The Urgency of Climate-Ready UK New Builds: How to Win the Battle for Future Generations
It is frequently claimed that the UK’s 1% of carbon emissions has little impact when put up the world’s biggest hitters. However, this does not change the detrimental, life-altering effects climate change is currently having on the nation. Therefore, there is a collective need to act now. Reports state that China, the earth’s biggest polluter, is committed to green and low-carbon development and is working hard to become carbon neutral by 2060. They have grasped the economic and social consequences. The UK government mustn’t overlook the need to invest in adaptation and regulation in infrastructure. The UK developed a Net Zero strategy of its own which was forwarded by Boris Johnson in preparation for Glasgow’s COP26. But after receiving scrutiny in the High Court for protocols not being met at an acceptable rate, efforts were made to produce a revised strategy. There is one thing being able to flaunt your country’s ambitious plans for a sustainable future, but not having the firepower to back it up is another issue in itself.
UK infrastructure, with specific reference to new build properties, are being challenged by the intensifying heatwaves the UK is experiencing. Due to the lack of attention and thereby investment that the government has devoted to these concerns, they look noticeably unprepared to protect their country from the Mediterranean weather that is predicted to commandeer the summers for good. On the other hand, climate change has also significantly increased the likelihood of extreme rainfall, leaving millions of people prone to the risk of flooding.
Cool Summers and Warm Winters
British homes are going to be unavoidably impacted by climate change over the upcoming decades. Properties that are situated by the coast, below sea-level and near any major rivers are at a high-risk of being affected by the UK’s ‘wetter’ weather predictions. Projection maps are now showing signs of high-flood risks as far inland as Peterborough by 2050. The UK has also set new records for the amount of wildfires that have been occurring across the southern and even northern parts of the country. Hence, the need to retrofit existing homes and ensure future builds are low-carbon and resilient to adverse weather conditions is a top priority. Implementing the likes of low-carbon heating and efficient ventilation systems would be highly beneficial and cost-effective for homeowners. As more awareness is generated, buyers will become increasingly mindful of these systems, providing an opportunity for developers to get ahead of the curve. This could enable homes to get cooler in summer and warmer in winter. A reduced demand of fossil fuels to keep houses warm could improve energy efficiency and halt the number of low-income households falling into poverty due (perhaps due to an over-reliance). However, adverse effects could be had as householders may start struggling to afford cooling systems. It is still difficult to quantify whether the tradeoff between reduced heating and increased cooling is a net positive.
This underlines the importance of proper Insulation systems in new builds. If you want to trap heat energy in a cost-efficient way, you’ve got to insulate. This method controls the flow of heat, reducing how much is lost or gained. So, this is not only seen as an effective way to combat extreme weather conditions, but it will in turn lead to less CO2 emissions and a cleaner, better preserved environment.
What Developers are Currently Doing
As part of the list of momentous plans to achieve Net Zero by 2050, there almost certainly will be a nationwide gas boiler ban for new build homes. One major alternative would be the heat pump. This is an appliance that extracts heat energy from the earth and turns into central heating and a source of hot water. Redrow is the first large British housebuilder to standardise this in new developments. The developer will be tasked with future-proofing homes and aiding clients in lowering energy uses in various ways whilst moving away from traditional appliances.
Another pioneering solution that has gained popularity over the years is solar panels. These can be more multi faceted than heat pumps as they can help power all the electrical systems in your home. Solar panels often come with batteries which allow the homeowner to use at a later date, increasing independence from the grid itself.
Creating a Sustainable Future
There are a range of costly and relatively inexpensive solutions to adapt the durability of homes and keep them cool in hot weather. The planting and preservation of trees and public parks surrounding urban neighbourhoods can also engender change. Not only do trees reduce and offset carbon emissions, but can pick up rainwater, lessening the overwhelming effect of extreme storms. Climate adaptation methods also need to be addressed amongst landlords and residential developers in their existing buildings. While some housing associations are including actions to combat severe heat and flooding as part of their ESG reporting, they are in the minority due to the lack of standardized measures and standards. Current policies are failing to scale these low-carbon, resilient measures at a quick enough pace. There needs to be a fundamental shift in behaviour to enforce technology and scientific knowledge in local authorities and policymakers. This will not only speed up the process but hold people accountable for failing to take the major steps required to change.
Time to Act
It has widely been acknowledged that UK homes are not ready for the effects of climate change. The homes that are being constructed today will be around for decades to come, and so it is an absolute must that they are able to withstand the inevitable
The effects of climate change pose a number of major challenges to UK new builds. There is ample opportunity to take proactive measures to lessen the devastating consequences. By incorporating energy efficiency and adaptability into their design, whilst carefully considering the use of innovative construction materials, Net Zero plans could be urgently met. Further incentivising landlords and developers to install renewable technologies on new and existing properties will prove to be crucial. The government sticking to their own promises around Net Zero investment plans would be pretty worthwhile, too.