RIBA warns of housing emissions crisis from surge in home working
The increase in people working from home during the coronavirus pandemic risks a housing emissions crisis unless the government takes urgent action, says the Royal Institute of British Architects.
The Greener Homes report, released today by the Royal British Institute of Architects (RIBA), warned the UK will see a dramatic increase in the proportion of total emissions from housing as more people work from their homes rather than offices.
Energy efficiency must be upgraded
UK housing stock is among the least energy efficient in Europe said the report. Nearly a fifth of the country's carbon emissions came from the residential sector in 2019, up from 15 per cent in 2008.
RIBA's called for the UK government to bring forward a National Retrofit Strategy – a long-term policy and investment programme that would help upgrade the energy efficiency of UK housing.
Among the measures it suggests is a sliding scale of stamp duty – a tax you pay when you buy a property or piece of land – which would be capped at £25,000 pounds and see the most energy-efficient homes accrue less tax than the least.
Retrofit funds should be released now
The report recommended that the UK government front-loads the £9.2 billion it has earmarked for energy efficiency improvements over the next decade and instead spends it under this government.
RIBA also called for better targeting of income support payments such as the winter fuel payment, stronger standards for new homes, and a clear long-term timeline for increasing the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) for both the private and social rented sectors.
The National Retrofit Strategy should also include more information and regulation of the quality of building work carried out to make energy efficiency improvements, RIBA said.
UK homes "shamefully behind" Europe
If the UK is to meet its target of net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2050, there has to be a near-total elimination of emissions from its housing stock argued RIBA.
“When it comes to energy efficiency, our homes are fundamentally below the mark," RIBA President Alan Jones said.
"Our housing stock sits shamefully behind most European neighbours, and this will only be made more obvious by the changes in working habits brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic."
"We need urgent government action – a National Retrofit Strategy – with front-loaded spending that would double as a fiscal stimulus and a new stamp duty policy to encourage homeowners to think twice about opting for sub-standard homes," he added.
Last year, RIBA launched a sustainability guide to "deliver real and lasting reductions in carbon emissions", which outlined sustainable design principles and performance metrics for the architecture profession.
The initiative supports RIBA's 2030 Climate Challenge, an initiative to encourage its members to achieve net-zero whole-life carbon for all new and retrofitted buildings by 2030.
In 2019, the organisation declared a state of climate emergency and committed to a five-year plan of action for climate change.
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