The government wanted to make all buildings carbon neutral by 2016. London originally wanted to do this a few years earlier. The plans to make buildings carbon neutral have now been abandoned.

What does carbon neutral mean?
Carbon dioxide is saved when the solar panels on the building generate electricity and cause power stations to burn less fossil fuel. The building is carbon neutral if the amount of carbon dioxide saved in this way is equal to the amount of carbon dioxide produced by the gas and electricity consumed by the building.

Why is this a problem? If energy regulations are too strict it increases the cost of a project significantly. Putting an extra layer of insulation in a wall might increase the cost of that wall by a few thousand pounds. It can also be impractical. If a bungalow or a two storey house has roof slopes facing east and west, solar panels can be put on both sides of the roof. It is now reasonably easy to make the building carbon neutral. But some buildings are very difficult to make carbon neutral. If a building is 4 or 5 storeys high, the amount of electricity generated by solar panels on the roof is relatively small compared to the energy consumed by the building. It now becomes almost impossible to make the building carbon neutral.

What are local authorities doing now?
Modern day planning policy is to reduce carbon dioxide to the lowest levels that are technically possible. I have had phone calls from architects saying that they can’t use the number of solar panels I have specified. They won’t fit on the roof. I have always managed to find a solution to these problems. This sort of situation brings building design very close to the limits of present day technology. Planning authorities need to make sure that they don’t ask Energy Assessors, Architects and builders to do things that are actually impossible. London planning authorities have recently reduced their requirement for a building to have a carbon dioxide target 36% lower than national building regulations. It is now 20% below the carbon dioxide target for a building heated by gas (a building heated by gas has a lower CO2 target than one heated by electricity.) This is a strict standard but just about achievable with a small block of flats. It requires a methodical approach to design and an acceptable number of solar panels on the roof.

If you need to address a challenge to come within the Planning Authorities restrictions, maybe Malcolm from SAPs4U can help.

Carbon Neutral in London