The housing market crisis presents a unique opportunity to transform the quality of housing in England, to stimulate innovation, to create new business opportunities and supply chains, and to transform skills in the construction sector.
Build with CaRe, a European project with ambition to mainstream low-carbon construction, has brokered contact and learning between continental partners and housing associations and businesses in the East of England. As a result, new initiatives are now a reality on the ground with architects, housing associations and construction companies working together to deliver passivhaus and similar very low energy construction.
The National Housing Federation has this week warned of a housing market crisis. As the NHF notes, at the heart of the problem remains a chronic under-supply of homes with hundreds of thousands of people locked out of the housing market.
Homes built today will be occupied for over fifty years. It is essential that any response to this housing crisis stimulates innovation and takes a path that will enable new homes to be models of energy efficiency in the decades to come and to provide environments that enable health and wellbeing for their occupants.
By requiring that housing associations work with industry partners to build low-energy passive homes, the route out of this crisis can become an opportunity to fast-track UK construction to innovate, to develop the skills needed to build to very high quality standards, and to develop the supply chains that will anyway be necessary in years to come.
The cost need not be great and value will in fact be created. The Government can now borrow longterm at very low interest rates as a result of the wider global economic slow-down to create a fund to kick-start such a process. Investment today to stimulate innovation will yield great benefit to the economy as a whole.
Passive houses built today will retain value above any built to today’s standards with the result that investment today may be recouped with interest in the years to come. Not only will such an approach make new houses that are appropriate for a low-carbon economy, but it will also accelerate innovation and progress in the far greater task of refurbishing existing homes to be highly energy efficient.
The construction industry must do the heavy lifting to help combat climate change because buildings are responsible for almost half of carbon dioxide emissions. I have been hugely impressed by the speed with which housing associations and their construction industry partners have learned from innovation in Sweden, Germany and elsewhere so that design, costs and quality of new low-energy projects have been transformed in just a few months. This speed of change on the ground shows very clearly how housing associations could lead the transformation to very-low-energy, high-quality but affordable housing that today’s crisis should stimulate.
Bruce Tofield, Build with Care Project Manager, LCIC