On the 12th of October 2017, the UK Government released an updated version of its Clean Growth Strategy, setting out a framework for low-cost energy and the reduction of carbon emissions. In addition to supporting the burgeoning renewable energy sector, investing in green technologies and reducing the carbon footprint of the industry, the report highlights the importance of creating a generation of affordable, energy-efficient homes fit for the evolving energy landscape of the 21st century.
Within several local authorities across England and Wales, we are already seeing a series of projects that offer a glimpse of the housing of the future. On the 24th October, The Welsh Government announced the launch of 22 affordable housing projects that will develop the ‘homes of the future,’ with the support of the Welsh Government’s Innovative Housing Programme.
The Innovative Housing Programme was launched back in February 2017 to encourage the creation of a series of ‘demonstrator schemes’ designed to inform the Welsh Government, housing associations and local authorities of the type of homes they should be supporting to meet environmental and housing demands. The scheme provides nearly £20 million per annum to get behind projects that for example, support the development of buildings as power stations, as well as the use of recycled materials and modular techniques which offer major opportunities to increase the speed of construction and the quality of homes.
Back in June, we witnessed the launch if the UK’s largest passive housing scheme developed by EMH Group. The £9 million Heathcott Road project, in the Saffron Lane area of Leicester, comprised of 68 eco-friendly homes for affordable rent, developed to address the priority housing needs in the area. Energy efficient technologies have been built into the houses, which means that each home can be heated for as little as £13 per year.
What is clear, is there are fundamental societal pressures that are fuelling the drive to housing efficiency in all its forms. A mounting demand for housing, the rise of fuel poverty, demographic change the global drive to reduce our carbon footprint, all mean that the future of housing development must be the creation of homes that meet these needs.
The Government is taking steps to create a framework for this evolution in housing production, but this is simply not enough to effect wide-scale change. For clean growth to flourish, organisations at the grassroots of housing innovation, construction and governance need to become key players. The opportunity for growth must be a shared endeavour between government, business, civil society and the British people. It must be driven and facilitated at regional and local level by local authorities and housing associations within a framework of funding support from national government, much like the Innovative Housing Programme.
Support must also be made available to technology enablers who are at the cutting edge of energy efficiency innovation in housing. We ourselves are part of the revolution, developing state of the art integrated solar photovoltaic solutions that are designed to sit within the fabric of a building. It is these integrated energy technologies, transforming buildings into self-sustaining power stations that is the future and it is a bright one.