When it comes to reducing CO2 emissions, the substance of the argument resides in the substance of the building and those taking this on board will achieve the biggest improvements.
Style over substance is unfortunately a la mode these days and the quality of underlying products often gets lost in the array of bells and whistle, clip on goodies and added extras that seem to come with everything we buy.
The great debate for consumers, therefore, revolves around false economy and whether the decisions they make today will stand them in good stead for tomorrow.
This is particularly true in the housing market and debate thunders on over the impact our homes have on the environment and the best way for us to build and maintain sustainable developments.
One of the main issues around housing is the amount of CO2 emissions that different types of design and construction generate over the lifetime of a property.
Our preoccupation with quick fixes and a massive media campaign around renewable energy, has led many to believe the best solution in the battle to bring down CO2 emissions is to employ the likes of wind turbines, solar panels and thermal water heaters.
There is no doubt that all of these have their place and that where used appropriately they have an important role to play in the future of sustainable energy generation.
However to call them up as the front line troops in the war against CO2 emissions is a mistake. Instead they are better deployed as auxiliary forces and the lion’s share of the work should fall upon the external fabric of the building (walls, floors, roofs and external joinery) and its ability to make substantial differences to a building’s thermal performance.
In practice the energy efficiency of a building boils down to a couple of things. How much fuel is required to power its heating and water systems and how well the building manages to retain the heat that is generated
The better a building performs in these two areas, the less fuel its occupants will use on a daily basis and the lower its emissions will be. As such the fabric of a building is central to its green credentials. Increasingly this is becoming a significant factor in the decision making process for all house builders.
Next year the building standard regulations in place will be amended to ensure all new properties deliver a 30% cut in the current benchmark for CO2 emissions. The standard will then be reduced by a further 30% in 2013 and by a further 30% in 2016.
Given the media attention surrounding the environment, the introduction of energy performance certificates for all properties and the changing legislation for new property emission targets, this is an issue that is becoming ever more central in the house buying process.
In the same way that fuel consumption for cars has become an important factor, people are being encouraged to look at the energy performance of a property, understand its ongoing running costs and include this in their purchasing decision.
For those looking to build a own house, constructing a property that meets not only today’s standards, but also those of the years to come, has significant benefits in relation to the day-to-day costs of living in the property. A well performing property will also be a lot more attractive to prospective buyers come the time to sell.