Worcester, Bosch Group endorses Queen’s zero-carbon homes stance

Published:  17 June, 2014

Martyn Bridges, director of marketing and technical support at Worcester, Bosch Group, has sympathised with the disappointment surrounding the Queen’s speech on zero-carbon homes, but ultimately considers the announcement commonsensical for the nation’s construction sector.

Amidst criticism of the alleged ‘watering down’ of zero-carbon homes targets, Mr Bridges believes more pragmatic targets are necessary in order for the newbuild sector to double its output and overcome the UK’s housing shortage.

He said: “Despite the criticism levelled at the government for its supposed abandonment of its zero-carbon homes targets, there is pressure on the construction sector to increase the amount of new homes being built to meet the increasing demand. It is evident that to meet the growing need for new homes, it is both financially and technically difficult to achieve zero carbon in such high volumes, suggesting the treasury may have had an involvement in setting more achievable targets.

“The impracticality and additional cost of equipping all new homes with a host of renewable technologies risked burdening housebuilders with too many hurdles to overcome. By not being too prescriptive, the new proposals around allowable solutions give housebuilders themselves the option to take a more holistic approach to enhancing their overall environmental contribution.

“While there’s no doubt the revised targets themselves are a climb down, they are at least more realistic than those set before the recession – particularly given that renewables simply haven’t taken off in the way we would have liked.”

Mr Bridges believes that a huge shift in the mindsets of UK homeowners will need to take place before the newbuild sector can consider the previous targets a realistic aim once more.

He added: “While the regulations weren’t prescriptive in specifying the technologies required to meet the zero-carbon target, the most likely way to achieve it was to install a heat pump system. Despite its billing as the future of efficient domestic heating, the heat pump is a concept most UK homeowners are yet to embrace.

“The very nature of a heat pump providing a low-temperature, trickle-based heating supply is so different from the manner in which we’re used to using a boiler that we need to bring homeowners around to this way of thinking before designing our homes around the concept. Ultimately, a properly controlled boiler is far more effective and efficient than a poorly used heat pump, so we certainly welcome the decision to not prohibit the installation of gas- or oil-fired boilers in new domestic properties.”

Despite welcoming the general approach laid out by the Queen’s speech, Mr Bridges has echoed criticisms of the decision to exempt smaller newbuild developments from the zero-carbon standard, asking: “Why should a small residential development be given less of a carbon standard than a larger site? By having one rule for developments comprising fewer than 50 properties and another for larger sites, we are essentially leaving housebuilders free to divide their larger sites into multiple developments to avoid playing by the rules. This surely defeats the object of introducing a new zero homes standard in the first place.”

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