Ironically (see the top and bottom positions of the chart), I spent the first 40% of my life in Norway where things do get proper cold as opposed to in Australia where it's accepted to just have a heater pumping hot air through literal slits in the building (e.g. 0.5cm gaps under the external doors, that sort of nonsense), resulting in houses that are never properly comfortable at horrific expense. Yet in Norway the houses are actually insulated for deep, real winters and don't even need active heating at the temperatures costing Australians a fortune (eg 5-15c). I'm pretty sure it's impossible to get single glaced windows in Norway (because it's actually illegal to use), yet here it's a "luxury" item which is priced as you'd expect when not a standard. This gets my blood boiling (hey, free heating).
On a side note, I just started ETH mining on a Pascal GPU, and can still turn a profit. If I still lived in Norway I'd buy a lot of GPUs..
My family back home couldn't believe I'd walk around my apartment in shorts and a t-shirt with bare feet on floorboards and tiles in Sweden during winter. Turning on the heater in my apartment made you sweat when it was around -15 degrees celsius outside.
Australian's have a similar complex about wearing appropriate clothing during winter. Everyone complains about how cold it is, while wearing a light jumper or t-shirt in winter, even though it's no where near as cold as other countries.
The truth is that fixing these problems is going to be expensive. Governments are just kicking the can down the road because they don't want to be the ones that raise taxes to pay for it (fixing existing houses I mean). But it will have to be done.
Maybe the biggest tragedy is that we are still building NEW houses that will have to be fixed in the future (except in the above countries and some others I no doubt missed). Not mandating higher standards is, however, just loading future generations with more debt, because they will be the ones that have to fix the quality of the housing stock.
(FWIW, Sweden's neighbours like Norway, Finland and Denmark also have houses where it's warm inside in the winter without horrific leaks. And yes, Iceland, even if it has practically free, abundant geothermic heating energy.)
(But what horrifies me in England is not the wind through walls and puny glazing, it's the carpets in bathrooms, including around toilet seat. Experiences are not recent, though, so perhaps they've changed?)
I was referring to retrofit, sorry for not being clear.
Also, the costs are not passed on to customers. Very few houses in the history of the world have been priced according to what it cost to build. The market sets the price.
Carpets in bathrooms is a kind of baby boomer 1970/80s thing I think - plenty of it still about. Check the corners of the room where condensation pours down the wall into the carpet... after a few years you get a nice dark grey brown mould line.
But still, it's not the government that carries this cost.
Retrofit cost goes to government if the government decides to subsidize it. I live in Finland, which is considerably colder than Britain, not to mention Australia, and here the requirement for insulation is simply mandatory in building permits (which is required also for major renovation, not just new houses).
There are no real subsidies for this. Also, there are no heating grants which I hear are a thing in the UK (and a thing big enough to have an impact on how people vote).
Whether insulation is actually installed? Who cares about that - quarterly dividend payments all round.
Normally, doing that would be additional work and additional cost, so if they do it, there must be a real reason.
There's a lot of folksy wisdom in the UK building trade about natural ventilation (which isn't really true). Many builders will deliberately expose small gaps because they have not been properly educated. Having gaps gives poor ventilation - it becomes dependent on ambient pressure differentials which are difficult to control.
All of these are excuses for poor design and workmanship in the first place.
This might seem like more work for minimum wage labourers on site, but it's less work for highly paid designers, so it costs less. But costing is a difficult thing to sum because it's a complex supply chain with opportunities for efficiency all over. It's just that the volume builders (in particular) have a conservative interest in keeping the status quo, and carrying on without rocking the boat.
> Newer housing surely has better insulation
You only really know if you test and measure.
On the other hand I can run a homelab at home and don't feel bad about wasting electricity - I need to heat my apartment, anyway.
Say what now? Is the UK the only western country you've visited? because what they describe for Australia is not the rule of mainland western europe, serious insulation and at least double paned windows was the standard in the 90s.
And all that doesn't help with ventilation and maintaining healthy levels of fresh air.
Noone is a bad generalisation here. There are designers and builders who do know and do care - you just pay extra for the design and extra for materials. If you get a project house on a new estate (like lots of people do)... you're basically getting cheap and simple result that's cheap and simple.
Source: talking to a designer about just that.
Most investment properties are done on the cheap, shifting the cost asymmetrically to the renters - cross ref the whole negative gearing debate and all.
Minimum standards need to be increased dramatically, yet very little is happening. When some of the earlier Energy Star "standards" were released a few years back, they were just a bad joke - eg door gaps still came part and parcel, however you'd get like a "solar water heating" checkbox.
It will probably feel useless because it won't make a difference right away, but it's got a better chance of a good outcome eventually than a rant on HN.
I know I froze to death one year in a very cold flat which I couldn't heat with a 1 or 2 cm gap under the doors. Every time I'd cook I'd cut myself because my hands were too numb to control the knife. (The rest of the time it was okay because I'd just wrap up under my doona on the couch or wherever.) Now I live over a bakery in an old building so there's lots of old heat and heavier construction keeping it tolerably warm.
We do spend a bit on air conditioning (we sometimes get several days in a row over 40C) but the difference between winter and summer bills is not that great. Our bills are still very high. We have just replaced our fridge and water heater and I am hoping newer, more efficient appliances will help.