Huge drop in cost of building zero-carbon homes

Green houseThe extra cost of building a ‘zero carbon’ semi-detached home has fallen by 57 per cent since 2011. This is due to the development of the solar panel market, according to a new study.

The Zero Carbon Hub, a public-private partnership, has published an updated cost analysis of its zero carbon standard. The analysis is dominated by the dramatic reductions in the cost of solar PV.

Key findings include:

  • At today’s prices, the typical additional cost of building a semi-detached house to the zero carbon standard could be less than £5,000
  • Since the Hub’s initial analysis in 2011, costs have roughly halved. The reasons for this include the falling cost of solar PV, changes in the zero carbon definition and greater efficiency in meeting air tightness standards
  • By 2020, the cost of building a new zero carbon semi-detached home could be less than £3,500.

Zero Carbon Hub managing director Rob Pannell said: “The Hub has always recognised the need to work with industry in developing a viable zero carbon definition. What this report shows is that the zero carbon policy, while ambitious, is becoming more cost-effective. The challenge is to continue innovating to keep costs as low as possible.”

He said the next crucial step is for the Hub to support industry in raising awareness of the “huge energy cost savings” which can be achieved by choosing to buy a new-build home rather than an older property.

The Hub has worked with the National House-Building Council Foundation to create an infographic which highlights the annual household spend on energy in various types of residential properties.

“Looking ahead to 2016, the annual energy cost savings of living in a new-build property compared to a Victorian house of a similar size could be as much as £1,840 – 75 per cent less,” he added.

The cost analysis findings have been welcomed by various organisations in the housebuilding sector.

Paul King, chief executive of UK Green Building Council, said that given long-term clarity about the direction of policy and regulation, the housebuilding industry would invest, innovate and find cost-effective solutions to even the most challenging performance standards.

“This report shows that the cost of delivering zero-carbon homes has halved since 2011 – representing a fraction of the estimated costs when the target for all new homes to be zero carbon from 2016 was launched in 2007 – and is set to fall even further over the next couple of years.

“Modern, low carbon new homes offer massively reduced energy bills, helping their owners and occupiers to save hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds per year, every year in the future.”

Save energyJohn Slaughter, external affairs director at the Home Builders Federation, said the analysis and revised cost estimates provide valuable information that will help the industry and councils plan for the future.

“Coupled with the technical and other issues involved, plus the wider expectations of what developments can support, not least affordable housing delivery, this is still a challenging objective for the industry.”

However, he said further efforts are needed to identify cost-effective and robust solutions to minimise any negative impact on site viability and housing supply.

Meanwhile, John Tebbit, deputy chief executive and industry affairs director at the Construction Products Association, is also upbeat.

He commented: “The investment by manufacturers in innovation, mainstreaming of new products and continuing development of existing well proven products is clearly delivering cost savings and more robust solutions for zero carbon homes.”

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