43.2 Delivering zero carbon housing in a free-market economy

Jo Williams , Bartlett - School of Built Environment, University College London, London, United Kingdom
The United Kingdom has committed to a long-term target of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050, compared with the level in 1997. In December 2006, the Government introduced a target which specified all new build homes should be ‘zero carbon’ by 2016. This has generated a huge amount of debate within the house-building industry, amongst energy-service providers and policy-makers as to whether it is feasible in that time scale.

The policy is the first of its kind globally. It should help to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions and drive innovation within the house-building and energy industries, making developers and energy service companies more competitive in these evolving markets. Thus potentially it has a win-win outcome. However, the feasibility of delivering either is widely contested particularly without significant government intervention.

The United Kingdom can learn lessons from it’s neighbours in Europe and some of the more progressive states in the USA in terms delivering energy efficient housing, energy-plus housing and decentralised renewable energy systems. However, the most successful examples tend to utilise both regulation and fiscal interventions. This does not sit well with the more laissez-faire, free-market approach of the United Kingdom which largely relys on innovation in the private sector driven by a non-existent market to deliver the revolution needed in the energy and housing industries.

The Zero Carbon Homes Project has sought to investigate the lessons that can be learnt from the European and American models and applied to the situation in the United Kingdom most effectively. This paper presents these findings.