The built environment is responsible for around 47% of all UK carbon emissions, and the construction industry is well placed to influence and improve this figure.
However, there is a growing body of evidence that many, possibly even most of our new and refurbished buildings in the UK are not performing anything like as well as they should, especially low energy buildings. The correct regulations are followed, the energy calculations are double checked, and the certificates are in place. But over time we sadly discover that the building often remains too cold or too hot, too draughty, too dark, or too damp. What can we do to change this?
Read more… Carbon Literacy and the Built Environment – Closing the Performance Gap
Is the crisis in UK housing a problem of under-supply of new homes, or of under-occupation of our existing stock? Do we need to be building 240,000 more new homes a year?
Simon Jenkins in The Guardian, 21 May 2014, (link below) makes a strong case for under-occupation being the market failure, and as such he challenges the British economic orthodoxy in construction over the last ten years, since the Barker Review in 2004.
His point especially about the abandonment of the brownfield-first planning policy is correct and well made. However, he is wrong to support the principle of the bedroom tax. This tax is regressive – poorest people pay the most, and often in circumstances where they have no options for a smaller house or flat.
He could have added that an emphasis on refurbishment over new-build would impact on construction employment because refurb is more labour intensive. And can have a strong impact on fuel poverty and carbon emissions.
But perhaps the key market failure he misses is the mismatch between urban living and urban employment across Britain, rather than just the South East.
In short, market failure needs a programme along the lines of:
1 – more jobs outside the South East
2 – reinstate brownfield-first planning policy
3 – refurbish social housing, including houses-to-flats conversions
4 – tackle poor quality private rented properties, and
5 – begin to address the issues of poorer, older owner-occupiers.