Get Housing off the Gas Grid, says CCC Report

UK homes are unfit for the challenges of climate change. This view, long-held by experts at the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE), is starkly spelt out in the Committee for Climate Change (CCC) report UK Housing: Fit for the Future? published last week.

The report pulls no punches, stating unambiguously that there is no way the UK can meet its legally binding climate change targets unless the performance of housing is addressed as a matter of urgency. CIBSE President Stephen Lisk summarised the view of the Institution: “There is no magical single bullet that can solve this issue. Buildings are complex engineering structures. The ability to design and operate buildings efficiently comes from a holistic understanding of engineering, environment and the people who occupy them. For too long we have left the task of designing many of our homes to people without that understanding, controlled by blunt regulations that are both inadequate and poorly enforced.” The report highlights failings across the board, but the headline issue is that energy use in homes actually increased between 2016 and 2017 and that even the performance of new homes is falling behind expectation. Current building practice is not producing the reductions anticipated both because of failures in build quality and because building regulations are not sufficiently prescriptive. The CCC echoes the finding of the Hackitt Review of Building Regulations, that better and widespread inspection and enforcement of building standards is a starting point, while retrofitting of existing homes must also be an urgent national priority. The report highlights the critical need for training within the notoriously skill-poor construction sector underpinned with a consistent policy within which training can be delivered. However, perhaps the most radical solution proposed in the report is that no new homes should be connected to the gas grid after 2025: a move that would force the pace in the development of alternative energy sources. “It’s a hard-hitting report, and it needs to be” Stephen Lisk continued. “CIBSE has observed a widening gap between the potential performance of buildings and the reality on the ground. It is hugely frustrating that we have the knowledge and the technical solutions to address all of the issues outlined in this report but apparently no will to implement them. We very much hope that this report signals the start of a change in direction for government policy.”

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