The government has announced the minimum standard for the energy efficiency of zero-carbon homes

Speaking at the Making Sustainable Development Happen conference on Tuesday, housing minister John Healey (pictured) said the government would adopt recommendations put forward by the pan-industry body, the Zero Carbon Hub. This would set a target of 46kWh/m2/year for semi-detached and detached properties and 39kWh/m2/year for all other homes, equating to a 20-25% reduction in carbon emissions compared with current regulations for a gas-heated home.

The announcement follows a political wrangle over the slow pace of setting a definition of zero carbon. Speaking at the conference, which was organised by Building and the UK Green Building Council, shadow housing minister Grant Shapps accused the government of dragging its heels on the issue. He pledged to define Code for Sustainable Homes level six “within weeks” of a Tory general election victory.

John Healey, housing minister
John Healey, housing minister

The new standards will, subject to the forthcoming consultation on the code, be applied to all new homes by 2016.

Healey said: “There’s a driving force behind the green homes movement from homeowners, developers and local authorities. We’re pushing at an open door, and there is a lot of momentum to radically rethink how we design our buildings for the future.”

In his speech, Healey also launched the consultation for all new non-domestic buildings to be zero carbon by 2019 and announced proposals for all public sector buildings to be zero carbon by 2018. The consultation will adopt the broad framework set out for the domestic sector but will be adapted to reflect the variation of building types.

The government proposes a threefold hierarchy, with energy efficiency the preferred solution, followed by on-site or linked low and zero-carbon technologies, followed by off-site solutions. Different buildings will have different targets to reflect their potential for energy efficiency.

Healey also pledged an extra £3.2m from the Technology Strategy Board to boost research into low-carbon homes. The money will be used by a consortium including Barratt Developments, Crest Nicholson and BRE to build demonstration homes to code level four using energy efficiency measures alone.

  • Meanwhile, architect Bennetts Associates had a double triumph at Building’s Sustainability Awards, which were held at the conference. It picked up the Large Sustainable Project of the Year award for Hampshire council’s Winchester offices and founding partner Rab Bennetts scooped the prize for Sustainable Leader.

The awards judges were:

Denise Bennetts, Bennetts Associates
Andy Ford, Fulcrum
Isabel McAllister, Associate Director, Cyril Sweett
John Alker, Green Building Council
Janet Kidner, Lend Lease Retail & Communities
Dr Ben Cartmell, Southfacing
Rachel Woolliscroft, Group Sustainability Manager, Wates Group
Julie Hirigoyan, Regional Director, Upstream Sustainability Services, Jones Lang LaSalle
John Pratley, Partner, Sustainable by Design