Gareth Bradford introduced the report by advising that the Single Commissioning Framework (SCF) could be reviewed to include reference to Zero Carbon Homes if the Board so wished. Rachel-Ann Atterbury presented a report which sought the views of the Board on the proposed approach - producing a 2025 Zero Carbon Homes standard based on a nationally recognised definition, a clear strategy and routemap as agreed as part of its deliverables for 2020/21.
Councillor Sharon Thompson sought clarification as to whether the intention was to have completed the journey to zero carbon homes in full by 2025 or whether a phased approach was intended. Rachel-Ann Atterbury confirmed that the phased approach was the intention.
Councillor Ian Courts advised that he had three points to raise:
i) Whilst acknowledging the need to move forward on energy efficiency and carbon reduction there was a need to look at the cost effectiveness of the measures proposed, with the 2041 Action Plan having regard to the need to make best use of limited resources;
ii) The need for local resource to overcome the necessity to import goods;
iii) The need to consider the role of landscaping and carbon capture to contribute to carbon reduction rather than concentrating solely on improving energy efficiency.
The Chair opined that the Covid-19 pandemic would contribute to carbon reduction and that if such measures as the siting of an AMC factory in the region could be achieved, this would lead to a reduction in the carbon footprint and reduce the reliance on imported goods.
Ed Cox commented that it should not be taken for granted, especially in the current circumstances, that the economic recovery process would concentrate on carbon reduction. He drew to the attention of the Board the benefits which could accrue from it working in conjunction with the Environment Board on this and associated issues. Gareth Bradford added that the financial resources available for zero carbon homes should also include those that could be levered through the SCF in the same way as had been achieved for affordable housing, higher design standards and AMC since the start of the SCF in April 2019. The SCF could be revised and reviewed to include reference to energy efficiency and carbon reduction. The Chair suggested that future reports to the Investment Board could include a specific paragraph regarding any contribution towards the zero-carbon target.
Councillor Peter Butlin acknowledged the advantages of the zero-carbon target as a clear ambition but suggested that it was not possible for the construction industry to achieve it based on current techniques and that the construction trade should not be placed at a disadvantage by having impossible targets placed upon it. He reminded the Board that its primary target was to achieve a significant increase in the provision of housing accommodation. He commented that he supported any attempts to bring manufacturing industries back to the region. Marc Lidderth advised that bringing back manufacturing to the region was fundamental and would assist in reducing the carbon footprint by reducing the need for imported goods. This view was supported by the Chair.
Gareth Bradford commented that one area the region continued to press HMG on was whether the current methodology for calculating Benefit Cost Ratios (BCR’s) could be amended or made more flexible to take greater account of issues such as brownfield regeneration and/or the use of AMC and wider inclusive growth benefits. The Chair commented that this remained crucial to supporting brownfield regeneration and counting wider outputs and opportunity costs.
1. That the proposal to adopt the UKGBC definition of ‘zero carbon buildings’ to homes in the West Midlands (as set out in Section 3 of the report) which addressed operational, embodied and whole life net carbon be supported;
2. That the proposal, in responding to the Housing and Land Delivery Board zero carbon commission to take a phased approach to delivering the zero carbon homes ambition in the 2041 Climate Action Plan, including establishing the current level of low/zero carbon building, producing an agreed routemap to 2025 and a zero carbon homes charter to encourage take up be noted;
3. That the proposed governance structure for zero carbon homes programme which sought to draw expertise from across the private and public sectors including:
· Appointment of West Midlands Zero Carbon Homes Champion;
· An expert sounding board;
· An Officer Working Group