Yesterday evening, The Building Centre hosted the 4th in the series, Energy Conversations: Zero Carbon…a goal too far?
I was eager to hear what some of those at the forefront of sustainable building would have to say about the progress being made towards zero carbon homes. From the 2006 government consultation document Building A Greener Future: Towards Zero Carbon Development to the target of zero carbon new homes by 2016 . We are now halfway there so where are we at?
Alasdair Young, head of the London Sustainability team at Buro Happold chaired the evening. He gave a brief introduction to each of the guest speakers. Neil Jefferson of Zero Carbon Hub was the first speaker to take the podium. He focussed on new homes since 2008. He commented that Building Regulations were non negotiable but that code 6 for Sustainable Homes wasn’t the same as a zero carbon home and therefore the definition of such should be better defined.
Jonathan Hines pioneering Architect for Architype agreed that the specification for zero carbon homes should be redefined. He thought that zero carbon and renewables should be kept completely separate and that renewables should not be used to offset carbon emissions.He is not a micro renewables advocate as he believes their poor performance does not justify their cost. He concluded that we should design buildings which require less energy.
In contrast Marco Marijewycz of Eon, champions micro renewables having formerly been Chairman of Micropower, Europe’s Strategy Group and has been part of a number of influencing campaigns including helping to raise the profile of microgeneration technologies in the eyes of the European Commission. It was Marco’s opinion that our biggest challenge was our increasing population which would lead to increased carbon emissions. We need to future proof new homes and make zero carbon homes affordable.
Allan Thompson Managing Director of Gentoo Construction had a very optimistic outlook. Implying that from his experience sustainable homes were becoming more affordable. His company has been involved in a programme to deliver 3,500 homes to various levels of the Code for Sustainable Homes, including a 28 unit PassivHaus development. The additional costs in building a sustainable home to code 6 has been estimated to be 40k. Gentoo has achieved code 6 for an extra 38K per home and Allan is confident that he can reduce this cost in six months even further to 26k. Allan believes that the construction industry needs to try harder and that costs can be cut without compromising energy and emission savings.
A very enjoyable evening! So whether or not we’re on target for achieving zero carbon new homes by 2016 may still be open for debate but at least we are trying and if we just try a little harder we may just get there!