It is estimated that homes currently produce 27% of the UK's 40 million tonnes of annual carbon dioxide emissions. This makes home energy saving one of the most important areas for the government to direct their efforts towards if they are to meet their target of cutting greenhouses gases by 60% before 2050.
On the 7th February Communities and Local Government Secretary Ruth Kelly announced details of a new international "Carbon Challenge" in which they invited house-builders to design and build flagship zero-carbon and low carbon communities. The aim is to encourage house builders to implement good building practices and show them that it is realistic and achievable for them to meet the Government's target for all new builds to be zero-carbon by 2016.
It also seeks to meet rising demand from the the UK public for more environmentally friendly homes which offer them reduced bills, and furthermore shows them that this can be done at an affordable price.
Housing minister Yvette Cooper said: "We need more homes, but we need to build them at higher standards. The purpose of the challenge is to show that the new technologies work and that they can be used in an affordable way. We want to see more affordable homes. It's no good if only the rich can afford to be zero-carbon."
The Code for Sustainable Homes
The Carbon Challenge will be run by the national regeneration agency English Partnerships, and follows a number of other measures introduced by the government which has aimed to encourage sustainable building over the past twelve months.
The first ever planning policy on climate change was released in April 2007 and builds on the Chancellor's announcement in the Pre-Budget Report that in the future most new zero carbon homes will be exempt from stamp duty.
Late last year the Government also launched the Code for Sustainable Homes, classifying homes on a level from 1 -6. The level will be based on an assessment of various factors including energy use, water, waste disposal, pollution and ecology and only truly carbon zero homes will be awarded 6 stars. Although the exact definition of a level 6 home is yet to be confirmed, English Partnerships said that zero carbon means that the amount of energy used is less than or equal to the amount put back through renewable technologies.
The Carbon Challenge
The Carbon Challenge stipulates that each development will need to achieve Level 5 of the Code for Sustainable Homes alongside innovative design and environmental performance. The Carbon Challenge is all encompassing and also requires consideration of the supply chain and use of products for the development of the eco-villages while ensuring standards and benchmarks are still adhered to (such as the Quality & Price Standards).
Building designs are expected to address water usage, waste reduction and air quality and renewable technologies including combined heat and power, ground source heat pumps and solar and wind energy will be the key features of the new carbon zero home.
The first two projects in Peterborough and Bristol have already been set in motion with many major contractors bidding for the work. Many firms are keen to show that they are committed to sustainable building and there have already been a substantial amount of enquiries from both national and local suppliers for both these projects.
The Construction Centre, an online directory providing information on building product manufacturers and suppliers announced their support of the Carbon Challenge eco-villages and have added a renewable energy section to their website.
Richard Simmons, Managing Director of The Construction Centre said "The Carbon Challenge will provide over a thousand homes and due to the nature of zero carbon requirements, alternative building solutions will need to be sought and renewable technology incorporated. The Construction Centre is a central online location for finding sustainable and renewable products and suppliers and is the only specialist resource which any contractor, architect or specifier should need to use"
For more information visit www.theconstructioncentre.co.uk/browse/renewable-energy.html
The Future of Zero-Carbon Homes
The small scale developments are the first step in Gordon Browns future plan for five "eco-villages" and since the launch of the Carbon Challenge English Partnerships have been looking to identify potential brownfield sites which could be redeveloped to make way for up to 100,000 zero-carbon homes.
A second, even larger site near Peterborough has already been selected and twenty one local authorities have also expressed an interest in hosting the remaining eco-villages.
For further information on renewable energy and the Carbon Challenge please visit: