Zero Carbon Upgrade Costs Falling- But Are we Losing Out?

The cost of upgrading homes to meet current zero carbon standards has fallen by more than half since 2011, but could slipping standards be the key cause?

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The cost of upgrading homes to meet current “Zero Carbon” standards has fallen by more than half since 2011. But the Solar Trade Association (STA) has accused the government of bringing costs down by “watering down” the standards to which Zero Carbon houses must adhere to.

Figures published by Zero Carbon Hub have shown that the cost of building a “zero carbon” certified semi-detached home has fallen by 57% since 2011.

The figures also show that upgrading an older home to today’s building standards, which require higher levels of energy efficiency, would cost even less, at just £4100-£4700 for a semi-detached house, and £2200-£2400 for flats.

Reasons behind the fall in costs of updating homes are currently being disputed. White Jo Wheeler, senior policy advisor of the UK Green Building Council claims that the “industry has stepped up and figured out how to bring costs down”, others in the industry are more critical of the situation.

The STA, who view falling costs as a result of the weakening of zero carbon standards, are currently questioning why local government secretary Eric Pickles feels the need to make such changes with so much at stake, when energy efficiency improvements to homes can be paid for within 10 years.

Last year, zero carbon regulations were updated, leading to a 6% carbon reduction target for new homes, and a 9% cut for non domestic buildings, in comparison to figures in 2010.

But the STA warns that changes like these lead to a reduction in the use of renewable energy technology in new builds- a measure which they believe really needs to be on the increase. Instead, costs are falling by allowing carbon targets to be met through the use of carbon offsetting, rather than adding energy efficiency measures directly to new buildings. The STA are calling for renewable energy to become mandatory in new, zero carbon builds, in a measure known as the “Merton Rule”, however, there have already been talks of this being scrapped in 2016.

Paul Barwell, the STA’s chief executive warns of the lost jobs, increased emissions and higher energy bills which would result from this decision, and believes: “For a relatively modest outlay at the construction stage we would be foolish not to build modern solar technology into new homes to ensure very low energy bills.” He believes that the Department for Communities and Local Government has missed out on these opportunities by introducing its current building standards, and it is up to local authorities to ensure solar and other renewable technologies are built into new housing and commercial buildings.

Image sourced: SandTDesign

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