New research has confirmed the oft-repeated belief that the UK’s is among Europe’s coldest, oldest, and leakiest housing stock.
On a day signalling how nearly £700 will be added to every home energy bill after April, accommodation company Wunderflats ranks the UK near the bottom of 28 European nations for the quality of “national environmentally conscious housing practices”.
Britain ranks 23 out of 28 in the German researchers’ Green Living Index, designed to assess the thermal efficiency of nations’ accommodation.
Practices such as Britain’s paucity of apartments – only 15% of us live in flats, easier to heat than houses -, our smaller household size, and developers’ and homeowners’ aversion to PassivHaus levels of insulation, are to blame for the lowly ranking.
Berlin-based Wunderflats, founded in 2015, claims to be the market leader for temporary furnished housing in Germany.
Despite fifteen years of efficiency-promoting measures such as the Energy Performance Certificate, registered every time a home is sold or let out, the average British home each year consumes 182 kWh of energy per metre of floorspace, researchers found. Sunnier Portugal tops the league, at only 70 kWh.
Fewer extended families, more household split-ups and an ageing population mean the average British household is made up of just two people, another factor in higher per capita consumption of energy.
The famed PassivHaus standard of building or retrofitting is in essence unknown in the UK. Homes with triple-glazed windows, ultra-thick insulation, and ambient heating through daylight orientation and body heat make up just 0.1% of British homes.
Vanishingly rare in the UK are retrofits of conventionally constructed tower blocks to PassivHaus standard, such as Portsmouth’s city’s Wilmcote, Tipton and Edgbaston Houses with their flats. ( see picture above).
Architects CDA in 2015 undertook renovation of the three mid-1960s tower blocks, with their crumbling pre-cast concrete. The firm followed the EnerPHit standard, the PassivHaus variant applicable to skyscraper retrofitting.
Wunderflats’ calculations are that just 12% of the UK’s household energy comes from renewable sources. Only 8% of energy used for UK domestic heating and cooling has roots in renewables.
Britain scored well for recycling, though, with 44% of household waste being reused.
Brits are apparently among the Europeans most committed to sustainability, the survey found. Just under 60% of respondents said they were actively engaged in combating climate change.
Portugal, Sweden and unsurprisingly Germany take the three podium places in the Green Living Index. Dangling at the survey’s chilly ‘lanterne rouge’ tail are Croatia, Poland and Romania.
Wunderflats’ CEO Jan Hase said: “Even the greenest countries still have some catching up to do to reach the big EU target of climate neutrality by 2050.
“With the Green Living Index, we want to identify the different stages on the way, and hope the housing sector can learn from those countries that have already met the challenge more successfully in some areas.”
Further details, including an interactive map, are here.