Back to News
|WALES today becomes the first country
in Europe to set new green standards for sustainable buildings.
Environmentalists say the move to cut carbon emissions and improve
sustainability announced this morning by Housing Minister Jane
Davidson will put Wales five years ahead of England in the race to
achieve a “zero carbon” target.
But builders warned that house prices will inevitably rise as a
result of the Assembly Government planning policy, which will set a
national standard for most new buildings in Wales from September 1.
New homes will have to reduce their carbon emissions by more than
31% through energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy,
compared to current building regulations.
They will also reduce their consumption of water and use more
Ms Davidson said she was determined to use the planning system to
move towards zero carbon buildings.
“Making our buildings greener will play an important part in
reducing our carbon footprint as the built environment is the
largest contributor to greenhouse gases in Wales,” she said.
“The way in which we construct our homes and buildings accounts for
40% of our total carbon emissions.
“We need to do everything we can to make new buildings, from our
homes through to our offices, as environmentally-friendly as
possible. The new policy will play a key role in achieving this.”
But Richard Jenkins, director of the Federation of Master Builders,
Wales, said: “While we support any move towards sustainability, not
a lot of new houses are being built in Wales at the moment.
“And it will inevitably increase the costs of building new houses
and house prices will rise.
“However, homeowners will make savings through greater energy
“In the future, homeowners will be buying houses like they do their
cars now, with an emphasis on how efficient they are to run.”
The Royal Society of Architects in Wales said the new target begins
to “put the teeth” into the Assembly’s aspirations.
“While recognising the inherent challenges in such a step forward,
this provides the opportunity for Wales to become a leader in
sustainable skills and supply chains,” said a spokesman.
“As such, the RSAW is working to put in place training and quality
control for its members to ensure that chartered architects are best
able to deliver on these targets.”
Gordon James, director of Friends of the Earth Cymru, said the new
policy will help Wales achieve its aim of having all new buildings
zero carbon from 2011 – five years ahead of England.
“The measures will also help boost green jobs and help Wales take a
lead role in developing a green economy,” he said.
“But there is a need to do more to tackle the problem of carbon
emissions from existing buildings. About 80% of the homes we will
inhabit in 2050 are already standing today.
“Reducing emissions by improving energy saving in existing homes
will also cut fuel bills, reduce fuel poverty, improve health and
create many jobs.”
Andrew Evans, chief executive of Black Mountain Insulation, which
manufactures sheep wool insulation at its new factory in Rhyl, said
a visit by Ms Davidson was an opportunity to show how the company
could play a small part in achieving Assembly energy poverty and
green initiatives which lead the rest of the UK.
“Our product is not only very environmentally-friendly, it is also
totally safe for people to touch and install themselves.
“We use very little energy – 90% less than the manufacturing of
glass fibre insulation.”
A spokesman from the Centre for Alternative Technology in
Machynlleth, which advocates using earth and sheep’s wool to
insulate buildings, said the new policy needs to be backed up by
funding new building techniques and providing training programmes in
Arwel Owen, aged 28, a former Young Architect of Year, who works for
Hughes Architects of Newtown and Welshpool, said although builders
might struggle with the concept from the outset, he expects the new
initiative will pay off in the long run.
But Michael Davies of Davies Sutton Architects in Cardiff said he
expected some recession-hit clients to be put off by the extra
expense involved in meeting green criteria.