Buildingfor a Sustainable Future
Theconcept of climate change has forced players in different sectors toadopt measures that can help them make some contribution in reducingthe quantity of greenhouse gases that they emit each year. The realestate sector in the U.K. is one of the industries that have beentargeted by legislators for about one decade. The government has beendeveloping laws that will ensure that all stakeholders in the sectorobserve the guidelines that will help them lower the quantity ofgreenhouse gases emitted from the newly constructed buildings. Thekey determinants of the zero carbon premises include energyefficiency, allowable solutions, and carbon compliance (Zero CarbonHub, 2016, p. 1 and Morgan, 2014, p. 4). The primary objective of thepolicies and laws developed by the government has been to help thecountry establish buildings that are eco-friendly This paper willaddress the zero house policy in the U.K., with a focus on itshistory, success of the past attempts, and the possibility ofbuilding a new stock of sustainable homes.
Historyof the Zero Carbon Homes in the U.K
Theidea of reducing the quantity of carbon dioxide that is emitted fromdifferent sectors of the national economy has been debated for manyyears. The debaters are motivated by the desire to contain thegreenhouse effect. In the case of the U.K., the notion of Zero CarbonHousing gained popularity in 2006. During this year, the Laborgovernment developed the Code for Sustainable Homes containing aprojection that all new homes will have complied with the zero carbonpolicy requirements by 2016 (Bassi, 2013, p. 3 and U.K. Department ofCommunities and Local Government, 2015, p. 1). The idea was furtherreinforced by the strategic plan referred to as the Building a GreenFuture that was developed in the year 2007 (Morgan, 2014, p. 4). Thegovernment’s goal was to ensure that all new non-residential houseswould have attained the zero carbon status by 2019.
Thepublication of data showing that the amount of the greenhouse gasemitted from buildings accounted for 43 % of the total quantity thatis released from all industries forced the government to developedfirm laws (U.K. DCLG, 2015, p. 1). The country decided to containthis issue through legislation. The first law designed to guide theU.K. towards an 80 % decrease in the quantity of carbon dioxide thatis emitted from buildings by 2050 and by at least 34 % in 2020 is theClimate Change Act (U.K. DCLG, 2015, p. 1). The main challenge thatthe country faced after formulating the law was the determination ofthe strategy that could guide various dockets towards the achievementof the target. This problem was resolved in 2011, following theestablishment of the Caron Plan that provided the timelines for theattainment of pre-determined emission goals (U.K. DCLG, 2015, p. 1).
Successof the Past Attempts
Thereis no doubt that the mechanisms used by the government of the U.K.have increased the number of houses with zero carbon emission. Thesuccess of these strategies will go a long way in making it one ofthe nations that are contributing towards the establishment of ahealthy environment. It is estimated that about 33,000 new buildingshad been constructed as per the standards stipulated in the zerocarbon policies and laws by the year 2014 (Lempriere, 2015, p. 1).The success of these measures has been attributed to grants, support,and incentives provided by the government. For example, the executivearm of the government announced that the owners of the new housesthat meet the pre-determined standards would be exempted from thestamp duty from October 2007, which is an important incentive forinvestors in the real estate sector (NHBC Foundation, 2012, p. 41).This type of support was intended to reduce the costs associated withthe additional requirements for the development of zero carbonpremises.
Apartfrom the tax incentives, the U.K. government had issued about £ 10.5million by 2010 in the form of grants to constructors in order tohelp them meet the cost of complying with additional requirements(NHBC Foundation, 2012, p. 41). A large percentage of these fundswere given to companies that invest in micro-generation technologiesthat make it possible to develop facilities for on-site production ofelectricity that is consumed by occupants of the new houses. Althoughthere are no specific data to indicate the quantity of carbon dioxideemission that has been reduced as a result of these grants, it isevident that the money has played a key role in making renewableenergy accessible to residents of over 33,000 houses that have beenconstructed under the new standards (Lempriere, 2015, p. 1). A totalof £ 2,700 has also been distributed to agencies that are mandatedto increase efficiency in heating in different schemes (NHBCFoundation, 2012, p. 41). This program has reduced energyconsumption, thus playing a key role in lowering the quantity ofcarbon dioxide that is emitted in each of the newly constructedhouses.
Althoughthere is sufficient evidence to show that the previous attempts toencourage people to establish zero carbon buildings have brought somebenefits, the U.K. has not been able to meet its targets. It has beenreported that the existing regulations have only achieved a 33 %increase in energy efficiency compared to the anticipated rate of 44% (Lempriere, 2015, p. 1). The lack of capacity to meet theseobjectives can be attributed to two key factors. First, the zerocarbon policies are associated with a drastic increase in the cost ofconstructing new buildings. The large amount of money required toobserve the regulations has been a key barrier that has limited thesuccess of the previous attempts. Data shows that the zero carbonlaws resulted in an increase in the cost of constructing newbuildings in the U.K. by £ 2,600,000 annually (Khodabuccus, 2015, p.3). This challenge is associated with the failure on the part of thegovernment to specify who should meet the expenses of complying withthe policies.
Thesecond challenge is the allocation of inadequate grants that areunevenly distributed to the relevant stakeholders. Although there issome money set aside each year to empower investors to meet thestandards, this financial support cannot fill the gap associated withthe increase in the cost of building new houses. The aspect ofinequality in the distribution of grants is attributed to the factthat the government funds are allocated to a few investors,especially in the field of energy. However, the success of theconstruction industry is achieved through the concerted efforts ofmany people and organizations. For example, players in the realestate sector in London received 6.4 %, in spite of the fact theyhave a 13 % market share in housing (Ares, 2016, p. 9). A combinationof these challenges has reduced the success of the previous attemptsmade by the government to ensure that all new houses meet the zerocarbon requirements.
Housesthat Meet the 2050 Targets
Theidea of building the zero carbon houses may have faced numerouschallenges in the past, but it is evident that it will help the U.K.establish a stock of buildings that meet 2050 targets. The future ofthese sustainable residential as well as commercial infrastructurescan be determined by identifying the number of certifications issuedfor compliance with the standards. This assessment is done byprofessionals from the BREEM, which is a program established tomonitor the level of compliance. The evaluation is based on theimpact that new buildings have on the site, acoustic performance, andthe responsibility of constructors in sourcing material (BuildingResearch Establishment Ltd., 2017, p. 1). Studies have shown thatover 24,000 assessments done by licensed assessors from BRE GlobalLtd were completed between 2009 and 2012 (Bevan, 2014, p. 5). About69 % of them are domestic, 27 % non-domestic new constructions, andthe remaining ones are existing buildings that have been upgraded(Bevan, 2014, p. 9). The data confirm that the measures put in placeby the relevant agencies will result in the establishment ofsustainable houses that are 2050 ready, in spite of the fact that thedesired target may not be achieved.
Driversfor the Achievement of Carbon Reduction Targets
Thetargets set for the reduction of the quantity of carbon dioxide canbe achieved by observing three major recommendations. The first oneis the enhancement of the education and training programs. Thestakeholders (including the government) need to evaluate therelevance of the programs used to prepare engineers and other playersin the real estate sector in order to ensure that they are equippedwith skills that will enable them to comply with standards outlinedin the zero carbon policies (Farookhi, 2012, p. 7). The training aswell as the educational programs should be designed in a way thatwill ensure that graduates in different fields (such as civilengineering) have acquired the competencies and knowledge to installthe recommended micro-energy generators and other equipment.
Secondly,the government should increase the amount of money set aside toprovide incentives to the stakeholders in the real estate sector.Under the current program, tax exemption is offered to builders ofnew buildings that have complied with the zero carbon policyrequirements (Raynsford, 2012, p. 4). However, this type of incentiveshould be extended to materials that are used during the constructionof sustainable houses. By reducing the tax charged on buildingmaterials, the government will have lowered the cost of establishingthe premises that meet the targets (Twinn, 2012, p. 13 and Hui, 2015,p. 16). Moreover, an increase in the funds used to motivate investorsin the real estate sector should be accompanied by rules that willenhance equity in the distribution of grants and other resources.Some cities (such as London) that develop the largest number of newhouses each year receive a disproportionate allocation of governmentfunds (Salama, 2013, p. 3). Consequently, the desired impact of thegrants has not been felt in all parts of the U.K. This challenge willbe reduced by increasing the financial support and ensuring thatresources are distributed fairly.
Third,the policy for zero carbon houses should be reformed in order toensure that it provides clear definition of different terms andmeasures for the achievement of different targets. The government hasbeen accused of making ambiguous objectives. It failed to provide aclear definition of the concept of zero carbon emission. The meaninghas been changed over the years. For example, the definition wasadjusted in 2011 to include emission from heating as well as lightingwhile excluding those that are obtained from unregulated sources ofenergy, such as those that are consumed by appliances fitted in thehouse (Lempriere, 2015, p. 1). A clear meaning of all concepts andterms included in the policy paper will reduce ambiguity, thusincreasing the successful achievement of zero carbon targets.
Thezero carbon policy will help the U.K. to build a stock of sustainablehouses, but some of the targets may not be achieved. The idea ofdeveloping a strategy that could help the country to reduce thequantity of greenhouse gases emitted from the buildings was based onthe need to contain the issue of climate change. The government hasfailed to achieve the targeted number of new houses that meet thestandards, but the past attempts have helped it establish tens ofthousands of sustainable premises. Therefore, the zero carbon policywill go a long way in helping the U.K. to develop a large stock ofeco-friendly buildings and reduce the amount of poisonous gases thatit contributes into the atmosphere each year.
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