25 million homes need energy-efficiency refurbishments by 2050

Published:  02 March, 2017

More than “one home every minute” will need to be refurbished in the UK between now and 2050, according to a report by the UK Green Building Council (UK-GBC), and it is likely that 25 million existing homes will still not meet the insulation standards required by this time.

The report, ‘Building Places That Work for Everyone’, says four out of five homes that will be occupied in 2050 have already been built. That means 25 million homes need refurbishing to the highest standards by 2050. The UK needs to cut carbon emissions by 80% by then and a third of those emissions come from heating draughty buildings.

Such home renovation would save on bills and improve people's health, comfort and happiness and the UK-GBC says the “fiddly business of insulating roofs, walls and floors creates more jobs and has more benefits than any existing infrastructure priority”.

The report recommends:

  • Setting staged targets for refurbishing buildings.
  • Reintroducing the "zero-carbon" standard for buildings from 2020.
  • Recognising energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority.
  • Setting long-term trajectories for ratcheting up home energy standards.
  • Obliging commercial buildings to display the amount of energy they use.

BSRIA has welcomed the report, which is says discusses a crucial issue directly affecting home owners, home occupiers and the environment.

Tassos Kougionis, principal consultant – residential, at BSRIA’s Sustainable Construction Group, said: “It is true that the existing housing stock in the UK suffers from low energy efficiency, along with other inherited issued. This not only creates social implications, as in the case of fuel poverty, environmental issues and high carbon emissions, but also directly affects the health and well being of the people living in these properties.”

The wider economy – through additional construction claims, impact on investment, frequent required retrofit work, additional NHS costs and potential reduction in people’s productivity – is also affected, Mr Kougionis explained.

“Undertaking tasks to improve the energy efficiency of existing homes, such as increasing the levels of insulation or adding insulation where non-existent, is an important step forward and can provide the right opportunity for critical maintenance work to be scheduled alongside minimising disruption and optimising the retrofit process. This can also work the other way around,” he argued.

The UK-GBC announcement comes hot on the heels of government’s Housing White Paper, which sets out the government’s preferred approach in tackling the country’s housing crisis focusing mainly on the delivery of higher volumes of new homes.

“Nevertheless the new homes of today will be the retrofits of the future, so it is important to consider resilient new home designs and take into account the buildings’ expected lifecycle. Preventing new homes from facing similar issues in the future will require a good feedback loop being introduced as well as quality standards to be set,” Mr Kougionis continued.

“The Bonfield Review launched at the end of last year picked up on domestic energy efficient issues and called for a holistic approach towards achieving good energy efficiency standards. The report included 27 cross-cutting recommendations assisting in establishing a clearer way forward.

“There are still questions that remain unanswered, including how to best assess the energy efficiency of existing homes, who can cover the costs, what can be the role of local authorities to it and what are the levels of buy in from both potential investors and home owners.

“We have seen numerous incentives in the past with varying results. A proper evaluation of the impact of policies, new innovative solutions and financial support mechanisms will need to further explore solutions that work and adapt to the market needs accordingly.”

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