A diverse coalition of experts is leading the charge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through building transformation. This update sheds light on their collaborative efforts and ambitious goals.
The Building sector group offers a wealth of expertise, with representatives ranging from prominent housing developers and skilled architects to local authorities, social housing associations, low-carbon building consultants, and retrofit advice specialists. This diversity enriches the group’s ability to identify strategic actions to meet their emission reduction targets.
While the group has a clear understanding of high-level actions required to achieve their emission reduction goals, there are significant challenges. They must ensure that the decarbonisation of buildings is equitable across Cumbria. It’s crucial that the shift to low-carbon technologies doesn’t burden homeowners and building occupants with unmanageable energy costs or disproportionately increase the cost of new builds. The group consistently emphasises the importance of effective communication strategies that not only outline the need for changes in building standards but also highlight the long-term benefits.
Fossil fuels used in homes and buildings are a substantial source of greenhouse gas emissions in Cumbria. Reducing heat loss through building updates and improvements (retrofit) is a fundamental step in decreasing energy demand and transitioning to low-carbon heating systems. One of the group’s initial actions is to gather comprehensive housing and building data for Cumbria. This data will serve as the foundation for addressing the scale of necessary upgrades to current building stock. One of the draft recommendations will be for all (appropriate) buildings are retrofitted to achieve an acceptable efficiency level (an EPC grade of C or above, or equivalent), where reliable information is available.
The group assigns priority to new builds as a focus area. Their ambition is to move all new construction toward net-zero emissions. Achieving higher environmental standards for new builds demands commitment; from homeowners desiring energy-efficient buildings to contractors equipped with the skills to construct low-carbon buildings. Additionally, the group is considering actions to lobby the national government to accelerate revised Building Regulations, surpassing current plans for improved carbon efficiency.
The group have had informative presentations showcasing practical examples of retrofitting various house types found in Cumbria, strategies for decarbonising heating systems, insights into new construction, and demand reduction methods. These presentations serve as valuable input for action planning discussions.
Cumbria already has some impressive examples of low-carbon new builds and retrofitted/upgraded homes and buildings. However, to meet emission reduction targets, a commitment to accelerate the upskilling and training of building advisors, tradespeople, and contractors is essential. One of the proposals raised to address this is the development of a Cumbria Retrofit Hub, this forms a draft action in the Emission Reduction Action Plan (ERAP).
Resources and Projects in Cumbria
For those interested in exploring ongoing efforts in Cumbria related to the Building sector group’s work, the following link provides valuable insights: [Cold to Cosy Homes Cumbria] (https://cafs.org.uk/cold-to-cosy-homes-cumbria/).