The environment is different now than it was five years ago. We are more aware of our impact on the Earth and how that can change its natural balances for generations to come, which means people will be looking at building materials differently in this new era too.

The UK government had set out a target for all new homes in England to be zero carbon by 2016. However, the Treasury has announced that they will not be making new homes carbon neutral in time, drawing widespread criticism from housebuilders and environmentalists.

This guide is aimed at informing builders, architects, and engineers of the current thoughts and plans regarding zero carbon homes in England, with a focus on new build developments.

Where to Start

If you are developing new construction or re-developing a site, it is important to make preparations as soon as possible. In particular, plans need to be made for the provision of renewable energy on the site, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to gain consent without some kind of on-site renewable energy source.

Conversely, where retrofitting solar panels or renewables to an existing building, there are many financial incentives available that might encourage the decision-makers in your project.

How to Choose the Right Materials                

There are opportunities to build with innovative materials that can dramatically reduce carbon emissions, but where practical advice will be needed for checking whether the product is fit for purpose. Special consideration must also be given to low-embodied energy products.

Innovative construction techniques and alternative building methods such as recycled concrete or solar panels on homes have been introduced recently in an effort towards sustainable development. However, these developments come at a cost: they often increase initial expenses due not only to their expense but because new practices require redesigning old structures.

Also consider using recycled aggregate. Recycled aggregate is a sustainable material that provides strength and consistency to a structure. It is defined as any type of construction aggregate (e.g. sand, gravel, or crushed stone) that can be reused to form new surface material after it has served its original purpose.

Sustainable Planning Policies for England

The Department of Communities and Local government has produced a number of planning policies in relation to sustainable building. Most of these documents can be found here.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) sets out the main principles and policies that local authorities should adopt when carrying out their day-to-day decision-making process. Whilst it contains no specific guidance for sustainable building developments, it does contain a number of policies that impact sustainable building.

The following extract from the NPPF is particularly relevant: “All developments should be designed and delivered in such a way that they make the best possible use of all the economic, social and environmental resources that are available to them, including planning, natural, human, and financial resources.

In Conclusion

The NPPF also goes on to say that sustainable development will be achieved by meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs while allowing flexibility for unforeseen circumstances. As such, your business needs to understand the importance of sustainable building over the coming years.

Claire Preece