Carbon: The Home Truths

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Homes that cut carbon and costs – Jonathon Hines, Jonathon Porritt, Bill Dunster and Adrian Phillips.

The 5th June was an apt date for this event; being World Environment Day. At a time where the cost of heating is going up 5 times faster than the average household earnings, more and more people are looking to make their houses carbon neutral.

Jonathon Hines explained how this is possible through the process of Passivhaus – the scientific comfort and energy standard thought up by a German physicist 20 years ago. Passivhaus is a quality assurance when building; it is certified by surveyors and must meet the target of a 90% improvement on leaks and thermal bridges. Local authorities in the UK do not enforce such energy regulation standards. This is a complete contrast to Brussels however, which will be entirely ‘Passivhaus’ by 2016.

It is not only homes that need energy efficiency. In some schools, levels of C02 have been shown to be above the legal safety level, leaving children in the classroom very sleepy and struggling to work. The newly Passivhaus Wolverhampton school has just declared a 90% reduction in gas consumption, massively reducing costs and improving children’s concentration.

Adrian Phillips stated that 93.4% of the houses that will exist in the year 2030, already exist now. This means that it is very important to start making changes in our existing homes, rather than new homes. Currently the UK is amongst the worst in Europe for its insulation standards, with 1/3 of houses with lofts not having any loft insulation (8 million houses), as well as this only 2% of houses with solid walls have the correct insulation.

One way to start making changes in existent homes is through the use of solar panels. The new solar pv tiles now cost around the same price of roof slates, Bill Dunster argues that if the conditions of the house allow it, there is no reason not to use these as a default building material.

Even listed buildings can have energy saving changes made to them; they just have to be subtle and sympathetic to the exterior appearance of the house. Adrian Phillips transformed his house in Cheltenham. By spending £36,000 on instalments he managed to reduce the annual energy bill from £2600 to £1400, also reducing his Energy Performance Certificate from 34 to an impressive 67.

With Government initiatives such as the Green Deal emerging, energy saving initiatives and renewable energy sources are becoming much more commonplace.