Ideal homes?

Your article ‘Home truths’ concerning the goverment’s ideal that all new homes should be zero carbon by 2016 was very interesting.

Your article ‘Home truths’ (Interview, 17 September) concerning the goverment’s ideal that all new homes should be zero carbon by 2016 was very interesting.

Zero carbon is, I feel, being over-optimistic however. The Building Research Establishment can design perfectly-insulated homes and, with solar gain compensating for ventilation losses, heat losses will be ‘virtually zero’.

But with modern living, the lifestyle energy — cooking, washing, laundry and electrical — is about half our current total energy consumption. Renewables with current technology are simply not cost or CO2 effective. As the BRE’s Peter Bonfield stated in the interview they are ‘inefficient and ineffective’.

This is why they are not promoted in the new Energy Performance Certificates. Also, the amount of extra building technology to create a Code level 6 dwelling would itself be very costly, with a high carbon footprint and have the aesthetics of an army barracks.

Because of the UK’s high economic activity the government will have to be satisfied with this. in this ‘Year of Energy’, the most important letter you published ‘Carbon crazy’ (Letters, 16 July) dared to state the unstatable. Although in jest, it indirectly stated a most basic principle — CO2 emissions are roughly proportional to economic activity. This will include activity relating to renewables and other low-carbon technology which costs so much to manufacture and install.

This principle indicates that total world economy, population and hence CO2 emissions will have risen by twice that of the whole of the current EU emissions by 2020.

The government must take full control of energy, if the EU allows, and reverse the way we pay for all our domestic energy. It must allow an initial amount of kWh at low cost (socially fair) and then impose a steadily escalating price for greater consumption.

As with vehicle excise duty, all white goods should be taxed on the amount of CO2 they produce annually to penalise both size and inefficiency. These actions would directly promote sustainability of all homes.

PH Field

St Albans, Herts

Peter Bonfield (Interview, 17 September) need not worry about homes having ‘simple things such as switches that you can operate if you have arthritis’.

Swiss engineers have already solved this one. Every light switch I encountered on a recent visit there was a simple ‘push-on, push-off type’ with a 20mm square button.

The country’s engineers have also managed to get either a light switch and a power socket, or three 3-pin power sockets, in a single standard 8cm square fitting.

Elsewhere, a new 57km-long St Gotthard rail tunnel is being built through the Alps, as well as a 15km tunnel near Lugano and a 20km tunnel near Zurich to speed their trains from Germany to Italy.

Brian Hammond

Lichfield, Staffs