So, a big week for the green movement as the world’s leaders gather in Copenhagen. It brings into stark relief the key issues facing all of the economy and our particular corner of it, housing.
The magazine has covered in great detail over the past 10 years the rise in interest in green features for new builds – from energy efficiency (through insulation, solar gain and so on) to renewables (particularly solar panels and heat pumps).
I live in a house that we built three years ago. In comparison to houses that we’ve lived in before, it’s exceptionally efficient and pretty cheap to run – and it doesn’t have any particular green features (if you don’t count underfloor heating and condensing boilers as green features).
If I were building a home today my 2006 vintage would seem, well, pretty old fashioned. Such are the step changes in regulations and standards (and, it should be said, the mainstream-isation of renewable and efficiency features) that new homes really are unbelievable green compared to their older counterparts.
The truth of the matter is that new homes really can’t get much more efficient. U-values (the loss of heat through a wall) are now so low as to be almost impossible to improve on – something the new regs in 2010 seem to acknowledge.
So it seems clear to me that while we’ve done spectacularly well with the 300,000 or so new homes that are being built in the period 2008-11. The fact is, however, that there are some 25million homes in the UK – so we’re dealing with between 1-2% of the total.
As anyone who owns an old home knows, making it green is actually pretty tricky, particularly if it doesn’t have cavity walls.
It’s time the regs and standards began to concentrate on the real issue – and I’m determined that this site and the magazine will turn its focus to helping owners of old homes make them greener over the next year.