UK must refurbish one house a minute until 2050 to cut emissions

by Search Gate staff. Published Mon 18 Oct 2010 15:40
Millions of zero-carbon homes are needed

Transformation of the fabric efficiency of buildings across Europe is necessary to radically reduce energy use and carbon emissions, a conference organised by the University of East Anglia (UEA) will be told.

If action is not taken, rising fuel costs could bring large numbers of families into fuel poverty with more and more vulnerable people unable to afford to keep warm in winter. The scale of the task is huge. The low-carbon refurbishment of over 20 million existing homes by 2050 in the UK may cost £500 billion at the rate of £250 million each week - with one house needing to be refurbished every single minute.

The Build with CaRe conference taking place in Norwich from October 20-22nd will bring together internationally-recognised experts to discuss new approaches and innovation. The conference is organised by UEA along with its partners in the East of England, West Suffolk College and Southend-on-Sea Borough Council.

Build with CaRe is an international project with the ambition to help mainstream low-energy construction in the North Sea region and across the EU.

Millions of zero-carbon new homes are also needed. Each member state across the EU will have similar challenges and each member state will, in addition, have to invest similar sums in building a new low-carbon energy infrastructure.

The lack of definitive regulation is causing great uncertainty with build costs of zero-carbon homes in the UK predicted to go up by over 20 per cent and the EU not calling for nearly zero-energy new buildings until the end of 2020.

But massive benefits will flow from radical improvement of the energy efficiency of buildings, an essential step to tackle climate change: improved indoor air quality and comfort, elimination of fuel poverty, the creation of hundreds of thousands of new skilled jobs, reduced need for expensive investment in renewable and nuclear energy, and greatly reduced dependence on imported fossil fuels. This urgently needed transformation is not currently happening because of major barriers to change: financial, regulatory, skill shortages and contemporary construction processes.

The Build with CaRe conference brings together innovators, industry partners and representatives from several countries in a forum that will identify ways to overcome these barriers and to make high-quality, low-carbon construction standard practice.

Hans Eek, one of the world’s foremost experts on passive houses, will describe how a transformation in working practices in Sweden has made low-carbon refurbishment practical and affordable, and Erik Franke, an architect from Holland, will talk about an on-going project in the south of Holland where huge cuts in energy use of apartment blocks are being achieved.

David Orr, Chief Executive of the UK’s National Housing Federation will outline initiatives by the social housing sector in the UK and across Europe while Neil Jefferson, Chief Executive of the UK’s Zero Carbon Hub, will tell the conference how the UK is working towards a definition of zero-carbon for new homes. From Germany, Tatjana Bruns of the KfW Bank will talk about financial initiatives that have led the way in energy-efficient rehabilitation of the building stock.

These and the other speakers will also take part in expert panels that will explore ways forward to overcome barriers to low-carbon new build, to energy-efficient refurbishment and to creating the skills necessary to make this huge challenge achievable. Liberal Democrat MEP Andrew Duff and Green Party MEP Jean Lambert will attend the conference to ensure that initiatives by regions and cities are highlighted and that legislators hear the conclusions from the conference.

Delegates will visit the University of East Anglia campus to see the university’s award-winning low-energy buildings and to hear about new initiatives that will maintain UEA’s role as a leader in low-carbon innovation and transformation.

Bruce Tofield, conference co-organiser from UEA said: “There are many individual initiatives across Europe that show the way forward but we have to bring them to the notice of the industry and the regulators if progress is to be made. Build with CaRe is doing exactly this and this Conference will mark a major step forward in understanding how to overcome the barriers that are currently making progress so slow.”

David Daniels, project manager for new low energy homes being monitored by Build with CaRe and regional chair of the AECB is working with Build with CaRe to make innovative new technologies and practices affordable and mainstream.

Daniels said: "At the moment there is great uncertainty over what is meant by zero-carbon new build and costs are predicted to go up by over 20% to accommodate a Code 6 zero carbon home. But what really matters is the fabric efficiency and getting the energy use down not just replacing the energy source. I see the initiatives prompted by Build with CaRe as having a vital role in making high-quality, low-carbon construction a really practical option within everyone's budget - including the Government’s.”

David Frost Head of School at the West Suffolk College's OFSTED graded Outstanding Construction Provision said: “Colleges and Construction training providers have got to step up to the mark in providing a workforce able to meet the challenges of building and refurbishing homes to new low energy standards. Training providers must arm those working in the industry with the knowledge and skills required to meet the high performance needed on construction sites. Just providing basic craft skills is no longer good enough.”

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