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Zero-carbon building regulations to be loosened

Small builders are to be exempt from a requirement for new homes to be built to a zero-carbon standard as part of new legislation unveiled in the Queen's speech.The requirement that new properties are built to achieve a zero-carbon standard will no longer apply to "small sites", which developers define as less than 50 homes. The announcement is designed to increase the rate of housebuilding by reducing the cost of building new properties.In addition, larger developers are to be exempt from the requirement to build new homes to the maximum carbon efficiency standard.However, if developers choose not to build zero-carbon homes, they will have to pay money into a government "offset scheme", which will be a fixed fee to fund renewables projects. The pricing range for the offset scheme is expected to be between £38 and £90 a tonne.The government is to strengthen energy efficiency requirements for more insulation and renewable energy sources such as solar panels. According to the Liberal Democrat communities and local government Minister Stephen Williams, the environmental impact of ensuring homes are zero-carbon will be "absolutely massive"."By 2016 we will have gone from having some of the most energy inefficient houses in Europe to leading the world by being zero carbon, not just during construction but throughout the lifetime of these homes. This is the single biggest step towards greener homes that any government has made," he added.The coalition previously announced that all new homes would have to be built to a zero-carbon standard by 2016, meaning they would produce virtually no emissions.However, developers have warned the legislation could lead to significant extra costs being added to the bill for constructing new homes.The Zero-Carbon Hub recently revealed the cost of building a zero-carbon home has been falling dramatically and has roughly halved since 2011.It said the typical additional cost of building a semi-detached house to the zero carbon standard could be less than £5,000 at today's prices. 

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