Houses that are not properly constructed can have a detrimental effect on people’s health and well-being. And, given that the UK is home to some of Europe’s oldest structures, that’s a lot of unfit housing. In the United Kingdom, nearly 2.5 million families live in substandard housing and face poverty. They are unable to maintain a comfortable temperature in their homes due to their low income.
The majority of housing in the United Kingdom was constructed before the 1990s when energy efficiency standards were not mandatory. It has a significant impact not only on people’s health but also on our natural environment and biodiversity. The NHS spends £1.4 billion annually treating people who live in substandard housing.
Only eight million of the UK’s 29 million existing homes currently meet the most stringent energy standards. It is one reason why the UK government recently announced a new plan to green buildings and reaches the net-zero goal of eliminating harmful emissions from the atmosphere by 2050.
New construction and heat pumps
As one solution, the government’s new plan proposes installing 600,000 heat pumps by 2028.
They can be an effective method of increasing the energy efficiency of certain homes, but they require significant investment, and the installation process can be time-consuming. So, if you are looking for UK energy suppliers’ reviews on how to increase your home’s energy efficiency, there are several options to check on the internet. BritainReviews, a reliable review platform, also makes it possible to read up on what people say about energy efficiency.
Additionally, by 2025, all new buildings will be required to meet stricter energy efficiency standards. It ensures that the design is correct from the beginning, rather than adding insulation and heat pumps later. Future Homes Standard-built homes will be “zero-carbon ready” and emit 75–80% less carbon dioxide than homes built to current standards.
While these plans are a positive step toward improving the United Kingdom’s housing situation, they fall short of the mark. Indeed, the government would be wise to look beyond the United States to see how other countries have “greened” their housing stock in innovative ways.
How other countries handle it
For example, in the Netherlands, the government enhances the energy efficiency of existing buildings by using a new technology called Energiesprong, which the government initially funded. By insulating the walls and windows, adding solar roofs, and installing smart heating systems, the technology enables houses to achieve high energy efficiency levels in less than ten days. This approach results in lower emissions and less waste, as the majority of components are prefabricated and assembled quickly.
Austria and Italy are additional examples, having pioneered innovative house refurbishment at the city level through technology and sustainable solutions. Within five years, two pilot cities – Innsbruck in Austria and Bolzano in Italy – achieved 40%–50% reductions in household energy consumption and 30% reductions in emissions.
TheseThese initiatives required systemic change and close collaboration between home builders, utility companies, homeowners, and local governments. This collaboration is critical; indeed, some of the research on transitioning to a zero-waste economy emphasizes governments’ crucial role in promoting the adoption of innovative technologies for extending the life of buildings and the reuse of sustainable materials waste reduction in construction.
This is why the UK government should prioritize strong collaborations and long-term housing schemes for housebuilders over shorter-term initiatives that frequently discourage participation.
Greener, more energy-efficient buildings could result in an annual savings of £270 for most people. Additionally, it would relieve unnecessary strain on the NHS and allow individuals to live more comfortably in their homes. If the government is genuinely committed to “better rebuilding” and achieving the net-zero ambition, it must approach the problem systemically rather than blaming homeowners or homebuilders.