The decision by the government to scrap the zero carbon homes target for 2016 has received a lot of negative criticism from UK Green Building Council, renewable energy companies and some of the major house builders/developers that have invested time and money into meeting this deadline.

With the EU’s target for nearly all new homes to be zero carbon by 2020 creeping ever closer it seems like a backwards step for the housebuilding industry to remove the 2016 milestone for zero carbon homes in the UK.

So why have the government come to this decision and how will it impact the housing industry as a whole?

A spokeswoman for the treasury said, “The government is not proceeding with the zero carbon buildings policy and instead is giving developers the time they need to build energy efficient homes.”

With the 2016 target looking increasingly unachievable some argue this makes sense, giving house builders the breathing room they need to get building back on track for the 2020 target. Even the most energy efficient of homes still have issues with over-heating or poor air quality so this extension, as it were, will allow such issues to be rectified in plenty of time rather than being rushed through for a quick fix.

The downside of scrapping the 2016 target is that many of the developers and construction companies that have already invested in producing energy efficient homes are now disheartened and have lost confidence in the government’s plans. Many house builders will choose to continue building as normal for fear of further changes by the government which will create even more high-energy homes, pushing the gap for meeting the 2020 deadline even further away.

On the other hand some of the organisations that have been working to develop zero carbon homes over the last decade know how long it took them to get to the stage they are currently at and understand that in order to meet the 2020 target they will need to continue to invest in these construction methods.

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) are in favour of the government’s decision and believe that it will help to level the playing field for small to medium sized house builders who were previously struggling to build homes to meet the energy efficiency targets. This will help to improve housing supply in the UK to meet the ever increasing demand.

It is also argued that new homes are not the real problem when it comes to carbon emissions in the UK and the focus should instead be on improving the energy efficiency of existing homes. This opens the door for large scale refurbishment projects to help bring the carbon emissions of older homes down to help meet the 2020 target. Sarah McMonagle, Head of External Affairs at the FMB stated, “85% of our existing homes will still be standing in 35 years’ time” so it is essential that the problem of high-energy homes is tackled sooner rather than later.

However some critics would argue that this was the purpose of the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund which has also been withdrawn by the Conservatives.

It looks like there is still some uncertainty surrounding the future of UK housebuilding in terms of zero carbon homes, but there are still some potential opportunities for contractors looking to refurbish housing stock and smaller builders to grab a piece of the pie.

By Anna Cross