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Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Shooting from the HIP
The 'controversy' over HIPs and, in particular, the energy performance certificate part of them continues to rumble on in the media and in Parliament, though my hunch is that they are unlikely to be halted. I find it all a storm in a teacup (or should that be a hipflask?) and this Telegraph article to me sums up the fallacy of the arguments being made against them.

So older buildings come out badly on energy performance? Well, that's not a flaw in the rating system, that's the point of the system. We know that old buildings are not efficient, and we also know that it's often hard to retrofit them so that they will ever be so. But that's the idea - to encourage people to buy houses that are more energy-efficient, and provide the incentives to upgrade the kind of stock that can be retrofitted easily. The idea isn't particularly to make life hard for the owners of £900,000 thatched farmhouses featured in the Telegraph - but they may as well come to terms with the fact that yes, their property leaks heat and costs a fortune in CO2 every year. Perhaps they might then consider switching to an A-rated boiler, installing double glazing or installing loft insulation - all of which are practical and simple steps.

So their assessor was misguided to suggest that these particular home-sellers add wall insulation. But to be fuming because your energy-efficient lightbulbs don't count (what on earth stops a new owner putting in incandescents?) is going a little far. As the report says, a badly-insulated Victorian home uses five times as much energy as a new one. It's about time our national obsession with the charms of a 'period' property got a reality check.

I own a Victorian pub conversion flat in London, and my partner has just bought a 19th century stable block conversion in Essex fields, so we are in precisely this predicament - loving the quality of the buildings and now racked with guilt about their energy inefficiency. But in London I have double-glazing and a decent boiler. My bills are manageable and being in a flat reduces heat loss. And in the country, we are seriously considering alternative energy sources and other steps, for precisely this reason. I think this is a reasonable price to pay for our selfish benefit in deciding to live in a beautiful but impractical building.

You buy an expensive, wonderful designer dress rather than a practical, simple one from M&S because it makes you feel good. You know that you will get cold and have to buy a new coat to go over the top. That's the deal. Why not the same for houses? Stop moaning, middle classes...


Blogger Rosie said...

I suppose we're all going to have to take a reality check on period properties if Gordon Brown ever gets his eco cities plan off the ground. Problem is housebuilders in the past 20 years have done little to make new housing desirable. Even with Cabe and growing awareness of good design, housebuilders are still knocking out houses devoid of character with tiny rooms. The situation is even worse for flats. At least the sustainability messages are starting to be taken on board now.

2:23 pm  

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