DCLG opens consultation on zero carbon 'allowable solutions' exemption for small housing sites

Out-Law News | 19 Nov 2014 | 4:55 pm | 1 min. read

The department for communities and local government (DCLG) has opened a consultation on proposals to exempt small housing sites from some energy efficiency requirements related to the building of new houses. 

The potential exemption relates to forthcoming requirements for house builders to abate carbon emissions through alternative means where 'zero carbon' cannot be delivered by on-site energy efficiency measures.

The UK government's zero carbon homes policy requires the mitigation of all carbon emissions generated from the energy required to heat and light new homes by 2016. Where the zero carbon standard cannot be achieved on-site using energy efficient building design, low carbon technologies and connected heat networks, the Government has proposed four 'allowable solutions' routes whereby house builders will be allowed to bring sites up to standard by arranging for further on-site or off-site carbon abatement measures or by paying into a fund.

The DCLG confirmed in July that, while all developments would be required to build to higher energy efficiency standards from 2016, it intended to exempt 'small sites' or 'small developers' from the requirement to use allowable solutions where zero carbon could not be achieved. According to the consultation document (16-page / 400 KB PDF) released this week, the government's preferred approach is that sites of 10 or fewer units will be exempt from the requirement.

The DCLG said using a site size definition had the twin benefits of being "easily checkable" by building control bodies and "easily understandable". However, it said that the government was "open-minded to a different threshold for the site size".

According to the consultation document, the government acknowledged the risk that large companies, whom the exemption was not designed to support, would benefit from the measure when developing smaller sites or that larger developments would be "artificially split into a number of small sites" in order to gain exemption.

In order to prevent large sites being artificially split, the DCLG suggested that maximum floor space criteria could be introduced, proposing "a maximum size of 1,000 square metres for a 10 unit development – so 100 sq m of floor space for every property captured by the site size set".

In order to prevent larger companies from benefiting from the exemption, the DCLG said that the exemption could be applied to companies with 49 employees or less, rather than being based on the size of the site. However, the DCLG said that this alternative approach posed "potentially greater risks" than a site size test, since large companies might set up smaller subsidiaries to benefit from exemption and "a company based approach does not take account of how much work is sub-contracted".

The consultation is open until 7 January.