You probably remember the government’s controversial decision to scrap the zero-carbon homes plan last year. Well, it might come as a bit of a surprise to learn that developers now face the risk of having residential schemes rejected by London planners, as a new zero-carbon requirement will be coming into place soon.
After October 1st. the London Plan will require housing in the city to meet standards that are a whole 35% stricter than current Part L building regulations. If plans don’t meet this standard, developers will be required to pay cash in lieu into a carbon-offset fund.
A sustainable future?
Richard Twinn, policy advisor at UK Green Building Council, expressed his concerns that many developers were left in the dark about this new policy. He commented, “Most people haven’t got their heads round what’s happening. There are a lot of developers who haven’t twigged that it’s going to be effectively zero carbon.”
Whilst this new policy will cause headaches for developers who are in the final stages of submitting plans, it’s a step in the right direction for the world of sustainable construction. When the zero-carbon homes policy was scrapped last year, we were amongst the many disappointed building consultants. Sustainable building makes sense to us. And whilst we agree that the construction industry needs more than just a few short months to appropriately adjust and upskill, it’s for the best in the long run.
The new policy sets a higher bar than the level 4 of the Code for Sustainable Homes, which was initially going to be the standard before the zero carbon homes policy was scrapped.
It’s worth noting that the 35%-above-building-regulations requirement is already in force for both housing and commercial buildings in London. However, the carbon offsetting fund for housing that fails to reach the required standard is a new addition to the policy. The idea is that this will act as an incentive for developers to make their buildings as close to zero-carbon as is possible.
Bringing in the experts
Twinn commented, “It’s going to require architects to go further than they have before. They will need to be on the front foot if they want to secure work in London. Developers will be looking for things that can be done on site to help them minimise their offsetting costs. So there’s an opportunity for people who know their stuff and have innovative ideas to make an impact on the London market.”
Personally, we think it’s an exciting advancement for the industry and we hope that proper plans are put in place for a similar UK wide zero-carbon policy. The Solcer House project proved that zero-carbon homes can be built affordably with the right skillset, it's just a case of altering prespectives and thinking more carefully. Admittedly, the plans need more refining and developers deserve adequate time to adjust to the new standards but all in all, we’re excited to see how London developers rise to this challenge.