Double glazing law proposed to save energy

COMPULSORY double glazing for new homes and restrictions on unnecessary air conditioning will be proposed by the Government today, in order to save energy and combat emissions of climate- changing pollution.

But the Department of the Environment will not propose any fundamental improvement in the insulation of walls - much to the disappointment of environmentalists and energy conservation experts, who feel the Government could have gone further.

Professor Peter Smith, chairman of the Royal Institute of British Architects' energy and environment committee, said. 'There certainly is progress here, but they have missed out on improving the most basic elements for saving energy in buildings.'

The Government will only suggest improving insulation in roofs and floors as an option rather than making a firm proposal in its consultation paper today. Energy conservation standards in British housing lag behind those set in western European nations on the same latitude, such as the Netherlands and Denmark.

The regulations will add pounds 300 to pounds 900 to the cost of a new semi-detached house - an extra 1 to 2 per cent - according to a draft version seen by the Independent. The cost of new commercial buildings will rise by a similar percentage, although savings in fuel bills should allow the extra to be recouped within 15 years.

Every new home will have a compulsory energy label - a measure of how good it is at conserving heat. There will have to be draughtproofing on doors and windows and improved controls on central heating systems.

For new commercial buildings, there will be a presumption against air conditioning; developers and architects will have to demonstrate that it is essential. The Government proposes that this should also apply to existing buildings in which the owner wants to install air conditioning.

The amount of energy consumed by air conditioning in Britain has risen roughly three-fold in the past 10 years - which means that the amount of global warming carbon dioxide gas from this sector has grown correspondingly.

New commercial buildings will also have to be lit efficiently with automatic controls which switch off lights when they are not needed. Professor Smith said: 'Developers and architects will have to use daylight and even windows that open to keep buildings comfortable and well lit.'

The heating, lighting and air conditioning of Britain's buildings accounts for almost half of Britain's use of coal, oil and gas - and a similar proportion of emissions of carbon dioxide, which is produced when these fuels are burnt.

With Britain committed to stabilising its rising emissions of this gas at the 1990 level by 2000, tougher energy conservation standards for new buildings are an obvious target.