Domestic and non-domestic buildings are responsible for around 37 per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.   Taking domestic building in isolation, there are 26 million homes in UK and over 40 per cent of our CO2 emissions come from these buildings – the comparative figure for emissions globally is around a third.  These figures don’t even take into account current energy and water usage and means that there’s a massive amount of retrofitting to be done if we’re to meet our climate change goals.

The government’s flagship Green Deal was officially launched just nine months ago and last week the All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment published its report ‘Re-energising the green agenda’, in which it concludes that the Green Deal already needs reviewing.  Apparently not many people know what it does or why it exists – this comes as no surprise to the Conscious Communications’ team which has heard the same from clients and at the green and cleantech events we attend.

A view reaffirmed by Dr Aled Jones, director of Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute, today at the Retrofit East conference where he hold delegates that an “urgent reform” of the Green Deal policy is needed.  He believes that the only way to cut domestic carbon emissions by the required 29 per cent is by legislation and compulsory energy and efficiency standards.

Apparently only 700 people have so far taken out Green Deal loans, and just 12 installations have been completed to date.  99 per cent of people who have had a Green Deal assessment done on their home have not gone on to progress their project. 

The All Party Parliamentary Group’s report says: “…we feel it is time to take another look at the detail, make it work for social housing, galvanise the schemes locally across the country and make financial incentives permanent. The concern is that in the current form the Green Deal and Energy Companies Obligation will deliver fewer carbon emissions reductions than the policies they replaced.”

So, in conclusion, the Green Deal has taken us backwards. 

The report goes on to make several recommendations including making retrofit more financially attractive; making the Green Construction Board an industry focal point for delivery and action; and establishing an Existing Homes Hub to engage with industry on sustainability issues.

From a new build perspective, the UK has targeted itself with achieving a carbon neutral status for all new homes by 2016.  This appears to be an easier target for us to achieve, and the Code for Sustainable Homes is now being widely implemented.

Yet the Conscious Communications team understands that one of the key players in the green new build sector, Skanska – three times award winner at this year’s BCI Awards, whose president and CEO is co-chair of the Green Construction Board, has just pulled out of the UK residential market, largely due to the complexities of the planning process.  As an innovator in the market that has been setting the bar for other construction companies, we see this as a shocking indictment of our system, bogged down with red tape, and a calamity for the UK.  Surely there should be measures in place to help companies like Skanska to speed through planning, build progressive housing and help us reach our environmental targets.  Who will lead the way for new green homes in the UK now?

According to the Carbon Disclosure Project’s annual FTSE 350 Climate Change Report 2013, construction companies scoring highest in a ranking of corporate carbon footprints include Morgan Sindall, Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Interserve, Costain, Kier. 

In our region, where the property ‘bubble’ continues to bulge, it is good to see so many of these companies have a presence.  Indeed, the Conscious Communications team was proud to have been part of Kier Eastern’s new office opening in Cambridge recently – we hope that they have more success with the planning process than Skanska did, and that they continue to strive in helping the UK reach its carbon neutral targets.

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