The last time I mentioned climate change it was an unseasonably cold spring day which barely registered 0°C in London. Today it's 32°C Admittedly little if any of the difference is due to global warming. But this hot summer is a reminder of what is happening to our climate and a good point to consider what impact housing is making.
Last Friday I was privileged to be invited to speak at the Sustainable Development Commission's launch of it's excellent new report Stock Take: Delivering improvements in existing housing The UK has committed to reduce its CO2 emissions by 60% by 2050, with significant progress by 2020. Housing currently contributes 27% of UK's emissions and is arguably easier to improve than other sectors such as industry and transport. How are we getting on? Well not great so far. The last few years have actually seen emissions rise. The great fallacy in reducing emissions from housing is to presume that improved standards in new build housing are going to achieve the results. As this exert shows, this is not only wrong it's financially inefficient:
"The existing stock makes up 99% of all homes at any given time. Even with high projections of house building and demolition rates, an estimated 70% of the stock that will be inhabited in 2050 already exists. There is no option but to make the best use of these existing homes, to make them cost effective, healthy and comfortable to live in, and minimise their damage to the environment. We can significantly reduce the carbon impact of the 21 million existing homes currently 27% of all emissions. It is relatively low-cost to refurbish existing homes to high environmental standards, between a tenth and a quarter of the cost of new build (Cambridge Architectural Research 2003). Homes need constant reinvestment and modernisation refurbishing every 20-30 years, years; requiring about 1% of capital value at current market levels each year to be spent. "
Improving maintaining and renovating old housing may not be glamorous or sexy but for the sake of the planet we've got to do it.