Shapps was speaking at a fringe event, hosted by VELUX, on sustainable new homes at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham. The panel also included Kevin Brennan, Head of Sustainability at VELUX Company Ltd, David Birkbeck, Chief Executive of Design for Homes, and Dr. Richard Hobday, an expert in sustainability and health in the built environment.
Referring to energy efficient homes that resemble “airtight, watertight boxes” as his “pet hate”, Shapps commented:
“The idea that we want to live in sealed boxes cannot be healthy, nor can it be right in terms of achieving our zero carbon objectives. It’s not practical, not the way people want to live and cannot be good for occupants’ health. Reducing carbon emissions and opening a window can be compatible. We need to get way away from this definition that says energy efficient homes must be airtight boxes.”
Brennan added that dialogue was needed to prevent energy targets being achieved at the expense of other criteria:
“When energy efficiency is the sole focus of home design, it results in dimly lit, poorly ventilated, airtight boxes that don’t create a healthy or sustainable place to live.”
Ahead of the Government’s Spending Review later this month, Shapps said he expected that the funding necessary to ensure that all new homes are zero carbon by 2016 would be preserved. He also praised VELUX for their Model Home 2020 project which, in the UK, involves the design and build of two zero carbon homes, called the CarbonLight Homes, in Rothwell, Kettering.
“What once looked impossible now looks very possible,” Shapps commented.
Alongside hosting the sustainable new homes fringe event, VELUX contributed to a local, council-led regeneration project in the city, installing five roof windows in a disused building in Alum Rock. The building was re-opened for use as a community centre during the conference.
Photo Kevin Brennan and Grant Shapps at the sustainable new homes fringe event, hosted by VELUX, at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham.