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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 January 2007, 14:59 GMT
Summit aims for 'greener' housing
A new home
UK homes account for 27% of CO2 emissions
Housing Minister Yvette Cooper is meeting building industry leaders to discuss how to ensure new homes are made energy efficient and affordable.

Talks are taking place between the government, home building companies, and environmental groups.

The Home Builders Federation said the talks were an ambitious attempt to improve environmental standards.

Last month Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly unveiled proposals to make all new homes "zero carbon" in 10 years.

Builders, suppliers, utility companies and regulators are discussing the potential barriers to achieving the government target.

Organiser, the Home Builders Federation, hopes key groups will agree to a set of pledges thrashed out during the day to begin the process of meeting the goals.

Zero carbon house

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the federation, said: "This roundtable summit aims to bring all the parties together and, rolling up our sleeves, begin the crucial task of working out the detail so that we can achieve higher environmental standards and at the same time deliver the step-change in housing output that the country so badly needs."

A zero-carbon house is defined as one which produces as much energy, by using solar panels or wind turbines, as it consumes.

Such homes are already being built across the country with environmentally-friendly developments in Brixton, south London, and Leicester, in the East Midlands.

Homes which offset the carbon emissions they produce, by planting trees for example, are described as being carbon neutral.

These houses will produce less than half the carbon emissions of a traditionally built house, they will cost about a third as much to run, and we're building them at the same cost as a standard house type in this country
Developer Alan Yates

The UK's 21 million homes are responsible for 27% of the country's CO2 emissions, which the government hopes to reduce by 60% by 2050.

Developers in Redditch, Worcestershire, have started construction of 36 houses using energy-efficient timber panels insulated with glass fibres.

Developer Alan Yates told BBC News: "These houses will produce less than half the carbon emissions of a traditionally built house, they will cost about a third as much to run, and we're building them at the same cost as a standard house type in this country."

Last month Ms Kelly unveiled a consultation document which proposed making all new homes zero carbon by 2016.

It came after Chancellor Gordon Brown announced in his Pre-Budget Report that carbon zero homes would be free from stamp duty.

We know it will be a challenge for all new homes to be zero carbon within 10 years but we think the industry can rise to it
Yvette Cooper, housing minister

Environmental groups which are attending the talks welcomed the attempt to set a strategy for implementing the government's proposals.

A Greenpeace spokesman said: "Tackling emissions from homes is really important and zero-carbon homes are therefore crucial."

Housing Minister Yvette Cooper also backed the discussions.

She said: "Every sector of the economy needs to do its bit to help cut carbon emissions and I welcome the commitment of the Home Builders Federation to delivering much higher environmental standards in the future."

But there have been warnings energy-efficient homes can cost 10% more than a traditional house, pricing them out of the reach of young or first-time buyers.

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