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Lack of clarity in the UK over reducing carbon in the building industry says report

However, the industry's prospects of delivering on carbon reduction targets whilst remaining competitive is still somewhat hampered by a lack of clarity, consistency and effective enforcement.

The report highlights the positive strides taken by government towards a sustainable built environment, but cautions that high level policies and legislation must be followed up with rapid progress on developing detailed implementation plans and regulatory levers.
The report, Building Britain: The path to sustainable growth for the built environment, also urges government to think beyond arbitrary regulatory quotas in the spirit of bringing forward innovative, cost-effective mechanisms through positive engagement with the property industry.

An example of the dichotomy between high level policy innovation and a lack of regulatory detail is the prospect of minimum energy performance standards for the letting market enshrined in the Energy Act 2011. The report welcomes the provision but cautions that there is an urgent need for clarity on the timeline for implementation and on the specific market circumstances which would trigger a legal obligation on property owners to improve performance.

In 2010, 42% of UK greenhouse gas emissions came from the built environment. The importance of improving building stock is therefore clear, especially considering the length of its legacy. However, the economic and social impact, across all sectors, is as apparent as the environmental case, especially in light of the rising cost of energy and heightening concerns over security of supply.

‘With the rising cost of energy having such a clear impact on the bottom line of business, and on the health and well being of a growing proportion of society, the government must  re-double its efforts in pushing forward with a joined up programme of effective and proportionate regulation, particularly on the efficiency agenda,’ said report author Jon Lovell, director of sustainability at Drivers Jonas Deloitte.

‘There is significant scope for regulatory simplification but at the same time improving the effectiveness of the overall landscape. It is therefore encouraging to see the launch of the Energy Efficiency Deployment Office in DECC this week, and we hope that this quickly develops real traction across all government departments,’ he added.

According to Peter Young, chairman of the Aldersgate Group, the policy landscape is still riddled with contradictions, not helped by regulatory development being subject to arbitrary one in one out rules rather than on merit and value added to society.

‘Progress is faltering, for example we still await the entirely sensible mandating of operational energy ratings for commercial buildings. Improvements are needed in consistency, from policy quality, to measurement, to application, through to enforcement,’ he said.

‘Above all the government must see the opportunities in future proofing this sector as far more important to our economic imperatives of growth, new jobs and cutting the deficit,’ he added.
Rob Lambe, managing director of Willmott Dixon Energy Services and board member of the Aldersgate Group, said that is the concern that government could regard more regulation to improve built environment energy performance as a barrier to economic growth in these current tough times.

‘However, the market is good at responding and adapting quickly to change and measures to tackle energy performance of commercial buildings and private homes through mandatory display certificates and stamp duty incentives will make a difference. It will create awareness, galvanise demand and lead to many new jobs in the private sector,’ he explained.

Paul King, chief executive officer of the UK Green Building Council, pointed out that buildings offer twice the cost effective carbon reduction potential of any other sector, but the refurbishment revolution in the UK has hardly begun.

‘We need clear and consistent policy from government that that will enable industry to invest and innovate, and lead to tens of thousands of jobs, lower bills for consumers and better quality homes and workplaces,’ he said.