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Net Zero Homes

Supporting sustainable development is well established within the town planning system and, as the Government leads the UK's commitment towards net zero in 2050, carbon friendly and net-zero homes are entering the mainstream of the housing market.

At present, many local authorities have local energy efficiency standards and require Energy and Sustainability Statements to be submitted with planning applications.

Delivering net zero homes can still be seen as a benefit of a development and should be emphasised within any Planning Statement submitted with a planning application.

Due to the rise of net zero homes and the general importance of delivering sustainable places, developers will need to consider this early in the design stage as part of the planning process.

When should I consult an expert?

Viable Placemaking frequently assist with planning applications which involve energy and sustainability. We work hand in glove with many external consultants, including sustainability firms, and will be able to provide recommendations as to when these consultants are required as part of a planning process.

One consultancy with whom we have worked with closely numerous times is TwoEighty Consulting. TwoEighty was established with an aim to support the built environment in decarbonising, to contribute toward the decline in atmospheric Carbon Dioxide levels, and frequently provide Energy and Sustainability Statements to support the planning applications and appeals Viable Placemaking manage.

TwoEighty's Director, Oliver Eggenton, commented that "the residential building stock comprised 17% of the UK’s total emissions in 2022. While the majority of this figure stems from existing buildings, it is imperative that new developments strive to achieve annual operational carbon emissions as close to net zero as possible."

"It's worth noting that current carbon reduction policies and building regulations primarily target operational carbon—associated with heating, cooling, lighting, and domestic hot water. However, there is a growing focus on embodied carbon, which pertains to building materials. This aspect may even find its way into Building Regulations soon. With heightened awareness of embodied carbon, developers will increasingly be compelled to seek low-carbon alternatives to traditional materials, demonstrating their intent to make sustainability-conscious purchasing decisions at the planning stage. This shift places pressure on both material suppliers and contractors to reduce the energy associated with material production and embrace the principles of the circular economy; re-use is key!"

"Developers who embrace net-zero practices now will be well-positioned to navigate future requirements, opposed to those who do not. Those lagging behind may face a scramble to adapt to net-zero standards when they become mandatory."

How does delivering net zero homes impact viability?

One important component to consider is that developing net zero homes can increase the development costs and worsen viability.

A study by Currie and Brown, Cost of Carbon Reduction in New Buildings, found that the additional cost of achieving zero carbon in new residential development was between 5%-7% for regulated emissions and 7%-11% for regulated and unregulated emissions. Additionally, the study found that the indicative cost uplift to reduce carbon emissions by a minimum of 15% was 2%.

Clearly, therefore, delivering sustainability in new residential developments shall increase development costs. However, it is considered to be a worthy endeavour to ensure the development sector supports sustainable development and contributes towards achieving net zero.

If you believe the delivery of net zero homes is making your development unviable alongside other developer contributions, you may wish to consider submitting a Viability Assessment with your planning application.

How can Viable Placemaking help?

Viable Placemaking are a town planning consultancy with a specialism in development economics and viability. We have experience navigating the planning and viability matters relating to the delivery of net zero homes and, in the past year, have supported numerous schemes for sustainable homes including a strategic scheme for 250 houses.

If you would like more information on net zero homes or how Viable Placemaking can assist with your development, please don't hesitate to get in touch.


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