How new builds have an advantage over new EPC regulations
The government’s recent interest in creating a more energy efficient Britain – with the release of the Clean Growth Strategy and the new Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) coming into force next year – is not just positive news for the Earth lovers among us.
As energy efficiency policies have been put into place, some research has suggested that the cost of household bills has been reduced by approximately £490 a year, with owners of new-builds paying a yearly average of £440. These figures are a stark contrast to those owners of older buildings, who are said pay an average of just over £1,000.
While we can all do our bits to improve our own property’s energy efficiency, it may be in the buildings that have not yet been built that the key to achieving the future carbon budgets lies.
Recent research has suggested that 84.4% of newly built properties have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of an A or B, compared with a paltry 2.2% of existing buildings. This certificate lets homeowners know the potential cost of their fuel bills, along with its carbon emissions. This can be partly down to the initial cost of energy retrofits which are usually inexpensive for new builds, but often cost prohibitive for existing buildings.
Recently, it was found that a quarter of homes, and 37% of non-domestic buildings, in London had EPC ratings of E, F or G, resulting in a huge waste of energy. Just under half of these homes are considered fuel poor, meaning they can’t afford to keep their homes warm due to a combination of low incomes and high energy costs – an average of £336 per year more than other households.
The main reason for these issues are as a result of the buildings being built before good insulation standards were a requirement. On top of this, London’s gas and electricity prices have risen 30% since 2010, and doubled in the last 10 years, meaning plenty needs to be done if the capital wishes to combat these problems.
One of the primary differences between new and existing buildings is that, whilst an existing building is somewhat limited in its energy efficiency remodelling and retrofits, before a building has been built there is much more latitude on the design strategies. Moreover, the more new technologies that are adopted in new construction, the more that costs will be reduced and the measures become standard practice.
In addition, although it’s been suggested that the government will continue to roll out improved energy efficiency standards over the coming years, the prospect of having to upgrade a new building in comparison to an old one is not only going to be less costly, but also much less likely.
And it isn’t just these personal savings that point at new buildings being superior; there are a host of benefits for cities too. Improving energy efficiency can help alleviate many of the challenges that cities face, from climate change and public health problems, to unemployment and poverty.
With a building’s lifespan normally lasting over 40 years – longer than any other energy-consuming infrastructure – they are also good long-term investments. The construction sector represents 10% of world GDP and creates more jobs than other sectoral investments, with building sector investments being less risky and creating better returns when directed toward energy efficient buildings.
Buildings and other constructions are responsible for around 60% of global electricity use, and in cities they occupy over 50% of land area. The costs that these bring can be eased with energy efficiency and resource improvement which are passed on to residents, meaning lower bills. The cost improvements in energy bills and retrofitting can result in not only a more energy-efficient environment, but also increase people’s well-being.
Although the ever-growing need for more space and more buildings is another issue, sustainable buildings can be turned into a sustainable business, offering opportunities for energy efficiency innovation and business growth. This includes social and economic factors such as job creation, improving productivity and health, and reducing public budget pressure. In terms of the capital, economic modelling has shown that an ambitious UK energy efficiency programme would support over 10,000 jobs in Greater London, with works relying on skilled tradespeople and small-scale contractors. Jobs would be spread across communities offering benefits to many.
New builds offer these opportunities, and with no choice but to have energy savings goals in mind, incorporating holistic energy efficient designs can put us on the right track to a greener future that will help protect the planet, as well as our pockets.