The Everett Review
The Everett Review of Britain's Housing Sustainability analyses two of the greatest issues currently facing the UK: the housing crisis and lowering greenhouse gas emissions. The UK’s aims of emitting net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and meeting housing needs are unachievable and counterproductive if current practises continue. This review proposes a solution which enables both goals to be achieved.
Productivity per hour worked across the UK economy rose by 29% between 1998 and 2020, whereas within the construction sector, productivity shrank by 8%. The lack of improvement in productivity within the sector is primarily due to the continuation of ‘traditional’ building methods, which require large volumes of manual labour to construct homes. At present, the UK builds 80% of its homes using ‘traditional construction’. Radical change is needed to see construction efficiencies increase sufficiently to combat the housing crisis.
The UK remains committed to reducing its carbon emissions to net zero exports by 2050 – the housing sector has a huge role to play in achieving this aim. As of 2019, household energy use accounted for 21% of UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. Many common UK building materials also have detrimental environmental effects. Concrete for example, accounts for an estimated 8% of all global CO2 emissions.
The UK is in the midst of a ‘housing crisis’ with too few new homes being constructed to meet demand. This has led to increasing house prices, increasing rental costs, overcrowding and fuel poverty, all of which contribute to a lower quality of life for citizens. In the past 10 years, house prices have increased by 59% while wages have increased by only 26% over the same period (as of October 2021). More homes are urgently required to solve the housing crisis.
The large-scale use of agricultural straw as a building material is the UK’s best means of solving the UK’s housing and environmental crises. Straw bales provide excellent structural support and insulation. The surplus of straw from cereal crops is sufficient to construct 400,000 homes per year: well in excess of the UK's target of 300,000. Straw homes can be constructed quickly, at low cost and to high building standards. As well as being an excellent building material, straw’s use in construction also provides numerous environmental benefits.