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Industry leaders urge chancellor to reconsider zero carbon homes 'U-turn'

21 July 2015

Senior figures from Lend Lease, Sir Robert McAlpine, Bouygues, Buro Happold, the British Property Federation and Willmott Dixon are among more than 200 signatories to an open letter urging George Osborne to reconsider scrapping its zero carbon homes target.

The letter, coordinated by the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), has been signed by directors and executives from 246 organisations. It comes in the wake of news earlier this month that the government has scrapped the 2016 zero carbon homes target – a measure contained in the productivity report Fixing the Foundations.

The letter to the chancellor states that “abandoning the zero carbon policy will have regressive impacts and be harmful to British industry”, before asking the chancellor to “reconsider and engage with us in dialogue to find a mutually acceptable way forward”.

Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive at the UKGBC, told Construction Manager that the letter was written as its members wanted a way to challenge the decision.

“In the wake of the announcement that government intends to scrap its long-standing zero carbon policy for new buildings, we were inundated with enquiries from our members – most of whom wanted to find a mechanism for challenging this shocking decision – and the result is this open letter, backed with widespread support from industry.”

Along with the UKGBC, signatories to the letter include: Melanie Leech, chief executive, British Property Federation; Mike Cook, chairman at Buro Happold; Nicolas Guérin, managing director at Bouygues Development; Hector McAlpine, director of Sir Robert McAlpine; John Frankiewicz, divisional chief operating officer at Willmott Dixon; Philip Sellwood, chief executive of the Energy Saving Trust; and Paul King, managing director, sustainability, communications & marketing, Lend Lease Europe.

"We have witnessed an unparalleled wave of support from our members and the wider industry who are deeply concerned about how the government’s sudden, regressive and arbitrary decision to scrap the long-established zero carbon policy will impact their business and investment."

Julie Hirigoyen, UKGBC

Hirigoyen, continued: “The speed and the stealth with which this administration has destroyed some of the long-term policies supporting the renewable and low carbon industries has been breath-taking. We have witnessed an unparalleled wave of support from our members and the wider industry who are deeply concerned about how the government’s sudden, regressive and arbitrary decision to scrap the long-established zero carbon policy will impact their business and investment.

“This U-turn not only means our new buildings will be less energy efficient and more costly to run, but it comes at a time when the UK should be taking strong action on climate change ahead of the UN conference in Paris in December. We urge government to reconsider its position for the sake of future confidence in the UK’s low carbon economy.”

Rob Lambe, managing director of the energy services arm of Willmott Dixon, added: “We have worked tirelessly over the past 10 years, along with our clients, investing tens of millions of pounds to develop detailed solutions required to deliver against the zero carbon homes 2016 policy.”

Mike Roberts, managing director at HAB Housing, added: “Scrapping the policy sends a terrible message to the industry and undermines all those who have put time and energy into making it work.

Since the release of the government’s report there has been a backlash from the construction industry over the dropping of the policy. In response to claims that zero-carbon homes are too expensive a zero-carbon home built for £1,000 per sq m, within the target price for social housing, was revealed on the BBC. The BRE is also close to completing a on its innovation site near Watford.

Supporters of the push for zero-carbon homes say they will continue working towards creating them, despite the government’s announcement. 

Gwyn Roberts, new homes & communities lead at BRE, told Construction Manager: “It would be good to have government’s support but many of us working in the industry are continuing to drive the zero carbon agenda because it makes economic and environmental sense, it is the right thing to do and we are ploughing ahead regardless.

“We have two new inspirational and innovative projects on our Innovation Park which are testament to this: the Userhuus which is trialling the first integrated terracotta coloured PV roof tile system in the UK and the Zero Bills home which aims to go beyond zero carbon and generate an income for its occupants.

“When we carried out research with consumers for our new Home Quality Mark the results showed that consumers want to live in sustainable homes that are affordable, aesthetically pleasing and conducive to wellbeing – this is ultimately what will drive the market.”

The letter in full

Dear Chancellor,

For the best part of a decade, in response to a long-established Government target, the construction and property sector has been gearing up to deliver zero carbon homes and buildings. Last Friday, we were extremely disappointed to learn that this policy is being arbitrarily scrapped, despite the fact that the necessary primary legislation only acquired Royal Assent in February this year.

There was a broad consensus in support of the zero carbon policy, which was designed to give industry the confidence it needs to invest and innovate, in order to drive higher energy efficiency standards and low carbon energy solutions.

Since the policy was first launched eight years ago, business has invested heavily in preparing for future standards. This sudden U-turn has undermined industry confidence in Government and will now curtail investment in British innovation and manufacturing in low carbon products and services. There is no evidence to suggest it will increase housing supply or boost productivity.

The weakening of standards will mean our future homes, offices, schools and factories will be more costly to run, locking future residents and building users into higher energy bills. It also runs counter to advice from the Committee on Climate Change, impeding our ability to meet our statutory carbon targets cost-effectively at a time when we should be showing international leadership on this issue.

Abandoning the zero carbon policy will have regressive impacts and be harmful to British industry. We urge you to reconsider and engage with us in dialogue to find a mutually acceptable way forward.

Yours sincerely

Comments

If we all move forward, as one, with government support, we stand some sort of chance of improving things for the benefit of all. A serious commitment to Zero Carbon gives confidence to invest in research, and widespread demand for renewable technologies is likely to reduce costs through economies of scale in mass production. The backward step seems to be for short term gains when short term pain might have yielded the results we need.

Andrew Bushrod, 21 July 2015

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