As the realisation sinks in that Christmas is well and truly over and we return to work, Sustainable Homes takes a look back at the last 12 months and a look forward at what we can expect in the sustainability over the next year.
Policy, policy, policy
From a policy perspective, 2017 was the year where we began to see some firming up of domestic policy on sustainability and housing policy in general. Last year, the Housing White Paper kicked things off and was greeted positively; in October, The Clean Growth Strategy was finally released; and the Industrial Strategy followed hot on its heels. Unfortunately some of the aspirations laid out were not supported by the subsequent budget (which of course is Brexit focused), but we finally saw a vision for green Britain emerging.
Electric vehicles and air quality
The Government has promised to ban all new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040, following the lead of the French Government. Tesla continued to innovate and lead the way and electric vehicle car sales increased by 27% overall, with over 45,000 new registrations in 2017. According to some sources the price of an electric vehicle is now the same as a petrol or diesel vehicle, or will become so over the course of the next year. Whilst this is a great step forward for dealing with carbon emissions and air quality, two huge challenges remain – will there be enough charging infrastructure to meet demand? And how do we deal with the problem of congestion?
The second coming of Michael Gove
Who knew? Gove became the champion of all things green in 2017 – from farming to plastics to animal welfare. His conversion to Governmental Green Champion took many by surprise, but he is grasping some of the issues and saying the right things. Is this a sign of great things to come? Or is he simply trying to work his way back to the top table? We’ll know more in 2018.
2018’s new hopes
Focus on plastic
If 2017 was the year of the electric car, then 2018 will be the year of plastic. A growing awareness of the proliferation of plastic and its impact, followed by the airing of the inspirational Blue Planet 2, has brought the use and disposal of plastic right to the top of the agenda. Add to this the announcement by the Chinese Government that it will no longer accept certain types of plastic from other countries and we have a situation where our plastic obsession needs to be dealt with. The recent UK ban on plastic microbeads has set a precedent for legislation and action. Watch out now for possible innovations in packaging, changes to recycling and more action from companies on usage of plastics.
The Housing White Paper and a number of announcement saw modular come back into the limelight in 2017. However, expect 2018 to be the year where we see a significant number of housebuilders and housing associations adopt modular or manufacturing techniques in the delivery of housing. Widely used in the school and hospital sector, some are left wondering why housing appears to be so behind the curve when there is a quality and quantity issue. 2018 is the year modular construction will move into the mainstream.
The return of standards
The release before Christmas of the interim report of the Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety revealed a lot about the state of standards and regulation in relation to our homes. In addition to an expected Housing Bill and the requirements of the Clean Growth Strategy (with associated consultations) it seems that standards are making a slow return.
Raising energy efficiency of homes
Emissions from homes have fallen by 20% overall since 1990, but over the last two years this progress has stalled. Fortunately there are some things to look out for in 2018 that should help kick-start progress on energy efficiency. Firstly, Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) for the private rented sector – specifying that properties must be EPC Band E or above – are being introduced in April. Secondly, renewed conversations around fuel poverty and the roll-out of smart meters are helping raise resident awareness. So, could 2018 be the year that housing quality is taken as seriously as quantity? Progress is still likely to be slow, but with any luck, these factors should trigger a retrofit push across all tenures and give an overdue boost to the efficiency of the national housing stock.
At Sustainable Homes we work towards the sustainable housing transition. SHIFT accreditation, our campaigns and research projects are allowing multi-tenure landlords and their stakeholders to have an active role in this change.
2018 will be another challenging year and we want to keep raising awareness, engagement and action on pressing issues. Keep an eye out for our events calendar, to be announced soon, and report launches this year and get in touch to know how you can be involved.
I look forward to seeing what 2018 will bring.