21 March 2008
A government drive to make housing more energy efficient is placing too much emphasis on new homes, it was claimed this week.
According to the Empty Homes Agency, there is greater potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions through the proper refurbishment of existing homes than by imposing tight eco-standards on developers.
By 2016 new housing will not be allowed to emit any carbon. But an EHA study New tricks with old bricks, suggests that builders underestimate the carbon generated by construction. At present, it says, new homes emit more than four-and-a-half times as much carbon per square metre as properties that are comprehensively refurbished.
If the 288,000 long-term empty homes in England were upgraded to higher energy efficiency standards, carbon costs would be cut by 8%, says the study, which was published on March 17 by the EHA and the Building and Social Housing Foundation.
Councils should be rewarded for bringing homes back into use and allowed to count them towards housing supply targets, it adds, and repairs should be VAT-exempt.
Henry Oliver, the agency's policy adviser, said: 'If we're interested in quick wins to minimise the amount of CO2 we pump out… we need to place greater emphasis on reusing the buildings we've already got.'