This research evaluates policy and standards for promoting the delivery of low and zero carbon (LZC) new homes in England, in the context of the 2012 Housing Standards Review and the recently withdrawn 2016 zero carbon target.

The low / zero carbon homes (LZC) agenda was launched by the Labour Government in 2006 with the aim of establishing ‘performance orientated’ policy tools, including a complementary mix of mandatory national regulations, voluntary and quasi-voluntary standards.

In principle, such a mixed approach can be considered a ‘smart’ way of establishing a clear baseline national standard, while further driving innovation towards higher standards that might not be feasible nation-wide. However, the numerous policies and standards for housing developed and adopted in the private market and by local authorities were widely viewed as over-complicated and not always steering towards the most cost effective and sustainable building solutions.

The analysis of policy and standards for LZC homes presented here draws from 70 interviews with a broad range of stakeholders, including designers, developers, consultants, valuers and key industry representatives. Interviewees were asked to assess the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges facing policy and standards for LZC homes.

Although the 2016 target has been scrapped, concerns about the capacity of the sector to deliver LZC homes remain important, with ambitious UK climate change targets and EU ‘nearly zero energy’ buildings targets for 2019/2021 still in place.

Even if and when building regulations do become aligned with the nearly zero target, there would still be a potentially significant role for voluntary standards in driving innovation beyond the regulatory minimum.

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