In the articles Building for the Future Part One and Part Two, we listed our predictions of the key trends for building back better in a post-pandemic world. One of the predicted key trends forecasts that homes will become greener and have already explained the Passive House Concept, a low energy design concept for buildings. In this article we will be exploring how you can decarbonise homes, as we answer the following questions: How do we build energy efficiency homes? and What are the benefits of making homes energy-efficient? Keep reading to find out how you can build greener for the future to help you #ONEUPYOURBUSINESS!
HOW DO WE BUILD ENERGY-EFFICIENT HOMES?
Did you know that more than one third of homes in the United Kingdom were built before the Second World War? This makes most of the UK housing stock old and inefficient, and to upgrade poorly designed and built buildings usually costs more than if you were to build a new home to a high standard of efficiency.
Shockingly, only 1.4% of new homes built in 2019 achieved the highest Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating, highlighting that poor quality homes are still being built. As the UK is trying to achieve a greener future and pave its way forward by reducing greenhouse gases to 100% by 2050; building energy-efficient homes plays an important role in helping the UK government to reach its goals.
This year (2021) the UK government have published new standards for new homes, The Future Buildings Standard, that provides consultations for conservation of fuel and power, ventilation of the Building Regulations for non-domestic buildings and dwellings, and overheating in new residential buildings. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has also already laid out plans to help us live carbon free and below we dive into how you take these plans into account and take the necessary measures to start building with energy efficiency in mind:
- Implementing smart devices: Installing smart controlled devices into buildings and properties can help people to manage their energy consumption which can also help them to better understand what tariff would best suit their needs. Smart devices can allow people to schedule their heating, turn the boiler on and off, control the temperature in each room, and so on, all through an app on their phone
- Replacing gas boilers: To reduce carbon emissions, gas boilers are set to be phased out and replaced with alternative greener energy sources to solve issues around the use of fossil fuels. The government has announced that by 2025, all new builds will be banned from installing gas boilers and will instead be heated by low-carbon alternatives such as heat pumps, hydrogen boilers, direct electric heating, and heat networks. You can read more about the Hydrogen Movement by clicking here
- Installing electric heat pumps: Electric heat pumps are a great way to produce heat for homes that are built in accordance with the Future Homes Standard because you do not need to dig up and disrupt people's gardens. Air-to-heat pumps produce heat from the outside air, using a system of fans to generate warmth and air-to-water pumps tend to be outside to absorb heat from the air outside. The air outside gets turned into a liquid which is then used for radiators, underfloor heating, and hot water. With the ban of installing new gas boilers in new built homes, the UK plans to install up to 600,000 heat pumps in homes and in commercial building instead by the year 2028
- Heat Networks for cities: Heat Networks also referred to as district heating can be used to supply heat from a centralised source to several other buildings nearby. This heating system could serve well in built-up areas and cities to use renewable energy distribution systems on a larger scale
- Direct electric heating: Even though running direct electric heating can be pricey it can be a solution to homes that already have a high energy efficiency standard as it will not be used frequently to keep warm and is a low-carbon heating technology, producing zero emissions when in use
- Putting insulation retrofits in existing homes: We explained that building new energy-efficient homes can be a much cheaper option than converting old homes to meet new energy-efficient standards however, we understand that most old homes will still be here and existing in 2050. Applying loft insulation and cavity wall insulation on existing homes can be a cost-effective way to help reduce emissions to support England reaching the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) band C by 2035, and help the government achieve its Real Zero targets. Insulation can prevent heat loss through walls and can vary in price depending on the type of walls and house you are insulating for instance, a cavity wall insulation for a detached house usually costing around £725, giving an annual saving on energy bills of £255
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF MAKING HOMES ENERGY EFFICIENT?
When building greener for the future, energy efficiency should be a top priority to decarbonise homes and heating as it will reduce the heat demand. Reducing the demand for energy and adopting low-carbon alternatives to make energy-efficient home improvements has a list of benefits which we discuss below:
- Reduces carbon emissions: Implementing renewable energy and energy efficiency designs into buildings could dramatically help the world to be sustainable as it will reduce the amount of CO2 emissions entering the atmosphere. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) predict that there will be a 15% fall by 2030 if the energy efficiency of UK homes were improved
- Betters energy performance: By 2035, the government wants to bring all homes in England up to an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) band C. Currently, data shows that new and existing homes across England are at band D (the scale being A-G, and A being the best). The rollout of smart meters across the UK is trying to collect accurate data on energy use in homes across England. Therefore, implementing renewables and adopting smart devices into homes can help people to monitor their energy usage and control their environment as every home performs differently
- Cost-effective: Building homes to be more energy-efficient can help reduce the demand for energy and therefore with less energy consumed means a reduction in energy bills as well as decreased emissions entering the atmosphere. A study by Element Energy suggests that by 2050 the electrified energy system including the insulation measures can save nearly £100 billion