Building a greener future: Government commitment leads to sector-wide net zero approach

Together we are Forbes

Article

18 August, 2021

2021 has already seen the introduction of rigorous new energy efficiency standards for homes, in the Government's attempt to lower energy consumption and bills, furthering their legally binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. Now, with the help of the Future Homes Task Force, developers, suppliers and regulators alike have agreed to take a sector wide approach to the current and future development of net zero homes.

In January 2021, the Government announced new energy efficiency standards for homes. The Government's plan includes a commitment to low carbon heating and being zero carbon ready by 2025. Alongside this, new homes are expected to produce 31% lower carbon emissions from 2021. In discussing their target, the Government suggest that these standards are a vital step forwards, towards their commitment to net zero emissions by 2050, a legally binding target introduced in 2019. Now the housing sector is demonstrating its commitment to playing its part in delivering this goal.

Organisations across the sector have reached agreement, through the Future Homes Task Force, to a joint net zero delivery plan for the next 30 years. The plan's goals indicate a commitment to delivering "places and developments that are consistently low-carbon, nature rich, resilient-healthy, well-designed and beautiful." In addition, the plan will ensure the use of "production and construction methods that are net zero and sustainable by 2050, with substantial progress by 2025 and 2030." The plan addresses four separate domains: performance of homes already in operation; planning and site design; production and the construction process and wider business. Specifically with regard to housing, the Task Force's roadmap includes a timeline for implementing changes to carbon emissions, water efficiency, safety and sustainable living, with zero carbon ready homes intended to be available from 2025.

Whilst these targets demonstrate a commitment to achieving a common goal, it is inevitable that changes to the production process and materials, will come at a cost, felt particularly no doubt by smaller and social landlords. However, with the Government's commitment pending, many will now need to consider how to implement these changes, through their long-term business plans. The work of the Future Homes Task Force has made progress in supporting this, though the roadmap will undoubtedly cause uncertainty and daunt some organisations.

Regardless of this, the picture generally appears positive for social landlords, with the insistence that they are in a good position to deliver on these plans and meet decarbonisation targets, particularly with the previous introduction of minimum energy performance by 2030. However, the social housing sector still faces the significant challenge of delivering on these rigorous emissions standards, whilst balancing this with the priorities and needs of its tenants against a backdrop of ever rising costs.

Overall, it is hoped that a sector-wide approach will help to set the benchmark for how net-zero will look in practice, particularly through the introduction of its collaborative 'delivery hub.' The Task Force suggest that for a sector wide approach to be successful, a strong buy in from the development industry and wider delivery chain will be essential, a step that will be expected over the coming months and years.

It appears that the Task Force has taken a welcome step towards introducing some certainty for the housing sector in their necessary move towards net zero. However, this step also serves as a reminder that significant change looms, specifically for the housing sector over the next 30 years, impacting the way we approach development and the marketability of homes in England, particularly affordable homes. While the housing sector appears to be at the forefront of encouraging innovative and 'greener' thinking, the spotlight is now firmly on developers and landlords across the sector to continue build the resilience required to deal with these changes. To achieve this, the age-old saying comes to fruition…preparation is key.

If you have any questions about the above, including how these changes may implement the development process, please do not hesitate to contact Laura Rae on Laura.rae@forbessilicitors.co.uk or on 01772220221.

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