Report says 80% of new homes will miss government standard and that definition of zero carbon must change

Up to 80% of new homes will fail to meet the government’s standard for zero carbon homes, a new report from a group of construction experts has found.

The UK Green Building Council’s zero carbon task group said the definition of zero carbon must change if the government is to meet its housing delivery goals.

The task group, whose members included government departments, developers and consultants, said excluding the use of green power generation plants based on a separate site to the development would threaten the zero carbon target.

The group recommended that all new buildings should adhere to minimum energy efficiency standards for both building design and household appliances, when supplied by developers. The report assumed that this standard would be the level of heat loss allowed by government for zero carbon buildings claiming relief from stamp duty land tax.

It also said that all developments should aim to mitigate carbon emissions on or near the site.

As tipped by Building last week, developers can pay a levy when they are unable to mitigate all their emissions on- or near-site.

They would pay into a Community Energy Fund that that will pay for new community level, renewable power generation schemes to offset the remaining emissions from the development. Payments would be set at a level above the cost of installing community scale, zero carbon technology.

Alternatively, developers could build extra off-site generation schemes, without needing a private power connection to the development, as long as they can prove they are additional and have been built to meet the energy needs of the development.

The fund could also be used to pay for greater distribution of heat through district heating networks.

Paul King, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council said: “Government’s level of ambition is spot on and should be supported 100%. This is not about dumbing down or abandoning the concept of zero carbon. This is about ensuring the same high level of carbon savings, but allowing developers more flexibility in how to get there to deliver mainstream, zero carbon homes in the numbers required. The solutions we are pointing to are designed to ensure energy demand reduction always comes first and on- or near-site renewables should be the focus for meeting energy needs.”

Mark Clare, chief executive of Barratt Developments who headed the task group said: “The value of this report is reflected in the high degree of consensus reached by many different stakeholders, who come at this complex issue from different angles. We’ve successfully established some key principles, which we hope to see fed into Government’s consultation on the definition of zero carbon this summer.”