Leading industry figures have described the UK government’s new Heating and Buildings Strategy as an important step forward, but have also called for much greater ambition and urgency to meet the challenge of decarbonising the UK’s housing stock.
A brief round-up of specialist industry reaction includes:
Sir John Armitt, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, said: “Kick starting the heat pump market to reduce costs for households to make the switch from gas boilers is an important step, but progress will need to be monitored closely. Alongside encouraging heat pumps, the key question is whether natural gas is going to be replaced with hydrogen or the gas network decommissioned, and only government can decide when and where that happens. This means it is vital that government sticks to its schedule for making decisions on the future role of hydrogen for heating.
“While we welcome government’s ambition to improve the energy efficiency of homes and other buildings, the continued lack of specific targets for the number of insulation installations makes it difficult to measure progress. It remains to be seen whether the range of schemes set out in the Strategy will be able to deliver at the pace required.”
Mark Hurley, managing director, water, energy & industry at WSP, said: “Decarbonising heat in buildings, both residential and commercial, will be a cornerstone of our national transition to net zero and cannot be understated. Heat from buildings contributes over one-fifth of the UK’s annual emissions and the built environment as a whole currently contributes about 40% of our total carbon footprint.
“The continued development of new technologies to heat our homes and offices will significantly reduce the UK’s dependency on fossil fuels, but clear challenges remain. To assure the vital direction of travel envisaged in this strategy, a clear and honest conversation with the public is required on the cost and options around new solutions such as heat pumps. This must be accompanied by meaningful investment in appropriate green skills and jobs. The acknowledgment of the potential of hydrogen to decarbonise heat is also welcome, but industry would benefit from a decision being taken on its exact role earlier than 2026.”
Dave Sheridan, executive chairman at Homes England-backed modular house builder ilke Homes, said: “While welcome, the government’s new heating and building strategy must be more ambitious in its goal to decarbonise the UK’s housing stock. To avoid huge retrofitting costs, policymakers must prioritise the delivery of zero-carbon new homes now by bringing forward the requirement to reach the Future Homes Standard ahead of 2025. Homes England could also be reserving public land exclusively for housing that meets this standard to spur investment into the technologies that could create a green industrial revolution in housebuilding.”
Russell Pedley, co-founder and director of Assael Architecture, said: “Architects have long been aware of the need to design low carbon homes, and this new strategy marks a major step forward when it comes to decarbonising England’s ageing housing stock. However, with much emphasis placed on incentivising households to install heat pumps, it is unclear what this means for private renters, who make up nearly a fifth of the country’s household occupiers.
“As England’s build-to-rent sector continues to grow year on year, more attention needs to be paid to the crucial role these homes can play in meeting the government’s decarbonisation targets while making up the shortfall in annual housing delivery. Modern methods of construction, used for many build-to-rent developments, can also help to bring in new talent from across the manufacturing sector to ensure we have the skills available to deliver a transition to low carbon housing.”
Jo Cowen, CEO, Jo Cowen architects said: “Meeting net zero means thinking bigger than how the homes of today are heated. Many of the places that people will live and work in have yet to be built and how they are built will determine whether we are serious about decarbonisation. The reality is that too many buildings in the UK are delivered using traditional construction techniques that are inefficient and wasteful and this feeds into a building's long-term performance. Embracing innovation, using new technologies and materials, and fundamentally making construction more like high end manufacturing, will be key to creating a built environment that is greener, cleaner and better. We all care about the future, our future and our children’s future. Therefore we are environmentalists at heart.”