Dumbing down on energy efficiency

Is our industry rudderless without revised regulations on energy efficiency? Glass Times editor Nathan Bushell looks at the latest report.

The impact of the 2002 edition of the Building Regulations, incorporating Approved Documents L1 and L2 for the first time, on the construction industry cannot be over-stated, in my humble opinion.

Even if we single out the glass and glazing industry, we can chart the development of trends, innovations, products, and businesses off the back of that publication (and subsequent amendments) alone – warm edge spacer, multi-chambered profile, soft-coat glass.
Yes, understanding the Building Regulations was sometimes onerous and time-consuming, and adapting and testing products to make sure they met the requirements was often expensive.

But in return we received a huge marketing opportunity, and energy efficiency continues to rank high on the lists of homeowners’ must-have features when they buy windows.

However, according to a recent report by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, Zero Carbon Homes, “the UK is currently without a wide-reaching domestic energy efficiency scheme, and as such, carbon emissions from UK homes have risen slightly over the past two years”.
We need not be in this position.

If you remember, the Zero Carbon Homes policy should have been implemented in 2016, which would have required that new-build homes did not result in the net release of any carbon dioxide into the atmosphere during day-to-day running.

This was to be achieved through a combination of reduced energy demand, generation of heat and power from onsite low-carbon energy sources, and abatement measures (such as planting trees) to offset emissions that could not be avoided.

Despite the building industry having had nearly a decade to prepare, it was cancelled by then-chancellor George Osborne just a few months before implementation.

The report – Zero Carbon Homes – concludes that had the policy not been cancelled, occupants of new homes built since 2016 would be saving more than £200 per year on their energy bills, close to triple the average saving intended to result from the government’s energy price cap.
By the end of 2020, more than 700,000 new homes are expected to be occupied with families spending more on energy than they would have done otherwise.

Think of all the opportunities lost for the housebuilding sector.

The report conceded that Zero Carbon standards would in theory have increased the purchase price, which would surely have been channelled into product development and marketing to homeowners who want to maintain their homes to the highest standards – opportunities for the glass and glazing industry.

Tom Thackray, CBI energy and infrastructure director, said: “This report on Zero Carbon Homes is a sobering account of missed opportunities.”