The possible rate of transition to lower-carbon housing

01 Jun 2017

Two of the challenges facing any transition to a lower-carbon economy in the building sector are the questions of how rapidly the existing low-efficiency stock of domestic housing can be replaced with more efficient housing, and how efficient the new housing stock can be made. This paper therefore develops a model for the replacement of the global housing stock as it ages, and considers what the demand for new housing stock is likely to be. One driver will clearly be the increasing population. Another will be economic growth, which has the counterintuitive effect of reducing the average occupancy of homes as nations develop economically. This not only accelerates the underlying rate of increase in new housing, forced by the increasing global population, but also offers opportunities for higher-value, more energy-efficient homes. Moreover, economic development is usually associated with greater levels of urbanisation, which allows greater use of multi-dwelling buildings with associated improved efficiency potential. Nevertheless, the lifetime of most homes is inherently long in comparison with the apparent urgency of reducing energy demand, and thus lower carbon emissions. It is concluded that, perse, more efficient housing is unlikely to play a significant part in the transition to a lower-carbon world over the next 35 years until 2050.