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Are Newly-built Homes In The Uk More Sustainable?
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Indeed they are. But whether new builds or retrofits, increasing the energy efficiency of homes is beneficial to the UK economy in all kinds of ways.
Shockwaves hit the green house building industry in the UK in July 2015 when the Treasury announced it was dumping two planning regulations intended to ensure all new homes were “zero carbon” by 2016. The rationale was that these regulations were burdensome to homebuilders, a position that has some merit given the red tape barriers often cited as contributing to the country’s critical housing shortage.
The Treasury provided some assurances to environmentalists that it would “keep energy efficiency standards under review,” according to BusinessGreen.com, a sustainable business-focused website. The Government acknowledged the benefits of increasing energy efficiency in homes in its statements.
While this elimination of mandates might slow the advance of green home building in the UK, by no means does it suggest a return to the energy-wasteful building practices of the past. Home builders and their investors - frequently those seeking capital growth land opportunities for large-scale new building – have already been doing a pretty good job of constructing what are sometimes referred to as “high performance” homes.
The past dozen or so years of homebuilding have benefited from improved materials and methods, to significant results. The Carbon Brief, a climate science and energy policy news organisation, reported in 2014 that energy use in all UK homes, new and existing, fell by 11 per cent in the decade since 2004. Acknowledging that this was partly due to a warm winter in 2011 as well as household cost cutting due to the 2008-2010 financial crisis, several components that have become standardised in new homes contribute to energy savings as well:
• More insulation, double-glazed windows and better boilers - From the Fuel Poverty Report 2014, the portion of homes in the UK that scored in the middle- to high-efficiency ratings categories went from 45 per cent in 2008 to 70 per cent in 2012. This is attributed to better insulation, energy-efficient modern windows and condensing gas boilers that are replacing older standard boilers and combi boilers.
• Better light bulbs - EU rules that banned inefficient incandescent bulbs forced a rather rapid adoption of much more efficient compact fluorescents and now ultra-efficient LEDs. An energy expert at Oxford University, Dr Brenda Boardman, says that home lighting energy use dropped by 22 per cent from 2000 to 2012 due to better light bulbs – even while home computers and other electronics have added to the load on home electricity in this same time period.
• Energy efficient appliances - Newer, energy efficient refrigerators, ovens, dishwashers and washing machines are replacing older, less efficient models, particularly since 2008.
Because the supply chain for all of these items has learned to be greener, in order to compete effectively in an energy-educated consumer market, it means that all new construction now features greener components. Those who undertake real asset investing in new home construction need not make a tortured decision between “green” and “cost-contained,” as they are one and the same. Some of it came about by mandates, but much due to the advances in technology in response to rising energy prices and concern for the environment and climate.
Investors in home building generally do so for rational reasons - to achieve a good return on investment - however building can also affect social and environmental causes as well. Homes are needed throughout the country in all price strata. But before investing it makes sense to speak with an independent financial advisor to consider the depth and breadth of investing in UK and real estate.
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