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Zero Carbon Homes Officially Dead


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#1 jsharris

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Posted 11 July 2015 - 10:08 AM

The Treasury have just announced the inevitable, that the zero carbon homes initiative is dead. Anyone with any sense could see that the target was going to be missed by a million miles, so to save embarrassment next year over another missed target they've binned it, much as they did with CfSH.

It's barking mad, but realistically they were never going to get close after they watered down last years supposed "upgrade" to Part L1A requirements, so allowed new houses to be build minus reasonable levels of insulation and with poor airtightness.

I sort of feel sorry for all those who'd pinned their hopes on a career as an energy assessor/zero carbon adviser. Sorry folks, but it looks like you've just lot a whole lot of future work.

#2 temp

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Posted 11 July 2015 - 04:11 PM

I always thought it was daft requiring some new houses to be zero carbon while others weren't. They should just tighten up the building regs.

Some reports in the paper say that the builders were glad of this change because it would save buyers £2500. That little?

#3 ProDave

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Posted 11 July 2015 - 04:28 PM

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It might "save" buyers £2500 initially but will cost them more in the long run with extra heating costs.

But that's a dubious figure anyway. The selling price of a new house is set by market conditions, so it's more true to say "the builders will make £2500 more profit by skimping on insulation and detail" and the house will sell for the same price with less insulation.

Edited by ProDave, 11 July 2015 - 08:50 PM.


#4 tonyshouse

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Posted 11 July 2015 - 08:41 PM

I never liked using carbon as a measuring technique as the definition of zero carbon was seriously flawed. (It may well never have been defined)

Hopefully we can start talking sensibly about reducing energy use, which is what we needed to do all along.

#5 ProDave

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Posted 11 July 2015 - 08:51 PM

I agree. "Zero Energy" would be a MUCH better term and a lot easier to actually measure and quantify.

#6 SteamyTea

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Posted 11 July 2015 - 09:09 PM

Zero Energy would mean you can't boil a kettle.
Do you mean Zero Imported Energy?

In some ways it is a good thing, get rid of a layer or two of paperwork and keeps the dodgy or badly installed technology out of places.

I personally think that we should just set an energy limit based on the number of rooms. This will not penalise small places so much. Small houses are very hard to get a low kWh.m-2.y-1 figure.

#7 ProDave

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Posted 11 July 2015 - 09:38 PM

Zero energy as in produces as much energy in a year as is uses. Like Jeremy's new house.

#8 NSS

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Posted 11 July 2015 - 10:58 PM

Energy neutral would perhaps be a more apt description and one more likely to be understood by Joe Public home buyers.

#9 ferdinand

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Posted 12 July 2015 - 07:09 AM

View PostProDave, on 11 July 2015 - 04:28 PM, said:

It might "save" buyers £2500 initially but will cost them more in the long run with extra heating costs.

But that's a dubious figure anyway. The selling price of a new house is set by market conditions, so it's more true to say "the builders will make £2500 more profit by skimping on insulation and detail" and the house will sell for the same price with less insulation.

True.

However, it means that the market price can be competed down further, or more can be added to options etc.

I admit I never took the trouble to get to grips with the Zero Carbon standard - it just seemed to be another bit of fashion chasing green paperwork, which meant little to the world outside the bubble.

So, can I ask, examining the decaying carcass of the once great dead beast before me, was this essentially another term for Code for Sustainable Homes Level 6, which then came to mean Level 5 OR Level 6, when Eric Pickles emasculated it?

I did get to grips with CSH, until I realised that it was a pink elephant. The turning point for me was that developers were required to attempt to control the lives of their customer eg by supplying particular types of appliances to do well, denying the customers the choice, unless they chucked their new appliances away. What if the customer wanted to bring their nearly newones with them? If it doesn't match the potential lifestyles of the customers, then it is wasteful.

Watching a repeat (?) programme recently (Grand Designs or a knockoff) where the self-builder had to supply a 'canteen' for their builders and a bath too small for the body of the self-builder to fit in it tom achieve their CSH Level confirmed it as an import from brain-in-backside politico-consultant land.

A dinosaur is extinct. Good.

It would be an interesting process to have a post mortem as to what drove this, beyond our then Government's love of Grand Gestures and Tractor Production Statistics. (*)

Ferdinand

(*) That comes from Gordon Brown's love of parading in Parliament shouting incomprehensible numbers at people in the hope of distracting attention from what was actually happening. cf that people used to say "but look at how many tractors they make" to defend the Soviet Union. See also Cuba Has The Most Doctors per pop.

Edited by ferdinand, 12 July 2015 - 07:17 AM.


#10 Triassic

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Posted 12 July 2015 - 07:25 AM

The problem is as I see it, large developers have put pressure on Government to do away with the CFSH and zero carbon homes requirements, as it was impeding them in the drive to build more homes. I don't see more homes being built.

These large mass production builders are a bit like Tescos and Asda and the like. What we need is the Aldi and Lidl of builders to come along and shake the housing market up.

Edited by Triassic, 12 July 2015 - 07:26 AM.


#11 tonyshouse

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Posted 12 July 2015 - 07:42 AM

I would like to an energy use standard used in design and which translated into as built requirements of actual let's say steady state energy performance.

There needs to be a "duty of care " and "fit for purpose" case brought against the bid housing providers as almost all homes under perform.

Standards are abismally low and now the ugly monster appears to have gone let's have something beautiful instead.



#12 jsharris

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Posted 12 July 2015 - 07:57 AM

The large developers have a problem in that they are stuck in a loop of their own making. They rely on there being a ready workforce of traditional building trades available at their beck and call. They don't train or employ their workforce directly, they buy in labour as and when required. It's the least risk option for them.

This gives them a skills problem, a big one. Anything that changes the way houses are built means the developers are going to have a struggle more to find builders with the new skills needed, or pay more to employ them, or both. We all know (most from personal experience) that there is a shortage of builders with skills in new methods of construction, airtight building methods, fitting insulation so it has a chance of actually working etc, so there is a market where the higher skilled workers that would be needed for higher building standards aren't readily available and supply and demand pushes the price up for those there are. It may not actually cost any more to build a house to a decent standard, with well-fitted insulation and good airtightness built-in, but the builders with the skills to do this can charge a premium at the moment, so the developers will always opt to go down the low quality route and pay less.

It's an area where market forces are always going to do exactly what we see them doing, driving building standards down to well below building regs levels on new builds. There's nothing to stop this, as the housing market isn't like the market for cars; it isn't driven by what consumers want, it's a strange market where consumers have to accept what ever the builders give them, as they don't have any choice. The exception is the small, and relatively wealthy (compared to younger first time buyers) sector who can afford to have homes custom built, or go down the self-build route. These are only a very, very tiny number of house purchasers, though.

Unless the government are prepared to regulate to a sensible degree, to force developers out of the death-spiral of building ever increasing numbers of rubbish houses, then nothing will change. Where's the incentive for building trade workers to acquire skills in low energy building, using new methods of construction with attention to insulation and airtightness detailing if the major employers, the big developers, aren't looking for workers with their skills but just want to pay the lowest price per day?

Edited by jsharris, 12 July 2015 - 07:58 AM.


#13 SteamyTea

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Posted 12 July 2015 - 08:22 AM

Realistic don't we just need two standards, a minimum overall U-Value and a minimum airtightness figure.

As Ferdinand says, what people put into their own homes and how they live, is really up to them.

#14 Triassic

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Posted 12 July 2015 - 09:14 AM

So where do our building standards sit against the rest of Europe?

#15 stones

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Posted 12 July 2015 - 09:16 AM

View PostSteamyTea, on 12 July 2015 - 08:22 AM, said:

Realistic don't we just need two standards, a minimum overall U-Value and a minimum airtightness figure.

Yes an no. The difficulty as I see it is that even if you get these two basics right, poor specification elsewhere can negate all the benefits. The best example would be % efficiency of ventilation & heat recovery. The difference in heating requirement between 0% efficiency and the best performing MVHR units at 95% efficiency is potentially huge.

#16 jsharris

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Posted 12 July 2015 - 09:36 AM

There's also the problem that the poor building regs energy efficiency standards we already have aren't enforced. Even if they were, our Part L1A, is 60% worse than even Ireland (and Ireland doesn't have very high standards when compared to leading energy efficiency countries elsewhere in Europe).

Around 60% of new builds (according to a building inspector, and I think his estimate is low) don't meet Part L1A at the moment. This is obvious, just walk around any site and you'll see clear examples of poor detailing, missing insulation etc. No one has the bottle to enforce the existing regulations on insulation and airtightness, so what's the point of making them more stringent?

You can come up with all the new standards you like, but if we continue to allow the big house builders to ignore them, then what's the point, we're still going the have the problem of trying to fix high energy consumption homes after they are built for the next 100 years.

Regulation without effective enforcement is just a waste of public money, and a delusional exercise aimed at scoring political points, nothing more. The master of it are the French. They have regulations covering just about anything, yet most are given a stiff ignoring and so are never enforced.

Edited by jsharris, 12 July 2015 - 09:37 AM.


#17 SteamyTea

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Posted 12 July 2015 - 09:51 AM

Yes, enforcing the regs is something that has to be addressed. Something for all those energy assessors to retrain as.

Yes, the quality of kit is important, but that is much more likely to be market driven than the overall thermal and airtighness standards in my opinion. Quite simply, no matter how good the MVHR is, if the house has uncontrolled leakage, it is not going to make much difference.
Almost the same with thermal properties. The one spanner in the works is UFH, this mandates a better floor U-Value. So it may be best to have better element U-Values, but still with a minimum overall U-Value (which is not so different from what we have now).

The easy way to solve all this is to put the price of energy up.

#18 BrianP

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Posted 12 July 2015 - 11:48 AM

Chang.org can make a difference to these politicians. I think a lot of people would sign a well worded petition. Perhaps even stop or at least amend these changes.

https://www.change.org/en-GB

Brian

#19 tonyshouse

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Posted 12 July 2015 - 03:44 PM

Steamy, you ask," Realistic don't we just need two standards, a minimum overall U-Value and a minimum airtightness figure."

The existing air tightness testing is often of the rooms in the house and not of the house inside its insulation barrier. So no, realistically we need standards that are met as intended, and as built, with teeth for both inspection and customer comeback.

Insulation is more than theoretical U values.

Edited by joiner, 12 July 2015 - 05:26 PM.


#20 SteamyTea

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Posted 12 July 2015 - 04:34 PM

Get your point Tony, no good putting mineral wool that is open to the atmosphere.
I would think that would get stopped pretty quick though.

So airtightness and inboard insulation then.