Britain needs more energy efficient homes, builders tell the govt

The upcoming Budget must include measures to make Britain’s homes more energy efficient, boosting the construction industry and helping householders protect themselves against rising fuel bills, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

In a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, who delivers his Budget on 20 March, Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, says that by 2016 some nine million British households could be in fuel poverty.

‘We need action now to help get Britain building towards growth, and independent economists estimate that diverting funds into a massive public sector programme to improve the energy efficiency of Britain’s existing 26 million homes would boost GDP by 0.2%, create 130,000 jobs and help the government meet its own targets for cutting carbon emissions,’ the letter says.

‘We also want ministers to rethink the unrealistic timeline for zero carbon homes, which was set back in 2006 before the economic slump. Our own survey of smaller housing developers found that the proposals to change Part L of the Building Regulations in October this year could add more than £3,500 to the cost of building a new house. This will discourage even more developers from building new homes, further exacerbating the desperate housing shortage and locking low and middle income buyers out of the market,’ it points out.

The letter also demands a cut in VAT from 20% to 5% on home renovation and repairs as Britain’s ageing housing stock is deteriorating as home owners can’t afford to get work done. ‘Families are trapped in a vicious cycle, in which they can’t afford to move and planning red tape makes it harder to alter their homes to meet changing need. Cutting VAT on renovation and repair would give a shot in the arm to beleaguered builders, create jobs and encourage householders to make their homes more comfortable, affordable and energy efficient,’ the letter concludes.

The demand comes as new research show that buying a new home could save a household almost £300 on energy costs.
The research by house builder Miller Homes compares a newly built four bedroom Miller house with one built in the Victorian era and one built in the 1960s taking into consideration build materials of the time, and typical energy usages including lighting, cooking and heating.

It found that energy savings amounted to almost £3,000 on the 1900s home and just over £2,000 compared to the 1960s property.
‘I would also urge home owners in older style properties to ensure their home is as efficient as it could be wherever possible by replacing any draughty windows, installing loft and cavity wall insulation and even making sure radiators have thermostatic valves on them,’ said Chris Endsor, chief executive of Miller Homes.

‘But for those in the market to move, the efficiency figures of new homes speak for themselves,’ he added.

The house builder, which constructs all its homes to a level which offers greater efficiencies and economies from an energy perspective, is launching a new initiative to inform prospective buyers how its homes could save them money.
‘A number of new development show homes across the country will soon be equipped with details of how and where we have built and installed energy and water efficiency into each and every one of our properties,’ explained Endsor.

The homes will also we fitted with Smart Meter technology which gives home owners more control over their energy usage. Smart meters work by detailing energy usage directly to the energy provider and also providing information regarding a home's CO2 emissions. The displays in the home provide real time feedback on energy usage and cost so home owners can clearly understand how much they are using. They can also opt for an audible warning when their energy consumption exceeds their chosen amount, helping them to manage their energy spend more effectively.