Building Emissions and meeting Paris Climate Change Agreement

BEIS dialogue

How can our construction industry (1) use its existing strengths to halve energy use in buildings?

  1. Halving energy use in buildings is an inadequate target. To meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement on climate change energy use must be reduced by at least 80%. Some would argue for a 90% reduction in 20 years. The ideas below are in this context.
  2. Buildings accounts for 40% of final energy demand and 35% of total emissions (140 MtCO2e) The energy performance of existing buildings must be radically improved to meet demand reduction targets, There are about 28 million dwellings in UK (about three quarters of which will remain in 2050) which account for two thirds of energy use in buildings (~450 TWh / year), and approximately 27% of total GHG emissions.
  3. The construction industry can do whatever it is asked to do. The Crossrail project in London is an example of the astonishing capability of the industry. In general the industry is contracted to carry out projects by a variety of private and public sector agencies. The capacity of the industry to have any effect on energy use will therefore depend on the requirements of the contracts it is asked to execute.
  4. Some construction is carried out by owner-developers, the prime example is the house building industry.
  5. The industry response to energy efficiency will be determined by regulation and legislation. If low/zero energy buildings are required by law, then the industry will provide them. At present this is not the case. In fact the Government has gone backwards by removing or reducing energy efficiency requirements (see below).
  • Energy Efficiency Commitment (EEC) started 2003, withdrawn 2008
  • Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) 2008, withdrawn 2013
  • Community Energy Savings Programme (CESP) launched 2009, withdrawn 2012
  • EPCs to be included in House Information Packs (HIPs abandoned May 2010)
  • Code for Sustainable Homes – Initiated 2006 – abandoned in 2016 in ‘bonfire of red tape’ some aspects transferred to Part L Building Regs (equivalent to Code level 3 (out of 6)
  • Green Deal – launched January 203, re-launched 2014 scrapped in 2015.
  • Renewables Obligation launched 2002 including onshore wind subsidy, ended 2016
  • Zero Carbon Homes 2006 – announced that all new homes to be zero carbon by 2016. Zero Carbon Hub set up to advise/promote. Scrapped 2015,
  • ZC Hub scrapped 2016
  • 2014 – Domestic renewable heat Incentive (RHI) established – subsidy for solar thermal removed 2017
  • Photovoltaics –
  • 2010 FiT: ±45p / kWh for 25 years
  • 2012: 16p / kWh for 20 years
  • 2015:  4.39p / kWh
  • Carbon Reduction Committee set up 2010 – abolished 2016
  1. The first requirement is therefore to establish a ‘level playing field’ of energy efficiency legislation and regulation which all construction must adhere to. This is a job for Government, not the industry. Without this baseline very little will happen. It is essential to have a workable set of energy efficiency regulations which everyone has to adhere to and which establishes a ‘New Normal’ for all construction. The standards must be mandatory not voluntary. They must be outcome-focused and supported by a comprehensive system of monitoring, measurement and enforcement to ensure that standards are met. It is possible to establish a ‘trajectory’ of gradually tightening regs. so that the direction of travel is generally understood.
  2. Given consistent regulation, Near Zero Energy Buildings (or Net Zero Energy Buildings where energy in equals energy out) are possible across all sectors. The information, techniques, materials and methods are well known and available. The expectation should be that all new buildings are NZEB.
  3. New house building is provided mainly by the ten major house builders (2) who have the expertise needed to build to low/zero energy standards - as was beginning to happen from 2006 until the Zero Carbon Homes provisions were scrapped by the current Government. Initial additional costs should be able to be absorbed by these highly profitable companies.
  4. New construction to low carbon standards can be regarded as relatively straightforward, given an operating environment of efficiency outcomes regulation (the ‘new normal’) which should be established by any government seriously wishing to achieve low carbon objectives in line with the Paris Agreement.
  5. Retrofitting the existing building stock is more complex. But investment of effort should be seen in terms of the total value of the stock – about £8 trillion (3). By far the major challenge is retrofitting the existing housing stock - some 28 million dwellings - total value nearly £6 trillion. The standards for housing retrofit should be set within those for new build, adjusted to reflect real-life situations (e.g. Enerphit vs Passivhaus) (4) but should aim for a reduction of housing energy use by at least 75%
  6. Pilot projects have shown what needs to be done; costs appear high but it is essential to avoid ‘pilot paralysis’ - ad hoc approaches won’t work. The key to solving the retrofit challenge is aggregation (5), i.e. assembling large-scale retrofit packages which lead to cost reductions and construction efficiencies. A National Infrastructure Project for housing retrofit would provide the framework within which such projects could be assembled and financed, and, most importantly, would be the best way to bring the full range of skills in the construction industry to bear on tackling housing retrofit at the pace and scale needed.
  7. A National Housing Retrofit Infrastructure Project (NHRIP) allows development of financing and installation methods which reduce costs, risks and stress for individual households, and significantly improves the attractiveness of the market for funders (banks, lenders, insurers, pension funds etc). It could include the development of Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) delivering efficiency services which de-risk retrofit for individual households and could assist in rewarding efficiency measures through, for example Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) schemes (6).
  8. Area-wide programmes could be identified, planned and delivered working with Local Authorities which have detailed information on local housing and social conditions and could lead on programme development in conjunction with private investors.
  9. A NHRIP maximizes the benefits of cost reduction through economies of scale and as experience grows. The scale of deployment would lead to  standardization or industrialisation of triple glazed units, insulation installation, ventilation, heating and other ancillary equipment. There would be market opportunities in development of new techniques, equipment and materials
  10. A NHRIP creates a new financing environment - at present individual or small-scale projects seek finance from sectors which are unused to financing retrofit and unsure about risks. Large-scale projects with declared government support would align conventional funding streams with retrofit, provide incentives for significant private sector investment,  making it easier for owners to undertake retrofits using equity/debt without recourse to public finance. ‘Pay-for-service’ contracts developed by special-purpose ESCOs ease and de-risk the retrofit process for households.  House sales (about 1 million per yr) are key points at which retrofit can be activated through legislation, stamp duty, VAT reductions etc. Also, lenders could make loans subject to efficiency requirements or provide ‘beneficial’ mortgages which recognize retrofit work. Retrofit programmes could link to normal house renovation (approximately £20 bn/year)
  11. Apart form direct energy benefits (including reduced fuel poverty) a NHRIP would generate significant and calculable strategic ‘non-energy’ benefits such as increased employment, regional economic benefit effects (manufacturing, construction) due to the widespread nature of work, reduced pollution, reduced GHG emissions and thus reduced risk of climate change, Improved productivity due to better health in more comfortable homes, improved housing asset value (individual and national),
  12. The NHRIP should include a comprehensive training and upskilling programe for the work force (including the design professions), and must make provision for better Information and research (e.g. sharing of information on building performance) and developing more sophisticated survey and monitoring techniques would that would be needed as part of the Project.

Why the contribution is important

Ultimately meeting the Paris Climate Change agreement, preferably limiting warming to near 1.5C, is very important.

For the UK to make their contribution to this target, while respecting global equity, requires reductions in emissions at a far more ambitious level than current UK greenhouse gas reduction targets.

by GreenParty on July 14, 2018 at 07:59AM

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  • Posted by GreenParty July 14, 2018 at 08:03

    There are references (eg web addresses) for the idea above (as indicated by (x), but the system would not accept the submissions with the references, so they have not been included
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