Recent policy changes and regulatory uncertainty
In 2014 the Housing Standards Review set out proposals for the early abolition of the CfSH, citing the need to reduce the regulatory burden on house builders. Whilst the withdrawal of the scheme was popular with many in the industry, the details of the successor scheme remain unclear. Many have cited an overly bureaucratic and complex assessment methodology, as contributing to the schemes demise. It can also be seen how many projects may have failed to meet, or abandoned their aspirations for achieving CfSH targets. Between April 2007 and June 2013, 136,749 dwellings at the design stage received a Code 3 rating and 42,290 dwellings received a Code 4 rating. By June 2013 only 72% had achieved Code 3 status and only 47% Code 4 status, at post construction assessment stage; perhaps reflecting the difficulty developers have found in delivering the standards
In July 2015 the new conservative government announced their Productivity plan; Fixing the foundations Creating a more prosperous nation . The document included the paragraph;
‘The government does not intend to proceed with the zero carbon Allowable Solutions carbon offsetting scheme, or the proposed 2016 increase in on-site energy efficiency standards, but will keep energy efficiency standards under review, recognising that existing measures to increase energy efficiency of new buildings should be allowed time to become established ‘
Zero Energy Buildings by 2020
This has been interpreted as the abolition of the planned ZC standard for 2016, although the UK is still obligated to deliver near zero energy buildings by 2020 under The Buildings Energy Performance Directive (EPBD). Given the long lead in time, and significant public and private sector R&D investment that has been allocated to delivering the scheme, the news has been reacted to with consternation by many in the industry. With the future now extremely uncertain for the climate change mitigation potential of new buildings in the UK to be realised, the importance of reducing the energy consumption of existing housing stock or ‘retrofit’ can be seen as more important than ever. Indeed in the recent round of questioning for the Energy and Climate Change Committee (ECCC) Secretary of state for energy and climate change Amber Rudd explained:
“We must face up to the fact that we do have a housing crisis. Getting improvements to the existing housing stock seems like the really big prize to try to work with DCLG on. So, although we’re not having new zero-carbon homes for now, we are working together on seeing what we can do for the existing housing stock”
However as is evident from the following section, current UK policy initiatives in respect of low energy retrofit are not getting close to the level of deployment necessary, to meet ambitious climate change act and CCC carbon budget climate targets.