In late 2012, BRE is adding a new national certification scheme for refurbishment “BREEAM domestic refurbishment” to its existing environmental rating system already widely used in the UK including the Code for Sustainable Homes for new build housing. There is growing emphasis on retrofitting existing homes in the UK, with the Green Deal and Retrofit for the Future initiatives providing financial support and researching solutions to encourage uptake.
Existing environmental standards like Ecohomes or Passivhaus were created for new build or major refurbishment projects, so there is a lack of strategies to tackle the diverse and varied buildings that make up the U.K’s existing homes that homeowners (rather than social landlords) can use.
The Centre for Alternative Technology report Zero Carbon Britain argues a code for sustainable refurbishment is needed to ensure the work is done to a high level and avoid it being done twice. An industry-acceptable standard to measure the eco-refurbishment of existing homes is required as large-scale upgrading becomes a key aspect of the government’s carbon emission targets, argue Building4Change.
BREEAM highlight that this standard will support better design and the Green Deal, with a measured outcome providing confidence to the consumer. It will work by providing an independent assessment of the refurbished design, building on the existing Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) system already in place. This has worked successfully in the non-domestic sector; but would the average homeowner improving their home pay extra to certify the design?
It has been suggested however, that because schemes like BREEAM are voluntary, there reach is limited. A better solution to achieve low carbon refurbishments would be to raise Building Regulations to BREEAM level.
Can voluntary standards ever result in widespread change?
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