Is it possible to achieve zero carbon homes by 2016?
Chapter 1 Introduction
There is an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence in today’s world that states climate change does exist and is drastically changing our world as we know it. The main contributor to climate change is the admission of greenhouse gases in particular Carbon Dioxide (CO?). Buildings consume 40% of the energy within the EU, while the UK was responsible for emitting more than 550 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2005. The amount of ,“energy we use in buildings accounted for nearly half these emissions, and more than a quarter came from the energy we use to heat, light and run our homes.” (Building a greener future)
On proving that climate change is a real issue and a scientific fact a number of governments around the world have reacted very seriously to this perceived threat. In 2004 the British government stated that, “climate change is the single most important issue we face as a global community”. This led to UK to pledge to cut carbon emissions by some “60 per cent on 2000 level by 2050, with real progress made by 2020” (British Government)
This target was then enhanced on October 2008 to a more ambitious one which will see the UK cutting all greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by the middle of the century. This will include all industries including the housing sector. In December 2006, the government published the Code for Sustainable Homes along with government legislation stating that the minimum standard for the energy efficiency of domestic homes is moving a step closer, as all new domestic homes built will have zero carbon emissions by 2016.
At the moment there is a current shortage of domestic homes within the UK, according to Barker, K (2008). “There have been too few homes built to meet demand over the last three decades. This means that over the next few decades there will have to be mass building of the domestic homes to meet the demand that the increasing population will have on the housing sector.” These homes will also need to be affordable to enable first time buyers to get on the property ladder.
The government now expects all these new homes being built to be carbon zero by 2016. There is no doubt that making domestic dwellings zero carbon will be much welcomed throughout the world. However these homes will have to be built to a higher standard and specification, which will inevitably result in more construction costs. In creating these zero carbon homes, will the first time buyer be able to afford the higher short term cost in order to purchase the home to be able to avail of the long term savings on energy bills?
The government has introduced these measures, which have many ramifications for both prospective home owners and domestic homes developers. The main aim of this paper is to critically examine whether or not, the government will be able to successfully implement carbon zero homes across the board in such a short time scale?
My primary aim is to critically evaluate whether are not, the target of all new domestic homes having a zero carbon footprint by the year 2016 is possible within this timeframe, and to distinguish the implications and barriers involved in achieving this goal.
Examine existing legislation leading up to carbon zero homes
Evaluate the current carbon emissions from domestic houses
Assess the drivers and barriers of achieving carbon zero homes by 2016.
Evaluate the feasibility of achieving carbon zero homes by 2016.
Chapter 2 Climate Change
It is important to understand the events and the build up leading to these radical new solutions proposed by the British government and other world governments, in dealing with climate change and the road to carbon zero homes.
Firstly, “Climate change refers to a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.” (United Nations)
The UK is an actively industrial country pumping out carbon emissions from fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. Once these fuels are released into the atmosphere they cause the damaging effect of global warming leading to climate change.
2.1 Global Warming
A direct factor of climate change is global warming; “this is the increase in the average temperature of the earth’s surface air and oceans since the mid 20th century” (IPCC). The earth has “a natural blanket of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that keeps the planet warm enough for life” (IPCC) so that any life form will have a comfortable temperature at around 15°C. This life blanket has got thicker due to human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 causing it to trap more heat leading to global warming.
The IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report observed that “between 1970 and 2004, greenhouse gas emissions increased by 70 per cent, and carbon dioxide , by far the largest source with 77 per cent of total emissions, grew by about 80 per cent. Atmospheric concentrations of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide, had risen markedly since 1750 due to human activity, and today, far exceed pre-industrial values”.(IPCC)
In the construction world, “buildings consume 40% of the energy in the EU, with the UK and Germany being its biggest culprits. In the UK alone buildings contribute to over half of the annual CO2 emissions”. Fairlie, S ( 2005)
These are alarming facts proven by the Intergovernmental panel on climate change, which spurred many world governments into taking action on global warming. This high degree of global warming is having a detrimental effect which is obvious and is evident in all the different continents.
The governments now recognise that this is a serious issue and having described and even seen the effects of global warming, they now recognises and steps need to be taken now to help prevent further warming, which could prove catastrophic to the world.
2.2 Effects of Global Warming
The effects of global warming are both widespread and worldwide; scientists have discovered through years of research that these effects are a very serious threat to the planet and even human existence. They say that“seven out of ten disasters are now climate related”. IPCC (2008)
In many underdeveloped countries in the southern hemisphere the effects can be seen and predicated daily, scientists say “by 2020, some 75 to 250 million people in Africa will face increased water shortages”. Also the “yields from rain-fed agriculture could fall by up to 50 per cent in some African countries” due to global warming. IPCC (2008)
A large proportion, as much as, “ 20-30 per cent of plant and animal species will likely face increased risk of extinction, if global average temperature increases exceed 1.5°-2.5° C”. This will be a distinct possibility as the world’s top scientists predict the world’s temperature will continue to rise if we do not act now and significantly reduce the amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. IPCC (2008)
People only need to look at the recent events in the world to discover the devastating effects of climate change. The Haiti earthquake which occurred on Tuesday, 12 January 2010 measured at least 52 aftershocks of 4.5 magnitude or greater. An estimated three million people were affected by the quake according to the Haitian Government. Reports that between 217,000 and 230,000 people had been identified as dead, an estimated 300,000 have been injured and a further 1,000,000 people have been left homeless.
The dust hadn’t even settled at Haiti until another earthquake occurred off the coast of Chile which measured 8.8 on the Richter scale resulting in the death of 800 people. Scientists believe that these earthquakes may be related to climate change.
The government leaders of the world now recognise the threat that climate change and global warming pose. The once stubborn and naive government of the United States of America has recently accepted that climate change is a real issue facing the world’s community today. In a recent speech by the American president and arguably the most powerful man in the world, Barack Obama stated;
“This is not fiction, this is science. Unchecked, climate change will pose unacceptable risks to our security, our economies, and our planet. That much we know”. Copenhangan speech (2010)
More than 20 million people were displaced by sudden climate-related disasters in 2008 alone. An estimated 200 million could be displaced as a result of climate impacts by 2050. IPCC (2008)
The evidence and the statistics above have spurred the global community to unite and try to prolong the effects of climate change on the planet we live on for generations to come. There has been a series of meetings and discussions between the world leaders which led to the Kyoto agreement in Japan.
2.3 Kyoto Protocol
The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997 and came into force on 16 February 2005. The Kyoto protocol is an international agreement between 37 industrialised countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
All of these countries who signed the agreement have agreed to meet the emissions reduction targets of all greenhouse gases by 2012 relative to 1990 levels.
The overall objective of this agreement is the “stabilisation and reconstruction of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” (The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.)
As of November 2009, 187 different states have signed and ratified the treaty, these include countries like; France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, China, Russia, UK, India and Canada.
Most notably, one of the richest countries and arguably the world’s leading polluter, the United States still haven’t ratified the treaty. Even though Al Gore, vice president at the time, symbolically signed the treaty on 1998, but the US government have yet to ratify it. Yet the United States are responsible for, “36.1% of the 1990 emission levels”. (BBC news)
In 2001 the then current US president George W Bush pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol, saying that “implementing it would gravely damage the US economy”. (BBC news)
He then dubbed the treaty “fatally flawed“, partly because it does not require developing countries to commit to emissions reductions. George W Bush (2001)
However China and India both fall into this developing country category, although they are two of the world’s biggest producers of greenhouse gases.
See Appendix 1 (International Carbon Dioxide Emissions)
The UK joined the agreement on the 31st May 2002, as part of the legally binding agreement the UK has promised to keep its greenhouse gases that are released to a figure of “20% below that of 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012”. (ww.foe.com)
The UK currently have made huge strides and may be on course to meet its Kyoto limitation of the greenhouse gases released, assuming the government is able to dramatically curb its CO? emissions before the year 2012.
However, it now seems “highly unlikely that the government will be able to honour its pledge to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20% from the 1990 level by 2010, unless an immediate and drastic action is taken” (bbc news)
However in a speech by Tony Blair, former prime minster, on September 14th 2004 stated;
“We are on track to meet out Kyoto target. The latest estimates suggest that greenhouse gases in 2003 were about 14% below 1990 levels. But we have to do more to met our commitment to reduce our co2 emissions by 20% by 2010” (pm.gov.uk)
The UK government on February 2010 released, their most recent figures regarding the emissions of greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The government can confirm that “greenhouse gas emissions fell 1.9% in 2008 and will far exceed targets set by the Kyoto Protocol”. (Department of Energy and Climate Change, 2010)
Table 2 represents a simple version of table 1, it clearly shows the change in the total greenhouse gases and net carbon emissions for the UK between the year 2007 and 2008.
Figure 1, clearly shows the UK’s greenhouse gases and carbon emissions gradually declining over the past number of years.
According to the Minister for Energy and climate Change Joan Ruddock, “we are now clearly exceeding our Kyoto target of 12.5% below 1990 levels.”
She continues to state that, “The UK is demonstrating the kind of year-on-year reductions that set an example in the world community.”
Having seen these most recent figures on carbon emissions published on February 2010 by the UK government. It will make you ask the question; if the government can adhere to the Kyoto agreement when most scholars said it couldn’t be done, can the UK do the same with domestic homes and achieve their target of carbon zero homes by 2016?
2.4 Copenhagen 2009
The Kyoto agreement as discussed above runs out in 2012, this means the countries that agreed to Kyoto, will have no legal obligations to keep after 2012. To keep momentum and the ball rolling there was great need for a new climate protocol. So the UNFCCC called for a meeting with the world powers to discuss a new protocol for climate change and global warming. This meeting took place in Copenhagen, Denmark on 18th December 2009, thus giving the name Copenhagen summit 2009. The conference was seen as essential for the damage limitation of the world’s climate. The severity and consequences of these issues has now really struck a chord with all of the 193 world leaders who attended.
Jeremy Hobbs of Oxfam stated the importance of this, “Three hundred thousand lives have been already lost as a direct consequence of climate change. The cost of delay will be astronomical if we do not act now.”
So there was an aura of haste to get another agreement completed and accepted as they may be the last time for a while that all the world leaders are brought together.
The success of this meeting can be very much debated; some world leaders hailed it an “important steeping stone” and considered it very much as a success. Other parties had a different school of thought and labelled it as a failure. (www.guardian.co.uk)
The world leaders did fail to agree to a legally binding treaty as had been hoped for and also fell short of making a commitment to reach such a deal in the future. However other leaders were sure that what they did achieve was positive, as “five nations, including China and the US, reached a deal on a number of issues, such as a recognition to limit temperature rises to less than 2?C.” (www.guardian.co.uk)
However what, “emerged was an agreement that will, at the very least, cut greenhouse gases, set up an emissions verification system, and reduce deforestation. Given the complexity of the issue, this represents a step forward.”
(Fuqiang Yang, director of global climate solutions, WWF International)
Also the UK’s John Prescott, who was rapporteur for the council of Europe, felt that they did achieve success. He stated that, “Copenhagen was a final admission that we cannot let temperature rise 2C above pre-industrial levels. To get approval from 192 countries on this principle is remarkable.” (www.guardian.co.uk)
The failed issue of a legally binding treaty did put a level of disappointment on the conference, as many felt they achieved petty success. The UK’s current prime minster Gordon Brown feels the nation and the world needs to “continue with the momentum from Copenhagen” by working towards a climate change treaty in coming months. (www.number10.gov.uk)
Chapter 3 Legislation on domestic homes
On having explained climate change issues and where the UK stands with reference to these, I feel that it is important to examine the current laws towards domestic homes with a look at existing homes and the code of sustainability. In order to get a current picture of how much domestic homes currently have to improve in order to achieve the status of carbon zero.
3.1 European Energy Performance of Buildings Directive
The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) is designed to tackle climate change by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide which is produced by buildings as part of the government’s strategy to achieve a sustainable environment and meet the climate change targets which were agreed under the Kyoto Protocol.
The EPBD was introduced in the UK in January 2006 with a three year implementation period; it will introduce higher standards of energy conservation for new and refurbished buildings. These buildings under the law will require an energy performance certificate if sold or leased. Also it has introduced regular inspections for large air conditioning and ventilation systems, as well as advice on more efficient boiler operations for domestic homes and commercial properties.
Terms of the Directive (Appendix 2)
• “An energy performance certificate (EPC) must be produced whenever a building is sold, constructed or rented out.
• A display energy certificate (DEC) must be produced every year for public buildings larger than 1,000m?. The DEC shows the actual running costs of the building and must be displayed in a prominent place
• Air-conditioning installations above a certain size must be inspected every five years
• Boiler installations above a certain size must either be inspected regularly or advice must be provided to users”.
(Appendix 2 – EPBD)
This European directive was the first step on the road to carbon zero homes. It was thought that this piece of legislation in the UK would cut carbon emissions from buildings by 30%.
The European states which were legally bound to the agreement (including the UK) had three years in which to implement this agreement (Jan 2006). Many of these states had failed to implement these changes into the construction sector and the European Commission threatened legal action against these states.
The UK government officially received a warning from the
European Commission that it may not be complying with the requirements set out in Energy Performance of Buildings directive. The energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs has issued a formal infringement notice. The environment minister then was Michael Meacher; he promised that the UK would “comply in full from Day One”. (EIBI March 2003)
However, it came to light that large parts of the directive have yet to be introduced and implemented with even further delays expected.
The European commission then allowed a further three years for full integration of this legislation.
The UK finally implemented the legislation by publishing the new Part L of Building Regulations: – Conservation of Fuel and Power on April 2006.
As the United Kingdom struggled to implement the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive on time, you can once again ask the question can they achieve the ultimate goal of carbon zero homes by 2016.
3.2 Building Regulations
These are legislative controls introduced by the government to ensure a standard of practice when constructing any new or existing dwellings. They currently set the standard that house builders by law under the Building Act 2000 (revised since 1984). These building regulations exist to ensure health and safety and welfare of the buildings and the people using them. The revised building regulations also measure the energy efficiency of the buildings and most comply with a minimum level.
The regulatory body that ensures compliance with these building regulations is Building Control. All new domestic buildings are currently built to this standard. Below in Chapter 4, the reader can see a typical home built to this standard and compared to a carbon zero home showing the increased expenditure.
3.3 Code for Sustainable Homes
The Code for sustainable homes was introduced in England on April 2007. This voluntary code was the result of the British government’s policy on climate change, following various consultations with environmental groups and the house building professionals within the construction industry. It was designed to complement the system of Energy Performance Certificates for new domestic homes. The code is also operational in Wales and Northern Ireland, Scotland have yet to implement it.
The main aim of this code is, to “improve the overall sustainability of new homes by setting a single national standard for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, within which the home building industry can design and construct homes to higher environmental standards”. (Code for sustainable homes p9)
The code is also designed to educate new homebuyers and supply them with up to date and relevant information about the environmental impact of their home. This will be of benefit to the new homeowners in today’s economic climate as it will provide information on how to save on day to day running costs, will lowering household bills, as well as benefiting the environment with less CO2 emissions therefore leading to an overall more sustainable lifestyle. However studies say homeowners do not fully understand the code and further clarification is needed.
The code works by measuring how efficient and sustainable your home is against these nine categories:
Energy and CO2 Emissions
Surface Run off
Health and Wellbeing
These categories and the relevant issues relating to the performance of a domestic home and their role in climate change mitigation and adaptation can be seen in Appendix 3.
The code uses a rating system indicated by stars *, 1 star is entry level, just above the level of building regulations. ****** 6 stars indicate the highest level of sustainability of your home.
To achieve compliance with each level it is necessary to achieve the relevant minimum performance standards for energy and water efficiently
The minimum standards for energy and water efficiency at each Code level are shown in table below:
Table 4: Energy and water performance standards in the Code for Sustainable homes levels in the Code for Sustainable Homes
Proposed levels in the Code for Sustainable Homes
Energy (% improvement over 2006)0%10%25%44%69%100%
Water (litres per bed space per day)1201201051058080
“The environmental savings expected from standard building regulations to Code level 3 equate to a 25% reduction in carbon emissions per house and 21 litres per person per day.” (http://www.cyrilsweett.com pg6)
It is proposed that the target by 2010 would be that, new homes would emit 25% less carbon than they did when the code was defined in 2006. This would make them in compliance with Level 3 of the Code as seen in the table above.
Also from April 2010, all new build social housing must meet Level 4 of the Code; this will require a 44% reduction in CO2 emissions on the 2006 Part L Building Regulations. This will result in further investment by developers in order to achieve this target.
Government figures show that reaching these new minimum standards of carbon emissions in domestic homes costs between 11% and 33% percent more than buildings homes to current regulations.
So in this poor economic climate what incentive are there for house builders to spend more money on carbon efficient homes when the code is currently only voluntary, making it increasingly more difficult to implement carbon zero homes by 2016.
The code for sustainability marks a progressive improvement towards carbon zero homes. However the move to carbon zero homes would require a “70% reduction in carbon emissions against the 2006 standards”.
(Code for sustainable homes pg25)
Chapter 4 Current Energy Performance of Domestic Homes
After explaining some background and legislations leading up to carbon zero homes, It is worth wile now to look at an existing domestic home to capture an idea of how far the government and the house builder has to come in order to achieve carbon zero homes by 2016.
In a survey carried out in the UK in 2009, it was found that by, “Using the Energy Performance Certificate’s (EPC) energy efficiency rating bands, two out of five homes in England and Wales (44%) rate average for energy efficiency falling into band D, whilst only a tiny proportion (1 per cent) of homes achieve the highest ranking of band A or B.”
(Halifax Estate Agents)
In the same survey it also found that, “flats have the highest energy efficiency amongst different property types with almost half of flats (49 %) classified as band B or C in the EPC. For all other property types, the largest proportions of properties achieve a Band D rating; with 47% of bungalows, 45 % of two story houses and 41 % of maisonettes all shared this band”.
(Halifax Estate Agents)
The results of this survey still shows that the average houses in the UK achieve a D rating in the Energy Performance Certificate as from 2009, which again highlights the question is carbon zero achievable by 2016.
4.1 Energy Performance of a typical detached house in the UK
The house that I have chosen to assess is a typical detached two story house in England with an overall floor space of 166m2.
The full EPC for this home can been seen in Appendix 4
The results of the survey are showed in the table 4 below:
As we can see from Figure 5 this detached house is not energy efficient.
Due to this inefficiency the energy use and household bills will be far greater compared to a more efficient home.
The carbon dioxide emissions from this home were calculated as 13 tonnes per year.
Table 5 below represents the estimated energy use and carbon dioxide emissions from this inefficient home.
Quite clearly the estimated energy usage of this home is rather high, resulting in higher running costs and utility bills for the home. The carbon emissions are huge, 13 tonnes per year, showing the epic task involved in constructing carbon zero homes for a house builder.
Once a trained inspector carries out the survey of a house for the EPC they include recommendations on how to improve your energy performance of your home. In the case of this typical detached home, when the recommendations shown in Figure 6 are applied to this house its energy rating moves from F to a C showing a drastic improvement for low cost.
This shows that with some improvements your home can become far more efficient, which leads to superior savings on utility bills.
However to enter into the A grade and carbon zero more drastic measures will need to be taken. It is estimated that only 2% of domestic homes in the UK have achieved this.
On showing the energy performance of a typical existing home and the amount of money this house is losing through poor energy performance is astronomical. I do believe that carbon zero homes is definitely the ultimate goal to strive for, however as people say have the government bitten off more than they can chewThis will now lead to an examination of what a carbon zero home is and how it is achieved.
Chapter 5 Carbon Zero Homes
“A building is considered to be zero carbon when the net carbon dioxide emissions resulting from all energy used in the building is zero”.
(Margaret Beckett MP for housing and planning)
On demonstrating the build up to carbon zero homes, I have examined the factors and legislation which led the government to announce its plans to make all new domestic homes carbon zero by 2016. I will now examine the information given to the house builders by the government to define what a carbon zero home consists of, along with the drivers and barriers to achieving carbon zero homes by 2016.
In the UK today almost half of the carbon emissions come from the use of buildings, 27% of theses emissions come from domestic homes.
As mentioned before the government needs to build more homes to meet the current growth in population within the UK. The government recently announced in an article (Green Paper Homes for the future) they plan to deliver 240,000 additional homes per year for the next ten years to address the problem of affordability of homes.
The rational that they possess is when building these new homes why add to the over scale of the climate change problem, hence in 2006 they announced that all new domestic homes will be carbon zero by 2016.
Since the announcement there has been a mixed reaction from the house building industry and other construction organisation
Keith Hall (Editor of Green Building magazine) stated that, “clearly, far, far more needs to be done if we are to make the cuts in CO2 emissions from housing which are needed and fast”.
WWF UK, first welcomed the consultation, but expressed concern that the definition of a ‘zero-carbon home’ could be watered down in a bid to make the 2016 target more achievable. They also issued a statement to the government stating, “We need a full commitment by the government to retrofitting our existing housing stock, and ensuring all new build housing is ‘zero carbon. Instead, what we could end up with are a raft of new properties that don’t quite hit the mark and a piecemeal approach to dealing with existing stock”.
The government themselves feel that, “zero carbon housing is an extremely demanding goal” according to Margaret Beckett MP for housing and planning.
All was not lost however when the government announced its carbon zero homes policy many house builders were positive and welcoming about this policy as saw it as a chance for innovation in the home building industry. Tim Hough (Chief Executive of Miller Homes) said, “The house building industry has a responsibility but also an opportunity to help reduce our carbon footprint…We have decided to get a head start on the understanding and cost implications alongside learning how to possibility build the homes of the future with Miller Zero.”
They are one of a handful of house builders who have actually achieved a carbon zero home to date.
One thing that was certainly not clear to the industry was a definition of a zero carbon home. There was a huge debate between the industry and the government about how the zero carbon homes will be defined and how a home gets the status of being carbon zero. The government acted and released a recent consultation that provides an insight into the definition of a zero carbon home.
5.1 Guideline on achieving carbon zero status
As I mentioned before once the government announced that all new homes will be carbon zero by 2016 it sparked a huge reaction, as you would come to expect many were against the decision and some embraced the decision. However the industry itself wanted clearer guidelines on the definition of a carbon zero and what they must do to achieve this status.
The government then issued a consultation, “Government’s July 2007 Building A Greener Future”. This article attempts to define this carbon zero status.
In figure 7 it sets out that all new homes are to be built from 2016 in such a way that, after taking account of;
These are the factors that must be considered and adhered to in order to achieve carbon zero status. Even with these issues outlined many builders and developers call for still further clarification as they suggest that there are flaws in the government’s plans.
Recent research has shown that the current definition of a zero carbon home is unrealistic and unachievable on up to 80% of new homes. Therefore, if Government wants to maintain its housing delivery targets of three million new homes by 2020, without watering down the level of carbon dioxide emission savings, the definition of zero carbon must change.
Developers also have been concerned, that the government would require all energy used by zero-carbon homes to be generated onsite or by small-scale local renewable power plants connected directly to the home, a scenario the developers claimed would prove both costly and in some cases unfeasible. The government has since confirmed that it will allow developers to qualify homes as zero carbon by funding off site emission reduction projects or “allowable solutions”, such as wind farm or other technologies for exporting waste heat from the housing development.
The Treasury then recently announced a stamp duty land tax relief scheme for zero carbon homes constructed up to 2012. As more clarity was needed in the definition, they defined ‘zero carbon’ to exclude the use of off-site renewable that weren’t connected to the development by a private wire. As a direct result of this the definition it was amended to now also exclude the use of off-site renewables, in order to gain consistency with the treasury’s definition.
5.2 Allowable solutions
In the Code for Sustainable Homes, under the Ene1 section which is ‘Dwelling Emission Rate’ (DER) it seemed somewhat hazy to potential developers. The government released another amendment in attempt to bring some clarify the issues of energy solutions and carbon zero status within the home.
In figure 8 below, it gives a brief summary of the key requirements within the Figure 8: DER section
5.3 Low or Zero Carbon Dioxide Technologies
In Figure 9 below is a list of technologies that are currently able to be considered by SAP:
In the table above it displays the technologies that are either low carbon or zero carbon dioxide emissions. When using the technologies such as “gas-fired CHP and GSHPs they are low carbon rather than zero carbon as natural gas emits CO2 when burned and heat-pumps require electricity to power them.”
(UK Green Building Council Report pg15)
While using these types of technologies in the build of a carbon zero home they can achieve significant greenhouse gas reductions, however as they release carbon they can only be accepted in a carbon zero home if the associated emissions were offset by other renewable technologies located on-site.
This is a major problem for house builders trying to achieve carbon zero homes, as they technologies are not quite tried and tested and are generally considered either too expensive or not viable for a domestic home.
5.4 Drivers to achieve carbon zero homes
1) As mentioned above, trying to combat global warming is a massive driver for sustainability and carbon zero homes. The fact that people are accused of damaging the environment, due to carbon emissions which could result in more catastrophes to our planet, is more than an incentive to change our ways when it comes to construction methods and sustainability.
2) It is seen that demand for carbon zero homes is currently low, however trends state that people are trying to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, as people now recycle more than 5 years ago. This growing trend could prove highly lucrative for emerging companies specialising in this filed in future years.
3) The prospect of the oncoming legalisation in the Code for Sustainable Homes is a driver for house builders and large construction companies to get a head start on the competition (rival firms) and embrace innovation within this legislation to ensure profitability and company survival.
4) It is seen as a chance for innovation with renewable energy sector. The government and private companies will invest in further research and development in renewable energy to achieve a more efficient carbon zero power base on which run new domestic homes. This will lead to cheaper utility bills for residents and is a sufficient driver for carbon zero homes.
6.0 Case Study: Miller Zero
Many sceptics said that it couldn’t be done in an efficient and affordable manner however Miller Homes have officially launched the first carbon zero homes to be built by a large house builder on a live development.
Having mentioned throughout this article, achieving carbon zero homes by 2016 is ambitious too say the least. However Miller claims that they have established “the blueprint for 21st Century homes across the UK.” (Miller.co.uk)
The chief executive of Miller Homes issued a statement stating that, “the house building industry has a responsibility but also an opportunity to help reduce our carbon footprint. Rather than just waiting until we had to implement the Code, we decided to get a head start on understanding the cost implications alongside learning how to possibly build the homes of the future with Miller Zero.” (Tim Hough CE)
I felt it was important to evaluate and examine these homes of innovation to achieve an understanding of how a carbon zero homes might work along with the technologies and costing.
Miller themselves admitted it was a huge learning curve for them, as “wanted to know what the development costs would be….and additionally, how much consumers would be prepared to pay for homes created to the Code for Sustainable Homes”.
6.1 Miller Zero House specification
To achieve “Code level 6 (i.e. carbon zero) this home is super-insulated with the external walls built using H+H’s200mm Vertical Elements. The Elements themselves have excellent thermal insulation properties = 0.11 W/mK with a compressive strength of 3.0 N/mm2. The Vertical Elements in combination with 200mm Webbertherm insulation and render achieved a U-value as low as 0.09 W/m2K, excellent levels of air tightness were also achieved to help meet the mandatory heat loss parameter required for Code 6 Homes of 0.8 W/m2K. This is aided by the fact that the Vertical Elements’ larger panel surface areas of aircrete mean fewer joints, higher levels of air-tightness and of course, improved speed of build. The Vertical Elements are lifted into place using a “cast in” lifting eye at the head of each 2.4m-high Element, which enabled the contractor to build the house in only one and a half weeks. The Elements were installed very specifically by using a layout drawing prepared and supplied by H+H UK, which clearly identified where each element should be placed. H+H also supplied drawn details and information specifically concerning significantly reduced linear thermal bridging, possible with the use of H+H aircrete material.”
The regional managing director Ian Beal, was also very keen to challenge the industry’s belief that timber-frame is the only material which can the challenging height of level 6 (carbon zero) of the code. Miller decided to test this theory to the test and choose aircrete to manufacture the house, specifically to challenge the ‘timber-framed only’ for ‘zero carbon’ myth.
The following technologies were used in this carbon zero home, to achieve key water, energy and carbon reducing features:
Triple glazed windows
Under floor heating
Photovoltaic solar panels
Ground source heat pump
These technologies are recommended in the code for sustainable homes and help to keep the home and its operation carbon zero.
The costing of these zero carbon homes were apparently like a shot in the dark ,no one really knew how much more they would cost than a normal home. Now the extra costs of all the Code level homes were identified including the new technologies, such as a ground source heat pumps and the photovoltaic’s.
The Code level 3 houses will cost between ?5,000 and ?7,000 more than a house typically specified to meet the Building Regulations.
The Code 4 house will cost between an extra ?7,000 and ?10,000.
However to achieve carbon zero set out in code level 6, the homes cost ?50,000 more than a standard home set out in existing building regulations.
The general feedback from the Miller Zero development has been generally well received. The development has recently been the BBCs working lunch showing a movie clip of the new homes and their functions. Miller have also been shortlisted for, “House builder of the Year and Housing Project of the Year” by Buildings Awards 2010.
However the project has not been plain sailing, Tim Hough, chief executive of Miller commented that, “meeting Code levels five and six had been a huge challenge, financially and technically.” He also spoke of the specific challenges throughout the project. He stated, “The forms of construction had proved difficult and some elements of the build did not progress quite as anticipated. But the project had given the house builder “an excellent understanding of the additional costs, demands and issues that house builders, suppliers and contractors face.” (Miller.co.uk/millerzero)
The customers who actually purchased the homes described living in them as “very consumer friendly”, although it is too soon to gauge its overall energy performance and living costs.
The high price tag was a clear drawback of these homes given the current economic environment. The homes appealed to a niche market due to this. Miller homes claims that the prices of the new technologies will decrease resulting in a cheaper home. Until then many potential customers are distinctly put off due to the price tag.
Chapter 7 Research Methodology
As previously stated, in terms of primary research both qualitative and quantitative forms of methodology techniques have been employed throughout the paper. This was achieved by commissioning unstructured interviews, using focus groups in forums, case studies and a questionnaire survey. The mix of qualitative and quantitative techniques has achieved a better understanding of the research and improved the overall results.
7.1 Qualitative research
Qualitative research is subjective in nature; it emphasizes meanings, experiences, descriptions etc”. (Naoum 2003)
This was achieved by using an unstructured interview with a house builder and holding an electronic forum on a builder’s website to achieve a focus group on the opinions of professionals within the construction industry.
The interview is a qualitative method of research analysis, which is largely explanation based to find out the views and experience of individuals. The interview was done in an unstructured manner, so it can capture the interviewee’s thoughts and opinions without any prompt or influence from the researcher in order to achieve raw and unbiased information.
The interview commenced by using the question, “Do you feel that achieving carbon zero domestic homes by 2016 is a realistic goal?” The interviewee then proceeded to give his thoughts on the subject, with the use of how and why questions relating to their previous statement, it allowed the researcher to gather greater detail on the subject area. The main disadvantage of this method, however is the interviewee would tend to go off on a tangent onto a different subject area, once again by using slight prompts this didn’t occur to be such a problem.
7.3 Interviewee Characteristics
In order to achieve research and analysis one interview was carried out, the interviewee Mr Raymond Duffy is a local building contractor who has more than 25 years experience in home building. Mr Duffy has claimed to, “have see it all” when it comes to house building with over 25years of building experience he was more than qualified to participate in an interview relating to carbon zero domestic homes. The interview was recorded by tape, it “produces a more accurate and detailed record of the conversation, including capturing all the nuances of sarcasm, humour and so on, than notes.” (Valentine 1997).
However the tape may need editing due to the fiery personality of Mr Duffy and his personal thoughts on this carbon zero initiative. Once the interview was complete, a full analysis was undertaken to identify the main themes and issues that arose during the interview process. These themes and issues will be included within the results section of this paper and will be evaluated to achieve the realistic thoughts of a house builder with regards to this initiative.
7.4 Electronic Forum
The forum was established on a builder’s website (www.building.co.uk) as more qualitative research to achieve more personal thoughts on carbon zero homes from construction professionals. This was achieved by starting up a focus group section within the already existing forum called “Journey to Carbon Zero Homes” and inviting members to enlist their thoughts and experiences on the subject matter. The main disadvantage of this method was a low response rate; however it motivated some individuals to e-mail me their opinions on the matter, which lead to interesting reading.
7.5 Quantitative Research
“The quantitative approach is used when one begins with a theory or hypothesis and tests for confirmation of disconfirmation of that hypothesis.”
(Isadore Newman 1998 Qualitative – Quantitative Carolyn R.Benz)
7.6 Questionnaire Survey
A survey in the basis of a closed questionnaire was the next method of research I employed to achieve my aim. The questionnaire is a qualitative method of research in which the information gathered can be analysed and presented to the reader numerically using various tables, charts and graphs.
The questionnaire consists of 20 questions that are constructed from opinions on the carbon zero homes initiative. These opinions came from articles on the subject and the interview I carried out. There are a series of statements and the participant can decide on a rating 1-5, 1 represented “not significant” and 5 represented “most significant”. There was also an opportunity for the participant to add any additional comments that felt obliged to state.
Questionnaire Survey Appendix 3
There are some problems associated with closed fixed questionnaires as they tend to eliminate the spontaneous response of the participant. Also bias is present due to the researcher having created the answers. The method of a closed questionnaire works well for the researcher as it allows for answers to be examined and processed with more efficiency. It was important for the participant to have this structure as they do not have to write or prepare long answers, saving their own time. If this was not the case many potential professional participants may have chosen not to complete its due time consuming appearance. In order for the questionnaire to be successful this was the best method to use to entice the public to participate.
The questionnaire survey was issued to construction professionals connected within the construction industry via an e-mail format. The number of questionnaires that were circulated were substantial, the response rate was 76% which is more than adequate to analysis and create the results
7.7 Case Study: Miller Zero
A case study was the final method of qualitative research employed to achieve my aim. The case study consisted of an overview of Miller Homes Development in Basingstoke. It was a unique insight into the first carbon zero commercial home in the UK. This was an important element of my research as it showed how a carbon zero may be built and the technologies used within the home and the cost implications. to achieve carbon zero status. The cost element was an important factor but it often proves the stumbling block for this type of home. As this was the first carbon zero home built, the developer couldn’t be sure of the cost implications when a unique project like this commences, now the construction world has a set cost for a carbon zero homes and can focus efforts on cutting costs. This is an aid in determining results and final hypothesises.
Chapter 8 Results
This chapter details and analyses the results obtained by the different methods of research used. It will state the key results from the questionnaire survey and present it in a graphical format in a user friendly manner. Then the barriers to carbon zero and the feasibility of achieving carbon zero will be indentified by using all the methods of research including the interviewee comments, the graphical results from the questionnaire and the public opinions.
8.1 Questionnaire Survey Results
The questionnaire responses were insightful and knowledgeable about how the construction professionals feel about achieving carbon zero homes by 2016.
8.2 Experience of Respondents
Below is a pie chart graph 1, detailing the number of years experience in the construction sector from those who responded to the questionnaire.
All of the respondents have experience in the house building sector. However it was interesting when 1 respondent was asked, “Are you familiar with the Governments Initiative of all New Homes will Carbon Zero by 2016?” the respondent stated “No” showing that the government can do more to publicise this initiative to existing house builders.
8.3 Analysis of Key Results from Questionnaire
There were some key questions asked to the participants of the questionnaire survey in order to get information and the opinions of the homebuilders, so I can meet my aim and decide if carbon zero homes are feasible and can be implemented by 2016.
Firstly the question was asked, “In order to achieve carbon zero status on a new home, do you feel builders will construct a watered down version of a carbon zero home just to achieve the status if not policed correctly?”
The bar chart graph 2, above shows that 77% of the respondents stated that builders will construct a watered down version of a carbon zero home just to achieve the status when actually the home may not be carbon zero. As you can see from the bar graph not one respondent (0%) stated this will definitely “not happen”. This shows a clear opinion that this will happen to carbon zero homes if not policed correctly by local authorities.
The next key question, “Do you think that new carbon zero homes will be too expensive for the homebuyer?”
The results shown in the pie chart above, graph 3, illustrate that 89% of the respondents feel once carbon zero homes are implemented they will be too expensive for the homebuyer. This is the general consensus among many house builders and indeed members of the public, in the short term the more expensive house prices of a carbon zero home will not attract the customers, resulting in poor market sales
Arguably the most important questions were asked, “Do you feel it is possible to achieve carbon zero homes by 2016?” and if not “Do you feel the time scale is too short to achieve this?”
The main aim was too critically evaluate whether or not the initiative of carbon zero homes was possible and feasible by the year 2016. The direct question was asked to the respondents, the result above on the bar chart clearly illustrates the majority (44%) felt it was “not achievable” with no one (0%) saying it was very achievable. The rest very divided with (39%) choose number 2 on the scale and (6%) split between scales 3 & 4.
Then once probed further an asked “…is the timescale too short” a huge 89% replied “Yes” they feel it cannot be achieved within this short time frame and stated they feel the initiative cannot be successfully implemented due to this constraint. However 11% felt the time scale wasn’t too short but other factors will hinder its successful implementation.
8.4 Barriers to successful implementation of carbon zero homes by 2016
On the analysis of the results using the questionnaire survey, along with research and interviews, many of the same issues arose when asked what barriers will prevent the government from achieving this initiative by 2016.
1.) There is not currently a market for zero-carbon homes in the UK.
In this economic climate there are other factors more important in the decision to purchase a house, such as value for money and until energy prices increase drastically this is unlikely to change. Hence some form of market intervention is needed if zero-carbon homes are to be the standard. It was also established that home buyers do not understand the zero carbon concept and are wary of the motivation behind the promotion of green developments.
2) The huge lack of adequate investment in the technologies and supporting services will without doubt hider carbon zero homes. The new technologies and services needed to run and sustain a carbon zero home are widely perceived as unreliable and are believed to be installed to the detriment of profit, outside space and aesthetics.
Miller claims to have cracked this problem as shown in the case study, however many other developers claim that their so called carbon zero home is not fully carbon zero and the technologies are much too expensive to implement in a typical domestic home.
3) In a study completed by Williams and Adair (2007) it was noticed in the UK house building sector, an unwillingness to implement untested or new sustainable materials and products into new housing developments. This is the result of traditional attitudes maintained into this sector and it will be challenging to change this view in order to incorporate carbon zero homes.
4) The CIOB believes the definition of zero carbon should be changed as soon as possible to recognise the contribution of off-site energy solutions. The UK’s Green Buildings council also feels strongly about the lack of definition of carbon zero and energy solutions, they stated “our conclusion was that to make zero carbon on site wouldn’t be practical, a large number of houses would not comply.” Many homebuilders and organisations mirror this and call from a clearer definition of the standard.
5) The customers who purchased energy efficient houses have encountered difficulties in understanding, operating and maintaining these new technologies in their new homes. This is due to lack of information, complex nature of technologies and difficulty in obtaining parts to fix occurring problems. In most cases residents would prefer an external company to manage and maintain these technologies once installed.
8.5 Feasibility of achieving carbon zero homes by 2016
When the interviewee was questioned, he responded by saying that he did not feel that it was possible to implement carbon zero homes successfully in such a short time frame. This is overall general consensus by house builders and construction professionals alike according to the questionnaire survey the researcher implemented. An overwhelming majority (81%) stated the timescale is too short for successful implementation. There are a number of barriers as mentioned above that will hinder this initiative. The main barrier according to the same questionnaire survey is cost. The profitability does not exist for the house builder and developer which will inevitably lead to resistance. According to Beasley in a government meeting discussing the matter, he stated, “we have made great progress…cost is without doubt the big issue now”.
There are positives to take away from this initiative in that the country is working together to achieve this goal in order to help the planet and tackle the monster issue of climate change. Many of respondents to the questionnaire survey felt that although they the initiative may not be achieved by 2016, they were confident that by 2020 the initiative will be the required standard for domestic buildings.
Chapter 9 Conclusion & Recommendations
The purpose of this research paper was to critically evaluate whether are not, the ambition of all new domestic homes having a zero carbon footprint by the year 2016 is possible within this timeframe, and to distinguish the implications and barriers involved in achieving this goal.
The researcher firstly set objectives in order to achieve this goal. These objectives were:
Examine existing legislation leading up to carbon zero homes
Evaluate the current carbon emissions from domestic houses
Assess the drivers and barriers of achieving carbon zero homes by 2016.
Evaluate the feasibility of achieving carbon zero homes by 2016.
The researcher firstly complied and presented various pieces of information on the build up leading to carbon zero homes. This started with the background issue of climate change, which included information from leading scientists and government organisations worldwide in order to establish the threat of climate change and carbon dioxide emissions.
The next stage was to examine the existing legislation behind the initiative leading to carbon zero homes by 2106. The legislation consisted of the European Energy Performance Building Directive, existing building regulations and the Code for Sustainable Homes. These legislations were examined in order to establish the laws which lead to this initiative and show the reader the changes from the existing legislation in existing building regulations to the code for sustainable homes in which will be the new standard in the coming years.
This allowed the paper to gather momentum and give the reader background to sustainability. Which inevitably led to examining these carbons zero homes along with the Miller zero case study.
Finally the results from an interview and a survey questionnaire allowed the researcher to display the results in a graphical format and to prove their hypothesis.
9.2 Conclusions on Literature
All the literature penned on this subject is vast and sometimes misleading. Many academics have different opinions on the governments carbon zero initiative, most support it but will also agree that a lot more work and effort needs to implemented in order to successfully achieve carbon zero homes by 2016 which looks distant at the present moment. The researcher found that energy companies and renewable technology firms issued literature and papers showing how easy it was to achieve carbon zero status by using their products. Many believe that they had a tendency bend the truth with facts and figures and some would even dare to say their findings are similar to propaganda in order to sell their products. In all the literature, the researcher has came across the general conclusion is that the industry in making massive strides in order to achieve its goal of carbon zero home by 2016. Everyone has came along way trying to innovate and adopt renewable energies to achieve this, however a lot more hard work and some changes to the legislation is needed in order to stand any chance to implement this initiative successfully. Many of these scholars are calling for the government to give a clear definition and more precise information of how exactly to achieve carbon zero homes, including the grey area of, off-site energy solutions. The house builders themselves need a greater knowledge of the area and need to be further educated in the field in order to achieve some success.
9.3 Conclusion on Results
The results of the questionnaire survey and interview along with personal opinions were essential to this research paper. It allowed an insight into construction professionals and in general, people’s personal opinions on the subject area.
The results of the questionnaire survey could be made more reliable if a higher number of professionals in various areas of the UK completed the survey. However the response rate was satisfactory enough, to gather these opinions and display the results. There also could have been more interviews in order to achieve a broader spectrum of ideas.
To conclude on the results it was noticed that the high majority of respondents agree with the academics that carbon zero homes by 2016 is a distant goal. The results showed that the majority house builders who had completed the survey were angry at the government for so trying to implement this initiative in the current economic environment. The house builders state that life is difficult enough at the present time as the construction industry’s economy is travelling at a snail’s pace. The implementation of carbon zero homes will further cut profits, as the public are not confident in spending more money short term to gain the rewards long term. The main reason for the current economic environment is due to over borrowing, when this initiative is introduced prospective buyers will need to borrow more in order to afford the price tag ,this may lead to further financial troubles for the country. The developers profit is also largely cut down as they will need to spend around ?50,000 in order to achieve the carbon zero status along with competitive prices in the market, leads to a difficult situation. The financial cost of this initiative is the main barrier, so the government will need increase investment and grants to the house builders in order to even have a shot at achieving carbon zero domestic homes by 2016.
9.4 Final Conclusions & Recommendations
The final conclusions of this paper is the opinion of the researcher along with advice and recommendations to the governing bodies in order an easier and smoother run to achieve carbon zero by 2016.
Firstly the main conclusion is that all new domestic homes cannot achieve carbon zero status by the year 2016, the timescale is just too ambitious in order to implement this initiative successfully. The government have set themselves too much of a monster target to achieve in such a short time frame.
The reasons for setting the timescale at 2016 are ambitious, however it is important to set an ambitious goal, whether it is achieved or not. At least it’s a starting block towards the future of sustainable homes.
The recommendations are that firstly they extend the time scale to the year 2020 in order to have time to iron out and difficulties and achieve carbon zero homes successfully, and not fall into the hole where the status is watered down just to achieve carbon zero homes by 2016. This would be a disaster for all.
The government should tackle the issue of cost by introducing a series of funding grants for house builders in order to give them an incentive to construct these carbon zero homes. Also the government should start a promotional campaign in order to promote carbon zero homes to the customers to persuade them into purchasing these homes. This could also come in the form of discounted rates on the property, this will then in turn boost demand which will ensure builders keep constructing carbon zero homes in order to keep up with the demand of their customers. Resulting in cheaper prices of carbon zero homes and the technologies require to run them.
The legislation in the Code for Sustainable homes should be aligned and intertwined with existing building regulations in order to create less clearer and less confusing definition of what is expected from a carbon zero home and energy solutions along with, how the status will be actually be achieved by the builder. A more stringent regulatory policy must be implemented when trying to police carbon zero homes, that an inspection must be carried out in order to achieve the certificate, this is essential in order for successful implementation.
An education must be provided for customers, house builders and regulatory organisations by the government to ensure balance to implement these forthcoming regulations within sustainability.
Chapter 11 Bibliography & References
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