Insulate our homes

← Green energy & heating

Be part of the solution

Britain’s leaky homes make the energy crisis worse. Our country has some of the oldest and least well-insulated housing stock in western Europe, ensuring that we lose heat through walls, windows and doors quickly after turning off the radiators.

The good news is that everything we do to insulate our homes and make them more comfortable to live in not only cuts expensive energy bills but also reduces the impact of our homes on the environment.

And that’s important too, because more than a fifth of the UK’s total carbon emissions come from the houses we live in, and it’s increasing.

The challenge of insulating our homes is twofold: ‘retrofitting’ many millions of existing, ageing buildings (which account for 70% of housing emissions) and insisting that all the new homes we build are zero carbon. The industry-wide UKGBC’s Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap for the UK Built Environment spells out the actions government and industry must take to achieve net zero across the housing sector, but we have to act much faster in changing our current course. Already, the UK Green Building Council says that over 100 homes per hour will need to be retrofitted to achieve the UK government’s commitment to net zero by 2050.

It seems obvious, but we really have to stop building homes now that will need retrofitting almost immediately! Comfortable zero carbon homes are an achievable house-building standard, according to Ashden, minimising energy use and using renewable energy supplies. Yet the UK’s national building regulations still do not require new homes to be zero carbon. Local councils can set their own local planning requirements that demand it, but only a few, like Reading and York, have done so.

Low-income households living in fuel poverty need massive support to retrofit their homes, which is increasingly being addressed by numerous central and local government schemes such as North-East Derbyshire District Council’s programme to install external wall insulation in social housing in its ex-mining communities.

However, even those who can afford to retrofit their own homes may need practical help. Carbon Co-op and URBED have developed and piloted People Powered Retrofit, a householder-led retrofit One-Stop-Shop in Manchester. They support homeowners who are able to pay for retrofitting, because there is currently very little provision to serve this large sector.

What can you do? Find other local householders who are interested in retrofitting their homes and share ideas about how to work on a group of houses together. It should reduce your costs, and you may need help from your neighbours to stay somewhere else while the work is done!

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