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Zero Carbon Reports

The UK has a target that by 2016 all new buildings will be zero carbon. In 2020 the European Energy Performance of Building Directive will come in to force with its only nearly zero-energy buildings target.

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Are we ready for Zero Carbon Homes?

It is hard to say. It can and has been done. But at present (2014) most planning authorities outside of London are insisting at maximum on a 20% emissions reduction, over and above building regulations. This can typically be met by a "bolt on" renewables solution, such as thermal solar panels. In some forward thinking London Boroughs such as Barking and Dagenham, homes are being designed to Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4 or perhaps Code for Sustainable Homes Level 5, in larger developments. This might see an emissions reduction of perhaps 70%.

zero_carbon_consultantsTo achieve this 70% saving the project will need to implement combined heat and power or renewables such as photovoltaic & solar thermal, and have very good fabric energy efficiency. So one can imagine that to deliver a 100% reduction i.e. a zero carbon building, the design and specification process relating to sustainability features is going to be fairly involved.

As the graph to the right demonstrates there will be a severe reduction come 2016.

Are there any good Zero Carbon case studies?

Yes there are. Luckily because of forward thinking London Boroughs, and flagship projects undertaken by the Building Research Establishment we have a wealth of data available.  There are also other building standards to learn from especially for increasing fabric energy efficiency; The Passive House Standard, a German standard which is full of great ideas.

Example 1: Under the Sun Birmingham

Under the Sun is a Neutral carbon home in Birmingham, it is a Code for Sustainable Homes Level 6 building. It is important to note that a level 5 score will require 100% emissions reduction, but will not mean the development can be classed as Zero Carbon.

A unique zero carbon house in inner city Birmingham, meeting the stringent requirements of Level 6 of the UK Code for Sustainable Homes. It’s an eco-house that will produce at least as much energy as it consumes, and it’s been built around an existing house!

Example 2: The Barrat Green House

The Barratt Green House is a home that looks to the future. For example the heavy concrete floors used will reduce the need for cooling in the hotter summers anticipated in climate change predictions. Also, the interior space is flexible, allowing different permutations of layout to suit the changing needs of the occupiers.

High levels of insulation are incorporated in the building's 'envelope’, which provides Barratt with a sample of how to achieve Level 6 of the Government’s Code for Sustainable Homes. The house walls are wrapped in 180mm of insulation to keep heat in, and the windows are triple-glazed, allowing a good proportion of glazing equivalent to 25 per cent of floor area. The result is a light and airy home offering a comfortable living environment.

Example 3: Green Space

Green Space is a zero carbon development funded by a housing association (CHP) in Chelmsford. Green Space, in Mendip Place, Chelmsford, Essex which received a code level 6 rating under the governments Code for Sustainable Homes is a former garage site which has been regenerated to provide ten properties, four one-bedroom apartments and six two and three-bedroom homes for social rent.

Offering residents a fully sustainable lifestyle, Green Space uses a biomass boiler fuelled by wood pellets, rainwater harvesting systems to lower water usage, high-levels of thermal insulation and triple glazed windows to reduce heat loss along with roof mounted photovoltaic panels to generate on-site electricity - allowing residents to sell it back to the national grid if there is a surplus.

Interesting more recently the Passive House Standard is typically preferred by housing associations, this may because it can deliver very high levels of energy efficiency with just a 6% increase in build costs.

Green Space, Chelmsford

What are Zero Carbon "Allowable Solutions"?

The UK Government released a results from a consultation document in July 2014 for allowable solutions. This showed an enthusiasm for energy saving throughout the sector. Allowable solutions would be a "list" produced by central government that may include schemes such as offsetting under the Woodland Carbon Code or large scale off-site renewables. Whether these provisions would be enforced with section 106 agreements is at this stage unclear.

How does SWEL help with a Zero Carbon Project?

At Southwest Environmental we have been helping architects, developers and individuals spell out their sustainability strategies to their local planning office for the last 5 years. The first step is often the hardest, and most projects encounter these sustainability measures at the planning stage. We work with our clients to specify a scheme that meets their requirements, details of this are then put in to a Sustainability Statement or if the development is to be assessed under BREEAM or Code for Sustainable Homes we would prepare a BREAAM Pre-Assessment Report or a Code for Sustainable Homes Pre-Assessment Report to support your application.

Owing to the increasing complexities of meeting emissions reductions under the building regulation 2013 some authorities have started asking for a Sustainability Statement for Building Regulations Submission.