9. Built Environment

Making our existing and future buildings net-zero, comfortable, healthy and affordable to run. 

Buildings and amenity lighting in outdoor spaces produced 42% of Devon’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2018, shared almost equally between residential and commercial/industrial buildings. The burning of fossil fuels for space and water heating and manufacturing processes, are responsible for 28% Devon’s emissions. The remaining 14% are from the consumption of grid-supplied electricity.1  

The evidence provided through the Thematic Hearings and Call for Evidence indicated that four key transformations are needed to decarbonise our built environment:

  1. Retrofit existing houses, including insulation, household renewable energy and heat pumps, through both whole-house retrofit with a package of improvements at one time and supporting householders to make their houses energy efficient incrementally over a period of time. 
  2. Retrofit non-domestic buildings, reducing heat and electricity requirements, decarbonising heating systems making use of large roofs for solar photovoltaic panels. Retrofit public buildings early to stimulate local supply chains.
  3. New buildings need to be net-zero as soon as possible.
  4. Achieve energy savings in public and shared spaces in the built environment, such as through street lighting efficiency.

9.1.1 General Approach

To reduce emissions from buildings, Devon needs a high take-up of energy-efficiency measures and low-carbon heating technologies in every one of its approximately 581,000 homes and all its commercial and industrial premises. Building-scale renewable electricity technologies, principally roof-mounted solar photovoltaics, with energy storage will also play their part.  This transformation will also need every new building to be built to true net-zero standards. 

This section of the Plan focusses on how this transformation can be facilitated along with the substantial behaviour change necessary to realise the full extent of the carbon saving. Decarbonising the generation and supply of electricity, including actions to support building-scale renewable electricity, are explored in the Energy Supply section of this Plan.

The technological changes the Committee on Climate Change foresees to reduce emissions from space heating are primarily the electrification of heat (the installation of heat-pumps connected to radiators or under-floor heating is considered the main mechanism for doing so, with solar thermal heating alongside where viable and cost effective) as well as low carbon district heating networks (systems that distribute hot water, heated by centralised power plants, in a network of highly-insulated pipes to a collection of buildings) and biomass boilers.2

Additionally, hybrid heating systems could be appropriate for buildings on the gas grid. These use a combination of a heat pump with a boiler fired with green gases (e.g. methane derived from anaerobic digestion or hydrogen from electrolysis) delivered through the existing gas network. However, this is a longer-term solution as significant new infrastructure is required to produce the gas sources for which action is needed now.  

District heating powered by renewable energy must be considered for new developments where the distribution pipes and energy centre can be designed in from the outset or in areas of high heat density, such as industrial estates or urban centres. Opportunities to retrofit district heating into predominantly residential communities will be limited due to the groundworks required and the need for a high proportion of households to connect to the system over time to make such schemes financially viable.

All these technological changes will involve complex interactions between users in buildings, installers, technical skills providers, investors and the supply chain. This dis-assembling of existing fossil fuel infrastructure is a huge challenge and will need a systemic approach.

9.1.2 Existing Buildings

Residential

The Committee on Climate Change scenario for net-zero in 2050 requires a 25% reduction in energy demand in homes, facilitated through significant energy efficiency upgrades. This will facilitate the introduction of heat pumps which, to be affordable to operate, need the building to have high levels of thermal efficiency.  The Committee on Climate Change scenario implies the following energy efficiency installations are required in Devon’s homes: 18

  • Insulation of all practicable lofts by 2022.
  • All cavity walls insulated by 2030.
  • 36,000 solid walls insulated by 2030 and 109,000 by 2050.

Low carbon heating upgrades required in Devon are:

  • 18,100 heat pumps in existing homes by 2030 and 344,000 by 2050. 
  • Low carbon heat networks deployed in heat dense areas with the connection of 91,000 homes in Devon. Heat source to be either large heat pumps or hydrogen. 
  • Longer term, the remaining houses (146,000) to be switched to a combination of carbon neutral hydrogen (requiring the installation of hydrogen ready boilers and national distribution infrastructure), hybrid heat pumps and biomass boilers.
  • A small number of homes (just 1,000 nationally) using direct electric heating (such as heritage homes or others unable to use heat pumps or hydrogen).
  • All cooker replacements are electric from 2030.

Nineteen percent of Devon’s homes are off-gas compared to 16% nationally and the figure in Devon County Council’s area is 26%.18  Off-gas buildings may have oil or liquified petroleum gas central heating which would lend themselves readily to a heat pump installation with thermal efficiency improvements. Other off-gas buildings will be heated using direct electric heaters of various types or storage heaters, which whilst zero carbon once they are powered with renewable electricity, both run at only 1/3 the efficiency of a heat pump and can be expensive to operate. These homes present a particular challenge as all will require radiators or warm air distribution systems to be retrofitted so that a heat pump or biomass boiler can be installed. 

Carbon reduction measures will be necessary to dwellings with heritage value, such as those with listed status or in a conservation area, although zero emissions for these properties may not occur until 2060.

The energy performance rating of Devon’s homes is shown in Figure 9.1. Government’s interim target declared in the Clean Growth Strategy is for as many houses as possible to be band C by 2035. In Devon this means upgrading 66% of our homes (383,000) with multiple measures over the next 15 years, which is 25,500 homes per year. For context, this is five times faster than the single measure of cavity wall insulation is currently being installed in Devon’s homes. 

Ultimately, we need to go well beyond the Government’s target and expect every home to undergo a deep retrofit to achieve as close to Band A as possible. The full technical potential of conventional energy efficiency measures can achieve a 53% energy reduction per dwelling by 2035.4 To reach Band A will require the use of new technology using offsite prefabrication techniques that provide a bespoke retrofit for each home.5

Commercial and Industrial

The Committee on Climate Change scenario for net-zero in 2050 requires energy efficiency upgrades to achieve a 20% reduction in energy demand by 2030 and a 25% reduction by 2050, for which the technologies are not specified. Heating requirements are assumed to switch to heat pumps, with 11,200 heat pumps in non-residential buildings by 2030 and heat pumps meeting 45% of demand by 2050.18 The remainder will be met by low carbon heat networks, hydrogen and biomass.

Figure9.1 – Energy Performance Certificate Rating of Devon’s Residential Buildings

9.1.3 New Buildings

New buildings need to be true net-zero as soon as possible. Most of the buildings built now will still be standing in 2050 meaning that new buildings currently being constructed will need a costly retrofit to make them net-zero and affordable to run. They need to be highly energy-efficient from the outset and use low-carbon heat sources. Just because the fabric may be very energy efficient does not mean that the building is energy efficient if it is not used in an energy efficient manner. Therefore, support must be provided to building occupants to make best use of the highly efficient fabric and new technologies. 

The embodied carbon (the carbon associated with the production and transport of building materials and the energy used on the construction site) needs to reduce to zero by 2050. The Committee on Climate Change’s expectation is that timber will become more widespread in construction as an opportunity to provide a market for storing carbon in timber and locking it away in building fabric. The carbon associated with manufacturing and processing carbon-intensive materials where they continue to be used, such as concrete, will reduce over time through decarbonisation of the energy sources these industries use. Remaining emissions will be captured at source where appropriate and otherwise offset nationally through measures such as Biomass Energy Carbon Capture and Storage.

9.1.4 Amenity Lighting

There are energy savings to be made in public and shared spaces in the built environment through the rationalisation of existing lighting and conversion to LED technology. Some good progress has already been made in this area, but it was clear from the Call for Evidence that more can be done and faster.

9.1.5 Diagram of Built Environment Actions

Buildings
Figure 9.2 Diagram of Built Environment Actions, showing the key trajectory for GHG emission reductions over time and the anticipated timing of actions. 

9.1.6 Priority Actions

Retrofit of buildings

  • B1. Expand whole house retrofit trials in Devon, such as Energiesprong, by working with social landlords to aggregate their housing stock and collectively procure retrofit, targeting houses most in need first.
  • B6. Establish a Devon-wide energy advice service that links home-owners, landlords and tenants with independent energy assessors, skilled installers and market offers.

Net-zero construction

  •  B11. South West to promote its status to government as the leading region on low-carbon buildings, including embodied carbon, founded on the low-carbon buildings already here and “anchor institutions” commitments to zero-carbon, nature-friendly new build and retrofit.  
  • B12. Demonstrate the viability of building net-zero carbon homes by reviewing the opportunity for local authorities to partner with a developer to test the building of net-zero houses off-site, at scale in Devon to re
  • duce costs.

Achieving net-zero buildings provides numerous opportunities and benefits for Devon residents, including:

  • Building retrofit will generate 108,000 jobs per annum across the UK between 2020 and 2030 8 – jobs for trades such as energy assessors, heating engineers and electricians as well as deeper in the supply chain for the manufacture and distribution of the materials and technologies required. 
  • Reduced energy bills will boost the spending power of households locally and of businesses for investment. 
  • Reduced amenity lighting provides a greater opportunity to see the stars (and the economic benefits that come with Dark Skies Status that Exmoor already enjoys and that Dartmoor is applying for), cause less disturbance for wildlife, reconnect with nature and improve people’s sleep.7
  • Bringing Devon’s building stock up to the required standard will require new skills sets, of which there is currently a shortage, such as for the installation of heat pumps.8 Specialist skills, many of which are traditional, will be needed to tackle heritage homes. 
  • Between December 2017 and March 2018 there were 914 excess winter deaths in Devon.9 Excess winter deaths are calculated to be three times higher in the coldest quarter of homes compared to the warmest quarter, and children living in inadequately heated homes were found to be more than twice as likely to suffer from conditions like asthma and bronchitis than those living in warm homes. There is also evidence that cold homes contribute to poorer mental health. Nationally the cost of cold homes to the NHS is estimated to be up to £2.5bn/year, which implies that improving the thermal comfort of Devon’s homes could deliver year on year savings for the NHS.8  
  • 10.6% of Devon’s population are in fuel poverty.10 Improving the energy efficiency of Devon’s housing stock can reduce pressure on the NHS, help tackle inequality and improve the productivity of the workforce (potentially even more important now that more people are working from home due to COVID restrictions). 
  • Poor quality housing affects the ability of young people to learn at school and study at home, leading to lower educational attainment and a study in New Zealand found that energy efficiency interventions led to children having 21% fewer days of absence from school over the winter. 8
  • Twenty percent of low-income households regularly go without food to ensure that their children have enough to eat. Reducing energy expenditure can provide more room in household budgets, leading to improved nutrition and household relationships.8
  • Devon and the Greater South West develops its reputation as a centre of excellence in low carbon buildings
  • The energy efficiency of Devon’s existing buildings is significantly improved
  • People have retrained with the skills required to retrofit our buildings with new technology and the supply chain is benefiting
  • We all change our behaviour to run our homes and businesses energy-efficiently
  • New homes are built to net-zero standards with green, tree-lined streets

Deep retrofit to achieve net-zero has high upfront costs making retrofitting a property unattractive to many people and organisations purely on financial grounds. However, retrofit delivers long term energy and maintenance savings which creates the opportunity to finance the upfront cost from long term savings. This is the essence of the Dutch Government initiated Energiesprong approach that is being used in Devon and elsewhere in the UK. Retrofitting property needs to become attractive enough to a critical mass of people to subsequently begin changing social norms and desirability of living and working in net-zero buildings. 

9.4.1 What needs to be done?

New Technology 

We must build an industry capable of delivering self-financing, net-zero retrofit at scale, such as the Energiesprong (‘energy leap’) approach. Through manufacturing bespoke fabric improvements and energy systems at scale, off site, the model minimises disruption and costs. By starting with social housing as the launching market, an industry can grow that realises economies of scale, drives innovation and cost reduction in the supply chain, leading to accelerated delivery in subsequent years. The approach is self-financing and uses guaranteed long-term energy and maintenance savings to repay the initial capital costs of net-zero retrofits.  The approach was developed in the Netherlands by the Dutch Government and is now also being used in the UK, Germany, France and Italy.

The Zero Energy Buildings Catalyst (ZEBCat) project has demonstrated the Energiesprong approach working with Exeter City Council, North Devon Homes, Sanctuary Housing, Devon County Council, Regen and Energiesprong UK and has started to build a volume market in Devon.

National procurement mechanisms are being developed to make it easier for any UK landlord use the Energiesprong approach and appoint solution providers. Aggregating social landlord demand will be key to increasing the attractiveness to the supply chain and reducing unit costs. Once costs have fallen the approach can be offered to private homes with finance paid back by long term savings.

Finance

Greater fiscal incentives for retrofit are needed, such as tax breaks on energy efficiency equipment to encourage uptake. 11

Additionally, costs can be brought down through collective procurement, such as Devon Solar Together which provided an opportunity to bulk-buy solar PV across Devon for domestic properties. 

New, innovative models need to be nurtured, such as Energiesprong that is testing using long-term service payments covering heating, hot water and electricity to cover the upfront costs of whole building retrofit. Opportunities are also emerging to make use of the carbon-offsetting commitments of corporate organisations to fund retrofit activity. In North Devon, Smarter Carbon offers SMEs free carbon audits, followed by interest free, unsecured business loans of up to £200,000 for carbon reduction measures. Loans are structured to be paid off by energy savings. Finance for the scheme is generated by selling certified carbon offset credits for the savings achieved.12

We must continue to support policy and programmes that provide investment opportunities and bring down costs for Devon residents and businesses.

Sell the Benefits

Various investments are made by citizens not purely on financial grounds. An example is upgrading to double glazing, which has become a mainstream choice yet the technology doesn’t pay back its investment in energy savings alone but is instead purchased at great expense for other intangible benefit such as thermal comfort, security and noise insulation. The co-benefits of living in a warm, net-zero carbon home need to be better communicated so that it becomes more desirable and a social norm. Allowing those who have already installed new measures to show the benefits to others in a credible way has been a successful activity of community energy organisations in Devon through ‘Green Open Homes’ events. More of these should be supported and encouraged. 

9.4.2 The Actions:

  •  B1. Expand whole house retrofit trials in Devon, such as Energiesprong, by working with social landlords to aggregate their housing stock and collectively procure retrofit, targeting houses most in need first.
  •  B2. Offer bulk-purchasing opportunities for domestic solar PV and battery storage across Devon. 
  •  B3. Explore opportunities to use the carbon offset market to fund the retrofit of domestic and commercial buildings
  • B4.  Work with government to achieve VAT breaks on retrofit activity and products.

Case Study

RetrofitWorks

RetrofitWorks is a co-operative ‘not for private profit’ which matches communities and homeowners who want to retrofit their homes, with local, quality assured assessors and installers. The co-operative brings together three key groups of members to identify the need for & delivery of high-quality retrofit projects:

  1. RetrofitWorks Advocates – organisations that represent a constituency of potential customers, acting as trusted advisers on their behalf, such as community groups and local authorities.
  2. RetrofitWorks Practioners – accredited small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) wishing to carry out retrofit advice, assessment, design, coordination, and installation. 
  3. RetrofitWorks Associates – open to any organisation that wishes to formally support the co-operative. 

RetrofitWorks offers a ‘one-stop-shop’ guaranteed retrofit installation service:

  • Householders are assessed, and three quotes are generated from the energy survey from local SMEs
  • All installer Practitioner members are quality vetted, and referenced
    They advise on best grant scheme for householder circumstances

The RetrofitWorks’ approach ensures value for money for the property owner by creating competition amongst members, and their structure reduces costs through economies of scale. Profits are returned to the cooperative membership, for example, assisting in the provision of discounted training programmes and certification schemes or funding capital works for fuel poor households.14

https://retrofitworks.co.uk/our-story/

Devon County Council has learned from experience that providing domestic efficiency measures at low or zero cost often does not lead to increased take-up. This shows that non-financial issues are also important for improving the efficiency of our buildings. For example, installing loft insulation was a challenge due to the hassle of clearing stored items from the loft, and households sometimes didn’t trust previous support mechanisms that have been available.

Commercial buildings are very diverse in how they are constructed and therefore require tailored retrofit treatment. Occupants are often tenants and they can be reluctant to carry out building improvements as they will not benefit from any increases in value to the property, whilst landlords can be reluctant to act as they will not benefit from energy cost savings. 

There is currently no coordinated provision of advice and support available to those that want to make building improvements (domestic or commercial) and select a trusted company to implement the work. Community energy organisations have been successfully filling this advice gap where they operate, particularly for fuel poor households, but their activity does not cover the whole county. 

9.5.1 What needs to be done?

Providing a county-wide energy advice service is therefore vital to increase confidence in building retrofit and make it easier. The trustworthy service would be a one-stop-shop in Devon for energy advice. It would:

  1. Build on the existing work of community energy companies 
  2. Provide people with an independent energy assessment of their building, including bespoke advice for heritage buildings
  3. Encourage building improvements at trigger points e.g. kitchen and bathroom remodelling
  4. Provide training to installers 
  5. Establish signposting to trusted retrofit installers
  6. Undertake quality inspections of work completed
  7. Signpost to Energiesprong as it becomes mass market
  8. Include advice for commercial premises

Devon Climate Emergency partners have agreed to reduce their organisational emissions, including by retrofitting their existing buildings. We encourage all organisations to do so. Bringing commercial buildings to the market will stimulate supply chains to respond with innovative approaches, as seen in the South West Energy Partnership between Devon, Plymouth and Bristol Councils. Devon Climate Emergency partners should work together to share their own experience with each other of reducing their own energy consumption and share this with other large energy consumers in the county.

9.5.2 The Actions:

  •  B6. Establish a Devon-wide energy advice service that links home-owners,  landlords and tenants with independent energy assessors, skilled installers and market offers.
  •  B7. Keep abreast of innovative solutions emerging from the “Boosting Access for SMEs to Energy Efficiency” competition by UK government and pilot promising approaches in Devon.
  •  B8. Work in partnership with large energy users in the non-domestic sectors, including health and education, to share best practice in energy reduction.

Case Study 

RetrofitWorks

RetrofitWorks is a co-operative ‘not for private profit’ which matches communities and homeowners who want to retrofit their homes, with local, quality assured assessors and installers. The co-operative brings together three key groups of members to identify the need for & delivery of high-quality retrofit projects:

  1. RetrofitWorks Advocates – organisations that represent a constituency of potential customers, acting as trusted advisers on their behalf, such as community groups and local authorities.
  2. RetrofitWorks Practioners – accredited small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) wishing to carry out retrofit advice, assessment, design, coordination, and installation. 
  3. RetrofitWorks Associates – open to any organisation that wishes to formally support the co-operative.

RetrofitWorks offers a ‘one-stop-shop’ guaranteed retrofit installation service:

  • Householders are assessed, and three quotes are generated from the energy survey from local SMEs
  • All installer Practitioner members are quality vetted, and referenced

They advise on best grant scheme for householder circumstances

The RetrofitWorks’ approach ensures value for money for the property owner by creating competition amongst members, and their structure reduces costs through economies of scale. Profits are returned to the cooperative membership, for example, assisting in the provision of discounted training programmes and certification schemes or funding capital works for fuel poor households.

https://retrofitworks.co.uk/our-story/

As the energy efficiency of housing significantly affects how much it costs to heat them, inefficient housing puts residents at risk of fuel poverty. Those who would most benefit from housing retrofit are also often the least able to afford to pay for it. A disproportionate number of individuals who experience fuel poverty live in the private rented sector. Landlords can be reluctant to fund the capital costs when the tenant gets the financial benefit and tenants may be unwilling or not allowed by the landlord to invest in improvements to the properties which they do not own. 

In order to address this, the government brought in the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES), which is intended to prohibit landlords from leasing property with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating below an E. This is to be enforced by local authorities’ Trading Standards services. However, there is evidence that it is not working effectively, with extremely low levels of enforcement proceedings and prosecutions nationally.  15

A key barrier to enforcement is the resources to do so, as no additional funding has been offered from national government to local authorities to do so. 16 Additionally, the office of the Mayor of London has argued that the existing cap on the financial contribution expected from landlords is set too low to deliver meaningful energy efficiency measures.

9.6.1 What needs to be done?

Changes to national legislation are needed, to ensure that the domestic MEES regulations are enforceable and that the authorities responsible for enforcement have the resources and capacity to do so.

MEES enforcement must not increase existing inequalities and local shortages of rental accommodation by pricing landlords out of the market, particularly where older properties are involved.

9.6.2 The Actions:

Needing action beyond Devon:

  • B9.  Work with government to review The Domestic Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard Regulations to make it more effective and practical for local authorities to enforce non-compliance.
Discussion Citizens

Opportunity for discussion at the citizens assembly: incentives and legislation to accelerate building retrofit

Whilst there are many options for incentivising and reducing barriers to retrofit, it might also be necessary to increase the legal obligation and financial imperative to make household energy improvements to speed up the rate of retrofit. For example, planning permission for all building alterations could be contingent on the completion of whole house energy efficiency measures or the sale of a house could require a minimum Energy Performance Certificate standard.

Such measures will require national changes to legislation and they are also likely to be met with strong public feeling and may have unintended consequences. Measures implemented should not increase inequality or disproportionately affect those less able to afford energy efficiency improvements to buildings. Therefore, the Net-Zero Task Force recommends that this is a topic for deliberation by Devon’s Citizens’ Assembly.

National legislation needs clarity 

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) makes it difficult for local areas to require lower carbon emissions from new buildings than are dictated as a minimum by Building Regulations. 

Last year the government consulted on proposals to move towards a Future Homes Standard, as its first step to net-zero homes. The stated ambition, in the consultation document, is that homes from 2025 will produce 75-80 per cent lower CO2 emissions than required by current Building Regulations.17 These homes, it says, would be “zero carbon ready”, so that as the electricity grid decarbonises, they can be retrofitted to achieve zero-carbon at low cost. 

Viability 

In the experience of local authorities, large-volume housing developers are able to argue successfully that the costs associated with enhancing the energy efficiency standards of new homes means that other social and environmental benefits of development schemes, such as the provision of affordable housing for local people, has to be reduced. However, the Committee on Climate Change has calculated that the average additional cost of delivering a zero-carbon dwelling to be just £4,800, whilst industry estimates vary from £8,000 to £12,000.18

The Energiesprong approach shows net-zero new homes can be delivered at a lower whole life cost than building to current building standards. Modest additional costs (<10% initially, reducing with volume) for achieving net-zero are more than offset by energy and maintenance savings. Plymouth Energy Community’s Kings Tamerton project is using the Energiesprong approach to finance and deliver 38 new net-zero homes, a first in the country.

Standards

The housing industry has accepted there is a performance gap between the expected energy performance of a building as described in the Building Regulations and its real-life performance. Various reasons for this have been identified, including inadequate understanding and knowledge with design teams, poor installation of building fabric and inconsistencies with the design standards themselves.19 This has implications for achieving net-zero because even if the Building Regulations are enhanced towards net-zero, the new buildings’ performance may have not actually improved in practice. It also highlights how traditional on-site construction approaches struggle to achieve high performance standards required for net-zero, and the need to move to off-site, industrialised ‘Modern Methods of Construction’, highlighted by the Farmer Review.20

9.8.1 What needs to be done?

National legislation 

We agree with the Committee on Climate Change’s concern that the proposed Future Homes Standard does not go far enough to reduce carbon emissions. According to the Committee on Climate Change “Making a new home genuinely zero-carbon at the outset is around five times cheaper than retrofitting it later”.21 The Committee on Climate Change and many of the Devon Climate Emergency partners have urged the government to bring forward the 2025 introduction date for the Future Homes Standard and to allow local authorities to set more stringent targets should they wish to.  

We await the government’s response to the Future Homes Standard consultation. Should the Future Homes Standard fail to deliver ambitious enough policy, the Devon Climate Emergency partners will join with regional partners to engage with national government on this agenda.

Reducing costs, increasing standards 

Viability issues vary by place depending on factors such as land and build cost and therefore this is an issue which will need local analysis. Yet we can collectively work on demonstrating that it is financially viable to build quality, net-zero carbon homes. 

First, by establishing and maintaining an evidence base on the costs of developing net-zero carbon homes to inform local assessments. 

Second, Devon Climate Emergency partners who are housing developers should work together with other affordable and private housing developers, to run construction pilots demonstrating the viability of delivering net-zero homes. For example through testing off-site fabrication techniques to enable scale, lower costs and increase final build performance. Following successful pilots, partner organisations could aggregate demand for net-zero social housing to bring down delivery costs. 

Third, anchor institutions must commission net-zero standards for any new public buildings. Doing so will support the local construction supply chain to respond to the challenge and establish Devon and the southwest as a centre of low-carbon building expertise. There is already precedent for low-carbon public buildings in Devon, such as Loddiswell Primary School, which generates more energy in a year than it consumes, Montgomery Primary School in Exeter which is Europe’s first Passivhaus School,22 and Exeter’s new Passivhaus leisure centre under construction.23

Fourth, all new buildings should be connected to three-phase electricity to ensure capacity for the expected increase in electricity demand, such as for charging electric vehicles.

Fifth, trees and green spaces should be incorporated into new development to help conserve energy24 by providing shading and cooling of the local area through evapotranspiration.  

9.8.2 The Actions:

  •  B10. Produce a regularly-updated Devon-wide evidence base on the costs of developing net-zero carbon homes, incorporating examples already existing in the county, for use in Local Plan viability appraisals. 
  • B11. South West to promote its status to government as the leading region on low-carbon buildings, including embodied carbon, founded on the low-carbon buildings already here and “anchor institutions” commitments to zero-carbon, nature-friendly new build and retrofit.  
  • B12.  Demonstrate the viability of building net-zero carbon homes by reviewing the opportunity for local authorities to partner with a developer to test the building of net-zero houses off-site, at scale in Devon to reduce costs.
  •  B13. Planning authorities to ensure green space and tree planting, and the necessary funds to maintain them, is included within new development to aid building energy efficiency.

Needing action beyond Devon:

  • B14. Should the future homes standard consultation decide that net-zero homes will not be mandated until 2025, the Devon Climate Emergency Partners will express opposition to this and request it to be brought forward.

Case Study

Plymouth Energy Community Homes: affordable net-zero homes 

lymouth Energy Community (PEC) Homes is building 38 net-zero new build homes in Kings Tamerton, Plymouth, supported by Homes England and in partnership with Plymouth City Council. It is the first development in a pipeline of locally owned net-zero affordable housing in the area; homes fit for the future, powered by clean energy. These will offer local people comfortable homes with low bills, due to the reduced energy needs of the builds and a fair rent. 

PEC believe that delivering affordable net-zero homes requires market innovation. Their model offers community shares so that the housing will be cooperatively owned and run, just like their solar installations. PEC homes intends to demonstrate a development cost model that can be replicated without ongoing government support. 

To do this PEC Homes are using approaches to delivering net-zero housing developed by the Dutch Government in 2010, known as ‘Energiesprong’. Key elements of the approach include actual performance guarantees for the tenant, such as thermal comfort levels and annual net-zero energy. The guaranteed long-term energy and maintenance savings enable the client to finance higher capital costs from the value of long-term savings. The approach also uses off-site manufacture of building components to achieve higher quality performance at reduced costs through economies of scale. 25

https://plymouthenergycommunity.com/about/about-pec-homes

The streetlights in the Devon County Council (DCC) area switch off between 00:30 and 05:30 in quieter locations and in areas of high night-time activity such as town centres the lights remain lit all night but are dimmed. The authority is now in the final phase of a project to convert all of their 79,000 streetlights to LEDs. Once complete the carbon emissions generated by its street lighting will have reduced by 75%, or more than 15,000 tonnes a year. This is equivalent to taking 8,000 cars off the road.26 Plymouth City Council is also replacing all of its streetlights with LEDs to achieve a 70% carbon saving,27 as is Torbay Council. 

However, given the imperative to reduce energy demand to tackle climate change, we must revisit opportunities to make further reductions. 

9.9.1 What needs to be done?

Managers of private property that have external lighting, local authorities in Devon and Highways England, who manage lighting on the A38 and M5, should review their use of outdoor lighting for opportunities to rationalise provision further. Any lighting which has not been converted to LED should be. 

9.9.2 The Actions:

  • B15. Encourage all organisations to rationalise external lighting provision in consultation with parish and town councils where appropriate, and switch to LED technology.

Needing action beyond Devon:

  • B16. DCERG to write to Highways England, encouraging the rationalisation of streetlight provision where safe and not inhibiting of active travel.

9.10 Action Summary Table for Built Environment

1  Mitchell A. et al. ,2020, Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report – Devon, Plymouth, Torbay 2018. Centre for Energy and Environment, University of Exeter.
2 Committee on Climate Change ,2019, Net Zero – The UK’s Contribution to Stopping Global Warming. Committee on Climate Change. Available at: https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/net-zero-the-uks-contribution-to-stopping-global-warming/ 
3  Navigant ,2020, Benefits of Hybrid Heat Systems in a Low Carbon Energy System. Reference No.  214662
4 BEIS (2018) Clean Growth Strategy, BEIS, Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/clean-growth-strategy 
5 Green Alliance ,2020, Reinventing Retrofit: How to Scale Up Home Energy Efficiency in the UK. Available at: https://www.green-alliance.org.uk/resources/reinventing_retrofit.pdf 
6 Energy Saving Trust (2019), Home Analytics Database, Energy Saving Trust
7 Walker, M. ,2017, Why We Sleep, Penguin
8. Jennings, N et al. ,2019, Co-benefits of climate change mitigation in the UK: What issues are the UK public concerned about and how can action on climate change help to address them?, Grantham Research Institute, London.Available at: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/grantham-institute/public/publications/briefing-papers/Co-benefits-of-climate-change-mitigation-in-the-UK.pdf 
9 Public Health England, Local Authority Health Profiles 19-20 https://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/health-profiles/data#page/1/gid/1938132701/pat/6/par/E12000009/ati/202/are/E10000008/cid/4 
10 BEIS ,2020, Sub-Regional Fuel Poverty, 2018 Data. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/sub-regional-fuel-poverty-data-2020 
11 Committee on Climate Change, 2019, UK housing: Fit for the future? Accessed 4/9/2020 https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/uk-housing-fit-for-the-future/ 
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