Sustainable Architecture Blog: Building a solution to rising energy bills

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Last week the chief executive of Ofgem warned that Britain will come “dangerously” close to power shortages within two years. Swift action is needed to protect our communities against fuel poverty and improve energy security. Sustainable buildings hold the key.

Alistair Buchanan, chief executive of Ofgem, believes that reforms to the UK’s electricity supply will not be quick enough to replace power plants that are on the way out. But what if Britain simply reduced the energy demand of our homes?

Sustainable architects and builders are best placed to do this. Cost-effective energy efficiency measures could reduce the energy demand of Britain’s buildings, therefore lowering the UK’s baseload electricity. Sustainable retrofitting and new builds are one of the quickest ways to achieve this.

Natural building materials that are affordable and sustainable such as local timber should be used in all new builds, whilst other materials can be used to eco-renovate homes.

Researchers and architecture students studying at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) have shown that hemp is a sustainable alternative to synthetic insulation. Hemp shiv render is proven to not suffer from moisture ingress so would be perfect as a natural insulator. There is no reason why this insulation could not be used on a wide scale.

Zero Carbon Britain (ZCB) is a rapid decarbonisation scenario from CAT that demonstrates how the UK can power down energy demand by retrofitting the housing stock.

We are in a transitional period. Sustainable new builds will become increasingly cheaper as energy efficient social housing becomes the standard. All we need now is widespread retrofit policies that make eco-renovation affordable, without adding debts to properties, and a universal approach to sustainability that prioritises the use of natural materials.

This all adds up to an obvious solution for rising energy bills. Why build more power plants if we can easily cut demand?

CAT has 40 years of experience in sustainable building and is recognised as a leader in research and training for low-impact construction. The MSc Architecture: Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies offers postgraduate study with an holistic approach to sustainability and energy use in design, architecture and building.