UK housebuilders under fire from CCC Chairman Lord Deben

Some of the biggest UK housebuilders faced criticism from the Chairman of the government’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC) for delivering new homes that fail to meet energy efficiency standards.

Lord Deben – who as John Gummer was Environment Secretary between 1992 and 1997 - specifically criticised three of the UK's largest housebuilders - Barratt, Persimmon and Taylor Wimpey - for failing to implement these standards and “cheating the public”, by inflating the cost of subsequent energy bills for homeowners and tenants.

“The biggest issue in the future will be the retrofitting of the buildings that we have got already,” he said. “If we’re going to have to do that, for goodness sake, stop making the problem worse.

"Every year, we build 200,000 houses which are crap because they do not meet the standards which they could meet. If they did meet them, they would reduce the cost of housing for everybody who lives in them.”

Speaking at a conference to launch the Policy Exchange energy efficiency report, (see EiBI Nov 2017), Lord Deben urged developers to step up efforts to ensure new homes meet Passive House standards, which require designs to combine ultra-low energy consumption with consistently good air quality.

“If you pay a bit more - and it is a very small amount - to produce a house to Passive House standards, and then you add the energy costs per month to the slightly increased mortgage cost, you will find that you are better off to build it that way.

In the UK, more than 330,000 private rented homes currently do not meet energy efficiency standards. The construction industry has stressed that it is “eager” to work with the UK Government to boost housebuilding standards.

Very few British builders are trained in Passive House construction, although the concept is gaining traction among trailblazing public sector organisations that deliver social and affordable housing schemes. Housing association Hastoe, for instance, has built almost a dozen Passive House estates as part of a pledge to deliver 20 per cent of new housing units to the standard.

Deben said that, by doing so, Hastoe had given their tenants a greater ability to pay rent, because their energy costs are much lower. It is estimated that Passive House buildings can deliver heating and cooling related energy savings of up to 75 per cent compared with average new builds.

The CCC Chair called on the industry to eradicate the “institutional barriers” which prevent people from accessing cheap energy bills.

“We have got to think seriously about energy efficiency - not just in the context of dealing with climate change, or in the context of the pressures of Paris,” Deben added. “I want us to deal with energy efficiency in the context of ordinary people’s bills. And, if that is the case, we really need to remove those institutional barriers to people having a better, cheaper and warmer life.”

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