In our second excerpt from the debate that raged within our online event that took place last week visitors discussed the existing stock

The importance of tackling emissions from already completed buildings, rather than new, was raised at the Sustainability Now lounge. There was a lively debate as well as useful links to projects that are trying to tackle the issue.

New Vs old

Elizabeth Waters: How can you keep the cost of development down if you try and tailor-make each houses to please everybody? That's the mistake the government's making (if you'll excuse the rant!), trying to please everyone. Just not going to happen. Surely we should be maximising efficiency rather than trying to get everyone to minimum standards.

martin brown: Elizabeth - we have an existing stock of home that seems to please 'most' - and we seem to be too keen on creating ticky tacky eco boxes as replacements

Jason Hawkes: All of which is a somewhat moot point, as 75% of our post-2050 buildings are already up and running

Elizabeth Waters: Exactly Jason, sometimes I think this is being approached in a very topsy-turvy manner. Tamsin, I do think the governments' targets are putting unnecessary pressure on developers and resulting in haphazard standards, however.

Tamsin Fox-Davies: Elizabeth - good point. What would you like to see as an alternative to govt targets then? What else would impact on developers?

Elizabeth Waters: I think a priority should be broadening public awareness of how existing homes can be brought up to standard in a cost-effective manner, surely while there are homes standing empty there should be no reason for building more, it's a contradicton. OK, build eco-homes, but the majority of them seem to be ending up in greenfields or floodplain, and that in itself is causing issues, as seen by the flooding a year ago. Everything impacts on developers at one level or another, at the moment they're being swamped by increasing costs on all sides - rising cost of materials caused mainly by the increase in fuel prices, as well as a dramatic increase in the time and money needing to be spent ensuring designs are up to standard - something's got to give, otherwise it's going to become impossible to finish a design.

Paul Redding: I lived in Australia for 15 years and no-one waits for the government out there, they just get on with it. I was looking at 'eco' homes back in the 1980's ie all the high-efficiency, sustainable self-build homes that you can buy fom Scandinavia, Germany etc. These are triple glazed, super insulated buildings and incorporate many features that the the governments 'eco-homes' are proposed to include. The irony is that these self-build houses located in great scenic areas where people bought the land, have now significantly increased in value.

Public or government?

Dave Hampton: I'm a bit of a believer in "we get the .. we deserve" (media, govt, politicians) which in one sense means we can't deserve much, but in a more future sense it means we can demand more - can't we demand better housing for ourselves - all of us - and each of us - then 'they' will have to deliver instead of getting away with poor design, that ain't built to last, or to work, or to be loved

Jason Hawkes: Very true. According to the Empty Homes Agency there are 800,000 empty houses out there- thousands in London, LA's have the powers to force them back into use, but aren't using those powers

Mark Elton: Elizabeth, check out the Old Homes Superhome initiative

Tamsin Fox-Davies: Paul, is self-build the answer? It's not really a big part of the UK culture like Australia or Finland...

Ben O'Neill TGF: the other (more important?) side of the coin with regard to greening existing stock is the lack of uplift in capital value compared to new build. I'm pretty sure that is the case with resi and commercial.

Dave Hampton: Hi Ben, i think that equation is changing fast as we speak, a bit like the earlier comment about SUVs values tumbling, the same will happen with inherently energy guzzing buildings of all types - we all want low bills

Vincent McCabe: Working for a housing association I have a foot in both camps so to speak. I work on new build (all Code 3 and above). We are doing 'eco homes' purely on brownfield sites and have to deal with flood issues. And they look good - don't have to look too wacky if you don't want them to! Existing stock is one of my big worries, though - we have 20,000 units and like most HAs, they will just about meet Decent Homes on time. I believe Gov will introduce a follow-up to DH featuring sustainability measures, and I also think a lot of HAs will wonder where to get the cash from to do it.

martin brown: Elizabeth - the 'greatn news' tends to be via the blogs than through the main media

Eleanor Short: I share my house with a Housing Association, I recently forwarded them the details of govt grant for putting in place sustainable power options, should there be a govt drive to notify HA's of the benefit available

Mark Elton: Vincent, you will be welcome to come and visit the exemplar we are doing when its complete in Sept/oct.

Jason Hawkes: Vincent - look at this as an example for refurb London 21 project

Tamsin Fox-Davies: Jason - another great link. V interesting project.

Who's taking the lead?

Vincent McCabe: Thanks Jason. There are a few projects that are really interesting - including the eco-terrace that is in the vid at this show. I was pushing to do one ourselves at one point. What is anyone doing to pull all the good practice together is my question? BRE mooted this point with their own refurb project, but nothing seems to have happened since.

martin brown: I have just put a link up on to my blog on a fascinating project in Canada which illustrate how community energy scheme could work ....

Eleanor Short: Low Carbon Buildings Phase 2 has grants for sustainable microgeneration technologies. Available to Not for profit housing Associations, community groups etc.

Dave Hampton: May I just post an interesting item on behalf of Suzy Edwards: This coming Sunday marks the opening of London’s latest 'Super-Eco-Old-Home' to the public. The refurbished house saves 80% CO2 compared to typical ‘existing’ homes. The house will be open every Sunday 2-5pm til Oct 12th and provide inspiration for people, whatever the size or age of their house or flat. Camden CAN is helping out Camden FOE and the 'Old Homes Super Homes' team with volunteers. This is great and it will be even better if we can help make a massive push on publicity, so that people know it is there and come and visit and tell their friends. And if you’d like to visit yourself – you are very welcome! Entry is free. Go to Camden Climate Action Network