By Simon McWhirter, Head of Engagement

Currently, there is much talk in the industry about modern methods of construction, with modular and offsite starting to disrupt the market. The structure of the homes we live in is transforming, but what about the way the building itself operates? 

One of the major challenges faced when we come to discuss sustainable housing is energy consumption and the carbon emissions resulting from buildings. If we are to stand any chance of meeting our 2050 emissions targets we have to seriously reconsider how we power our homes, from central heating through to white goods and other appliances.

Weening ourselves off gas dependence is one essential part of this drive, and while the government’s intention to phase out gas boilers in new builds by 2025 is welcome, it’s not enough on its own.

Equally, unless we encourage a mass adoption of electric vehicles (EV), we will still find ourselves struggling with the climate change conundrum 30, 50, 100 years down the line. By then, it might be too late.

Helping to minimise the impact of climate change

The good news is that there is much innovative work going on across the UK to develop systems and solutions which will help minimise the impact of climate change and effectively improve the environment. One of these, with which I’m directly involved, is ‘Active Homes’. 

In essence, the Active Home is a direct progression, or evolution, from a focus on singular innovative technology solutions, to a systems-based approach to sustainable housing. These buildings effectively empower the homeowner or tenant through creating a structure which is energy self-sufficient, allowing for intuitive generation, storage and use. It’s a low carbon option which has the potential to significantly ease pressure on the national grid, adding resilience into the wider system by delivering more generation capacity – aggregated at scale. This is essential as our energy consumption rapidly increases and we move to non-fossil fuel generated electricity.

These Active Homes would have further benefits to society, addressing significant fuel poverty concerns, improving air quality through reduced emissions and also through encouraging the adoption of EVs as both modes of transport and additional drivers of energy storage and movement. 

At the Active Building Centre, we are constantly working on new and innovative solutions which will define the energy efficient, self-sufficient homes of the future. Our approach is empirical and data-driven, so we have been able to observe directly the very real possibilities for Active Homes.

Housing Associations have the capability to be trailblazers in this space. As early adopters they could take advantage of the coordinated model it offers to address climate and energy concerns within innovative commercial models, at the same time championing our drive to achieve our zero-carbon targets and a more sustainable society. 

Article originally published in

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