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Increase in Emissions from Working from Home During Pandemic

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2020 has been one hell of a year for all of us. Covid-19, the global pandemic that it became and the lockdown measures and social distancing restrictions that were implemented on different levels of severity in countries across the world, has had a massive impact on how we all live our lives on a daily basis. A much larger percentage of people have been working from home, either full time or part-time, with remote working becoming a key strategic component of many different businesses within myriad industries. What sort of impact will this have on the future of urban architecture and how will it impact the challenges we face as a society when it comes to climate change and the emissions we produce when working from home as opposed to in the workplace?

The Royal British Institute of Architects (RIBA) has warned that this increase in numbers of people working from home could lead to a problem that was not thought of previously, that there could be a housing emissions crisis. It states that there is a real need for the government to take urgent action. The worry has been released as part of the Greener Homes report that has found that the proportion of total emissions from housing could increase to a dramatic amount due to the sheer number of people working from home rather than in offices and other types of workplaces.

The increase in household emissions could be a problem unless things change. The major problem is that compared with the rest of Europe, the housing stock in the UK is ranked as some of the least energy efficient, with nearly a fifth of the carbon emissions of the country coming from the residential sector in 2019. This was a massive increase from the figures just over a decade ago where 15 per cent of emissions came from the residential sector in 2008.

One of the long-term policies of the UK government is the National Retrofit Strategy, an investment in upgrading the energy efficiency of the UK housing stock, and RIBA has called on the government to bring the plans forward. One of the components of this strategy is that there will be a sliding scale of stamp duty, with the idea being that it is capped at £25,000 and those homes that are the most energy-efficient will pay less tax than other homes. There has been £9.2 billion put together for these improvements over the course of the next decade, but it could be beneficial to spend that money now and prevent the UK from falling even further behind its European counterparts when it comes to energy efficient housing.

On top of that, RIBA has called for the government to provide more information and regulation for building work that will improve energy efficiency as part of this process and to provide a better level of income support for projects such as the winter fuel programme, for better standards to be implemented for brand-new homes and for there to be a clear long-term plan to increase MEES (Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards) in all residential sectors, both private and social. As we all work from home more regularly it is important that we tackle the issues of increased emissions as soon as possible, before it adds to the already massive problem that we require solutions for.