This year’s AECB (Association for Environment Conscious Building) Conference was titled, “Fixing the housing market by delivering better homes for customers and the planet”. It was an interesting day with plenty of ideas and announcements such as the new AECB expert advisor panel, new low energy building database and AECB silver standard becoming the AECB building standard. Shelter’s Toby Lloyd discussed how the housing crisis is a direct result of the UK’s building process and how socially driven schemes such as the Duchy’s Newquay development (http://duchyofcornwall.org/newquay.html) and Bister’s self-build scheme (https://gravenhill.co.uk/) are leading the way in reversing this.
There were many calls for buildings to have a home quality mark or kite mark type quality assurance badge to unify the construction industry following the demise of Code for sustainable homes and provide consumers with some protection to ensure thermal comfort, no damp, no drafts, lower running costs and easier maintenance. Currently, the only standards that provide full quality assurance are the Passivhaus (PHI Low energy building, PH Classic, PH Plus and PH Premium). These standards also guarantee thermal comfort, no damp, no drafts, comfortable home, lower running costs and are often easier to maintain so perhaps this approach should be adopted more widely? Many of the speakers spoke about how consumers don’t necessarily want energy efficiency and how consumers won’t necessarily pay more for a higher SAP rating- perhaps this is a good indicator that SAP isn’t fit for purpose? SAP is a great way of benchmarking carbon emissions and doesn’t necessarily correlate to specific running costs so perhaps a more robust method of calculating energy demand/running costs could be what’s needed to guide consumers?
The event also discussed retrofit properties and how upgrading existing properties should be approached. Energiesprong’s four step approach to retrofit as part of Transition Zero is widely used in the Netherlands and has just been implemented in Nottingham. David Tetlow’s historical and technical analysis of Nottingham’s existing housing stock proves that retrofit is possible at scale by looking a specific house types and common differences to standardise the approach to make it quicker and cheaper.
Bevan Jones from Sustainable Homes discussed how there was a lack of joined up policies for flooding, housing, infrastructure, energy and climate (Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England have separate policies for each), and his suggestion was all new building should have a minimum SAP rating of 86. Chris Gorse, from Leeds Beckett University, discussed how cold homes lead to 9,000 deaths per year leading him to propose an even a more basic standard: all new homes should be up to a standard that you can survive in if you didn’t heat them. His personal account of how we only start to worry when thing go bad was a reminder of the impacts of our decisions and how we all need to do our bit to push for a cleaner, sustainable, safer environment.
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