House rules for green construction

SOLAR-POWERED heating, appliances run on wind energy and carbon-free houses. The homes of the future were unveiled yesterday as strict rules for conserving energy use were announced.

Draft regulations revealed plans for new Irish homes by next year, will have to include massive gains in energy efficiency as well as huge cuts in CO2 emissions.

Environment Minister John Gormley said: "These regulations are the first dramatic step in the process of achieving zero carbon housing. The benefit to the consumer in savings on energy costs, as we face into an uncertain future with regard to carbon based fuel costs, will be a huge benefit to homeowners."

The guidelines, which must be approved by the European Commission after a public consultation process, will apply to all housing planning applications after July 1 2008.

They will include:

l40% rise in energy efficiency.

l40% cut in CO2 emissions.

* Cutting down energy waste through excessive heating.

* Air tightness testing, so homes do not leak heat.

Builders will be required to construct all homes with the changes, starting from 2009. The aim is to make homes drop their CO2 emissions by 60% in 2010 and even more beyond that.

Already, some 6,000 homes are under construction which will have a 40% improvement in energy efficiency. The scheme is being led by Sustainable Energy Ireland.