A recent study found that homes in England produce more carbon emissions than all of the country’s cars… and are a greater threat to the climate! The study estimated that there are 25 million homes that produce some 58.5 million tons of carbon dioxide a year. This compares to 27 million cars that annually, emit 56 million tons.
Personally I was a little surprised by the findings, maybe it was just a perception built up by decades of media coverage on the matter? That said, I have for some time thought that our building stock poses more of a challenge. Cars crash, become economically unviable and are superseded by safer, more technically advanced models at a considerable rate, which fuels a consumer demand to have the latest version of any car!
Furthermore, the cycle of cars is incentivised with vehicle scrappage schemes, which ultimately means that fewer, older cars are on the road and the stock is constantly evolving.
Still dependent upon housing constructed a century ago!
The same cannot be said for our housing stock. Whilst we are adding new, more energy efficient housing, albeit at a slow rate, we are still very much dependent on housing that was constructed from existing stock with a lot of people residing in homes that were built over a century ago.
So when we look at making each of the sectors within our industry carbon neutral, the challenges are very different. Is this the start of a pivotal moment where we finally begin to realise that the greatest challenge to becoming carbon neutral lies with making improvements to our existing buildings, and not the automotive industry which has adapted much quicker?
Alterations to our housing stock must stand the test of time
The other thing we must consider, and for similar reasons to those already highlighted, is that the alterations we make to our housing stock must be able to stand the test of time. The changes made now must benefit future generations. They cannot be short term fixes.
The old adage – “Less haste more speed” very much comes into play here…
We know there is already pressure on homeowners and landlords to bring their properties up to a level of energy efficiency. The government wants to improve the energy efficiency of rental properties, increasing the minimum EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) rating of rental properties from an E Grade to a C Grade on all new tenancies by 2025, and on all tenancies by 2028. It has been reported that landlords are expressing concerns that they will not meet the new rules:
We must not allow a legacy of cutting corners…
The consequences of poorly installed and designed retrofit are well documented and well known, and there is little point repeating them here. But if you want to read more we have a whole host of blogs dedicated to the matter. However, with this additional pressure and the spotlight focusing even more on our housing stock to improve the impact it has on carbon levels, if we are not careful there will be a legacy of cutting corners.
What does this mean for our PCA members?
So what does this mean to us in the preservation sector? Well the answer is a familiar one – this is just further proof that damp problems as a result of poorly conceived and installed retrofit are going to become more commonplace, and our industry should become accustomed to identifying problems of this nature.
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