Fuel poverty is no joke. Society is only as strong as its most vulnerable members. If the cost of keeping everyone’s house warm—not an allowance measured in dollars but by thermal comfort—was borne collectively it would quickly become apparent that it is cheaper to rebuild or carry out retrofits for deep energy efficiency. The health benefits would be dramatic for many members of our society. And everyone would benefit from the reductions in carbon emissions.
Dr Kara Rosemeier, the building scientist who almost single-handedly has trained most of New Zealand’s Passive House designers, thinks there are better fixes than an energy labelling system for houses, as used elsewhere. What if we required houses to be rented at 20°C, with heating costs included in rent—just as you expect from any short-term accommodation, such as a hotel room?
“Overseas, this requirement has led to landlords finding the most cost-effective way to provide warm dwellings, which got them insulating and installing heat pumps,” she notes. For owner-occupied dwellings, properly set-up incentive programmes have had a very positive track record overseas.