Thursday, 28 January 2021

Questions (96)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

96. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the steps he is taking to address the issues of embedded carbon construction through revisions to building regulations, planning laws and in social and affordable housing developments funded by his Department; and if he has engaged with an organisation (details supplied) on the issue of embedded carbon in construction. [4724/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Embodied Carbon in construction materials makes a significant contribution to the lifetime carbon emissions of new buildings. The operational carbon emissions for heating, lighting and other services have been significantly reduced in Nearly Zero Energy Buildings. These regulations apply to all new buildings including social and affordable housing developments. Currently these embodied carbon emissions are addressed in the Climate Action Plan and the Construction Products Regulation.

In addition my Department has issued design guidelines for sustainable housing which includes recommendations to have due regard for the environmental impact of construction materials. These guidelines “Quality Housing for Sustainable Communities” are available on my Department’s website at the following link. https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/24d9e-quality-housing-for-sustainable-communities-design-guidelines/.

Under the Climate Action Plan the Office of Public Works (OPW are putting in place a roadmap to promote greater use of lower-carbon building material alternatives in construction and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) are carrying out a research and development project to examine life cycle analysis and embedded energy in buildings to compare the use of sustainable materials.

The review of Regulation (EU) No 305/2011 (known as the Constructions Products Regulations or “the CPR”) was confirmed by the European green deal in December 2019 and the circular economy action plan in March 2020. In parallel, the European Commission initiated discussion on an implementation plan for a future environmental life cycle assessment framework for construction products, looking at the impacts on the wider environment that occur during the whole life cycle of a construction product. The objective is to identify the strategic issues that need to be addressed with a view to the implementation of Basic Works Requirement 7 ‘Sustainable Use of Natural Resources’ (BWR7) in the context of the current and the future revision to the Construction Products Regulation.

Ireland will be obliged to follow this harmonised procedure via harmonised technical specifications for construction products, when a consensus of approach emerges. In that regard, it would be counter to harmonisation to develop national rules for matters covered by the Internal Market regulation.

While no agreement has yet been reached on the specifics of a revision of the CPR, the European Commission have prepared a document assessing the impact and the preparation of a new proposal. The purpose of this document is to provide a starting point for an open dialogue with industry and other stakeholders to inform the discussions.

This document was available for public consultation on my Department’s website and was brought to the intention of industry stakeholders – and specifically the organisation the Deputy refers to. In addition, my officials have engaged with that organisation on this topic.

In relation to planning, Project Ireland 2040 prioritises compact growth. The overall National Planning Framework (NPF) strategy is for a better balance of development between the regions, a greater focus on Ireland’s cities, where 50% of development overall is targeted, with 50% of that growth to be supported to take place in the four cities other than Dublin.

Compact growth also means targeting a greater proportion of development to take place in settlements of all sizes, through urban infill and the re-use of brownfield lands. Through compact growth, the NPF effectively sets out recycling rates for the reuse of brownfield land, by requiring 40% of new housing nationally, to be built within infill and brownfield lands and encourages reuse of existing building stock (50% of development in the five cities where 50% of future development is to take place and 30% elsewhere, where the other 50% of development is targeted).