.1 to 5.8. What this means is that whilst house prices have climbed dramatically, average salaries have not increased in proportion to the rising cost of house purchasing. The solution to controlling current house prices is to build more homes, however in 2009 only 118,000 new homes were constructed, which is less than half the annual amount required if the government’s target of an additional 3 million homes are to be constructed by the year 2020 (Alexander, 2010). How does this piece of information relate to the cost of constructing zero carbon homes? Quite simply; the government has introduced a policy which aims to build an additional 3 million homes by the year 2020. The government is also pressing with the policy which aims to see all new homes constructed by the year 2016 to be zero carbon. The problem that presents itself is that the cost of building zero carbon homes includes a premium cost for building and subsequently purchasing such a property. If in the year 2009 only 118,000 homes were built, when quite clearly the government’s target is at least 200,000 per year to be in a position to meet the 3 million new homes target by 2020 and the cost of housing is already quite high, then how does Gordon Brown intend on maintaining the road map for two extraordinary targets which clash quite apparently. Last years figures prove that house building was at an all time low since 1946. These figures indicate that Gordon Brown’s government may have overlooked the situation and set a target which is perhaps extremely challenging if taking account of the current economic position of the UK economy.
The Cyril Sweett Consultation
In 2006 Cyril Sweett construction and property consultants were approached by the English Partnerships and Housing Corporation to report on the implications of the move from the Ecohomes standard of ‘Very good’ rating to the level 3 Code for Sustainable Homes. The research carried out by Cyril Sweett consultants reviewed six different types of houses which included four types which were constructed using traditional methods of construction and two with modern construction techniques. Cyril Sweett say that the findings of the research are not necessarily standard for all construction and consideration should given to project specific variables such as the area of construction, type of development, the supply chain etc; each having a variable effect on the cost of building in the stated methods of construction. Whilst the figures do not represent code level 6 developments, they do however give an indication of what the expected cost of building level 6 zero carbon homes may be if factored. The study made consideration to a whole host of construction methods and technological solutions to improve the performance of the home. The sole purpose of the research was to assess which methods of construction were the most economically viable to achieve the various code levels of the CfSH. However four scenarios were given in the report for expediency which are as follows:
Initial energy efficiency measures followed by the use of solar thermal technology, then photovoltaic and biomass systems.
Initial energy efficiency measures initially followed by the use of small scale wind turbines and then biomass systems.
Development with shared energy services, such as combined heat and power (CHP). For this scenario costs per unit are averaged for different infrastructure options for a theoretical 200 unit development.
Achievement of Code level 3 without recourse to renewable energies through the use of a whole house mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery and by assuming the use of proprietary construction details.
The findings of the study found that projects which allowed for wind energy or site wide CHP technologies had scope for achieving the lowest costs. Again, it is stressed that projects are site specific therefore areas with low wind speeds may not be able to achieve satisfactory wind speeds to justify using wind energy technologies.
The following tabulated data highlights the additional cost of achieving the code level 3 over the Ecohomes Very Good standard.
Traditional detached house
Traditional terraced house
Low rise apartment
High rise apartment
The baseline cost for the abovementioned homes is £92,107 for a 116m² detached home and £75,230 for a 101m² end of terrace home, as specified or compliant with the 2006 building Regulations.
It is an interesting observation that the implementation of Scenario 4 to achieve a code level 3 rating costs £5,090 for a detached house and £4,748 for a terraced house; an increase in cost of 5.4% and 6.2% respectively. What’s interesting about these figures is that Scenario 4 does not implement any renewable energy solutions such as photovoltaic cell technology but does make use of mechanical ventilation with heat recovery systems. Scenario 4 does in many respects mirror the PassivHaus dwelling or Scandinavian homes method of building. Scenario 4 combined with advanced micro generation technologies could achieve level 6 zero carbon status but to enable this industry would need to invest further in research and development of enhancing the micro generation technologies, however the cost will be greatly increased. As with anything that is new there is a premium cost to be paid. But as more efforts are made and competition increases due to demand the cost of such technologies should decrease in time.
The costing data provided in the Cyril Sweett report (2007) went further to report on the cost of achieving a level 5 rating of the Code for Sustainable Homes (CfSH), which is incidentally the highest level of code attainment data provided in the report. The following cost comparison data only makes reference to detached dwellings as the costing data for terraced houses are not too dissimilar to the detached houses.
The table shown above shows the cost of achieving a code level 5 rating of the CfSH using scenario 1, which to reiterate includes the use of solar thermal technology with photovoltaic and biomass systems. The cost attached to upgrading to level 5 costs an additional £20,270, as shown in the table. Therefore an 18% increase above the baseline cost of building a detached home with a 116m² area to the 2006 building regulatory standard, which totals £111,476.
Utilising Scenario 2, a 116m² Home built with small scale wind turbine and biomass technology will achieve a CfSH level 5 rating at a cost of £14,206 above the baseline cost. A 14% increase totalling £106,146
Utilising Scenario 3, a 116m² Home built using site wide CHP technology will achieve a CfSH level 4 rating at a cost of £2,622 above the baseline cost. A 3% increase totalling £93,828
Utilising Scenario 4, a 116m² Home built with improved air tightening and mechanical ventilation will achieve a CHS level 3 rating at a cost of £4,481 above the baseline cost. A 5% increase totalling £95,687
The cumulative graph shown above shows the cost of achieving each level of the Code for Sustainable Homes (CfSH) up to level 5, in comparison to each scenario detailed on the previous pages.
The interesting thing about the comparative cost data provided by Cyril Sweett consultants is that to achieve level 5 of the code using scenario one costs £36,070, which is an increase above the baseline cost of 28.6%. Obtaining a code level 5 rating using scenario two is achieved by allowing for an increase in cost above the baseline of £20,746 which is a 22.7% increase. These figures provide an indication of what the likelihood cost for building code level 6 zero carbon homes are going be. Therefore it is estimated that for a similar type of dwelling the cost will be in excess of 30% above the 2006 Building Regulations baseline cost. A 30% increase in cost is quite substantial considering a home built to the prescribed building standards would cost approximately £92,107, thus around a £40,000 increase to implement code level 6 to the dwelling is a substantial amount and therefore cost is going to be a major factor in determining the success or failure of achieving the zero carbon homes by 2016 target.
Clearly the figures shown in this report show that the cost of producing zero carbon homes across the board is going to be a major obstacle if drastic changes and new solutions to reduce the cost of zero carbon technologies do not surface within the next few years leading up to the year 2016. The situation appears to be quite discomforting as affordability is going to negate the possibility of achieving not just the 2016 target but may also interfere with the 2020 target of building an additional three million new homes in the United Kingdom as less demand due to affordability will result in less homes being built and therefore cause a stalemate situation if the government alongside industry does not take steps to resolve the situation fast.
Reductions in cost for bulk purchasing
As stated earlier in the report cost reductions can be made through advances in technology and through competition as demand for zero carbon homes increases. Whilst the cost of achieving zero carbon is quite high at the moment, cost will gradually subside. The Cyril Sweett consultancy further reported that the purchase of materials and technology in bulk order will reduce the cost of producing zero carbon homes. Cyril Sweett representatives approached a number of suppliers of water and sustainable technologies. It was found that for large scale procurement i.e. 5000 units plus reductions in cost were achieved for the following technologies.
Savings in cost (%)
Grey water recycling solutions
10 – 20
Surface water collection
20 – 30
10 – 20
Solar thermal technologies
20 – 30
Ground Source Heat extraction pumps
30 – 60
(Cyril Sweett, 2007)
Section 4 - Methodology
This chapter focuses on the methodology used in the production of the current research paper and will highlight the various stages of the research method. The purpose of the methodology is to provide the reader with an insight into what is expected in the report and how the research is to be conducted.
The current study focuses on the UK government’s policy of “all homes to be Zero Carbon” by the year 2016 and investigates into the feasibility of the policy and further considers the impediments preventing the policy to materialise. The study also aims to identify the key drivers and barriers of achieving zero carbon homes by 2016 across the board.
The study will explore key areas in the subject matter such as the supply chain of the mass production of zero carbon homes, the economic limitations to mass-produce and the legislative or otherwise impediments that may hinder the government’s aim in driving forward the concept of zero carbon homes by the year 2016. The study will endeavour to surface any requirements that are needed by the government and/or the industry to enable such a vision to become a reality, but also to identify whether the time frame for such a policy is tenable or too ambitious a target.
The research material used to undertake the study will predominately be that of government information and research documents, current journals relating to the subject matter, case study examples, statistical data, the Internet and the general media. Quantitative research information was obtained via a semi-structured questionnaire that was distributed to potential respondents by email. The questionnaire was targeted at named individuals within the organisations to whom it was felt were in a suitable position to answer the topical question: Are zero carbon homes achievable by 2016. The questionnaire was targeted at some of the UK’s leading house building companies as it was understood that these companies would have the necessary resources in place to be in a position to respond better and faster to changing government legislation and enforcement compared to smaller house builders. It was also considered that these companies would take a pro-active approach towards keeping in synchronisation with industry demand and technological developments in zero carbon as and when they occur, to be able to respond to the changing culture of the house building industry.
The questionnaire was structured to respond to questions relating primarily to the Code for Sustainable Homes (CfSH), as the code is the vehicle for achieving zero carbon homes. The response required was to understand the opinions of the house builders to how they interpret the code, its workability and to what extent they are engaged in building zero carbon homes in parallel with the guidelines of the code. Questions were further directed towards determining the respondents’ views on the timeframe of the 2016 roadmap and whether the timeframe for achieving zero carbon homes across the board is feasible and if so to what cost.
The following statement made by Derek Swetnam was considered when distributing the questionnaire (2005 p.27) “remember that a low rate of return may have research significance and has to be reported. You will be fortunate if you reach a 70% rate of response on personally collected questionnaires, and postal ones may be as little as 10%”. However due to time and budgetary constraints email correspondence was the only feasible option available to the author thus the preferred method of data compilation and primary research strategy.
The structure of the Questionnaire
The questionnaire was targeted at named individuals within house building companies who were considered by the author to be in an ideal position to answer the questions to the feasibility of the 2016 policy.
The questionnaire was formulated using a systematic approach which was facilitated by a detailed review of the literature in the subject through gaining an understanding of the specific details of the zero carbon topic.
The first section of the questionnaire asked questions about the company’s level of house production and turnover; past, present and future projections. The results of which gave the author an understanding as to the level of activity the company was engaged in producing houses. Determining the level of production would also provide the author with some understanding as to the past, present and future culture of house building practice in the UK. Understanding the culture of house building trends gives a representation as to the future of house building which would facilitate zero carbon housing.
Questions were further directed at the types of standard the company was using as a guideline to build homes. The information provided by the respondents gave the author an indication as to the company’s commitment in developing low and zero carbon homes and whether the company had working knowledge of the Code for Sustainable Homes, which is the vehicle for addressing the 2016 target. Respondents that had a good working knowledge of the ‘Code’ would give the author confidence in the responses received as it would mean that those companies would be heavily involved in building homes using the ‘CfSH’ standard and were better informed about zero carbon housing; clarifying the limitations of the working relationship of the ‘Code’ and its future prospects of maintaining the 2016 roadmap.
The last section of the questionnaire asked respondents to comment on their views as to the feasibility of the 2016 target. Having working knowledge of house building practice would put house builders in an ideal position to give an educated opinion on whether implementing the zero carbon strategy to homes built across the board will be successful in its aim by 2016.
Section 1 includes an abstract and an introduction, which contains a brief description of the problem that is to be analysed in the research.
At this stage the focus is to determine the role of government legislation and its effects upon achieving the 2016 zero carbon target. The chapter includes research details of the legislative requirements of achieving the target and to identify whether the government is doing enough in terms of legislative enforcement to maintain the roadmap for achieving the all new homes to be zero carbon by 2016 target.
Specific Areas of research will include:
* The definition of zero carbon homes
* Environmental legislation
* Government Policy relating to zero carbon homes
* Planning Policies relating to zero carbon homes
* A review of the Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH)
Section 3 is a review of the financial implications of procuring zero carbon homes and to determine the cost of building a zero carbon home in accordance with the Code for Sustainable Homes (CfSH). The chapter also considers whether any fiscal incentives are available for building zero carbon homes; to determine what extent those incentives are disbursed and also identify the recipients targeted for receiving financial incentives. The study will endeavour to reveal whether the financial incentives offered by the treasury are sufficient to motivate the recipients who choose to invest in zero carbon housing, whether it is materials suppliers, manufacturers, builders and/or end users.
At this stage of the report a methodology is provided which states how the research is to be conducted and the means with which the question is to be answered.
This section includes an ethics statement which highlights the ethical responsibilities to which the current research was conducted.
This section of the report presents the results of the findings of the research carried out in terms of the responses received by the respondents of the questionnaire. An analysis of the findings is presented in this section and it is the findings of the responses of the various house builders to whom the questionnaire was targeted to supplement the literary of the works of previous authors. The data will be used to compare, contrast and seek correlation of the results of the questionnaire to previous works of authors, which will provide sufficient information to answer the topical question.
Section 5- Ethics Statement
The research methods employed by the author of the current research paper shall ensure that all activities involving third party participation shall be consistent with utmost respect for human dignity, the preservation of integrity, principle of inclusion and justice, and the principle of minimal harm.
The conduct in which the research must be conducted shall be undertaken in an ethical and socially responsible manner. The conduct of the researcher shall be consistent throughout the entire research exercise. This includes the handling of research data and the treatment of any persons or organisations who have chosen to participate in the research by disclosing information pertaining to the subject being scrutinised.
Subjects who agree to participate in the research shall be informed from the outset that participation is strictly voluntary and therefore all participants shall be given the opportunity to decline the invitation to participate in the research. All participants that take part in the research must possess adequate reasoning capabilities to provide relevant answers to the questions being asked. Participants should be made aware that any information that is disclosed for the purposes of the research shall be handled with the utmost care in maintaining anonymity of the persons, organisations or otherwise that take part in the research. Participants should also understand that any involvement towards the research shall not endure any adverse effects upon themselves or any third parties the participant is making reference to.
The participants of the research shall be provided with background information of the topic that is being investigated prior to any involvement, and will be made aware of the reasons why the individual has been considered as an appropriate source of information. In most cases the participants invited to contribute towards the research will be construction individuals who are concerned directly or otherwise with the subject being investigated.
The research data acquired from the investigation shall be used to determine the viability of achieving the UK’s 2016 zero carbon homes target. The research information that is being sought will include financial data in constructing homes in compliance with the Code for Sustainable Homes which Is the guideline for building homes to the various levels of the code that include building zero carbon homes. Other information that is being sought from the participants is the impediments and drivers of achieving the 2016 target. Therefore the participants need to be adequately experienced professionals in the home building industry to be in a position to make a significant contribution to the study.
The primary method of research will be to distribute a semi-structured questionnaire which will ask questions in an “open” and “closed ended” fashion. The chosen method of questioning was to allow respondents to make additional contributions to the questions being answered and therefore allowing the respondent to make personal opinions based on their experience.
All data will be handled in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 and therefore all information from third parties shall observe privacy and express use of the information for its intended use. The collected information shall be kept safe and stored securely to maintain the rights of individuals involved. All corresponding data that is stored on computer storage facilities, paper copies or otherwise shall be deleted and disposed of in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998.
Section 6 – Analysis of the Research Data
The aim of the research was to answer the question: Are zero carbon homes achievable by 2016. The current section provides an analysis of the responses received from the various persons working for the major house building companies in the UK who are actively engaged in house building. It was felt that house builders were in an ideal position to answer questions on the viability of mass zero carbon housing as the onus was on house building companies to respond to the call for making a significant contribution towards understanding and implementing strategies to address the carbon situation in terms of housing supply, as it is the house building companies who need to respond to changing trends in house building practices if those companies are going to compete in the house building market. Therefore house building companies are regarded as the most learned contingency in the construction industry to answer questions relating to zero carbon housing, as any changes to legislation, market responses, supply chain requirements and trends in house building directly affect the house building companies.
Research questionnaires were distributed via email to fifty house building companies in the UK. A total of 18 completed forms were received from the 50 potential respondents, giving a 36% response rate. The returned responses received were from 4 Managing Directors, 9 General Managers and 5 Supervisors. All questionnaires received were usable.
The pie chart shown below gives an idea of the magnitude of turnover of each responding company and therefore the scope of building works undertake by those respondents. These figures are important to the research as they give an indication to the amount of house building works undertaken by the responding companies and therefore credibility in answering the questions to the survey.
Of the 18 companies who responded to the survey 22% of the respondents had an annual turnover up to £99.99m, 33% of the respondents had an annual turnover ranging between £100-£250m. The survey showed that 39% of the respondents and therefore the highest number of respondents in terms of turnover category had an annual turnover range between £250m-500m, whilst only 6% of respondents stated that their turnover was in excess of £500m.
The opening question relating to the zero carbon 2016 target was to ask respondents on their opinion on the demand for housebuilding in the UK.
The question asked the respondents: Leading up to 2016, do you think that the amount of homes constructed in the UK will increase or decrease. The respondents were given the opportunity to comment on the reason/s for their response.
The general consensus among the responding House Builders was that housebuilding should increase leading up to 2016, however they also commented that the main challenges that need to be overcome were in statutory planning and the cost of developing homes to the various levels of the code for sustainable homes. The response to the question correlates significantly to the data produced in the Cyril Sweett analysis, outlined in the earlier sections of the current report which provides information that suggests that house building costs are significantly higher compared to the baseline cost of developing houses. However responding views of the housebuilders conflict with the Barker report outlined on page 10 of this report, which suggests that house building has been slow in recent times and this trend may continue in to the near future.
The respondents were then asked to what standards of house building the company that they represented were building to. The respondents were given a list of the various standards of home building practice in the UK, which were:
· Code for Sustainable Homes
· BRE Ecohomes
* Current Building Regulations
Asking the question about which standard the companies were building to was to understand trends in house building practice and to assess to what extent these companies were committed towards building zero carbon homes. The responses would also provide a broad understanding of the culture of house building practice and give an indication as to how well informed the general house building population was in terms of the 2016 target. The response would therefore provide an understanding as to how engaged the industry was in responding to the 2016 target.
The results of the survey showed that 85% of the responses received indicated that they (house builders) were actively engaged in building homes using the Code for Sustainable Homes alongside other building standards. Most respondents also commented that they had carried out various design exercises and costed the scenarios and therefore were aware of the cost of building homes to the various levels of the Code for Sustainable Homes.
The high number of respondents stating that they were using the CfSH as a guideline for house building proved to be a positive response to addressing the zero carbon homes challenge as it meant that the high number of companies should be aware of the various costs, technologies and viability of mass building zero carbon homes.
The respondents were further asked if they knew of any incentives for building zero carbon homes and to state whom those recipients were who could receive the incentives and the adequacy of those incentives.
The responses that were received were quite muted as none of the respondents were aware of any incentives for building level 6 zero carbon homes. One respondent went as far as stating that: ‘There are no incentives; the industry is being forced down this route by legislation. The government gets all the kudos and the development industry carries all the cost and risk’.
Whilst respondents did not know of any incentives that were available for producing zero carbon homes, secondary research showed that VAT had been subsidised to 5% for the purchase of green materials and services. The government had also allowed an exemption from paying stamp duty land tax for homes which acquired a zero carbon level 6 certification of the Code for Sustainable Homes. Zero carbon homes which incurred building costs in excess of £500,000 received a reduction in stamp duty fees of £15,000.
The next question that asked the respondents was to comment on whether Local Planning Authorities were in the best position to enforce developers to build homes to the CfSH standard. The general view of the respondents was that the LPAs do not always fully understand what they are looking for and therefore can be a major hindrance to the development process as delays are inevitable due to the lack of initial understanding of the requirements of the CfSH. One respondent commented that; ‘the difficulty with LPAs is that they may ask for additional standards on top of the Code for Sustainable Homes, which ultimately puts the credibility of the CfSH in to dispute as the various standards of the code are not fully understood and therefore there is not always a common understanding between the developers and the LPAs’.
The respondents also commented that the most influential driver for building to the CfSH is that if central government make the 2016 zero carbon homes policy in to government legislation, which would make home building unlawful if the development did not adhere to the criteria of the CfSH. This would then provide clarity to the situation as both LPAs and developers would take steps to ensure that compliance to the requirements of the legislation is maintained.
The final section of the questionnaire asked respondents to comment on their opinion as to whether the 2016 target was achievable. Surprisingly the responses received were varied. Respondents generally commented on the lack of clarity as to what a truly zero carbon home was, therefore not entirely sure on what actually constituted a truly zero carbon home. They (the respondents) stated that a universal definition of a zero carbon home was one of the main barriers in achieving zero carbon homes across the board by 2016. Most respondent stated that they were not building level 6 zero carbon homes at the moment because of the lack of clarity. One respondent commented that their company was in the process of carrying out research studies in the subject and had been in consultation with the government to clarify the situation. The general consensus of the pessimistic respondents was that the zero carbon homes policy deadline was too ambitious and did not take into consideration the economic implications of mass building zero carbon homes. One respondent commented that from their in-house market research consumers showed concerns towards a number of issues regarding zero carbon homes and that these issues would ultimately impact upon the sales of zero carbon homes. The issues the respondent stated were:
1- Consumers were not prepared to pay the extra cost of zero carbon homes as the carbon issue was not one of their main criteria when considering the purchase of a home.
2- The overall savings in energy were not sufficient to pay an initial premium for zero carbon technology.
3- Consumers felt that they were sceptical about the longevity of the zero carbon technologies incorporated into the home and stated that replacement and maintenance in the case of malfunction could be expensive to replace.
4- Consumers did not like the fact that water consumption would be capped in CfSH’s level 6 homes.
Another respondent stated that the fact that the 2016 issues was government policy and not legislation was an indication that the government is not entirely committed towards achieving the 2016 target for fears of revolt by the electorate and damning consequences to the position of the current government in its reputation for making unreasonable demands. The respondent went further and stated that the current government had set a policy which was not possible in such a short space of time and that the target for constructing zero carbon homes should be put forward to a later date to give the industry sufficient time to sufficiently grasp the zero carbon homes challenge.
Respondents that were optimistic that the 2016 target was achievable stated that the following areas of the debate should be addressed:
1- The government needs to convert the zero carbon homes policy into legislation to enforce house builders to build houses to the CfSHs level 6 standards
2- Greater awareness strategies need to be implementing in marketing to convince potential purchasers of zero carbon homes; that the investment that they are making in purchasing a zero carbon home is a wise investment
3- The supply chain which produces green products and services must make an effort to reduce the cost of production.
4- Government needs to make available significant financial incentives across the board to reduce the cost of delivering zero carbon homes.
One respondent commented that delivering zero carbon homes across the board is achievable if the construction industry makes significant changes to the culture of house building in the UK. The respondent was referring to Scandinavian countries that are committed towards addressing the climate change problem and are already building low carbon homes at a cost that is affordable.
Conclusion and Recommendation
The aim of the current research paper was to find out whether the 2016 zero carbon homes target was achievable. The process used to answer the topical question was to initially carry out a literature review of the works of previous authors to gain a background understanding of the subject. The review was used to guide and structure the research undertaken. The primary research method used to answer the topical question was by utilising a quantitative research method, which was to distribute a semi-structured questionnaire among professionals with varying levels of responsibility employed by house building companies. The questionnaire included ‘open’ and ‘closed ended’ questions. The use of a semi-structured questionnaire was to allow respondents to provide as much information as possible about the specific issues relating to the zero carbon homes discussion, as the author felt that a structured questionnaire with solely “closed ended” questioning would be too rigid and may miss the opportunity to acquire additional information which may further facilitate the research. The respondents were also given the opportunity to make personal opinions based on their own experiences relating to the zero carbon homes agenda.
From the various sources of research information obtained to produce the current research paper a number of conclusions can be drawn from the findings. Firstly cost has been found to be a major barrier in the production of building zero carbon homes with around a 30% increase on top of the baseline cost of building a home in accordance with the standard building regulations, which amounted to around an extra £40,000 in build costs. According to a respondent of the research questionnaire; in-house market research conducted by the company revealed that the consensus view among general house buyers was that they were not prepared to pay the additional cost of a zero carbon home as the carbon issue was not a significant factor in the criteria when considering buying a home and therefore the price tag attached to zero carbon homes was too high to persuade most home buyers to invest in a zero carbon dwelling. This information was crucial in providing direction to the research as cost was one of the main issues that were identified in the literature review as being a potential barrier to achieving the 2016 target. Although the government had introduced the scheme of exemption and subsidisation of Stamp Duty Land Tax, the savings were not significant enough to persuade home buyers en masse to purchase a zero carbon home. Home buyers were also sceptical about the high cost of replacing micro-generation systems. The economic assessment of zero carbon homes suggests that whilst sustainable and micro-generation technologies are widely available, it is the current high cost of incorporating these technologies into the home which is going to be the single most important factor preventing the 2016 target to be achieved.
The economic assessment of the financial implications of introducing the 2016 commitment also contradicts the Labour Governments goal of building an additional 20 million homes by the year 2020. In an earlier chapter of the dissertation, reference was made to the “Barker report” commissioned by Prime Minister Gordon Brown to report on the need to increase the supply of homes due to a desperate shortage of housing in the UK. From an assessment of the zero carbon homes agenda it is quite apparent that it would need a brave administration to convert the zero carbon homes policy into legislation as the need to increase the supply in housing is not going to be addressed by forcing the building industry to produce homes which cost significantly more than homes that meet the baseline standards of the building regulations.
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