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Blinkered thinking hampers greener buildings

21st August 2007 Print
The British Property Federation has backed Government plans to scrap the Merton Rule because investing in inefficient onsite renewable energy sources is simply not the most best way to reduce carbon emissions.

Gesture politics

Requiring a building to generate 10-20% of its energy through onsite renewables – as prescribed under the Merton Rule – is a far less efficient way of cutting carbon than by investing in the actual energy efficiency of buildings.

Through its work with the Carbon Trust (, looking at how landlords and tenants can actively reduce the energy consumptions in offices, the UK property industry is currently a world leader in creating a greener built environment.

Broad minded thinking

For many developments, measures such as wind turbines or solar panels are useless at fighting climate change. In London especially, there is little wind, and similarly, the carbon saving of small-scale solar panels is simply not cost-effective. It many cases it would be much better for buildings to purchase green energy from off-site sources able to generate low-carbon emitting energy on a larger, more efficient scale.

Developers are calling for broad minded thinking rather than straight jacketed targets designed to grab headlines and tick boxes.

The Merton Rule has been a failure because, at present, solar panels and wind turbines attached to building cannot provide the energy required to meet 10% of a buildings energy needs in urban and many sub-urban locations. This has been illustrated by research published recently by South Bank University that shows new developments only obtain 5 per cent of energy from renewable sources onsite.

Real solutions

The BPF believes that developers must focus on real solutions, and not simply on achieving unrealistic targets hoisted.

It is vital to reduce the overall energy demand from a building before looking at energy supply which can be achieved in a number of ways, but most critically by increasing how airtight a building is and using efficient means to both heat and cool buildings.

Relaxing the Merton Rule would enable developers to focus on the energy efficiency of the buildings themselves, and would allow them to procure renewable energy that is produced on a bigger scale and through more efficient means.

Liz Peace, BPF chief executive, said: “Redirecting the financial investment required to deliver these targets for onsite renewables to the buildings themselves and the services in them, such as boilers, would increase their energy efficiency. It would deliver better energy savings and also allow buildings, both old and new, to benefit from larger scale renewable energy generated much more efficiently. This will ultimately save significantly more CO2 than the blinkered approach encouraged by the Merton Rule.”