Housing has a key role to play in the battle against climate change – according to a University of Ulster expert.Paddy Gray, President of the Chartered Institute of Housing and Professor of Housing in Ulster’s School of the Built Environment, said there is a big appetite in the housing sector for the green agenda.
Giving the keynote address at a conference for senior property managers in Shenzhen, Southern China, he stressed the importance of housing in achieving carbon targets and tackling climate change.
“Social landlords are at the forefront of delivering sustainable housing. For instance, just five percent of private homes in the UK are top rated for energy performance, compared with twenty-one percent of social homes,” he said.
“In terms of environmental sustainability within the housing sector much of government’s emphasis has been on new build.
“While requiring all new homes to be zero-carbon by 2016 is welcomed, it is the existing stock where the greatest carbon savings can be made. In fact, compared to other sectors such as aviation and transport this is a relatively straightforward task,” he added.
Calling for a comprehensive retrofit programme for existing stock, Professor Gray said such a programme would present the UK with opportunities for deep emission cuts; a reduction in fuel poverty; improved energy security; stimulation of the economy and job market and eradication of fuel poverty.
He said: “Cost estimates for a retrofit programme range from £2.6 billion to £13.9 billion per year, with the need to spend between £12,000 and £40,000 per home, depending on levels of carbon reduction being sought.
“The Existing Homes Alliance estimates that around £2 billion per year of government money could achieve the transformation of the private and social housing stock and create up to 200,000 jobs per year.”
Professor Gray continued: “On a global scale, investment in improved energy efficiency in buildings could create an additional two to three million green jobs in Europe and the USA alone. And industry bodies in the UK estimate the market for green refurbishment and improvement to be worth between £3.5 billion and £6.5 billion per year.
“According to the United Nations Environment Programme a refocusing of the economy to combat climate change is likely to reap enormous economic, social and environmental benefits. Housing can clearly be an economic driver. For instance it has been demonstrated that every £1 spent on energy efficient housing saves 42p in health costs.
“I often get asked what difference a UK retrofit programme would make globally when CO2 emissions increase unabated in other parts of the world. Of course the threat of climate change requires a concerted global response - all eyes will be on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Mexico next week which will perhaps be our last chance to avert the worst case scenario. But I also believe that individual action, and by that I mean action by individual states, has an equally important role to play, if only to demonstrate what is possible so that others may be inspired to follow suit.”