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Experience leads to passion for energy efficient new homes

NHBC Foundation research shows that people are highly satisfied with new homes, but unraveling zero carbon is key to further engaging consumers.

New research from the NHBC Foundation shows that consumers are highly satisfied with energy efficient new homes but wider-scale engagement could be held back by the confusion around Zero Carbon Homes.

Launched yesterday in front of an audience of industry representatives, Today's attitudes to low and zero carbon homes - views of occupiers, house builders and housing associations, is the first independent report to comprehensively explore the views of house builders and housing associations, as well as occupiers actually living in highly energy efficient new homes.

It finds that occupiers of new or enhanced new homes* are overwhelmingly satisfied with their property, in terms of living space, comfortable internal temperatures and lower energy bills.  Additionally, it shows that there has been a positive shift in consumer attitude and engagement towards overall energy efficiency, compared with the findings of similar research conducted in 2008.  However, those occupying enhanced new homes also report receiving inconsistent or inadequate information about in-home sustainable technologies, meaning it is unlikely they will be using their home to its full energy-saving potential.

The report also notes that an opportunity is being missed at the home valuation stage.  While the industry believes there is little appetite from consumers to pay a premium for new homes enhanced with renewable technologies, the research suggests home buyers may be willing to pay a premium when there is a clear saving on energy bills.  Unfortunately this is currently not reflected by surveyors, who attribute little or no added value to enhanced new homes.

Neil Jefferson, Director, NHBC Foundation, said: "This research shows some very positive attitudes towards low and zero carbon homes and new technologies.  In 2008, we had virtually no direct experience of occupiers in highly energy efficient homes to draw upon, but four years on, we have been able to gain a unique insight into living in this type of new home and almost all of these occupiers are very happy with their new home and with their lower energy bills.

"There are a number of positive messages for the house-building industry arising from this research, the strongest of these being that many of the occupiers having experienced the benefits of a highly energy efficient new home would never want to move into an older home again."

The research report recommends a number of specific measures to simplify the topic of zero carbon across the whole housing supply chain, from construction to marketing and occupation.  These include:

  • The Government should undertake a review of the EPC, mandatory during the purchase or rental of a home, to ensure it better informs consumer views with accurate, actual energy use costs.
  • The house-building industry should adopt user- friendly vocabulary and terminology around low and zero carbon that is engaging and easily understood, appealing to all occupier tenures.
  • House builders and housing associations should much more clearly emphasise the lower running costs that result from enhanced new homes.
  • Valuers and mortgage lenders must recognise that new homes, built to higher levels of energy efficiency, save owners money in running costs and need to factor this into valuations and lending decisions.
  • The Government needs to confirm the remaining parts of the Zero Carbon definition without delay to give the industry the confidence required to engage with it and rise to the challenge.
  • House builders and housing associations should produce clearer instructions on use and maintenance of the home's technological features, and provide occupiers with comprehensive handover documentation and training.

Neil Jefferson concludes: "The research suggests that parts of the new home supply chain could be making the topic of energy efficiency too complicated, from the range of terminologies used, to the technologies themselves.  A cross-industry commitment to simplify zero carbon living should help to change this, and in some cases may be just a question of communicating with consumers in a different way."

For more information and to download the report, please visit www.nhbcfoundation.org/todaysattitudes

* Enhanced new home- for the purposes of this report is a home built in the last 2 to 3 years to higher standards of energy efficiency than required by the applicable Building Regulations.  These include those homes built to Levels 4, 5 and 6 of the Code for Sustainable Homes and its predecessor EcoHomes Very Good and Excellent.

News Date: 15/02/12