We are now living with climate breakdown and urgently need to stimulate the retrofit market to reduce energy and carbon emissions of existing buildings. Claiming the 5% rate of VAT on “energy saving measures” (VAT notice 708/6) is not straightforward and does not cover all retrofit elements.
The removal of VAT would act as a much needed incentive for homeowners to carry out “whole house” responsible and moisture robust retrofit works. The UK Green Building Council report titled “Retrofit Incentives” published in July 2013 explores these issues in section 4.5 titled “Reduced Rate of VAT for energy efficiency”. While we recognise that in 2012 there were some legal obstacles to achieving this, given the new context of a climate emergency, we urge that this matter is readdressed.
The carbon footprint of building a house depends on all kinds of things – including, of course, the size of the house and the types of materials chosen.
The estimate of construction of a brand-new cottage with two bedrooms upstairs and two reception rooms and a kitchen downstairs is 80 tonnes C02e.
A study by Historic Scotland looked at the climate change implications of various options for a traditional cottage in Dumfries: leave it as it is, refurbish, or knock it down and build a new one to various different building codes.
They looked at the climate change impact over a 100-year period, taking into account the embodied emissions in the construction and maintenance as well as the energy used and generated by those living in the building.
Unsurprisingly, the worst option by far was to do nothing and leave the old house leaking energy like a sieve. Knocking down and starting again worked out at about 80 tonnes CO2e whether the house was built to 2008 Scottish building regulations or to the much more stringent and expensive Code for Sustainable Homes Level 5 that demanded ‘carbon neutrality’.
However, the winning option was to refurbish the old house, because the carbon investment of doing this was just eight tonnes CO2e, and even the highest-specification newbuild could not catch up this advantage over the 100-year period. Once cost was taken into account, refurbishment became dramatically the most practical and attractive option, too.