The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has published a report warning that UK housing emissions will be skyrocketed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The RIBA has cautioned that responses to the virus include changes in behaviour that will turbocharge the UK housing emissions crisis unless the Government urgently intervenes.

The coronavirus pandemic has seen a surge in people working from home, creating a shift in UK emissions contributions. There has been an immense growth in the proportion of emissions coming from the housing stock. Within Europe, the UK has one of the most inefficient housing stocks and the RIBA’s ‘Greener Homes’ report urges the Government to enforce less wasteful strategies. The report suggests bringing forward a National Retrofit Strategy to make UK homes more energy efficient.

What is the National Retrofit Strategy?

As a part of the National Retrofit strategy, a sliding scale of stamp duty would be introduced with the most energy-efficient homes accruing significantly less tax than the least. The tax would have a cap of £25,000, 

A tax rebate may be made available for a period after purchase, encouraging homeowners to tackle their own energy-efficiency developments. The suggested improvements include insulating lofts and walls, switching to double or triple glazed windows, draught-proofing doors, windows and floors and adopting smarter heating systems.

What Does RIBA Recommend?

RIBA has outlined in the report a list of suggestions that the National Retrofit Strategy should incorporate. These include:

  • A commitment to front-load money by the Government bound to be given to energy-efficient strategies over the next ten years spent throughout this Parliament. This aims to ‘address the shift in the balance of emissions and assist with the coronavirus economic recovery’.
  • More deliberate targeting of existing income support payments, including the Warm Homes Discount and the Winter Fuel Payment.
  • A distinct long-term timeline for improving the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards in both the private and social rented sectors
  • More robust performance standards for new homes
  • Further regulation of the quality of building work to make energy efficiency improvements making energy efficiency improvements conducted by tradespeople.

President of the RIBA, Alan Jones, said: “When it comes to energy efficiency, our homes are fundamentally below the mark. Our housing stock sits shamefully behind most European neighbours, and this will only be made more obvious by the changes in working habits brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We need urgent government action – a National Retrofit Strategy – with front-loaded spending that would double as a fiscal stimulus and a new stamp duty policy to encourage homeowners to think twice about opting for sub-standard homes.

“As the Committee on Climate Change has made clear, we need the near-total elimination of housing stock emissions to reach net-zero by 2050. It’s quite clear we need to start now.”

The report will be included as part of a submission by the RIBA to Her Majesty’s Treasury that currently evaluates how public finances can be distributed to aid in the passage to reaching net-zero