In December 2015, the UK accepted the terms of the Paris Agreement. The accord recognised the growing threat of climate change on the environment and our lives. The objectives of the agreement focused on maintaining global temperatures at only two degrees Celsius above their pre-industrial levels.
This was a monumental treaty. The combined footprint of all ratified countries contributes to 79 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. However, now it is the responsibility of individual states to motivate their own sustainable efforts to achieve this target.
The two largest contributors to the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions are the energy and transport sectors. They make up 21 per cent and 27 per cent of the total greenhouse gases in the country. The Government has organised several policies to combat these emissions in response. In 2019, the UK became the first major country to legislate a net-zero target for carbon emissions by 2050. By 2030 alone, the sale of new petrol cars will be prohibited, and all homes are expected to be powered by offshore wind farms.
However, could new-build homes be another solution to the UK’s renewable ambitions? Here, we explore why the construction of new homes is creating renewable energy possibilities, and why we must utilise this opportunity.
Shortfalls and high hopes
Electricity and renewable sources of energy have become the obvious options for the UK to meet its environmental goals. However, achieving this is a matter of infrastructure. More must be done to achieve the UK target of powering every property with clean wind energy by 2030, and the investment will be high. One wind turbine alone can cost up to £3 million. Some estimates point to an additional 7,000 wind turbines across 140 new sites to reach this target. However, any investment into creating suitable wind farms may be hindered by gaps in the construction sector’s skill pool.
There’s a skills shortage in the UK construction sector. 35 per cent of workers are aged over 50 and only three per cent aged between 18 and 24. Over time, the demand for new workers will grow, while the need for new homes and the construction of clean energy sites remain consistent. Combining these efforts, by including clean energy in the construction of new homes could be the answer to the UK’s renewable ambitions.
In 2019 and before the pandemic, the UK was building over 170,000 new homes per year. This new space could help drive localised renewable energy. Homeowners could utilise electricity created on their rooftops.
For example, a home with two residents will, on average, need 12 solar panels on a 3kW system. This would cover about 20m2 of your roof. For context, the average roof size in the UK is about 65m2. Put simply, most new build homes will have the potential to create their own renewable energy and contribute to the grid. With self-funding options available, solar panels are an investment for individuals looking to save money and the environment.
A new purpose for new homes
Unfortunately, not all homes are suitable for solar panels. Due to the overcast nature of British weather, only south-facing roofs are effective. Also, older homes may not have the structural support to carry the panels, as older homes were not designed with this intention.
However, this provides a unique opportunity for new build homes, which are designed with sustainable practices in mind. All new-build homes have the structural support for solar panels, meaning that you can have your own panels fitted after or even before you move in.
Housebuilding companies can also offer sustainable options to help with renewable energy creation and increase energy efficiency. Directing properties for maximum sunlight harvesting means that solar panels can be even more effective when used.
The cost of solar panels can also be offset within 12 years. This means that for individuals or families moving into a new house, the upfront investment can be incredibly beneficial in the long run.
New-build homes also benefit from energy-saving installations. Most developments are created with double glazing windows as standard. Quality home building businesses will use water-restricting devices and create airtight homes. These further save energy and avoids any waste. Good insulation is essential in homes, and new builds offer the public the chance to live in an energy-efficient home. This saves carbon emissions regardless of whether the home is fitted with solar panels or not.
A smarter home
Renewable electricity and other energy-efficient tools can help further improve your environmental footprint. As mentioned above, when the sale of new petrol cars is prohibited, electric cars will drive a clean transport revolution. Charging them from your house will be possible. New-build homes can even come with Electric Vehicle Charging Points installed and integrated as part of the home design before you move in. It’s a future-proof investment.
Meanwhile, new-build homes can benefit from Waste Water Heat Recovery and Air Source Heat Pumps. Air Source Heat Pumps absorb heat from the outside air to heat your home. This may not sound ideal in the British climate, but they can extract heat in temperatures as low as -15°C. Using this smart device, you could reduce your home’s carbon footprint by 3.1 tonnes every year.
Waste Water Heat Recovery involves utilising heat from the water you already use, such as bath and shower water. You can recover 70 per cent of the heat energy from shower water using this technique. Ultimately, you’ll be reducing your carbon footprint and saving money on your heating bills. There’s no maintenance, no filters to change, and no need to turn it on and off. It can’t get easier to have a green home.
Creating sustainable communities
Of course, renewable energies are not the only way that new homes are helping to combat climate change. Many development sites have a strong focus on environmental recovery and the remediation of biodiversity.
Communities built with park regeneration programmes, especially those on brownfield land, are significant contributors to green recovery in the UK. A strong example of this includes a range of new houses for sale in Branston, Burton-on-Trent where the property development is part of a wider regeneration. Here, the previous land has been transformed into a neighbourhood, complete with new green spaces for the community to enjoy. The addition of new trees and green space means that carbon emissions in the environment are offset.
The objective of the Government’s emission target is to create cleaner air for the public to enjoy. And new housing developments are helping to create environmental respect for growing communities.
There is still more to be done to reach the Government’s ambition of renewable energy powered homes by 2030, and net-zero emissions by 2050. But by utilising the construction of new-build homes that promote the benefits of energy efficient properties and personal renewable energy sources, we can help to improve our lives, the community, and the planet.
Ella Pumford is a Content Manager at St. Modwen Homes, covering topics surrounding the new-homes property market.