Our homes consume about 30% of the UK’s energy and produce 20% of greenhouse
gas emissions. 80% of that energy is used for space and hot water heating, mostly from gas.
With a net-zero target for UK carbon emissions, it is vital that we cut the energy required for space and hot-water heating to a minimum and use only zero-carbon sources.
The UK housing stock is old and inefficient, and the replacement rate is low. 80% of the homes we will be using in 2050 have already been built. So we must upgrade our homes to be much more energy-efficient and that means improving the fabric of the buildings.
I have written about this before (1,2,3), and some of you may be getting bored with it, but whilst there is a general agreement that it is a real problem we don’t yet have a way to solve it fast enough and cost-effectively enough.
We took a further step forward in February 2019 when over 120 people attended a workshop “Homes fit for the future – accelerating the deep retrofit market” organised by the Future Cities Catapult, Innovate UK and the Institution of Engineering and Technology.
Participants debated how to upgrade our housing stock to tackle the challenge of climate change and meet the future needs of our citizens. They looked at the challenges and barriers from the perspective of seven different stakeholder groups:
- Private Homeowners
- Social Tenants
- Social Landlords
- Retrofit Specialists
The interesting finding from the discussions was that the barriers were shared even if the problem was being approached from different perspectives.
We need to make deep retrofits desirable and aspirational for householders and reduce their fear of cost, hassle and ‘cowboys’.
Government has a key role to play in encouraging change through both regulation and incentives. A mix of sticks and carrots.
We need to cut the cost, increase confidence and strengthen the supply chain. That will need both experimentation and demonstration at scale.
It needs to be easier for landlords and householders to invest in deep retrofit. That will probably require new business models to go with new solutions.
There are more details of the discussion in the meeting report
The Connected Places Catapult Future of Housing programme will be working over the coming months with stakeholder groups to develop a practical plan for upgrading our housing stock to net-zero.
It is one of the major challenges we face in mitigating climate change and we need to keep the conversation going across society and industry if we are going to find solutions.