Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing the world at present and Scotland has set ambitious targets to reach net zero by 2045. A large proportion of emissions stem from inefficient homes and, consequently, delivering net zero homes will play a critical part in meeting this target.
Brodies Homes 2023 Conference brought together several organisations who are active in net zero home development, to discuss the key issues impacting delivery.
Decarbonisation of homes
Recognising the need to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, Stewart Dalgarno of Stewart Milne Group discussed the movement towards the "electrification" of homes and the introduction of new smart energy systems. The existing infrastructure will not be able to manage the eventual demand and the bottleneck, unless unblocked, will stifle housing and grid decarbonisation. To address this, innovators are looking to develop "Home to Grid" projects - SMART all electric housing developments which use decarbonised renewable heat and power, and SMART grid infrastructure with community energy storage.
Retrofit of properties
The development of new build net zero homes will not be enough on its own, and retrofitting existing stock is an immediate and necessary action to assist in meeting the targets set. Retrofit brings several challenges particularly in the context of many of the heritage properties in Scotland. Calum Murray of CCG and Matt Bridgestock of John Gilbert Architects have worked together on projects such as Niddrie Road in Glasgow, retrofitting 8 tenemental flats to an EnerPHit standard of energy performance, demonstrating the valuable contribution retrofit can make. The techniques in retrofit are still to be established and refined so it is important that organisations collaborate and share knowledge with each other so that the costs can be reduced in the future.
There was a consensus amongst all organisation that in order to support the delivery and installation of emerging low carbon technologies, more green skills and apprenticeships need to be developed. Likewise, it was noted that retrofit of properties brings unique challenges and usually requires the expertise of quantity surveyors and skilled trades such as joinery, which are in short supply. Steve Petrie of Scottish Gas Zero also noted that there needs to be community input and buy-in for a successful transition to net zero. To facilitate this, Scottish Gas Zero are going out into communities with roadshows to educate and demonstrate the benefits of the new emerging technologies.
How to accelerate the push to net zero?
Some of the key suggestions put forward were:
- Incentive tax breaks for new build, such as reduced LBTT;
- Introduce 0% VAT for retrofit works; and
- Lobby the Government to look at electricity prices with a view to reducing these.
A key theme throughout the discussions was that collaboration is important. The transition to net zero brings practical challenges but also opportunities, so it is important that the new knowledge garnered as technologies and techniques are developed is shared between all sectors and organisations so that this transition can be accelerated. If the housebuilding sector is able to make a significant contribution to achieving the country's net zero ambitions, then that truly would be electrifying.