I was very disappointed to read the main headline accompanying your article on the energy performance gap in new house building (“This house has been designed to be highly sustainable
So why isn’t it?”, page 60, 13 August). My disappointment was not with the article, which raises an extremely important issue, but with the juxtaposition of headline and photograph.
The main photograph in the article is the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust’s Temple Avenue Scheme in York, which was designed to meet the anticipated carbon standard for Part L 2013 (code level four). Your headline suggests, erroneously, that it falls a long way short of the mark. This is not true. We tested the heat loss from the two prototype dwellings over the past winter and they were among the best we have ever measured. Most of our co-heating tests on other schemes have shown losses that were between 50% and 100% higher than the designers predicted, but the dwellings depicted by the photograph had losses 10-15% higher than their design targets. The reduction in overall sustainability, as measured by the Code for Sustainable Homes, would be very small. Given the pioneering nature of the scheme, the test results represented a remarkable achievement.
Of course, there will always be room for improvement and the feedback from testing is already being used to good effect. Your headline undermines the work of those developers, designers and contractors who are committed to addressing deep-seated problems within the industry. Those who seek to achieve the demanding standards set by the zero-carbon housing agenda and who openly submit their work to detailed evaluation, deserve admiration and encouragement. Without their efforts we would not make any progress at all.
It is a pity that such a well considered and valuable article was marred by a very misleading headline.
Malcolm Bell, professor of surveying and sustainable housing, Leeds Metropolitan University