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London targets Zero Carbon Homes

The Greater London Authority (GLA) is persuing it’s zero carbon policies shelved by central government in 2015 by setting a 100% CO2 reduction for new buildings beyond Part L of the Building Regulations,  or expecting developers to pay cash into a carbon offset fund to offset any deficit!

Under the London Plan, developers in all London Boroughs will have to come to terms with the reality of either developing very low or zero carbon buildings and paying for any additional CO2 emissions from their new development, under a new  London Plan Policy starting in the Autumn.

From 1st October 2016, all development in London will be expected to achieve 35% reduction in CO2 emissions below the target set by Part L of the Building Regulations by on-site methods and critically go even further to achieve 100% reduction in CO2 emissions by either further onsite/nearside methods or pay a hefty carbon tax to achieve the new zero carbon policy.

The 35% betterment than Building Regulations , currently part of the London Plan, goes beyond the last governments scrapped zero carbon policy target of Level 4 of the Code for Sustainable Homes. However, the addition of a payment in lieu of any shortfall in achieving the new zero carbon target will force developers to think once again!

Set out in ENERGY PLANNING Greater London Authority guidance on preparing energy assessments (March 2016) the offset price is set at £60 per ton for the lifetime of the building (30 years) although Borough’s are at liberty to change this!

This may put many schemes at risk if developers don’t appreciate this new and tougher requirement as planners may be forced to reject schemes which do not offer solutions. In addition, the viability of some schemes may be risked if  ways to achieve the new zero carbon target with realistic and cost effective solutions are not developed.

Richard Twinn, a policy advisor to the UK Green Building Council warned that many developers simply do not appreciate what these changes will mean in practice . He stated that “Oblivious developers will need specialist help to avoid London Offsetting fees.”

“Most people haven’t got their heads round what’s happening [through the London Plan],” said Twinn. “There are a lot of developers who haven’t twigged that it’s going to be effectively zero carbon. But it’s big news and people need to be aware it’s coming. Developers will have to go further than they ever needed to before or their schemes will be turned down.”

Currently and against National Policy which has pulled back from planned Zero Carbon Policies, The GLA, which is unique as it has power to impose sustainability requirements,  is therefore able to pursue a policy of very zero  carbon homes although it’s definition is slightly different to that of central government.

JB Comments 

The new zero carbon target for residential development set by the London Plan will undoubtedly have the greatest impact on the small to medium sized developers who have not had the resources to preempt the requirements needed to practically achieve Zero Carbon Homes.

From our experience in both small and large residential schemes, the required changes to building methods, the use of bespoke and recognised construction details, an intelligent approach to heating and cooling, as well as renewable technology considerations, are areas where most developers lack the necessary expertise and where we can add significant value.

In practice, our input at a very early stage in the process (RIBA Stage 1)  will be critical to any scheme’s success and profitability or it’s potential for becoming a financial black hole.

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