The quest for sustainable buildings: getting it right at the planning stage
Climate change and security of energy supply are key drivers of policy and legislation in current times. At the same time, the UK government is also focusing upon those households subject to ‘fuel poverty’.1 There is an impressive number of initiatives in place to secure reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and to promote energy efficiency. These measures range from legally binding international agreements to local voluntary community schemes. The complexity of the policy and legal frameworks is accentuated by the fact that there are multiple goals to achieve and this results in some incidences of paradox. Take micro generation, for example. Certainly domestic schemes will result in reduced carbon dioxide emissions and should provide a reliable source of energy for the future. As evidenced by the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Act 2006, the UK government also sees micro generation as one of the hopes for reducing fuel poverty. Micro generation does, however, tend to be expensive (certainly in comparison with current energy prices) and if it is to be successful in the alleviation of ‘fuel poverty’ then substantial financial support will be needed. Ultimately, whether the economics of micro generation make sense will depend upon whether the era of cheap centralized energy is really at an end (Dow, 2007). The array of measures in place to improve energy performance and thus reduce carbon emissions will also serve to ease the burden of energy expenses on poor households. However, their role in addressing the goal of reducing carbon emissions is based on the premise that a large proportion of energy provision is from fossil fuel sources. A switch to a mix of nuclear and renewable sources (although this may raise other entirely different issues in relation to the environment and sustainability) would arguably be far more efficient in reducing carbon emissions from buildings.