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The Carbon Challenge

Wednesday 7 February 2007 00:01
Department for Communities and Local Government (National)

The carbon challenge: Ruth Kelly opens competition for housebuilders to develop affordable green communities

Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly today unveiled details of a new international challenge for housebuilders to design and build flagship zero-carbon and low carbon communities.

The Carbon Challenge, which will be run by English Partnerships, calls on developers to raise standards of design, construction, energy and water use and waste disposal so that these techniques can be used in the future as a benchmark for mainstream development. It also seeks to meet rising expectations from the public for more sustainable communities which offer them reduced bills and a higher quality of housing design.

The Challenge will spearhead the move towards zero-carbon development - as announced in December in a radical package of new measures for greener housebuilding, including the Code for Sustainable Homes and the first ever planning policy on climate change - and builds on the Chancellor's announcement in the Pre-Budget Report that in future most new zero carbon homes will be exempt from stamp duty.

Ruth Kelly said:

"We must cut carbon emissions to tackle climate change - and housing has a major role to play. Building the new homes we need across the country is a prime opportunity to harness new technology and drive up environmental standards.

"We need to design communities, not just houses. While there are lots of carbon saving measures which can be used in individual homes, designing a whole community gives developers scope to make use of schemes like district heating and combined heat and power plants.

"I encourage British and overseas builders to come up with bold and innovative ways to kickstart the drive towards zero carbon in ten years."

The first two English Partnerships sites are named as Hanham Hall near Bristol and Glebe Road in Peterborough. Three further public and private sector sites are expected to be added to the Challenge within twelve months. The Challenge will be open to developers and construction firms from across Europe with a target of delivering several thousand zero or low carbon homes.

These sites made available under the Challenge will be brought to the market individually over the coming year with the support of local authorities and other partner organisations. They will be specified as requiring zero carbon or near zero carbon according to local factors. As well as being environmentally friendly, it is important that the communities are able to supply affordable, well-designed and spacious housing.

Trevor Beattie, the Director of English Partnerships responsible for delivering the Challenge said:

"English Partnerships will work with the construction industry to meet the challenge of climate change. Together we can make a major contribution. We will work with the house building industry and local authorities to shape the future of development in this country. Ministers have issued the Challenge and there will be many ready to take it up."

The successful bidders for the first two sites will be announced in autumn 2007, with work starting on the new communities in summer 2008. The Government is also encouraging other public land owners, including local councils, as well as private land owners, to put their own land forward as part of the Carbon Challenge and be zero carbon trailblazers.

Notes to Editors

1. For more information, please contact the English Partnerships press office on 020 7881 1653/1624.

2. The Carbon Challenge is the successor to Design for Manufacture (DfM) and will build on lessons learnt from that competition. For more information see

3. 'Zero carbon' means no net carbon emissions from all energy uses in the home - so the amount of energy taken from the national grid is less than or equal to the amount put back through renewable technologies. This equates to Level 6 of the Code for Sustainable Homes and will qualify for Stamp Duty relief.

4. Currently the energy used to heat, light and run our homes account for 27 per cent of all the UK's emissions at around 40 million tonnes.

5. Key features of a zero-carbon development could include technologies such as:

Combined heat and power

Combined Heat and Power (CHP) is a fuel-efficient energy technology that, unlike conventional forms of power generation, puts to use the by-product heat that is normally wasted to the environment. CHP can increase the overall efficiency of fuel use to more than 75%, compared with around 50% or less from conventional electricity generation.

District heating and cooling systems

District heating is a system for distributing heat generated in a centralized location for residential and/or commercial heating requirements. District heating systems (DHS) distribute steam or hot water to multiple buildings. The heat can be provided from a variety of sources, including geothermal, CHP plants, waste heat from industry, and purpose-built heating plants.

Aquifer Thermal Energy

Aquifer thermal energy storage uses underground water reserves called aquifers. There are two wells (typically) on either side with hydraulic coupling. One well is for the warm water and the other one is for the cold.

In the winter, warm water is cooled and passed to the cold well. Energy is extracted by a heat exchanger for heating purposes. In summer, the process is reversed and cold water is used for cooling. Once heated, the water is stored in the cold well. The advantage about this system is that it is environmentally safe; the water which circulates from underground to the heat exchangers and back can not be contaminated as it always remains in the system.

Ground Source Heat Pumps

Ground source heat pumps (GSHP) transfer heat from the ground into a building to provide space heating and, in some cases, to pre-heat domestic hot water.

Passive Heating

Passive heating systems are used in buildings which are insulated to a very high standard and make use of solar thermal gain and heat exchanges on ventilation systems, so that no external energy source (other than perhaps background heat generated by people living there and appliances) is required to keep the building warm.

Solar and Wind Energy

Solar energy can be used in a number of ways to provide energy. Passive solar energy is the use of sunlight to keep buildings warm through the direct warming effect of the sun on a building, e.g. via walls and glazing. Thermal solar panels which provide space heating and hot water. Another method is to convert solar energy to electricity in photovoltaic cells

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