Raise Your Hands for Allowable Solutions

Sean Lockie
Why don’t people who work in the built environment know about Allowable Solutions?

You would think that most people who work in the industry would know what Allowable Solutions are. Yet I am constantly amazed when giving presentations or talking to clients how few have heard of Allowable Solutions (PDF, 718KB).

What are Allowable Solutions?

The Labour Government set out the original plans for zero carbon homes in their consultation document Building a Greener Future in 2006. The coalition Government then amended the proposals with the aim of striking a balance between zero carbon goals and the stimulation of growth in the house building industry. They are now part of the Government's strategy for cost-effective delivery of mainstream zero carbon new homes from 2016 and zero carbon new non-domestic buildings from 2019.

The aim of Allowable Solutions is to give developers an economical way of compensating for the CO2 emission reductions that are difficult to achieve through normal design and construction.

The aim of Allowable Solutions is to give developers an economical way of compensating for the CO2 emission reductions that are difficult to achieve through normal design and construction. There might be technical reasons, for example, why a tight site in London might not be able to use some of the renewable technologies on offer, for instance because the solar aspect might be poor (PV), wind conditions inconsistent or ground conditions limit the use of earth energy. So the concept of Allowable Solutions was born, to allow the investment in energy / carbon saving schemes outside the boundary of the site. Some possible types of Allowable Solutions include housing retrofit projects, community renewable energy projects and local low carbon Investment funds.

In May's Queen's Speech it was announced the zero carbon home standard will be set at the equivalent of Level 5 of the Code for Sustainable Homes, which will now be scrapped. And instead the new legislation will allow developers to build to Level 4 as long as they use Allowable Solutions as offset for them to achieve Level 5.

While the confirmation that Allowable Solutions will be included within the Zero Carbon definition is to be welcomed, there are still a lot of unanswered questions.

While the confirmation that Allowable Solutions will be included within the Zero Carbon definition is to be welcomed, there are still a lot of unanswered questions. We still don't have final answers on what will be eligible or not and, after five years, the progress isn't good enough.

According to Jon Ducker, energy assessor for Kingspan Insulation, the Zero Carbon Hub's view is that work towards fabric minimum standards is around 95% there, work towards carbon compliance levels is around 75% there, but Allowable Solutions is only around 5%.

So maybe I need to start changing the question that I ask in presentations – from, 'have you heard of Allowable Solutions,' to, 'will we ever know what Allowable Solutions actually means?'