Page last updated at 17:24 GMT, Tuesday, 6 April 2010 18:24 UK

House builders attack new 'green' rules

Generic building site

House builders have claimed tougher Scottish government "green" building guidelines could add as much as £8,000 to the cost of a new home.

The guidelines require new homes to have better insulation, sound-proofing and security.

Ministers claim the changes will mean new homes should be 70% more efficient than those built 20 years ago.

But the industry said the tougher guidelines will make it more difficult for builders to meet housing demand.

Jonathan Fair, chief executive of industry body Homes for Scotland, warned the country was already facing its worst housing crisis since World War II, and claimed the new building standards could further delay the provision of new private and social housing.

Much greater emphasis needs to be placed on systematically improving the performance and energy efficiency of existing dwellings
Jonathan Fair
Homes for Scotland

Mr Fair added: "The home building industry remains fully supportive of the sustainability agenda and is already leading the way towards a low carbon economy when compared with almost all other industry sectors, but this momentum must be balanced against technical and affordability constraints.

"The big question is whether new home buyers are willing to incur premiums of up to £8,000 for low carbon living or 'bolt-on renewables' which seem to offer little in the way of pay back, are difficult to understand and operate, or remain unproven with regards to long-term performance and maintenance.

"If the Scottish government really wishes to meet its carbon emission reduction targets, much greater emphasis needs to be placed on systematically improving the performance and energy efficiency of existing dwellings."

Unwanted noise

But Infrastructure Minister Stewart Stevenson said the new rules, which will come into force at the start of October, would give Scotland some of the greenest homes in Europe.

He said the improved energy standards would help tackle climate change, and added: "I expect higher demand for small-scale renewables technologies as developers look at ways to meet the new standards, giving Scotland new opportunities for jobs and investment in low carbon industries.

"Cutting out energy waste will also save money."

Mr Stevenson said dramatic improvements in sound insulation would give householders greater freedom from unwanted noise.

"Taken together, these improvements will lead to better, warmer and quieter homes to live in," he added.

Professor Sean Smith, director of the Institute for Sustainable Construction at Edinburgh Napier University, said: "It is very positive that after so many years the standards have been raised.

"Some house builders have been building to these higher standards, however this will now bring a level playing field for the industry sector and all occupants irrespective of income."

Liberal Democrat housing spokesman Jamie Stone MSP said the party had been calling for these improved building standards for a long time, and welcomed this development.

"However this should only be the first step: we must tackle the energy inefficiency of existing buildings too," he said.

"That is why the Liberal Democrats would introduce an eco cash back scheme giving homeowners the money to install energy efficiency or microgeneration measures."



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