Residents in new council developments can look forward to an ever more sustainable standard of buildings as Stevenage Borough Council strives to defeat the climate emergency and get the town to net zero emissions by 2030.

Planning has a crucial role to play in the management of climate change with sustainability now at the centre of policy at Stevenage Borough Council.

It is estimated that 50 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions come from energy used to heat, cool and light buildings. With the threat of climate change escalating, sustainable construction techniques and fittings are becomingly increasingly important. Reducing energy demand in buildings can not only reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but will also help to reduce energy bills, making good economic sense and helping to reduce fuel poverty for those that live there.

When new developments are required, local authorities can often take the easy option of building to design regulations which will include use of basic construction standards and use of fossil fuelled heating. The policy at Stevenage however is to urge developers to take the environment and sustainability into consideration when building housing owned by the council as far as possible so that energy performance standards exceed national regulations.

Our approach means that planners, designers and developers work together to ensure that climate change is taken into account at all stages of the development process. At Stevenage Borough Council, we will always encourage developers to incorporate as many sustainable features as viable into new builds including triple glazing, air source heat pumps and solar photovoltaic electricity.

An example of this is Helston House in Symonds Green. Set to open in 2022 and provide 29 affordable homes, the site represents the future of new council owned developments for sustainable living.

The units will be heated entirely from electricity rather than gas, offering a much lower use of fossil fuels and better local air quality as there will be no gas flue emissions. The heating demand will also be minimised by the use of intensely insulated walls with a rigid full fill system with increased cavity size. The demand for grid-based electricity will also be reduced by the installation of a 16kW solar photovoltaic array with 50 panels. A battery storage system will also be fitted to store solar energy when excess is generated and used for communal electricity requirements for the lift, lighting, and car charging points, reducing service charges for residents. The remainder will be exported to the local grid. Helston House will also be fitted with triple glazing to reduce heat loss to the minimum.

Looking to the future, environmental performance standards for new homes are set to significantly improve with national policy. A new Future Homes Standard means that by 2025, all new builds must be zero carbon ready and low-carbon heating options will need to be installed in new homes. It will also mean that upgrades to existing properties will be expected to use technologies such as heat pumps, cooling systems and fixed lighting.

These developments come at a time when everyone is being encouraged to do more to improve the energy efficiency of buildings both old and new.  Since April 2020, landlords can no longer let properties covered by national Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) regulations if they receive one of the three worst energy performance certificate ratings (E, F or G), unless they have a valid exemption in place, forcing them to upgrade existing buildings. From 2025, all new tenancies will require a certification of rating C or above and, from 2028 this will apply to all existing tenancies.

Cllr John Gardner, Executive Member for Environment and Regeneration at Stevenage Borough Council said: “Our new local planning guidance urges our development partners to go above and beyond the current requirements of national building regulations.

“We have made a strong commitment as a town to cutting carbon emissions to net zero and homes and building must play a major role in that. Ensuring that new buildings do not add unnecessarily to the carbon crisis is vital as part of our goal to become a net zero emissions town in Stevenage by 2030.”

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