When I was contributing to the 2008 Definition of Zero Carbon Homes Consultation while working at DCLG, 2016 seemed like it was a long way away. Would housing really be that different? 2016 was supposed to be the year that it all happened. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 2016 didn’t quite pan out as was hoped. It is probably fair to say that 2016 didn’t pan out as anyone expected!
With 2016 looking set to be the warmest in history, it isn’t that we have solved climate change or that carbon from new homes is no longer an issue. With nearly 25% of new homes failing to EPC band A or B, it most certainly is a problem. But it’s not all bad, London at least still continues to be a global leader, going ahead with the introduction of its own Zero Carbon Homes standard. This is progress, but due to the way the system works, it is unlikely from a householder perspective that their home will actually be Zero Carbon.
The ratification of the Paris Climate agreement, by China, the US and latterly by other nations (including the UK) did really help to brighten the year up – how it will be realised is the key. But maybe the “red white and blue Brexit” needs to be held together with some green thread. [pullquote]But maybe the “red white and blue Brexit” needs to be held together with some green thread.[/pullquote]
The debate continues, and with the election of Donald Trump to be US President next year, it is likely to continue…with vigour.
If 2016 wasn’t the year of Zero Carbon maybe it was the year of Health and Wellbeing? With Air Pollution being a key battleground for the London Mayor election and remaining of key importance around the extension of Heathrow. The WELL standard is now regularly spoken about and UKGBC and partners wrote the (very useful) Healthy Homes Report. Everyone also now seems to be an expert on indoor air quality and overheating. It is the era of the “selfie” so perhaps it isn’t a surprise that we are more concerned with our health, rather than that of future generations.
Talking of surprises… the polls got it wrong, not just once but twice! With a widening gulf between rich and poor, wage stagnation and housing shortages is it really a surprise that given the chance, people voted for the anti-establishment? It is a good time to start reassessing what is financially fair. It has long been thought that homes built to more energy efficient standards should be more financially viable. With UKGBC and Energy Saving Trust, BRE is currently in the midst of a project looking at how mortgages could be fairer for more efficient homes. We are also working with various banks and investor groups to help release investment into high performing homes. Meanwhile our partners at Sustainable Homes released a report into how homes built to higher standards cost landlords less in rent arrears and voids.
In its first year, Home Quality Mark really started to gain traction with 4000 homes registered by the end of the summer rising to 11000 by the end of the year. With over 140 assessors trained by the BRE Academy the knowledge is certainly getting out there. We have had some great PR, along with surveys of the general public and shows such as Grand Designs which have really got the message out. In parallel with raising the profile to the general public, we have had great events such as EcoBuild Build4Quality and Inside Government events and many more. The tools that help to assess the homes have continued to improve (more work on this next year). Oh and we even won a Green Apple award.
Maybe it was me, but 2016 was busy (especially being a new dad!) with great progress made, it was surprising in politics, and sad with the passing of so many great musicians, but perhaps much of the time it was difficult to tell if a news article was a Daily Mash or a Guardian one.