Jonathan Storey, a planner with Pegasus Group, said: “A legal requirement for housebuilders to provide significant energy efficiency measures would substantially reduce the overall costs of such schemes.”
Based in the company’s Liverpool office, Jonathan is experienced in sustainable development.
He said: “Many new residential schemes include conditions focusing on sustainable practices, such as including the provision of electric car charging points at every property. Although not consistent across all major residential schemes, it is becoming a more common occurrence.
“Scotland has led the way in providing energy efficient homes with housebuilders saying the only way that they can get past Scottish Building regulations is to include renewable energy technologies such as heat pumps or photovoltaics.
“However, across the rest of the UK there has only been a very marginal improvement in the carbon emissions of new homes and very little sign that there is going to be a significant shift to zero carbon any time soon.
“Some Local Planning Authorities are looking to improve the energy efficiency of homes through planning conditions but unfortunately, due to the more flexible nature of planning permission compared to building regs, developers are often able to negotiate a way of exempting the need for exceptional energy efficiency.”
Jonathan points out that domestically, ‘going green’ comes at quite a cost.
He said: “The financial savings made by providing your own home energy will eventually offset the cost of installing energy efficient systems, but it is a long-term commitment with a lot of upfront expenditure.
“Improvements in solar photovoltaics and Research & Development are driving down costs, but probably not enough for homeowners – especially first-time buyers – to invest in the expensive infrastructure.
“A legal requirement for the builders of new homes to provide these energy efficiency measures would drive down the overall costs as there will be an ability to provide measures on a larger scale reducing material and labour costs compared to their provision on a personal expenditure.”
Jonathan says the next stage of sustainable, energy efficient homes is underpinned by the cost and success of the development of new energy (battery) storage techniques.
Small-scale battery storage systems could be key to unlocking localised sustainable energy. Photovoltaics located on individual homes would be able to feed the battery at times of production (daytime) when demand is at its lowest, and the battery could store this energy for peak times in the evenings.
This, he added, would have the benefit of reducing household energy bills locally while significantly reducing the strain on the electricity grid nationally.
“Currently the cost and efficiency of the technology is preventing its roll out at a major level but as seen with all previous renewable energy technologies, costs will only ever reduce as they become more established and cheaper to build.
“Existing zero carbon homes are usually of ‘exceptional design’ with very high build costs – making them cost prohibitive and therefore exclusive. Whereas legislation demanding the major housebuilders incorporate similar aspects of energy efficiency and sustainability into all of their new homes would drive down the price on a large scale.
“It is only through the continuing development of renewable energy and battery technologies that the costs will fall and become available to every UK homeowner.”