home insulation

Better home insulation is key to lowering UK carbon emissions, report finds

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Britain’s homes must be retrofitted with improved insulation to reduce carbon emissions from heating appliances according to a report from the IET and Nottingham Trent University.

The UK is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050, relative to 1990 levels.

Energy used in UK homes currently accounts for about 20 per cent of UK greenhouse gas emissions and three-quarters of that comes from heating and hot water.

The report states that 80 per cent of the homes people will inhabit in 2050 have already been built, meaning it is not possible to rely on new builds alone to meet legal energy-saving targets set in the 2008 Climate Change Act.

It recommends the development of a national programme of “deep” retrofits to make homes zero carbon; this would see them fitted with highly insulated cladding and new roofs with integrated solar panels, double or triple glazing and clean heat pumps replacing boilers.

Pilot schemes suggest the whole retrofit could take just 15 days, with people able to stay in their homes during the process.

Rick Hartwig, IET Built Environment Lead, said: “New and innovative products will always assist in reducing costs and improving energy performance, but sufficient work has already been done in research and pilot studies, to show that massively reducing the carbon emissions and energy requirements of current housing is achievable and needs to be done. Retrofitting has other benefits too, making cold homes warmer, healthier and reducing bills.

“There is considerable practical experience in financing deep retrofit projects, managing them, and engaging with the householders. We need to build on that experience to create a national retrofit programme to deliver our 2050 goals. This will not only help drive demand but allow greater scale to cut the costs per property.

“Local Authority and Housing Association homes account for 17 per cent, approximately 4.5 million, of UK homes. It is the logical place to start scaling up demand for retrofit and driving down costs.”

Much of the existing housing stock is insufficiently insulated and has heating and hot water supplied by polluting gas-fired boilers that will have to go in order to meet the target.

The report also suggests that the NHS could save up to £1.4bn a year in treatments for conditions arising from bad housing.

Current efforts to upgrade energy efficiency, such as loft insulation and more efficient gas boilers, are “incremental” changes that will not do enough.

Dr Richard Miller, director of Miller-Klein Associates and lead author of the report, said: “We are going to have to dramatically cut the heat demand in the country, particularly domestically, and then decarbonise what’s left.

“We have to treat existing homes, and that means ‘deep retrofit’, going to zero carbon for heating and doing it in one jump, the whole-house approach that tackles the whole problem in one go.”

The Factfile ‘Scaling Up Retrofit 2050’ can be downloaded free from the IET website.

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