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Associate feature: The drive for climate-friendly housing

Energy efficient house graphic - Image credit: Alamy

Associate feature: The drive for climate-friendly housing

The housing sector must cut its emissions considerably if Scotland is to meet the ambitious climate targets set by the Scottish Parliament in 2019.

That means reducing emissions from household heating to zero by 2045 and upgrading energy efficiency (to a minimum of EPC C) by 2035.

The bulk of the movement towards this needs to be done this decade.

How to get there was the focus of a recent Holyrood roundtable event with Aico, Delivering Safer Energy Efficient Homes.

The Scottish Government’s head of heat in buildings regulation, Ross Loveridge, told attendees about the priorities: “We are committed to introducing regulations for energy efficiency and zero emissions heating, and to reforming energy performance certificates within our powers, that’s the first thing.”

The Scottish Government is to launch a consultation on improving the energy performance certificate (EPC) model this summer and new regulations will be proposed thereafter.

Loveridge later explained that regulation was necessary because markets won’t deliver the change needed at the pace needed.

But he also recognised its limits: “The second thing is regulation alone will not work if we don’t have the supporting package right.

“We need to have the advice, we need to have the information, we need to have the financial mechanisms and support available to enable building owners and tenants to make this transition.

“The third point would be around the need to go at the right pace to bring the public with us and ensure that the supply chain has the skills […] to make changes that are of the right quality for homeowners and tenants.

“The worst outcome would be if we went at a pace that resulted in very poor quality installations and potentially saw the public reacting negatively.”

Financial barriers and public buy-in are considered the biggest challenges for the sector as it tackles climate change.

But there is also a lot of goodwill around it, with stakeholders keen to work together.

Ariane Burgess MSP, the Scottish Greens’ housing spokesperson, said this goodwill extends to the new parliament, too.

She said: “In this parliamentary session, we have the opportunity to genuinely raise the housing standards for everyone in Scotland, while stepping beyond climate targets to actually delivering in a way that ensures nature, our life support system, will continue to support us, as well as our families, well into the future.

“What is being asked of us is a massive challenge […] We must seek out the blocks that stand in our way, whether it is legislation, the right level of investment or simply the lack of opportunity to collaborate.”

The vision, said the Scottish Government’s housing standards policy manager, Simon Roberts, is to ensure there is “nobody left behind”.

Unlike previous efforts to improve housing’s carbon footprint, the new targets are all encompassing, without exceptions for properties which have previously proven too hard to include.

Roberts said: “One of the problems we’ve got though, as a country, is that we have got such a high proportion of housing that’s in flats and tenements, and the nature of things is that people need to cooperate in order to do those collective works.

“There’s an issue about people understanding that collective responsibility, accepting it, and taking part in those changes.”

Aico’s Tina Mistry agreed: “The landscape of Scotland isn’t easy. A challenge that we face is Scotland has a large rural and an urban population, with 98 per cent of its land mass, of Scotland, being rural.

“There are difficulties in terms of delivery, in terms of the estimated costs – it’s tens of billions of pounds to deliver this agenda and approximately 1-1.5 million properties that need to be potentially retrofitted to meet this target.”

Despite these clear problems, stakeholders are unperturbed – as long as support, advice and finance are provided.

Both Laura McGadie of the Energy Saving Trust and John Blackwood of the Scottish Association of Landlords said homeowners were keen to help tackle climate change but were often unsure where to begin. 

Blackwood spoke of the need for bespoke, tailored advice, as each property will require slightly different adaptations to switch to a green heating alternative and improve efficiency.

McGadie highlighted the trust’s helpline sought provide this advice, but she accepted more needed to be done to promote this service.

The challenge in reducing housing emissions is a significant one, but importantly one that many are actively working to overcome.

As Mistry summed up at the end of the session, “challenge is positive. It’s not going to be easy, but the best thing is that everyone’s in this together.”

This feature was sponsored by Aico.

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