CCC report notes that UK homes are "unfit for the challenges of climate change." The message in it is universal.
A new report from the UK Committee on Climate Change, which advised the government on reducing greenhouse emissions and preparing for climate change, has some things to say about the state of the British housing industry. Most significantly, it calls it unfit and government policies unready. It starts with a litany of woe that could apply to almost any country:
They are calling for all new homes to be "low-carbon, energy and water efficient, and climate resilient," and from 2025, no new home should be connected to the gas grid. "Heat decarbonization", combined with energy efficiency measures, should eventually eliminate the need for burning fossil fuels for heating homes and hot water.
The technology and knowledge to create high quality, low-carbon and resilient homes exists, but current policies and standards are failing to drive either the scale or the pace of change needed. Home insulation installations have stalled; key policies, like the ‘zero carbon homes’ scheme, have been weakened or withdrawn; policies to encourage property-level flood protection, water efficiency devices and window shading are weak or non-existent; UK building standards are inadequate, overly complex and not enforced; and local authorities, faced with insufficient resources, are largely failing to address the need for low-emission, climate change resilient homes.
The evidence indicates that low-carbon heat is now cost-effective in all new build homes by 2025 or earlier. On this basis, no new homes should connect to the gas grid from 2025 at the latest. Instead, new homes should make use of low-carbon heating systems such as heat pumps and low-carbon heat networks.
The UK's 29 million existing homes will need to be upgraded with more insulation, but also converted from gas to heat pumps or district heating networks. It's not just keeping warm that is a problem; 20 percent of British houses are currently overheating, even in cool summers. "Upgrades and repairs to existing homes should include plans for shading and ventilation, measures to reduce indoor moisture, improved air quality and water efficiency and, in homes at risk of flooding, property-level flood protection."
There appears to be a bias toward single-family housing, even though it uses more materials and requires more heating and cooling and more land. They do understand the importance of transportation:
New developments should enable sustainable travel, which should be a primary consideration from the beginning of the planning process. This includes planning neighbourhoods around infrastructure to encourage walking, cycling, the use of public transport and electric vehicles.
The report notes that district heating needs "a certain density of heat demand in order to be economic" and that low density development "can be prohibitively expensive to service with public transport."
But then they suggest that "when located near high capacity, frequent public transport, such as rail, light rail, trams or bus rapid transit, housing should be higher density, in order to make the best use of the infrastructure." This gets it backwards. Housing should be built at higher density in the first place so that it can support public transport and the building of those light rail lines and trams.
But other than that minor caveat, the lessons of this report are almost universal: Governments are doing far too little regulating of emissions, standards are far too low, the industry is building crappy housing, and we are running out of time to fix this.