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Laying The Foundations For Low Carbon Buildings - The Low/Zero Carbon Hub

14 December 2009

If the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) achieves its vision, the next few years will see a major shift in the type of buildings constructed in Wales, with the country taking a distinctive approach to tackling climate change.

At the heart of efforts to deliver this agenda is the ‘Wales Low/Zero Carbon Hub’. There are two key policies driving the Welsh agenda, both starting in 2011. From that year WAG has a target of 3% annual reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in devolved policy areas and also an aspiration that all new buildings will be zero carbon.

The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) has taken a central role in helping to achieve a low carbon built environment in Wales over the last year. In November 2008 the SDC launched a groundbreaking Green Building Charter in conjunction with WAG and the Design Commission For Wales. Over 50 organisations have signed up to support progress towards low or zero carbon buildings.

To co-ordinate the work of the signatories, the SDC supported the formation of the Wales Low/Zero Carbon Hub – a partnership of public, private and voluntary sectors, chaired by Chris Jofeh of Arup, with Jeff Perren OBE as director. The Hub was launched in March 2009 with a number of aims relating to both new and existing buildings and with a commitment to work closely with the UK Zero Carbon Hub. The Hub’s plans include:

• Providing a clear roadmap to the Welsh Assembly Government’s 2011 zero carbon aspiration for new buildings

• Promoting the commercial opportunities presented by moving to a low/zero carbon built environment

• Investigating what skills and training are needed in the construction industry

• Support the work-streams led by the Existing Homes Alliance to improve current housing

“Our first aim has been to listen” says Chris Jofeh. “There’s broad support in the sector for a shift to a low carbon future but also a large number of questions about how we get there. Our role in the hub is to identify the barriers and work to overcome them.”

The Hub has held workshops to identify what needs to happen to realise the WAG vision. This includes addressing questions on procurement, costs, skills and training. The Hub is developing a web portal to share information with the relevant organisations. It will also co-ordinate the various work streams, including Existing Homes Alliance Wales, led by the Energy Saving Trust. Mike Williams from BRE Wales has now been seconded part time to the SDC to work for the Hub.

“It’s good to be part of such a groundbreaking project, especially when you consider that the built environment is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Wales.” added Chris. “In Wales we have the opportunity to lead on low carbon buildings in the UK, but to achieve that we need workable solutions. That’s where the Hub comes in.”

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