A typical £40,000 loft conversion would require a further £4,000 on adding anything from extra insulation to putting up a wind turbine or solar panels.
Hackney council is this week expected to endorse the proposals that would apply to anyone seeking planning consent for a home improvement project. The council also intends to make reducing domestic water consumption a condition of granting planning permission. Applicants will, in future, have to provide written evidence of how they propose to do this.
Hackney wants consumption capped at a maximum of 105 litres of water per occupant per day. This means an end to the luxury of a long, hot soak in the tub after a stressful day because an average bath uses up to 80 litres, according to the Energy Saving Trust, while some power showers can use up to 136 litres per day.
Water-saving methods range from putting a brick in the lavatory cistern to reduce the amount wasted per flush, to installing water-efficient taps — at a cost of £50 to several hundred pounds per set — and showerheads, from £20 to about £300.
Sam Cooper, director of Hackney-based E2 Architecture, welcomed the council’s “unusual” eco-stance. “The ideal time to improve the environmental performance is when carrying out refurbishment to old housing stock,” he says. “If considered properly, measures can be scheduled into the works efficiently without adding significant cost. “Insulation in a roof at rafter level, so you don’t have a cold loft, would probably add about £800 to a £10,000 job. The reduced water consumption target is about a 10 per cent improvement on building regulations and can be achieved with reduced-flow showerheads and taps.
“The difficulty with this type of policy is that it is very hard to measure or quantify what the cost is, as it is part of a complex project.”
If Hackney’s new rules succeed in reducing carbon emissions, it is inevitable that other boroughs will follow suit.
Architect Rab Bennetts, founding director of Bennetts Associates, says it is “admirable” of the council to pioneer sustainable building practices. However, his concern is that with different councils operating different rules, home owners are being faced with a planning permission postcode lottery. “There are potentially hundreds of different sustainability policies operating across the UK,” he adds. “There is a real need for rationalisation and strategic thinking here.”
A spokesman for Hackney says the new policy should come into force at the end of this year. The council anticipates that home owners will invest in environmental improvements, including draft-proofing windows and doors, installing double glazing and solid wall insulation, fitting low-flush lavatories and low-flow showerheads and taps, and installing rainwater collection tanks.
As well as reducing carbon emissions, the council hopes the policy will make financial sense to residents. “The final aim of the document over the long term, and given the rising costs of electricity and water, is to reduce the cost of living to residents in the borough through reductions in energy and water bills,” says the spokesman.