"Warm houses for all" is a great campaign slogan

Labour party rally in Trafalgar Square, 1907
Public Domain Labour party rally in Trafalgar Square, 1907/ wikipedia

Selling energy efficiency is hard, but the UK Labour Party got it right.

For some time on TreeHugger I have wondered, how do you sell the idea of energy efficiency, in particular esoteric concepts like Passivhaus? I have always stressed comfort over things like energy efficiency or carbon emissions. Whoever is writing for the Labour Party gets this, and has come up with the best campaign slogan, for Labour and the whole Passivhaus Movement: Warm houses for all. Rebecca Long Bailey MP, shadow energy secretary, explains:

Warm Homes for All" is one of the greatest investment projects since we rebuilt Britain’s housing after the Second World War. Labour will offer every household in the UK the chance to bring the future into their homes – upgrading the fabric of their homes with insulation and cutting edge heating systems – tackling both climate change and extortionate bills.

Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn sounds a little more like, well, Jeremy Corbyn:

If we don’t radically change course we face the threat of a hostile and dying planet. But Labour will turn that threat into an opportunity. We will tackle the climate crisis by putting wealth in the hands of the many, not the few, with lower bills, more good jobs and better health. By investing on a massive scale, we will usher in a Green Industrial Revolution with good, clean jobs that will transform towns, cities and communities that have been held back and neglected for decades.

There are two main components to the plan:

  • Improving energy efficiency with insulation and double-glazing windows, resulting in 23 percent less energy consumption.
  • Adding low carbon tech like solar PV, solar thermal and heat pumps.

They estimate the cost will be about £250 billion, or an average of £9300 per house. Low income households will get grants; wealthier households will get zero interest loans that will be repaid through savings in energy costs. It's also estimated that it will create a quarter of a million jobs in construction, and another 200,000 jobs across the economy.

Goldsmith Street facades© Tim Crocker via RIBA

Professors Jo Richardson and David Coley, writing in the Conversation, like it a lot. They note that Labour also promises that all new homes built after 2022 will be carbon neutral. They suggest that the Passivhaus standard be the law, but note that architects are not always fans (my emphasis):

Passivhaus only works if the right design decisions are made from day one. If an architect starts by drawing a large window for example, then the energy loss from it might well be so great that any amount of insulation elsewhere can’t offset it. Architects don’t often welcome this intrusion of physics into the world of art. In other industries – high-performance car design for example – the need to work with physics to reduce drag also affords an attractive, low and sleek look.

They also make the point that if we are going to have a revolution in the way we build, we are also going to need to change the way we look at buildings, and the way architects design them. It will not be easy for the Labour government:

It will need to introduce regulation to ensure all homes are brought up to standard and drive a revolution in what architects currently consider acceptable for how houses should look and feel. That’s a tall order – but decarbonising each component of society will take nothing short of a revolution.

"Warm houses for all" is a great slogan for the revolution. It's what everybody deserves and what every architect should design.

"Warm houses for all" is a great campaign slogan
Selling energy efficiency is hard, but the UK Labour Party got it right.

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