Reducing our emissions 2: Heating our homes

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In the second series of blogs on Reducing our Emissions we look at heating and its impact on emissions. 

Space and water heating are responsible for most of the emissions from homes across Scotland. Between 2014 and 2015, the latest year data is available for, the total emissions from households in Scotland increased by 3.0 per cent, reflecting cooler mean temperatures in 2015 compared to 2014. For 79% of Scottish households mains gas is the primary heating fuel, with electric heating, oil, and other fuels such as biomass following in descending order.

Assuming we cannot affect the weather, what can we do to affordably heat our homes and reduce our emissions now and in the future?

Emissions from housing

The recently published Climate Change Plan explains how Scottish Government intends to achieve significant improvements to the energy and emissions intensity of residential buildings by 2032, which is the period covered by this Climate Change Plan. It won’t come as a surprise that initially this will be through energy efficiency improvements, and from 2025 onwards through increasing the proportion of buildings using lower carbon fuels for heating.

Emissions from homes built now in Scotland are 75% lower than for buildings constructed to the standards applicable in 1990 thanks to our Building Regulations for Energy. While this is a significant improvement, it is only part of the picture of housing in Scotland where:

  1. new homes represent only a small percentage of our housing stock, with 80% of housing in use today expected to still be in use in 2050; and
  2. housing has the biggest impact on our carbon footprint (otherwise known as our consumption emissions), even more than transport.

Emissions, heating and housing

How can we reduce our heating needs and emissions?

By focusing on energy efficiency improvements the Climate Change Plan anticipates that we will be using less energy to heat our homes, and therefore we will reduce our emissions. Better insulated walls and lofts, along with use of smart meters and programmable heating controls will help initially, in conjunction with the continued deployment of low carbon heat in off-gas properties and other sensible options in on-gas properties. From 2025, the pace of emissions reduction will have to increase if we are to meet our 2050 target of reducing our emissions by 80%. That means that a significant proportion of heat to on-gas buildings will be supplied through lower carbon fuels, including electrification of heat.

Current energy prices mean that gas is the cheapest heating fuel for many households. Running costs for heating homes in the future will depend greatly on energy prices at that time, which cannot be predicted with certainty in the long term. However already in 2015 energy efficiency was designated as a National Infrastructure Priority. Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Programme (SEEP), which is an integrated approach to improving the energy efficiency and supporting decarbonisation of the heat supply across the residential (and non-domestic buildings) sectors is currently being developed. In anticipation of the SEEP route map which will be published later in 2018, our Materials Library is a good place to look for materials and methods that can improve the fabric and energy performance of our homes.

Material Considerations

On 27 June a seminar took place to mark the launch of our Library of Sustainable Building Materials – Material Considerations.

Event: Design Assembly Glasgow

A professional development and networking event is for Architects, Facilities Managers & Interior/Workplace involved in commercial interiors.

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