Million pound prize for energy efficient Scottish homes

An interesting initiative by the Scottish government sees an annual prize of £1million offered to the winner of the best scheme for improving energy efficiency. The Scottish Energy Efficiency Design Awards, as they will be known, invite applications from April this year, and the scheme was announced by Scottish Minister for the Environment Michael Russell.

It is said that Scotland is home to a large proportion of ‘hard to treat properties, with the government citing some 650,000 homes, or 28 percent of total housing stock, as being within this category, hence the initiative is seen as driving inspiration for further investigation and research into energy efficiency in the home.

The awards aim to bring together collaborations from the design, construction and manufacturing industries in order to get the best minds on the job of improving efficiency.

In announcing the awards, Mr Russell made reference to the ongoing problem of climate change, explaining:

“Climate change is the greatest environmental challenge we currently face and rising to this challenge will require all of us to take decisive action to reduce our carbon emissions.”

He then went further by explaining Scotland’s commitment to the cause of reducing emissions, adding:

“Scotland is ready to lead the rest of the world in confronting the challenge posed by climate change. Our recently published Climate Change Bill is the foundation upon which we will build future policy to ensure we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.”

While the awards will be open to all buildings a particular focus will be maintained on the housing area, with specific encouragement in the area of low carbon dwellings. New builds make up one percent of the Scottish housing stock, with the greater portion being older properties, hence the ‘hard to treat’ analysis.

Mr Russell displayed an awareness of this problem, explaining:

“We already have a range of greener policies in place which, by helping individuals, communities and businesses live and work more sustainably will stand us in good stead. Our Climate Challenge Fund, for example, has already helped dozens of communities make changes to reduce carbon emissions.

“However, we appreciate that more needs to be done. That includes improving the existing housing stock, particularly older properties.”

He went on to explain that the awards scheme was intended to find ‘pioneering and affordable’ solutions and that housing providers, the construction industry, plus homeowners and communities would be encouraged to take part in the initiative and add their ideas and solutions, and further:

“The awards will also help drive sustainable economic growth by encouraging innovation, research and development of new low carbon products and services, cutting fuel bills and fuel poverty in the process.”

Also at the launch was Maf Smith, Director of the Sustainable Development Commission Scotland, who had this to say:

“Tackling energy efficiency in our existing homes will be critical if we are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help reduce the size of people’s energy bills.

“However, it’s well known that many of Scotland’s older homes are hard to heat and measures to improve them complex or expensive. Action by the Scottish Government to look at this problem and encourage better solutions is therefore very welcome.”

Applicants to the Scottish Energy Efficiency Design Awards should contact Jennie Devlin at the Energy Saving Trust on 0131 555 7900. Applications will be accepted from April this year.

With energy efficiency very much a keyword in the housing industry, it will be of great interest to see what those north of the border come up with as a result of this initiative. It is an exciting incentive with the possibility to return some exciting results which we will be watching closely with great interest.

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