Have you heard about the movement in the UK called Insulate Britain? It was started just this fall by climate activists demanding that the UK government take action in insulating homes as a way to combat climate change. While their methods have been deemed severe by some, their core message resonates loudly with us here at Havelock Wool.
Founded with the aim of demanding insulation across the United Kingdom, the group laid out two specific demands for its September 2021 protests. The first is that the British government fund insulation of all social housing by 2025, and the second is that, by the end of 2021, the government must create a plan to fund retrofitting of insulation of all homes in Britain by 2030. Their protests have been aimed at blocking highways in the UK and as such have been extremely disruptive. Hence the controversy around the organization.
Our place here is not to comment on their strategy but rather emphasize their core message… that properly insulated homes are a crucial step towards lowering the carbon footprint of our global housing stock. Using just the UK as an example, heating homes is 15% of all emissions. In order to meet obligations under the Paris Climate Accord, those emissions must be cut by 78% in less than 15 years. Moving to low carbon energy sources is key but so is retrofitting existing homes to require less heating and cooling. Research in the UK indicates that nearly every home must be upgraded. Insulate Britain’s activism seeks to catalyze this.
What about the US?
The global warming impact of our housing here in the US is even worse.
Residential energy use accounts for roughly 20% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States, and that’s after we have reduced emissions from the peak in 2005 (GHG emissions have dropped at an average annual rate of 2 percent since). Research indicates that our residential housing will not be able to meet the 80% emission reduction target for 2050 under the Paris Agreement due to growing housing stock and the continued use of fossil fuels. Just like the UK, and everywhere else for that matter, we will need wholesale retrofitting of existing homes to reduce energy requirements. Much has been made recently about the electrification of homes and for good reason. A move toward electricity, especially a more decarbonized grid, greatly reduces housing’s GHG emissions. The efficiency is even more amplified when a home’s airtightness and insulation are upgraded. Win-Win.
Think Globally, Act Locally
There are steps we all can take to improve our home’s energy requirements. If you are building new then you are in a good position to employ materials and techniques to create a healthy, high-performance home. If you are in the majority and therefore not building from scratch, you still can make significant upgrades to your existing home. For starters, follow the core message from Insulate Britain – retrofit your home with improved air sealing and insulation. It’s a critical step. (Side note: upgrading your insulation won’t just help save the planet, it’ll help your pocketbook as well. The EPA estimates that homeowners can save an average of 15% on heating and cooling costs, or an average of 11% on total energy costs by upgrading insulation and air sealing).
Here are some resources to help you get started:
The Basics of Attic Insulation
Use high-performance materials that also have low embodied carbon
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