Reason for announcing by government to be all new housing zero carbon by 2016

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Introduction 850 words

This theoretical comprehensive study journal explores the government's announcement that all new-build homes will be zero carbon from 2016, paying particular attention to factors establishing why the government has developed such a programme and how it intends to follow up this commitment.

Sustainable development can be defined as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (Brundtland, G, 1987).

Lectures and further reading upon sustainable development have inspired the author to pursue an area of interest within this topic. The choice of researching and gaining a greater understanding of specifically 'zero carbon' homes was mainly due to the target date of the programme (2016) being so close to present and the leap in development it will hopefully support across all new UK housing.

At present, there is an expanding process of changes that are acting as key drivers and providing impetus for the deliverance of truly sustainable development. These changes can be broken down into three generic concepts: Economical, Social and Environmental (Myers, D. 2008).

For the purpose of this study, the author has decided to pay attention to the environmental factors associated with zero carbon housing whilst also highlighting inter-relating economic and social factors that are of relevance to the research aim and objectives. This strategy will ultimately underline the basis as to the carbon emissions of housing and their effects as to which have required the government intervention with legislation and agenda control.

"Climate change is set to have a more profound effect on the human race than any other global phenomenon" (Terwiesch, P. 2009).

The main cause of climate change is the emission of greenhouse gases, notably carbon dioxide (McMullan, R. 2002). Energy use in buildings shares a large portion (almost half) of the overall carbon dioxide emissions count in the UK. In 2008, an estimated 27 per cent of the UK's carbon dioxide emissions of this were accounted for as energy that we use to heat, light and operate our homes (DCLG 2008). More up-to-date contemporary calculations put this digit even higher (Boardman, B. 2007). If this figure was wholly eradicated, it would roughly have the same effect on the environment as would taking every car off the road (Fickling, D. 2009).

Although there are still many uncertainties about the eventual impacts of climate change, there is a considerable amount of scientific evidence showing that climate change is a serious and immediate issue (DCLG 2007). This evidence has put across a strong and clear message to policy-makers that there is a pressing need for urgent action.

Due to the sheer contribution to the overall emissions count, this can only stress the importance of addressing our development of housing to that of a truly sustainable level (Rt Hon Healer, J. MP, 2009).

Signifying the development of houses in a way that minimises the use of energy and emissions has subsequently accentuated (Riley, M. & Cotgrave, A. 2008). The factors associated with these high levels are increasingly being made aware through added education and further publicity to the construction industry (Layard, A. et al, 2001). Further to this increased awareness, the government are acting to ensure that there is a national growing commitment to deduce levels of carbon emissions in homes, zero carbon by 2016 notably the key driver for such improvement (DCLG, 2008).

The UK has always been relatively active in committing itself to energy and emissions reductions in the past - notably in 2002, with the introduction of the world's first greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme (AEA/IEA 2007 cited in FT, 2009 p.3).

Also, it made a binding commitment to reduce emissions by at least 34 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050, compared with levels in 1990 (Miliband, E. 2009). This was made in agreement with international governments at the Kyoto Protocol (1997), which set binding targets for reducing greenhouse gases (UNFCCC 2009b).

The environmental performance of housing in the UK has brought about a lot of attention over the past decade and the future intention of zero carbon housing by 2016 seeks drastic improvements as the housing stock currently makes up approximately 30 per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions. The introduction of directives like zero carbon 2016 provide for a framework that can support necessary or aspired-to changes in the way houses are constructed or designed to meet environmental demands, paying particular attention to curtailing carbon emissions. If the zero carbon 2016 programme is to be achievable, "an environmentally sustainable approach must be taken to the design, construction and occupation of houses" (Riley, M. & Cotgrave, A. 2008).

Official government targets are correspondingly inflexible in response; the DCLG announced that "the government proposes to achieve their zero carbon goal in three steps: firstly, in 2010 to a 25 per cent improvement in the energy/carbon performance set in Building Regulations; second, in 2013, to a 44 per cent improvement; then finally in 2016, to zero carbon" (DCLG, 2007 p.5).

The extent to which the factors attributed to the environment will determine the future development of housing and the extent that the programme is implemented (CIBSE 2007). More specifically; the levels of carbon emissions from UK housing have supported the need for this government induced programme that will seek to change the way development is carried out and ultimately shape the future of zero carbon housing.

As we draw nearer to 2016, it seems sensible to explore the most pertinent aspects of the zero carbon housing strategy.

Is the strategy flawless in the governments attempt to cut carbon emissions in homes, or does it have too many insufficiencies to resolve the problems we face?

To answer such questions, this research study provides an appraisal of the zero carbon homes 2016 programme.

Aims and objectives 250 words

In order to explore the government's initiatives behind the zero carbon housing proposal and the recompense they hope to acquire through this, the main aim of this research paper is to:

* Discuss why the government has announced all new housing to be zero carbon by 2016 and how it intends to implement this.

This aim will be met through the following objectives:

* Identify issues surrounding carbon emissions to establish a need for zero carbon homes by 2016.

* Explain and define zero carbon homes.

* Analyse the importance of specifically housing's carbon emissions reductions and the government's agenda on this.

* Evaluate the feasibility of zero carbon housing by 2016.

Zero carbon housing by 2016 is without question a very large planning concept that will play a major role in future housing construction. Various documents including legislation (building regulations), planning policy statements and consultations have been published over the past few years to inform those of whom it will immediately concern and to those of particular interest e.g. the author and end-reader. However, optionally accessed government-led publications do little for the majority of end-users of this future concept and therefore a clear and concise study like this is necessary to provide understanding and give reason to the public.

Methodology 800 words

"You can never empirically or logically determine the best approach" (Arbnor and Bjerke 1997 p.5). However, once the selection of zero carbon homes had been made, the framework for which research would then follow was devised through the author's aims and objectives. This in turn stipulated what was required in order for a 'best approach' to be formed to achieve the purpose of the research paper.

To meet the aim and objectives of this study, research was obtained entirely through secondary sources (deskwork) and no primary sources (fieldwork) were used as a means of research.

Both qualitative and quantitative data was collected as empirical research to enhance the meaning of the study within a wider context.

In order to provide rationalised interpretations behind the methods of research primed, their individual statements of meaning need to be reviewed.

Fieldwork gathers primary data. Primary data is information that doesn't already exist and is often collected for a specific purpose. The collation of primary data for this research study could have been through surveys (face-to-face, telephonic or postal), direct observation of a pier group or an assembly/panel of experts that would have been able to discuss the issue and provide a consensus view (Hallam, G. & Reed, K. 2004).

Due to the lack of availability of professionals that currently work or are due to work with the zero carbon programme 2016, the dependency on using this method was too great to justify considering the wealth of secondary sources available.

"Deskwork uses secondary data which has been gathered by someone else or by another organisation" (Hallam, G. & Reed, K. 2005 p. 6).

Due to the specific nature of the research paper, the use of secondary data analysis has been implemented as a means of providing information from that of an existing data set (Oakley, A. 1999, in Blaxter, 2001, p.60). Such collation of primary data would have not been realistically feasible or suitable for the studies aims and objectives due to the difficulty in collecting the data, the time consummation within this and the added cost to which would prove too expensive comparable to the results relatively foreseen.

This has allowed the author to focus attention towards the analysis and interpretation of the concept area through readily available national and local government publications, with acquiesce towards recent texts that have been published topics on zero carbon housing and related material (Blaxter, L. et al, 2001).

"Quantitative research is empirical research where the data are in the form of numbers. Qualitative research is empirical research where the data are not in the form of numbers" (Punch, M. 1998, p.4).

A majority of the sources researched provided a combination of quantitative and qualitative data. Government publications such as the 'Building a greener future: policy statement' (2007) featured prominent figures of which were then qualified into a narration e.g. figures taken from the CO2 household emissions count (2005) were then given detail from a qualitative consideration as to the 'importance of housing in delivering real emissions reductions' (DCLG, 2007, p.8).

Likewise was discovered in 'Table 1: Proposed carbon improvements over time' in the policy statement, where the future target carbon improvements (as discussed in the introduction), were configured into table format to decipher the tedium of written context (DCLG, 2007, p.11).

Nominal amounts of research undertaken produced wholly quantitative data or vice versa, instead the "qualitative data offered more detail about the subject under consideration, while quantitative data appeared to provide more precision, but both gave only a partial description" (Blaxter, L. et al, 2001).

Although the research area has not been fully put into practice as of yet and there are fairly lenient introductory processes towards its adoption at present, the capacity to which could change development in the UK housing market has brought much widespread debate and publicity; hence the availability of secondary data sources such as government surveys, legislative and policy documents, consultations and international organisations documentation. The potential flaws of having used this type of research are that the data sources used are mostly subject to peer review and the reliability of their own sources needs to bared in mind when critically analysing as personal bias and written context of the source can hinder its validity. These types of subtleties can either promote or diminish the credibility of generalisations; this is sometimes known as the 'observer' effect (Mann, C. & Stewart F. 2000).

Although this research purely focuses on the governments initiatives towards zero carbon housing, the widely implemented 'sustainable development' agenda across the board has brought many other studies and journals to suggest its benefits and forecasts its future successes as a government plan. This helped the author to develop an extensive perception of the inter-related issues that surround the research study e.g. climate change, housing development, government policy etc.

The availability of textbooks primarily concerned with the zero carbon 2016 programme is very limited and only subtle batches of information could be applied as purposeful for the study, hence the author made comprehensive use of substituted material to scope the paper.

However, it must be borne in mind that the resources covered are subject to constant scrutiny and re-examination due to the fast-paced classification of the research domain; so there is no guarantee that what is relevant at present, can be applied in a similar context in the future.

Some of the Government induced publications such as the DCLG policy statement (2008), only emphasise and sometimes reiterate the extent to which the proposed programme will provide positively to the majority of end-users and those of whom are particularly concerned with the plans. They do not bear in mind any immediate or future negativity that its implementation might bring. It was therefore a requirement that a more holistic approach was taken when researching and that critical analysis was then used to narrow the sources relevance and provide a sound platform to which the aim and objectives could be met.

Results and Discussion 3200 words

The need for a programme by 2016

Over the past decade, the political debate over climate change and carbon emissions has dispersed into the ventures of public priority and has received due attention as a result.

The substantial amount of allegations from scientists worldwide declaring the phenomenon of global warming as a result of direct CO2 emissions has echoed through the UK's parliamentary policies regarding development of domestic housing.

Zero Carbon by 2016 is one of the 'gears' for putting the wheels in motion as part of a national action to slowing the perceived growth rate of CO2 emissions and then to eventually reverse its effects.

The energy use in domestic and non-domestic buildings contributes to being the second largest CO2 emissions count in the UK (just behind transport vehicles); of the overall count, over a quarter of this is emitted from domestic housing.

With comparison to other key emanates, it could be argued that "housing alone is the most significant and yet the most open for manipulation" (____) when it comes to manufacturing alleviations in CO2 emissions. Whether this come through new heating and lighting technologies or changing the way housing residents live with existing technologies is yet to progress before 2016. What is clear, is that more energy efficient components that make up new-build housing is required in order to produce at a cost realistically attainable for the end-purchaser.

The population of the UK is growing at a rate that is inimical to the density of our nation. Already, the signs that more people are now seeking residence in smaller properties has forecast projections of increased demand for housing; the latest statistics from DCLG anticipate the "number of households will grow by 223,000 each year until 2026"(___). This supply is still greatly outweighed by the demand and therefore the government announced in 2007 that they had set a target to "increase housing supply 240,000 new houses per annum by 2016" (___).

Stricter action is necessary not only in the energy efficiency of existing homes, but in the new housing that the government proposes to endorse. It is for that fundamental reason that this new format of housing in the UK is as sustainable and eco-friendly as practical in order for the zero carbon target to be met.

Simple aspirations need to be cooperated not only on a fringe basis to satisfy the needs of the immediate consumer, but to be the very core for future housing development in the UK.

With regards to the pressing need for urgent action towards CO2 emissions reductions, one of the most recognisable and marketed view-points is that of Sir Nicholas Stern's, published in 2006. Within his review, he covers various issues connected with tackling climate change and the absolute requirement of global efforts to deduce man-made carbon production (Stern, N. 2006, cited in Hewitt, M. & Telfer, K. 2007).

He suggests that the effects of climate change are so great, it could shrink the global economy by between 5-20 per cent by 2050 (DCLG, 2007b).

"Any serious attempt to tackle climate change must deal with bricks and mortar" (Fickling, D. 2009).

In the UK, the reality of our home energy use evolves around people's lack of knowledge or in some cases respect in relation to their carbon 'foot-print', the contemporary use of efficiency-quashing items such as air-conditioning fail the modern adaptations of natural prudent CO2 emission-friendly resources of which are in eager acquirement to fundamentally produce projects like zero carbon housing by 2016.

As part of the housing targets set by the government, the link between construction and carbon emissions must be sympathetic to the entire sustainable agenda when dealing with "energy needs for space heating, ventilation and lighting that form such a large part of the buildings carbon footprint" (____).

The extent to which zero carbon housing can influence carbon emissions reductions is technically unaccountable without extraordinary evidence proving so. Its scientific prevention of potential disaster under the phenomenon of climate change appears greatly to protect the people of the future. However, the flaws in providing zero carbon housing as a remedial solution to the UK population by 2016 provide a case to the inefficiencies of existing sets of homes. Using a zero carbon home as a model of inspiration to other households nationwide protrudes a fundamental argument as to the competence of previous innovations that have been developed to overcome a similar challenge.

It is unlikely that zero carbon 2016 will be the final programme to be initiated to support widespread CO2 reductions in new-build housing, the questions the life-span of it and how long will houses continue to be built to such standard before a newer revision replaces it.

Interpreting a zero carbon home

New housing developments are progressively the subject of targets to reduce their CO2 emissions. This has always been known as 'low carbon' development (Layard, A. et al 2001). However, since the Rt Hon Ruth Kelly MP, the secretary of state, proposed that all new build homes are to be 'zero carbon' by 2016 (Kelly, R. 2006); there is an ongoing passionate and highly technical debate as to what 'zero carbon' actually means (Fickling, D. 2009).

Zero carbon development will be the most demanding target likely to be applied to new developments in the near future due to the complexities and high-costs of implementing such project (CIBSE 2007).

DCLG 2007, provides a simple summarised definition of what zero carbon means: "over a year, the net carbon emissions from all energy use in the home would be zero" (DCLG, 2007 p.5). This facile interpretation however, has raised issues concerning the coverage of its content.

CIBSE Guide L (2007), goes further by saying zero carbon housing:

"...allows energy use on site giving rise to CO2 emissions as long as this is balanced by the export of energy that abates an equivalent quantity of also allows low or zero carbon energy to be imported, subject to rules on 'additionality' (to prevent the target being achieved by simply sequestering the CO2 emissions savings from existing off-site renewable generating capacity" (GLA/LEP 2006, cited in CIBSE Guide L 2007, p.9).

Following question 10. in Annex A of the consultation questions raised at the DCLG 'Building a Greener Future: Towards Zero Carbon Development' consultation that took place in December 2006 (DCLG, 2006), the governments 'Building a Greener Future: Policy Statement' provided a more explanatory definition of what a zero carbon home means (see Figure 1) (DCLG, 2007, cited in 'Box 1' DCLG, 2008).

Added to this definition, the latest consultation, DCLG 2008 suggests that the way in which homes are built need to be addressed to tackle remaining emissions and meet the zero carbon homes standard (DCLG 2008).

The motion for cutting carbon emissions prescribes the use of off-site manufacturing systems, on-site energy supplies and renewable or low-carbon heat sources as means of maximising and utilising energy efficiency in homes (DCLG 2008).

(Adapted from DCLG, 2007, cited in DCLG 2008).

This means that for every fiscal year, there will be no net carbon emissions emanating from the functioning of the residence. Therefore, any residences that would have required their own micro generation proficiency in order to reach zero carbon status, would no longer need such improvisers due to design level measures configuring the emissions count to zero (DCLG, 2006, cited in Hewitt, M. & Telfer, K. 2007).

The terms discussed are far from universally agreed (Hewitt, M. & Telfer, K. 2007) but with further consultations due to occur as 2016 draws nearer, the government, developers, architects and other construction professionals alike are optimistic that a comprehensive definition can be harmonised to prevent future confusion.

The Rationale for Government Intervention

A majority of international governments attended the United Nations conference on climate change in Copenhagen with the best endeavours to secure a fair and realistic deal on cutting greenhouse gas emissions (Harvey, F. 2009). However, certain units of the agreements had to be re-negotiated with other participants and certain pledges weren't backed up with actions. The speculation before the conference provided reassurance of a deal to be made but since its occurrence, this assurance has been lost. Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC said "the fact that Copenhagen did not deliver the full agreement the world needs to address climate change...just makes the task more urgent" (Yvo de Boer, 2010).

However, all has not been lost, and the discussions made at the conference have updated the international government's cognition on climate change and improved a more cohesive alliance between nations of which will enable resumption of talks to take place at a later date.

Part of the UK governments

As well as the newly created planning policies moulded to the sustainable agenda of parliament, the Government is pursuing various other courses of action that will provide a wide adapted framework to support not only the zero carbon 2016 programme, but to also promote sustainable construction in a sustainable environment as a benchmark for the future of the industry (Riley, M. & Cotgrave, A. 2008).

Of these courses of action; the most readily applicable include the 'Code for Sustainable Homes' (CfSH) and amendments to 'Building Regulations: Part L' (BR's: Part L).

The CfSH was devised in 2007 as an environmental performance assessment tool for all new-build homes in the UK. Its purpose is to openly set standards for amendments that can be made within the home itself as well as clarifying energy standards that are likely to be found in a majority of dwellings.

New residential developments are assessed at design and post-construction stages

REDUCING CO2 EMISSIONS page 104 sinn,c &perry,j

The viability of zero carbon housing by 2016

Replace this text with a discussion of the information you have found. This will include the relevant academic and professional literature.

Replace this text with your own discussion of what your results mean. For example, how can one case be related to the wider world? How important is this issue?

Conclusion 750 words

Replace this text with your own conclusions. Remember that these must clearly come from your own information and analysis: they must not simply appear out of thin air!

If appropriate - and it is not compulsory - you can extend your conclusions with some recommendations for improving practice.

It is also common, especially for the best research publications, to finish with two short sections: one is a critical reflection on how this study went, for example how it could have been improved; and finally what other things does it suggest for future investigation. Knowing what you have just shown us, what might come next?


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