Our homes spend a lot of energy on all the things we do without thinking, especially heating, but also the distance we travel to and from home to meet our needs. There is urgent work to be done over the next ten years to reduce the carbon emissions that come from the way we live in our homes.
This need to bring our homes of high carbon emitters down to net zero is so important that in Parliament, in my committee on local government, housing and planning, we took evidence of how we can do this by renovating our existing homes. Those of us who live in an existing home will necessarily be involved, whether we rent or own our home.
As part of the Committee’s testimony recording process, we visited a modernization demonstration project in Glasgow. The Niddrie Road building was being modernized to the EnerPHit energy conservation standard. If you’ve heard of Passivhaus, here is the renovation version of existing houses. EnerPhit is a high standard which some say will be difficult to achieve for all building stock in Scotland. The Association for Environment Conscious Building offers another renovation standard that may be more quickly achievable. Although accommodation is not the main type of accommodation in Inverness and the Highlands, the principles are the same.
Whatever standard is adopted, we need to take a “fabric first” approach. To meet the need to reduce our carbon emissions, the trend is to think about changing our heating system to a renewable form but before even that we have to think about the building structure. We could install the best renewable energy heating system, but if our homes are poorly insulated, we will still have to spend energy heating them.
Over the next decade, we will all have to engage in the national modernization project. There are a lot of variables but if we approach it together, neighborhood by neighborhood, street by street, we could all learn from each other and support each other.
The government must give us clear indications on the way forward, including how we are going to finance this transition. I know that for some of you who want to take action, it has been frustrating because the way to do this work has yet to be defined.
I will continue to press the government to do the modernization. In January I will lead a debate on renovation and call on the Scottish government to set clear paths to make it easier for us to play our part in the national home renovation project.
Ariane Burgess is a Highlands and Islands Green MSP.