Today’s attitudes to low and zero carbon homes – views of occupiers, house builders and housing associations in the UK

This National House Building Foundation (NHBC) primary research report summarises the current thoughts, awareness and understanding towards issues such as climate change, the 2016 zero carbon definition, airtightness and renewable technologies.

Containing a detailed examination of responses from occupiers, house builders and housing associations, Today’s attitudes to low and zero carbon homes – views of occupiers, house builders and housing associations assesses the priorities of industry and the consumer when building or purchasing a new home.  It looks at views that could impact new homes of the future and sets the context for the research and presents the key findings, recommendations and current details of the definition of zero carbon homes.

Key findings

The study found that:

  • Home occupants were sceptical of the title zero carbon, but didn’t like new homes being described as eco or green either. There was one term that occupants did like: 70 percent thought the phrase ‘energy efficient’ would tempt them to look at a home. Occupants also had negative perceptions of the names of some eco-technologies, such as greywater recycling, but were more positive when a description was given.
  • More than half of occupants were slightly or strongly attracted to buying a home with solar thermal or photovoltaic panels, although interest was found to decline with age.
  • 53 of 54 occupiers whose homes had mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) opened their windows on an occasional basis, with 57 percent keeping a window open at night. None said that they didn’t open the windows at all.
  • 87 percent of occupiers with MVHR kept the system running all or most of the time, but some turned it off in summer because they believed it used electricity unnecessarily.
  • 45 percent of housing associations said they have installed a back-up for a renewable technology in case of failure.
  • 23 percent of housing associations have decommissioned a technology because they have experienced problems. The report said that air source heat pumps and biomass boilers appear to have been most troublesome.
  • 39 percent of housing associations and 44 percent of housebuilders reported problems in sourcing reliable manufacturers. Only 31 percent overall could name a manufacturer with whom they have had a good experience.

Ways to improve attitudes

The report’s recommendations include:

  • The housebuilding industry should emphasis the lower running costs resulting from the energy efficiency of new homes through their marketing materials and sales staff.
  • Housebuilders need to adopt terminology that is user-friendly, engaging and easily understood.
  • Housebuilders must work to develop user friendly instructions and guides, training and intuitive control systems.
  • Valuers and mortgage lenders need to recognise that new homes save owners money in running costs, and factor this into valuations and lending decisions.
  • Occupiers should be encouraged to engage with renewable technologies and given more information about financial incentives.
  • Manufacturers need to develop products that work well in practice, with better technical support.
  • The government must confirm the remaining parts of the zero carbon definition to give industry confidence to engage with and respond to the challenge.

Further information

Article: Developers urged to improve occupants’ grasp of the benefits of green homes

 

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